2018 SVRA Indy
Now in its fifth year, SVRA’s Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational is staking its place as a Father’s Day weekend classic for midwest racers and fans. In addition to the normal group-by-group vintage sprint races, Brickyard fans are treated to an Indy Pro-Am that pairs an amater owner-driver with an Indy Legend pro in a 50-minute enduro, and like last year, vintage motorcycles and Trans Am joined the event this year.
The weather started pleasant on Thursday and Friday for practice and qualification events, but by Saturday’s feature races, the track really started to heat up. Saturday morning’s action started with race groups 1, 3, and 4 in an eventful first feature race. After leading early, SVRA President and CEO Tony Parella experienced terminal mechanical issues and handed the lead over to #57 David Roberts’ 1956 Corvette, with #7A John Nash’s 1962 Lotus Super Seven in 2nd. Following some great on-track action, front-runners Roberts and Nash were disqualified post-race for having cars underweight, ceding first to Joey Essma in a 1969 Datsun 2000 and moving William Goldkind up to second in the #266 1962 Lotus 20 F-Jr. John Stanford rounded out the top spots in the #2A 1965 Turner MkIII.
Group 2 took the green next, with Geoff Brabham heading the pack in the #83 Brabham BT35-31. He and second-place Ron Horning in the #6 Brabham BT35 had a good dice, as did third-place finisher Bruce Hamilton (#76 / Brabham BT36) and fourth place #41 Don Yount.
Yount hopped directly out of the ‘65 Lotus 41 he’d driven in Group 2 and into a 2007 Oreca Challenge (#97), starting deep in the field. He’d climb to second by lap 5, and passed for the lead with a couple laps to go. Polesitter Jacek Mucha (#07) finished second in a 2006 Swift JMS 016 CP, and Alex MacAllister (#5) finished where he started in a 1971 McLaren M8F after leading briefly early.
Moving up in displacement, groups 10 and 12a made some noise next. Rick Dittman (#24A) passed polesitter Bill Elliott (#9D) early and hung on for the win in a 2007 Chevrolet Corvette. Elliott racked up some track time ahead of the Pro-Am, hanging on for third in a 2003 Dodge Intrepid, and Casey Putsch (#3) picked up second in a 1988 Chevrolet Corvette GT1.
Wings & slicks were next up with the formula cars of groups 9. James French (#11) and dad Brian (#8) started 1-2 in 1997 Jordan 197 and Benetton B197 F1 cars, respectively, but James pulled off early, leaving the win to Brian. Jim Johnston (#23) slid up to second in a 2002 G Force Indy car, and Cal Meeker (#14) climbed through the field to take third in a 1997 Tyrrell F1 car.
Groups 8 and 12b started a field of 24 GT cars next. The top spots in this one finished as they started — #49 Howard Liebengood in a 2002 BMW M3 took the checkered flag from the pole, followed by #721 Joey Essma in a 1972 Porsche 911 and #3A Jim Lenehan in a 1975 Porsche 914/6. Trans-Am practice and vintage motorcycles wrapped up Saturday morning’s activities.
The Indy Legends Pro-Am is becoming a bigger event each year it’s run. Benefitting IGNITE, a charity founded by the Evernham Family Racing for a Reason Foundation, and the Morgan Adams Foundation, the field was packed with names well-known to Indy fans. The event is run as a mini-enduro tribute to 60’s Trans Am racing (Mustangs, Vettes, and the like). Rules for the Pro-Am called for the amatuer owner-drivers to start the race and pit no later than 10 laps into the event, at which point, the Indy pros were to take over and run to the finish.
Jody O’Donnell was fast early, but mechanical problems ended his race before he could hand the car over to Geoff Brabham. Following pit stops, Willy T. Ribbs led the field convincingly until he, too, encountered mechanical failure and handed the race lead to Jimmy Kite, having taken over from Gary Klutt (who logged the race’s fast lap). Kite managed to keep Max Papis behind him, but neither had an answer for Matt Brabham (#33 / 1963 Corvette Roadster), who pressured both drivers before getting by. These cars are notorious for having less-than-stellar brakes – a factor for both Papis and Kite. Papis held onto second in the #530 1966 Shelby Mustang, and the #9 1970 Ford Boss Mustang of Ray Evernham and Bill Elliott grabbed third with a late-race pass.
The SVRA entrants took a little break after the Pro-Am to let the cycles run again and hand the track over to Trans-Am for a 75-minute TA2 feature race and TA / TA3 / TA4 qualifying, and then many of the same cars and drivers from the Pro-Am were back for the late-afternoon Group 6 feature race 1. Gary Klutt was still fast, taking the win in his #46A 1969 Chevy Corvette, with dad Peter Klutt running second in the #59 1969 Chevy Corvette. Vincent Dean rounded out the podium in the #83 1965 Shelby Cobra.
After the Group 6 race and then the track workers did a quick conversion to open up the track for oval running for an oval legends exhibition and a pre-war exhibition. Hearing these great old cars echo down the front straight at Indy will never grow old, and it’s a great privilege to see cars dating from more than a hundred years ago in some cases running at speed.
Sunday turned out to be another exceptionally warm day — even at eight in the morning when the Classic Enduro for small-bore cars kicked off. Neville Agass led early in the #47 1994 Ford Mustang Saleen, employing a winning strategy by pushing late into the race before handing the car off to Reese Cox. This classic enduro had all the passes for position of a contemporary enduro, though, with positions up for grabs throughout the event and a lot of late-race action. George Del Canto (#33A) took second with co-driver Davey Hamilton in a 1969 Ford Mustang, and #47 Howard Liebengood and Don Knowles took third in a 2002 BMW M3.
Another motorcycle exhibition provided a segue to the Historic GT/GTP Enduro at 9:30, allowing a handful of drivers to pull double duty across these two races. The #97 Oreca of Don Yount was quick from the green flag and easily clocked the event’s fast lap, but a number of unscheduled pit stops ate up the fast lap times from Yount and co-driver Ryan Lewis. They’d eventually finish third after bouncing all over the leaderboard. Race winner Travis Egen and runner-up Mark Brannon were much more deliberate in their marches. Although the enduro mandated a pit stop, a driver change wasn’t required, so both Egen (#31 / 2001 Lola T97/20) and Brannon (#78 / 2007 Elan DP02) drove the entirety of the event. Further back in the field, Carlus Gann and Bill Elliott worked to tame their #9D 2003 Dodge Intrepid, which really didn’t like to behave in turn one. Elliott brought the Dodge home in fifth, a lap behind Bruce Hamilton and Lynn St. James in the #85 2008 Dallara Infinity,
Sunday’s feature races kicked off with groups 1, 3, and 4 in a healthy-sized field — 26 of the 35 cars listed on the grid made the start of this event. Joey Essma continued his winning weekend in the #57A 1969 Datsun 2000, taking the lead early and hanging on for another feature win. Tony Parella climbed into the runner-up slot before retiring around the mid-point of the race, but in this feature, much of the action came further back in the field. Second place Leo Basile (#122) drove hard from a 20th-place starting spot in a 1965 Cooper T75, and John Nash (#7A) finished third in a 1962 Lotus Super Seven. Perhaps the most entertaining racing of the weekend came from father & son Elliott Barron (#23 / 1972 Pegasus FV) and Hunter Barron (#113 / 1969 Kellison Mach 1), who finished a hard-fought 1st and 2nd in class 1F, with grand-dad Jim (#14A) two more spots behind.
Howard Liebengood (#49) paced the second Group 8 and 12b feature, leading flag-to-flag and setting fast lap in his 2002 BMW M3. Jim Lenehan (#3A) gained two spots on his starting position to finish second in a 1976 Porsche 914/6. Ron Pawley (#94) drove up to third in a 1994 Toyota Supra. Further back, #47 Drew Neubauer grabbed a little air, hopping the curb in turn one toward the end of the heat.
In the last event before lunch, Group 2 once again gridded a large field — 26 of 30 entrants took the green for some great racing. The top two finishers were identical to the Feature 1 finish — Geoff Brabham took the win, and Ron Horning followed in second. Number 41 Don Yount improved from his fourth-place finish in the first race to round out the podium in his 1965 Lotus 41 F3. Following the Group2 race, the track was converted again for the Indy legends and pre-war exhibitions on the oval.
Group 9 raced their second feature after lunch, led to the green by Brian French’s Benetton. This time, James French had use of his Jordan 197 for the entire race, and though he and Philip Lewis both started deep in the field, both climbed quickly through traffic. By lap 6, James and Brian began playing cat & mouse, swapping the lead more frequently than the lap charts would indicate. At race conclusion, it was Brian on top for his second win of the weekend, with James right in his wake. Jim Johnston (#23) came in third in his 2002 G Force to wrap up a solid weekend.
The second Group 6 feature was a flag-to-flag 1-2 for Gary Klutt, who repeated as race winner, and Peter Klutt in second. Vincent Dean (#83) placed on the podium again, too. Deeper in the field, there were some great battles in this one, including the 1970 Dodge Challengers of Kelly Ann Hampton (#77A) and Larry Hampton (#48). Unfortunately, this heat ended with safety vehicles on the move after the #77A veered hard into the wall along Hulman Blvd in a nasty-looking shunt that disfigured the right side of the green T/A Challenger.
Groups 5 and 7, and 11 headed out for their second feature in oppressive mid-afternoon heat with an even dozen entrants. Number 97 Don Yount was in control from the drop of the green in his 2007 Oreca. Alex MacAllister looked to have a strong run going, climbing to 4th from a 10-place start in just a couple laps, but wound up pitting unexpectedly and finished 9th. Cal Meeker drove up fifth in a 1973 Lola T292 to fill Yount’s mirrors and finish second, and Jacek Mucha finished third in a 2006 Swift JMS 016 CP after some great close racing with Meeker.
Wrapping up the feature races for the weekend, groups 10 and 12a lined up 18 of 28 entered cars, with Casey Putsch (#3) on pole in the 1988 Corvette GT1. Just behind him, #24 Bruce Raymond and #41 John Cloud had a coming-together in the infield that wound up with both cars retiring, and #29 Samuel LeComte was charging hard through the field in a 2006 Chevy Monte Carlo. By mid-race, most of the passing was done, and Putsch led LeComte and third-place #93 Jonathan Pfeffer in a 1990 Corvette.
Following the vintage features, Trans-Am ran their TA / TA3 / TA4 finale and the motorcycles and oval exhibitions took one last turn at the brickyard before the track fell silent once again, wrapping up another great Indy event for SVRA.