Virginia International Raceway - May 3-4, 1958
Danville Bee, Monday, May 5, 1958
It was a big day at the Virginia International Raceway track east of Danville yesterday as more than 10,000 people turned out for a full day of sports car racing.
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Walt Hansgen sits in his Lister Jaguar while one of the Briggs Cunningham mechanics files a sharp edge from his windshield as a safety precaution. Supervising the operation is Alfred Momo, the team manager. Hansgen won the feature race of the day in this machine and came in second to Ed Crawford, a team-mate, in a preliminary event. Crawford was driving Lister Jaguar No. 61 in edge of picture.
Young Lance Reventlow, son of heiress Barbara Hutton, took an early lead in the third race of the day in his Scarab, a converted Corvette, No. 16. He Is being pursued by Crawford and Hansgen, both of whom later passed Reventlow to finish 1-2. In the foreground is one of the national guardsmen who helped keep order around the track.
Seven cars were involved in a smash-up which marked the start of the semifinal race. More than 40 cars were starting when a rear axle snapped on car No. 17, being driven by Ronnie Rix, who was half way back In the field. Rix tried to signal other drivers to pass him but the pile-up, started. No. 83, a Porsche driven by John Cuevas, was struck on all sides. He and Rix hold up their hands to signal they are in distress. In the foreground, Bob Hathaway tries to maneuver his. Austin Healey around the wreck.
The Bee photographer went aloft in one of the planes which landed in the infield to get this aerial view of a portion of the paddock area. The start-finish line is at extreme left.
Frank Baptista, behind those dark glasses, is congratulated by Bob Hauss after winning one of his two races of the day. He is shown at the wheel of his Elva, No. 35, in the picture at right. Baptista had never been able to finish a race at VIR before but he chalked up twin victories yesterday to add to his national point lead.
The Briggs Cunningham stable of Jaguars ran away with the big prizes at the Virginia International Raceway yesterday while Frank Baptista swept small-car honors in his Elva - a warmed over Lotus.
Walt Hansgen of Westfield, N. J., the defending VIR and national champion, maneuvered his white Lister-Jaguar, No. 60, to victory in the feature event of the day, beating out team-mate Ed Crawford of Chicago, Ill.
In an earlier race, the pairings had been reversed as the Cunningham team displayed domination over the field- including the powerful Scarab of Lance Reventlow, the son of Barbara Hutton.
Among the smaller cars, Baptista - a national champion who had often started but never finished at VIR - piloted his "little white pig" to two victories, one of them a hair-raiser over M. R. J. Wyllie of Allison Park, Pa., and the other was an affair that almost ran too long for the winner because of a time mix-up.
Other highlights of the day included a new time record, a seven-car smash-up at the start of one race, and the fact more than 10,000 people took advantage of the sunny weather to flock to the track for the full day of competition.
The day's program included five races - three of 30 minutes each, one for 45 minutes and the one-hour finale.
The opening event was monopolized by the Porsches, with E.M. Pupulidy beating out M.G.A. Cappielo by 36 seconds with an average speed of 67.4 miles per hour. The eventual winner led by one second at the end of the first lap and gradually moved ahead for the 10 remaining laps.
Other class winners In the first rare were Bob Grossman in an Alfa Romeo, Howard Hanna in a DB Panhard, William Harding in a Berkeley and R.J. Ferguson in an Osca. The latter also was third overall.
Baptista grabbed an early lead in the second race, built up a comfortable margin, and then almost was overtaken by Wyllie, driving a green Lotus, No. 2. Baptista, from Hyattsville, Md., always had trouble keeping his low-slung No. 35 on the track at VIR. This time he stayed out of the mud.
Midway through this race, Baptista stretched his lead over Wyllie to 10 seconds. At the end of eight laps he led by 5.8 seconds. After nine laps he was barely in front by 2.2 seconds. Wyllie trailed by only 0.6 seconds going into the final lap.
The two cars were less than 10 feet apart on the back stretch. Coming into the final curve before the home stretch, Wyllie tried to take the lead but skidded onto the shoulders. The door of his Lotus flew open but he managed to hang on to cross the finish line 3.3 seconds behind the winner.
Other class winners in this race were Dick Thompson in an Austin-Healey and Ed Welch in an AC Bristol.
The final race before the lunch break brought out the big cars and for a few minutes it looked as if the Cunningham team had met its match in the powerful Scarab - a converted Corvette - driven by Reventlow.
The youthful Reventlow had experienced trouble in Saturday's time trials in getting his metallic blue car off to a quick start. But when the important start came yesterday, No. 16 lurched forward as the Lister Jags churned at the line. Reventlow led by 0.7 seconds after one lap and was still in front at the end of the second lap.
Crawford passed on the third lap when Reventlow hit a corner too fast and picked up some grass. Hansgen pulled into second place on the fourth lap and the Cunningham team was out front for keeps. Don Sesslar in a Porsche Spider finally took over third place when Reventlow had to make a pit stop.
Crawford's winning average was 77.7 miles per hour. Class winners were Reventlow, Crawford, Sesslar and Charlie Wallace- the latter driving the new Briggs Cunningham Jaguar, an XK150.
The biggest excitement of the day came on the start of the semi-final race when seven cars were involved in a smash-up before reaching the starting line. More than 40 cars were lined up for the start and one third of them got off before the AC Bristol driven by Ronnie Rix snapped a rear axle. Frantically he tried to wave others by him but the pile-up started.
John Cuevas' Porsche was rammed from both sides and Col. Fred Moore's Austin-Healey also was sidelined. Dick Thompson later had to quit the race because of a damaged frame from the pile-up.
The finish of the race was as frantic as the start. It was scheduled for 45 minutes but a time-mixup took place and the race ran five additional minutes. Baptista ran out of gas in the overtime but he drifted over the line- the winner.
Other class winners in this semifinal were Reed Rollo, Ross Wees, Pupulidy, Tony Briggs, Howard Hanna, William Harding and R. J. Ferguson.
The final race had the big cars running for a full hour with Hansgen grabbing the lead at the start and, keeping it all the way. He finished five seconds ahead of Crawford and a full 35.7 seconds in front of Reventlow.
Hansgen averaged 77.6 mph and set a new course record for his eighth lap, averaging 80.94 mph.
Other class winners in the final event were George Arents, Reventlow, Gaston Andrey and Don Sesslar. The latter engaged. in a close duel with Bob Holbert all the way.
While the drivers took the silver, the biggest single winner of the day was S. W. Pope of Crewe, Va., who was presented. a new Triumph-3 by American Legion Post 325.