The HSR Mitty Speedfest 2017 was held on April 20-23 at the Road Atlanta racetrack in Braselton, Georgia. Porsche was the featured marque at the 40th edition of the Mitty, with eminent Porsche racer Hurley Haywood serving as the Grand Marshal.
Early in 1978, the Atlanta Jaguar Society asked Road Atlanta if it was possible to set up an event to drive their cars on the track. Back in January of 1974, Richard Nixon signed into law a national speed limit of 55 MPH, which was very frustrating to drivers with fast cars. That spring, along with the local Aston Martin and Ferrari club members who were invited to help with the cost of the track rental, some 40 drivers showed up to the ‘Walter Mitty Challenge’.
Sanctioned by Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR), the 40th running of what is now called ‘The Classic Motorsports Mitty’ weekend took place at the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta track. Over 250 cars showed up for this year’s event, divided into eight racing groups. Participants also ran in one of three one-hour enduros, as well as the Bob Woodman International/American Challenge. There were two Porsche-only races, one for pre-1975 models and one for 1975 and later models. A total of 80 Porsches participated in this year’s event.
The weather was picture perfect for the first three days, but the rains came on the last day. Despite this, the HSR Mitty Speedfest 2017 offered some outstanding races, with many well fought battles throughout the classes. Among races that stood out included a battle in Group Two between Andre Herke in a BMW 2002 and Alan Tosler in a Lotus Super 7 that saw Herke prevail by less than a second after a race long battle.
In Group Five, there was a stirring battle between Jody O’Donnell in his 1969 Chevrolet Corvette, Curt Vogt in his 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, Mike Donohue in a 1963 Chevrolet Vette and Todd Treffert in a 1974 Porsche 911. Lap after lap the cars were sliding through the corners, tires flying over the curbs, drivers steering with the throttle. O’Donnell was atop the podium in the end by less than a second over Treffert.
Group Three had a four-way battle for the lead with George Balbach’s Porsche 911 holding off a Royale, a Lotus Super 7 and an Elva Mk VII until he spun coming out of Turn Five. The three other drivers managed to avoid hitting him. Craig Chima won the race in his Lotus Super 7, ahead of Brian Johnson’s Royale and Roger Cassin in the Elva. Balbach recovered to finish fifth, behind Russell Gee’s Jaguar E-Type. That’s five different makes in the Top Five.
While not always racing together, Theo Bean in a 1988 Nissan ZX-T GTP and Gunnar Jeanette’s 2007 Lola B07/18 took turns setting fastest time of the weekend, with Jeanette taking the honor late Saturday afternoon, lapping the track with a 1:13.7. It was great fun seeing the two cars, 20 years apart in age, so close in speed.
The Group 11 race saw 17-year-old Spencer Brockman taking the victory, while 21-year-old Bailey Monette finished third. That in itself makes interesting news, as it shows that there is an infusion of youth at vintage events. (There are others, including Theo and Patrick Bean and Willis Woerheide). Now, the organizers had brought in the Jackson County High School Cheerleading squad to carry the flags for the opening ceremony and to assist with the trophy presentations. Well, as one would suspect, they were quite impressed by the race winner, and I am sure Brockman did not mind being surrounded by the young ladies asking him to pose with them for pictures.
As in years past, the Mitty Speedfest 2017 was more than a series of vintage car races. It was a gathering of car enthusiasts and their cars, and the spectator area had enough interesting cars parked there to put on a high quality auto show. These enthusiasts are just that. A driver that raced on Sunday said that he was blown away by the fans cheering and waving at him despite the miserable and rainy conditions. And that, in a nutshell is the appeal of The Mitty.
Similar to 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, Sports Car Digest also documented the 2017 Mitty Speedfest, with photographer David Ferguson offering the following pictures from Road Atlanta.
HSR Mitty Speedfest 2017 – Photo Gallery (photos: David Ferguson)
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[Source: David Ferguson]