Pursuits | Adventures for the Aficionado: New Tricks
The cars in vintage racing may be old, but they keep getting better.
With a guttural groan, a gunmetal gray 1969 Corvette blazes into the pit of the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas, and its driver, Edward Sevadjian, stumbles out. Rivulets of sweat drip down his face, and he is silent as he rips off his blue helmet and gulps thirstily from the water bottle offered by his father. His eyes are dilated and his stare is intense—he looks like what he is: an athlete who has just completed the first leg of a long, focused race. While he hydrates, his pit crew—his dad, Alan Sevadjian, and several members of the Dallas-based team they both run, Duntov Racing—swiftly refuel the car, trying to keep this break brief, knowing that Sevadjian is racing not just other cars, but also the approaching rain. Their mechanic shouts over the noise of the track’s roar and the pit’s clamor of voices, “This is the first time he has blinked in 45 minutes!”
Sevadjian is competing in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) 2014 National Championships, the second such competition since the pastime gained the more consciously organized structure of a sport, and this particular event is the Hawk Performance Historic GT/GTP Enduro. Twenty-seven big-bore cars have qualified for the 90-minute final, and each is required to take two five-minute pit stops—a rule that lends itself to various strategies. On this cloudy day in mid-October, the GTP cars are averaging about 2:30 for each 3.4-mile lap, which contains a whopping 20 turns (most tracks have about 10). Sevadjian is in seventh place overall and first place in the V8 American production car class when he pulls into the pit. But rain is imminent, and Duntov’s idea is to remain in this position before the yellow flag is waved and the field is locked by the safety car. “When the rain comes we have to be on the track to win,” the mechanic says.
For the first time, vintage racing is on its way to becoming a major mainstream player in U.S. motorsports—one that is just as appealing to middle-aged amateurs and former pros as it is to young drivers like Sevadjian at the beginning of their careers. For decades, vintage racing has been a fragmented hobbyist pursuit with more than 170 events in North America organized by more than 30 independent clubs, each with its own rules and regulations regarding the authenticity of the cars and how they are classified. But SVRA has been changing that. Since 2012, the group has been absorbing some clubs and partnering with others to build a national schedule of events that culminate in an annual championship. In 2015, SVRA will host 18 races around the country with an estimated 4,000 entries, representing a 25 percent increase over 2014’s participants.
While the emerging sport is certainly competitive, there is a like-minded congeniality at the heart of the pastime. Waiting at the finish line for the winners is a Bell helmet, a medal, and a red SVRA baseball cap. There are no cash prizes or sponsorships, but for Sevadjian and the 440 other racers from seven countries that turned out for the five-day event, the thrill of racing period-correct cars around the best tracks in the United States is more than enough—that and the bragging rights that come with beating fellow competitors, many of them close friends.
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