The Put-in-Bay vintage sports car races continue to evolve from a quirky little “Reunion” event back in 2009 to one of the most enjoyable vintage racing experiences in North America, according to many participants.
This year’s 10th annual event again took place on Ohio’s historic South Bass Island where sports cars raced through the public streets from 1952 to 1959 and in 1963. Today, a 20-minute ride on the Miller Ferry from Port Clinton, OH takes entrants back in time to an island enclave seemingly little changed from 60 years ago. Catering primarily to smaller-bore, pre-’73 cars, today’s Put-in-Bay Sports Car Race revival is designed for those who especially value a low-key race environment in a relaxed, nostalgic setting where the emphasis is on camaraderie and fun.
For the 2018 event, organizers responded to mounting event-scheduling conflicts on the bustling summer-resort island and moved the event from its traditional— since 2013— late August date to the middle of the last week of September. So this year racing was held on Tuesday and Wednesday September 25 and 26 when little else was taking place on the small island. Unique in vintage racing for inviting both racing and non-racing entries, the event drew a wide variety of vintage production cars, sports racers, and open-wheel racers.
Featured cars for PIB 2018 were the Austin Healey Sprite Mk I (Bugeye), which first arrived on the sports car scene 60 years ago, and Porsche, celebrating its 70th year. Numerous examples of both marques were on hand including— at one end of the spectrum— a couple of delightfully original Bugeyes and— on the other end —a Le Mans winning Porsche 962 (display and touring lap only) brought to the event along with some other stunning race entries by Stan and Malcolm Ross of Columbus, OH. Overall, entries hailed from 15 U.S. states and two Canadian Provinces.
As in past years, races comprised four race groups plus an exhibition group. While rain threatened initially on Tuesday and caused a brief delay, it was pretty much gone by the afternoon, and Wednesday yielded about the most glorious and comfortable racing weather anyone could ask for.
At the end of two full days of racing around the 1.2-mile Put-in-Bay Airport circuit, the top placing cars from the production and sports racer groups were invited to race for “King of the Rock” honors in the traditional Put-in-Bay Cup Race, again won (fourth consecutive year) by Joey Bojalad in his fast and smoothly driven Elva Mk VI.
New this year was a combined “race-within-a-race” competition where those who entered D-H Production classes at both July’s Waterford Hills Vintage Races and this year’s Put-in-Bay Races became eligible for the first annual Great Lakes Vintage Challenge(GLVC) earning points based on finishing positions in the group races in both events (see race results for this year’s winners). Next year, organizers expect to expand the Great Lakes Vintage Challenge to include, C Production, B, C and D Sedans, and Formula Vees and to include VSCDA’s annual event at Grattan in the points chase.
Put-in-Bay – Not Just a Race
PIB 2018 kicked off with a car show where both race and non-race entrants displayed their cars at Heineman’s Winery (an island institution). Despite ominous skies it was a spectacular array of cars in a charming setting.
As a light drizzle began, the car show was followed by a briskly paced original course tour through the town escorted by the cooperative and supportive Put-in-Bay Police Department. Sirens blared and engines roared as island residents waved flags around the route and while spectators lined the streets and cheered their favorite cars. As always, the tour provided a rolling spectacle to viewers along the route and a chance for drivers to get a sense of what it was like to actually race the narrow and rough roads of Put-in-Bay “back in the day”.
Other diversions included lunch-hour track touring for entered street cars, increasingly popular and zany “rocker cover races”, several social gatherings, and the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce’s free trackside “Fan Zone” providing bleachers and plenty of nearby concessions for spectators and entrants.
Another popular feature is the opening-evening wine and cheese reception featuring an interview session with a returning veteran of the original ‘50s-era races. This year’s special guest was John Petrone Sr. of Kirtland, OH who delightfully recounted stories from his days racing a Triumph TR3 at Put-in-Bay back in the ‘50s.
Yet another social event was added to the schedule this year – an optional lunch held at the Put-in-Bay Yacht Club during the Tuesday racing schedule providing a break for long-suffering spouses and supporters. Island classic-MG owner Laureen Mooney and race supporter Karen Diehl of Diehl Insurance spearheaded the lunch, which included a silent auction benefiting ALS research. Nearly 50 attended and all gave rave reviews.
At the post-race awards on Wednesday evening the event’s highest honor, The Paul Henry Award, was presented to the entrant deemed best representing the “spirit” of the Put-in-Bay Road Races. This year’s recipient is Ralph Zbarsky who brought his historically significant, factory built Targa Florio and Sebring ’67 MGBGT all the way from Vancouver British Columbia to compete in the E Production class
For more info visit www.pibroadrace.com