Sebring Endurance Classic - Old-School Rules

Vintage Vette racers thunder around SIR

Walt Thurn Sep 1, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Historic Corvette race cars continue to shine at various vintage-racing events, thanks to organizations like the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, or SVRA. Each year the SVRA sanctions outings at tracks around the U.S., including Sebring International Raceway in Florida. Corvettes primarily race in two classes, Group 5 and Group 6, alongside Camaros, Mustangs, Cobras, Porsches, and Jaguars.

1963 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport 2/13

This year, more than 30 Corvettes showed up for the season-opening round at SIR. Dubbed the Sebring Endurance Classic, the three-day event was packed with races and a celebrity Corvette car show. Corvette was also the featured marque this year, in honor of the car's 60th anniversary. The SVRA handled all on-track racing activities, while Jan Hyde from the Registry of Corvette Race Cars (www.registryofcorvetteracecars.com) hosted all of the off-track anniversary tributes.

The SVRA recently underwent a change in leadership, and vintage-Vette racer Tony Parella is now in charge of the organization. Parella's plans include expanding the race schedule and improving safety. Accordingly, the SVRA will strongly enforce the “no contact” rule, and drivers found to be in violation will be banned from competition for one year. (While at SIR, we saw a driver banned when his contact took out another car and caused a lot of damage to both during practice.) The lesson here is that this is vintage racing, not ALMS or Grand-Am. Many drivers are amateurs, and safety is paramount.

The event schedule was filled with practice, qualifying, and races, including a 90-minute enduro held on Friday night. The enduro required two five-minute pit stops to refuel the cars, check the tires, and give the drivers a break. Former GM Performance Division director and longtime Corvette racer John Heinricy drove Tony Parella's '71 Corvette in this race. At one point he was running near the top of the order in the 454-powered C3 until mechanical problems sidelined him.

Chevy Corvette C4 6/13

Dallas-based Duntov Motors entered the two fastest Corvettes of the weekend. Alan Sevadjian drove his black No. 38 '69, powered by a 427ci big-block. Sevadjian essentially ran away from the field, winning the Group 6 feature races on both Saturday and Sunday. Clair Schwendeman drove another Duntov entry, a '68 Vette also powered by a 427. His car is painted exactly like the Dave Heinz Corvette that finished Third overall at the 1973 24 Hours of Daytona. (The car was also among the leaders at the '73 12 Hours of Sebring until a blown head gasket put it out of the race.) Schwendeman finished Second in Saturday's race but did not run on Sunday. Picking up the slack for the Corvette contingent was Ron Ramsey, who finished Fifth overall Sunday in his 350-powered '65 convertible.

Besides racing, several off-track events kept the drivers and spectators busy. A track-touring event allowed event attendees to pilot their vehicles around the historic Sebring circuit. We witnessed participants driving Corvettes and other sports cars, family sedans, and, curiously, at least one crew-cab pickup.

On Saturday an all-Corvette car show and corral was held in the track paddock. The show was judged by a group of marque celebrities comprising journalists, drivers, and crewmembers. Later, an awards ceremony was held in the Sebring Hall of Legends, where winners received a trophy and a certificate. On Saturday night the Registry for Corvette Race Cars held a 60th “birthday party” for all Corvette owners and race teams.

Pratt Miller Chevy Corvette 7/13

No matter where Corvettes gather, they always attract attention from fans passionate about America's favorite sports car. The Sebring historics weekend is a good example of how vintage Corvette racecars continue to be crowd pleasers.

For more information on the SVRA, visit the organization's website at www.svra.com.

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