Responses to Last Week’s Editorial

October 3, 2013 Comments (1)

We had a significant number of responses to last week's commentary about Driving over the Age Limit. Most agreed that some sort of testing or other qualifier was needed. Several people felt that racing was a dangerous game and that everybody involved, including photographers, knew that going in and had no right to complain if they were killed, or even just maimed.

Let me be perfectly clear. I have no issue with people going fast, rich or poor. But when a driver is going door to door at high speeds with strangers, he has a right to expect that whoever let him out there knew they both could handle it. Physically and mentally.


We have the same problem in vintage motorcycle racing. In the day, if you weren’t good enough you couldn’t get a fast ride…now the only pre-requisite is a checkbook. The sanctioning bodies need to establish a licensing program (like regular professional racing) and stick to it. The “strong medicine” is that it is better to lose one rich cry-baby, than to kill someone. Most owners of fast vintage equipment would rather see competent drivers realize the potential of their machines than to putt around in the way. See attached pic of me (#6A) coming of the line with Three-time AMA Grand National Champ Jay Springsteen (#9) at a vintage race last month in Indy. He was way faster (and riding one of my bikes) but at least I wasn’t a moving chicane!

~Ken McGuire

Ken Springer

Dear Peter ..... old crocks racing powerful cars and coming to grief is nothing new. Experience is actually more important than age in my opinion. Surtees, Moss and many other serious drivers from the past were well up to the task in their early seventies. There were some very near misses and a few actual coming togethers at the Revival this year from young drivers who haven’t yet worked out that F1 scouts do not abound at vintage races. There is no need to carve up a slower car that’s entering the chicane and risk damage for the .1 of a second it will cost you. There’s no need to dart inside a car turning on to the apex of Fordwater flat out and risk pushing him off onto the grass and thence into the immovable barriers.

Apart from the risk to life and limb that sort of behaviour may cause an entrant to no longer want to enter a great original car with a very high value if it’s going to get punted off by a virtual replica with a goon behind the wheel.

I know what I’m talking about. It happened to me this year as indeed it seems to happen most years. Slowly but surely these goons are getting weeded out by race organisers. It’s never going to be too late to do it either. There are plenty of formulae for rock-apes to strut their stuff in cheap cars. Imagine a bunch of oldies in combat with young Kamikaze drivers in Formula Fords. Great sport and the best way possible to prove as the older guy that you can still hack it.

~Alain de Cadenet

I have to comment on your vintage racing article. After driving some faster cars with different clubs, I decided to return to the VSCCA. While I’ve driven race cars since I was 19, I recognized during my first Skip Barber race school that I was not in it to someday start at the Indy 500. Now that I am in my 60s and semi-retired, I have “downsized” to a very original Formcar Formula Vee (the first iteration). There are two other old Formula Vees in the club driven by guys my age or older who have also had much faster cars “back in the day.”

Vintage racing, at least as I’ve experienced in the VSCCA, is a place where the cars are the stars. We get to drive them fast, which is what they were built for. However, the attitude of the drivers is pretty consistent; we don’t think we’re in Formula 1 and we believe it’s way more important to bring the cars home from the event in one piece than to bring home some misplaced bragging rights about how we beat the field.

I remember walking through the paddock at an SVRA race a few years ago at the Glen and spotting more than one “retired” Formula One car. At the time I thought, “Affording it isn’t the same as being able to handle it.” I think it was at the same event I remember having a “dive bomb” pass executed upon me at a very dicey spot with a bad mix of faster and slower cars. What was the point, I thought? Well, it was about winning the race, regardless of the “cost/benefit” or “risk/benefit.”

Your point is well made, but there are options out there for anyone who is willing to honestly consider what their ability and commitment is and to act accordingly. Luckily, there are some really great clubs and options today.

~Tom Monti

You are right.

How do you tell an 80 year old that it’s time to retire? Especially when he just won a monster race at Road America running a sportsracer over 170mph to beat the “young studs” in their Lister Chevys or their Lola MkII coupes?

If there are no preconceived age restrictions, we need enforced annual physicals, stress tests, EKGs and up to date medical histories with the governing bodies not afraid to lose an entry or two.

But the real test is organizers (like Earl) with the backbone to tell bad drivers they can’t race.

We face a growing problem of aging drivers regardless of whether they drive an MGTC or a 312pb Ferrari.

The VSCCA is woefully behind in dealing with this issue.

~OOTAD (one of the aging drivers)

Hi Peter

Interesting comments about Vintage Racing. As you know I participated in both SVRA and SCCA with my GT1 X Trans Am Vette. Both series have their share of “More Money” than “Ability”. Your comments on the increased age of the drivers in both series is very true. Even more so in the big bore very fast formula, vintage and GT1 cars. I have been wrecked twice. Once at the Glen at the entrance to the bus stop in practice no less by cup car in the hands of a bone head. Second time at NHIS with an attempt to pass me on the inside of the south chicane. Very fast GT1 Mustang in hands of less than capable guy who had the “Red Mist” in his eyes. He had two wheels in the dirt on the inside just as I was turning left onto the back straight. Nearly put me into the wall at the exit, Porsche slammed into my nose and Sunbeam Tiger into the rear of the Porsche. 3 Cars with significant damage and done for the weekend. Both SCCA and SVRA are trying to control both ability and equally the Red Mist but it is difficult. Ultimately it is the driver who must recognize he is not Paul Newman and there is a time to hang up the helmet. I did last year even though I likely never put The Red Car past 85% of what it was capable of doing. Result was a wonderful 10 years of racing with only 3 DNF’s including the two wrecks noted. As a side note one does not see much on this subject and end of the day money and ego are tough to overcome! Nice piece by the way!

~Fred Myers

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Comments (1)

  1. John Halcro:
    Oct 07, 2013 at 03:40 AM

    Nice to have a vintage column that interests me.
    Look forward to these from here on.

    Note to Peter:- As you are aware, I did a bit of writing when I was involved in the sport many years ago.
    It is both satisfying but demanding at times!
    You seem to have the requisites and I enjoyed my first exposure. Looking forward to receiving subsequent editions! Keep posting!

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