The 2006 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, with Jaguar as the featured marque, provided the opportunity to run my '63 E type vintage racecar at both Beave Run Raceway and in Schenley Park, on the public streets of Pittsburgh, PA. More than 1000 volunteers from the Pittsburgh Jaguar Club, VSCCA, civic organizations, many car clubs, and several motorcycle clubs, organized and conducted the races in which we, the 175 vintage racing entrants, participated for the 24th time.
Space is limited, so here are only two pictures taken by Don Johnson at Beave Run, and the winner's circle photo taken by Ms. L. Pietrowicz at the conclusion of the Group 5 feature race in Schenley Park on the following weekend.
The first vintage racing was at Beave Run Raceway, 680 miles (and 75 gallons at $225.00) of trailering from our home in New Hampshire! Sadly, only five Jaguars were present among the 175 incredible vintage cars that participated in this three-day event. This disappointing turnout resulted in cancellation of “Jaguar only racing”, and bumped us into race group 5, with vintage Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs, and Cobras. Not unexpectedly, my 6 cylinder Jaguar was outgunned by these “ground-pounders”, hence I was gridded far to the rear, for all races.
In Sunday's feature race, a mild collision among a GT-40, a Porsche 914, and a Datsun, left debris on the track that punctured my left front tire. As my speed went up, the tire went down, causing a high-speed excursion into the grass, (but no damage) and a DNF at the race's finish. Since I had no spare race tire, racing was done for the weekend, but not before I'd had an enjoyable three days of racing at Beave Run, a very safe track.
I left the car and trailer at the Beave Run racetrack, 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, and flew home for the week between races. Once home, I ordered a new race tire Fed-Xed to the hotel in which I'd be staying on the following weekend.
On Friday, Sue and I flew back to Pittsburgh, picked up the E type from Beave Run, the tire from the hotel, and made the tire swap at a local NTBstore. The bad news was that Friday afternoon traffic, made worse by construction, resulted in my missing all the race orientation in preparation for the REAL PVGP, to be held on the closed city streets of Pittsburgh. In practice on the following day, I was happy to have been last in line with no one behind to see that I appeared to be lost!
With the city's blessing, the park was closed and the racecourse laid out on the normally public roads. This beautiful venue hosts the only vintage race conducted on public streets in the entire USA! The course is quite daunting, since unlike conventional tracks with smooth runoff areas, its granite-curbed streets are bordered by stone walls, two foot diameter trees, and embankments. Despite obvious risks, this challenging course attracted an incredible number and variety of vintage sports racecars. Broken into six groups based on engine size, they practiced and raced for two days, to the delight of hundreds of spectators. Jaguars were included in Group 5, “sports cars with a displacement of more than two liters”. (note, that the winner's circle picture contains only Jaguars!)
Sunday's featured race for Group 5 included Jaguars, Healeys, Aston Martin, Morgan, and a group of 356 Porsches, among others. Having qualified fourth, I was gridded in the second row with the Morgan, and behind the Aston and Tivvy Shenton's XK140 Coupe. Behind us were more Jags, Healeys, and a cluster of 356 Porsches.
After taking the green flag, Tivvy bolted into the lead as expected, leaving the rest of us to fight over second place. I passed the Morgan on the first uphill straightaway, and drew a bead on the beautiful, fast Aston Martin. On the second lap of the 2.3-mile course, I caught the Aston at the chicane, and blasted past him as we went over the bridge into turn 6. Tivvy was in sight then, about 100 yards ahead. I marveled at his speed, considering that his XK140 runs on Avon street tires, wire wheels, and Jaguar drum brakes! My advantage was in braking, since the E type's disc brakes allowed me to close the gaps, as Tivvy was forced to brake much earlier than I.
At a sharp right hand turn in lap 3, late braking took Tivvy deep to the outside of turn 9 allowing me room to sneak past on the inside. Now in the lead, I was determined to break Tivvy's streak of 5 five consecutive wins. I held him off for four laps until a 356 Porsche we were lapping, ran up and over a hay bale situated in a storm drain, and jumped three feet in the air directly in front of me! I hit the brakes, not knowing where the Porsche would end up. Tivvy hit the gas and shot past both of us into the lead. More slow traffic allowed him to build a three second lead, and he took the checkered flag on the next lap, for his 6th consecutive win in this event!
The winner's circle photo shows Tivvy Shenton, 1st place, with his XK140 race coupe, Gary Hagopian JANE, 2nd place with the red '63 E type, and Tom Jaycox, JDCLI, designated “Sportscar Driver of the Race” with his beautiful 1953 C-type Jaguar.
PVGP racing was an exhilarating experience, with crowds and volunteers cheering wildly! I was satisfied having placed second behind Tivvy Shenton, a much more experienced racer. I did however, have the distinction of having run the fastest lap of the race!
Many thanks to Jaguar Cars as main sponsor of the 2006 PVGP, the 1000 volunteers who made the event happen, the VSCCA, Ralph Steinberg DVJC, Don Johnson and the Pittsburgh Jaguar Club, for making me feel far beyond welcome!