Virginia International Raceway - August 3-4, 1957
Danville Bee - Friday August 2, 1957
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They were "burning rubber" early today on the new Virginia International Raceway cast of Danville as the nation's top Sports Cars drivers made practice runs for the Grand Prix Inauguration starting tomorrow.
While many of the drivers were touring the torturous 3.2 mile course - memorizing each turn and determining maximum speeds --- others were having their expensive foreign-made speedsters checked at the Danville airport.
Headquarters at Hotel Danville was a beehive of activity as scores of drivers, owners and enthusiasts checked in this morning. Officials worked until last midnight on various problems.
Today's activity at the track near Milton was closed to the public but many people were making the trip down for a preview glimpse of the activity.
For the drivers and mechanics it was strictly business. Between laps, drivers would pull into pit alley for conference with their mechanics - usually with hoods up and with adjustments being made to the motors.
Chief Steward George Zuver and Chief Starter Jesse Coleman were busy lining up the time trials on which starting positions are determined.
General Chairman Ed Kemm was probably the busiest man of all, checking on innumerable de-tails. Race Chairman Bob Hathaway likewise was one of the early arrivals at the asphalt "dangerous dozen."
Activity at the Danville airport proved to be of high interest to local residents who are getting their first taste of the international sport.
Chief Technical Inspector Arthur Harried had a crew of a dozen on hand by 9 a.m. to start the Safety checks. Every one of the more than 120 cars had to be checked out during the day
These tests included a front-end check, brakes test, tire inspection and a checklist of such items as a fire extinguisher and safety belt an all cars, plus roll-bars on modified versions.
Dr. Frank Barnes, course physician revealed that there is a growIng pressure to require roll-bars an all sports cars. He reasons: "Why should the roll-bars be required on some and not on others - they all compete in some of the same events. We physicians are certain they would save lives. It would be cheap insurance to spend $35 for a roll-bar on a $10,000 car."
Inspector Harned and an assistant, J.A. McCausland - who was with the CAA pre-flight training school here during World War II - were concentrating on other safety factors at the airport.
In the front-end check, each car is placed on a wheel-spinning machine which rotates the front tires at the equivalent of 110 MPH. They make certain there is no slack in the steering.
To test brakes, drivers raced their cars along the pavement and locked their brakes. All four wheels must lock instantaneously. Those that didn't were rolled aside for adjustments and rechecks.
Safety likewise was the topic of a committee meeting at the hotel last night. Such matters as regulations for the time trials also were ironed out.
Down at the course, drivers who were making their first rounds declared that this is the best test course in the country. Repeatedly it was said: "This one will separate the men from the boys."
VIR will open for business early tomorrow morning, with practice runs and time trials to be followed by a drivers' meeting just prior to the start of the formal program.
The track will be officially opened with ceremonies at 1:55 p.m. Congressman William M. Tuck will be introduced in front of the pagoda by Delegate C. Stuart Wheatley and will cut the ribbon at the starting line.
The first race, scheduled for 2 p.m. will be seven laps (about 125 miles) for smaller sports cars -- Classes G production and sports, F production and sports, and H sports.
It will be followed by the same length race for Classes E, F and sports.
The afternoon finale will be a wide-open handicap affair in which the slowest car starts first and the fastest (as determined by time trial) starts last. It shapes up as one of the most interesting events awaiting spectators,
More practice rounds likely will follow until dusk.
Seven races are scheduled Sunday, from 10 a.m. until late afternoon. Three will be for 25-miles each, three others for 50 miles and the finale will cover 70 miles.
All major preparations for the big events appeared in order today with clean-up work underway on details for what shapes up as the biggest sports event ever held in the Danville area.
Among drivers planning to compete in the event is Carroll Shelby of Dallas, Tex., who will be driving a new 4-liter Maserati being flown from Italy by the manufacturer in time for the races.
Shelby finished second to Juan Fangio of Argentina in the Cuban Grand Prix in February. He drove a Ferrari in that race.
Other drivers expected include Charlie Wallace of Washington, D.C., in a Porsche; Paul O'Shea of Rye, N. Y., in a Mercedes; Walter Hansgen of Chicago in a Jaguar; John Fitch of Stamford, Conn., in a Jaguar; Briggs Cunningham of Green Farms, Conn., in a Cunningham C6R; Dick Thompson of Washington, D.C., in a Corvette; Frank Baptista of Hyattsville, Md.. in a Lotus and Dave Symes of Orange, Conn., in an Austin Healey.
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