CLASSIC MOTORSPORTS MITTY NOTES AND QUOTES - SATURDAY
The popular Speedfest at the Classic Motorsports Mitty returned to Road Atlanta under beautiful skies and with huge fields this week. Thirty-two races, including four enduros, fill the weekend schedule, offering a plethora of exciting racing action.
DOWNING RETURNS TO ROAD ATLANTA; FEATURED SPEAKER AT MITTY SEMINAR
Jim Downing, Mitty Grand Marshall and co-inventor of the HANS device, along with brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Hubbard, participated in the "Know What the Pros Know" seminar, presented by Cayman Interseries. The seminar featured discussion on car set-up, track information, driving tips and review of a detailed circuit map. His brother-in-law and co-inventor, Dr. Robert Hubbard revealed that the second driver to ever use a HANS device in a professional race, besides Downing, was former racer and actor Paul Newman. "He had a neck injury and couldn't hold his head upright when he moved to GTP, so he wore one at the race in Watkins Glen. The Newman-Haas Indy team was then the first team to adopt the device for its drivers."
Downing, who has been racing at Road Atlanta since it opened in 1970 and is racing this weekend, said the track is unique because "the elevation changes and the blind turns are something that just gets every new driver here. Every time a driver shows up for the first time they go to the top of turn one and say 'where the hell does this thing go now.' That's the neat part, the whole elevation change, all the way down to turn five and up and over. I still go up over five and hope the guy before me didn't spin just over the cusp of the hill because I can't see him."
FRED RITENHOUR, Winner of the Prestigious Walter Mitty Trophy
Fred Ritenhour, of Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded the prestigious Mitty Award this week, given annually to the driver who best exemplifies the spirit of Walter Mitty, the fictional James Thurber character for whom the Classic Motorsports Mitty historic car race is named.
"When they called my name I was very surprised but very elated. After 20 years in the corporate world, this means more to me than anything. I'd rather be remembered for winning this award than all the first-place trophies in the world. I don't care where I finish. I want to be thought of as a fair competitor. HSR has been very good to us and puts on a great show." The former Toyota executive races a Toyota 1600 Sports Racer in a class that also includes Lotus, Jaguar, Porsche, Mazda and Ford cars.
BRIAN JOHNSON TALKS RACING AND ROCK AND ROLL
Brian Johnson, HSR driver and lead singer for rock band AC/DC, shared thoughts about racing at the Mitty:
"The Mitty is not so much a race as a festival of speed. It's lots of fun and everybody is car nuts and a 'gear head'. I got into racing because years ago my wife bought me one of these racing school weekends, which is a great gift for anybody. I went and enjoyed it so much I wanted to get into it. I started at the bottom because I wanted to get the respect of the drivers and work my way up to some nice machinery.
My first car was a Lotus Cortina, which looks more like a brick than a race car. Now I have a Lola T70 Mark I and a Royale RP4 so I really enjoy these two cars and have a lot of fun in them. The Lola has a V8 and the Royale a 1600 cc 4-cylinder motor. My wife, Brenda, races a Porsche 914 6-cylinder. Paul Newman used to race the car with Bob Snodgrass and Hurley Haywood so it has some history to it as well. She was a little nervous when she first got it because it's a handful compared to the car she used to drive but she's getting quicker and quicker. She's getting the hang of it and I hope she wins something soon."
About upcoming events with his band, AC/DC:
"As soon as we finish the race on Sunday we go to the Atlanta airport and fly straight off to London were we have the world premiere of the new AC/DC movie, "Live at River Plate".We invited 3,500 fan club members from around the world to the Apollo Auditorium. I saw a private viewing of the film and it's really one of the best shot shows I think I've even seen. The audiences in Buenos Aires were unbelievable...100,000 people three nights running, all jumping up and down at the same time. I was starting to feel seasick! It was absolutely fantastic!"
NEARLY THREE DECADES OF MITTY RACING
Phil Daigrepont of Kenner, La., is one of the veteran drivers in the Classic Motorsports Mitty. He has been competing since 1983 after attending the race as a spectator the year before and vowing to never come back without a race car. "A friend and I flew here to watch the race from outside the fence. I said then I'd never come back without a race car and I haven't. The Mitty is one of my favorite events because it's Southern and the closest track to New Orleans."
And, he doesn't drive just any car. His Porsche 908 is one of just 13 built by the factory and raced in Europe, winning two prestigious endurance races. Daigrepont has been driving the car 11 years but is being cautious at this year's Mitty because his car is one of 10 selected from throughout the world by the Porsche factory to be part of the Rennsport Reunion IV this fall in Monterey, Calif.
GUNNAR JEANNETTE TOOK INAUGURAL MISSION FOOD GT3 CUP RACE VICTORY
"I worked my way into the lead on the first lap and that was key. It's so much fun driving these cars. It's a fun thing to do. We've just had an awesome time here this weekend." Michael Mills was second and Juan Gonzalez third, all in similar Porsche racers.
In the Porsche Cayman class of the same race, Keith Carroll jumped into the lead at the start to beat Lee Davis and pole-sitter Mark Sandridge. The class features Porsche Caymans painted in historic Porsche livery.
"The good start was key. I would not have beaten Lee without it. He was faster than me today."
ARI MALKHASSIAN VICTORIOUS IN MAZDA MX5 CUP
Ari Malkhassian, of Houston, Texas, repeated his win of four years ago Saturday in the Mazda MX5 Cup by holding onto the lead despite furious pressure from behind by Jason Saini and Justin Hall. The margin of victory was .02 seconds.
"We ran four-wide for about three laps, but I tried to stay in the background and waited. Nobody was going to win this race 'til the last lap. I won here four years ago in about the same circumstances."
George Robinson checked out on the first corner and never looked back to win the Group 6-7 race by more than six seconds. Toby Bean was second, followed by Robert Garcia.
Roy Walzer had three podium finishes on Saturday, including a win and two seconds. The victory came in Group 2 for Vintage Production, and runner ups were in Championship of Makes Group 7 and the Louis Chevrolet Vintage Enduro. Phil Harris co-drove in the Vintage Enduro.