The BRITISH EXTRAVAGANZA organised by VARA at BUTTONWILLOW RACEWAY, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
Murray Chalmers reports from what seems like a hectic couple of days racing.
On May 4th and 5th VARA held the 7th annual Moss Motors British Extravaganza at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Southern California. This event highlights the fine British cars that formed the core of Sports Car racing in the United States in the 50ís and 60ís.
This event is always well attended and this year was no exception. There were 240 racecars entered and over 50 show cars in static displays. The racing cars included 21 historic Pre war racecars and included three special Challenge races. There was a Mini Challenge race with 16 Miniís including two 2002 Miniís, One Mini sports racer, and a fine collection of Vintage Miniís and Mini Cooper S models. The second Challenge race was an all Sprite race with 13 Vintage Sprites. The third Challenge race was an MG/Triumph event with 28 MG or Triumph engine cars including TR3, TR4, 12 Spitfires, MGB, MGA, a Morgan and 5 Elva Courierís.
Button Willow Raceway Park is owned and operated by the Cal Club region of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and was designed and built by club racers, for club racers The race was run on the Clockwise 13 configuration which is 2.6 miles long with 21 turns. This is a very technical track with elevation changes and a combination of on camber, off camber turns that pay a premium to drivers who can read and adapt to a track.
The first race group consisted of 19 Formula Fords and 22 Formula Vies. The race set up with a split start with the FF group starting first with a 50-yard gap to the FV group. Due to a bobble in the qualifying race Chuck Pittenger, holder of the fast lap of the day in his very clean Titan, was starting in 11th place and was sure to move up fast. On the pole was Case Bor in his fast Lola T-204 and also in the first row was Tom Morgan in a really beautiful Lotus 51. Your reporter had qualified 6th and was on the outside of the third row in my Lola T-200 next to Bud Byrnes in his Lola T-204. Certainly Lola was well represented in the top 6 positions!
In the Formula V field, Patrick Maynard driving a Zink C-4 with Ray Stevens along side also in a Zink held the pole. Due to a mechanical issue in qualifying the very fast Chris Campbell with the fast lap was starting at the back of the field. At the green flag Tom Morgan got by Bor and I was able to get by Byrnes. All was well until the second lap when I spun while being passed by the speedy Pittenger. Back in the Vee field Campbell was carving through the field. When my Lola returned to the fray I found myself behind Stevens in the Zink doing battle with Campbell in his Zink for the FV lead. (Campbell had gone by some 20 Vees in two laps). The show was short lived as Campbell got a bit hot in turn one and spun leaving the lead to Stevens. Tom Morgan held on to the FF lead while Pittenger continued to close through out the race. I was able to claw my way up to 12th place by race end and Morgan finished in the lead with Pittenger 2.5 seconds behind. In the Vee race the cars run in two groups (with fan and without fan) the over all win went to Patrick Maynard in yet another Zink and the no fan winner was Bud Sturgis (his first win) in a Bandito.
The Mini Challenge was the sort of shoot out we have come to expect from these hard charging shoeboxes. Bill Gilcrease in the 2002 Mini was not a serious challenge to the well sorted out Vintage Minis. The 2002 mini finished some 30 seconds behind Bruce Logan in his very fast Mini. Behind them were a couple of hard chargers. Jim Boehmís Mini started 14th and moved up to finish 10th and the always hard charging Scott Crawford started 11th and moved up into a 6th place finish.
The Sprite Challenge had the close racing we often see in they venerable little cars. Efrain Olivares followed by Jim Sechrest and Bruce Elkind won the race. There was only 1.1 seconds separating the first three places at the end of the race and it was a closely fought battle all race long. The hard charger award has to go to Efrain Olivares Jr. who came from the back of the field to finish 4th only 13 second behind his father.
The race that really draws the most spectators is the Prewar Historic race. Many of the drivers are attired in period race equipment and Aviator goggles are in abundance. The two Langondas dominated the field. The race was won wire to wire by Bernard Juchli in his Lagonda Le Mans followed closely by Joe Harding in his immaculate Langonda V-12. The two Langondaís were separated by only .03 seconds at the checkered flag. Some 8 seconds back was the MG N Special of Michael Jacobsen and a bit further back the National AC of Brian Blain.
The collection of 60 plus year old racecars is a joy to watch and as always there is a grand representation of great Morgan three wheelers.
Saturday night all the racers got together for dinner dancing and bench racing well into the wee hours. This event is always the highlight of the racing year.
OK then, on to the pictures!
My thanks again to Karen and Murray Chalmers for taking time out to supply the pictures and report.
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