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Original Issue


At the new Virginia Raceway's rain-splashed, windy opener, a big red Maserati poured it on the D Jags

If you haven't come across a man who thinks big lately, consider Edward B. Kemm, proprietor of the new Virginia International Raceway. Kemm is a rich, round and relaxed man of 23 who clips coupons at home in Greensboro, N.C. when he isn't altering the countryside around Danville, Va. So far he has put a sporty. 3.2-mile road course through the greenery of a horseshoe bend in the Dan River, a dozen miles east of Danville.

Contemplating his domain the other day, while a flock of cars buzzed around the course on the occasion of its first national Sports Car Club of America race meeting, Kemm pointed to a strategic hill.

"See that house up there?" he asked. "That house is 200 years old. I'm going to have that house fixed up as a clubhouse and I'm going to get 100 club members at $1,000 a year."

Inasmuch as Kemm expects to have three big races a year from now on, that works out to $333 and odd change per race per club member. A trifle inflationary? Well, for all we know, Ed Kemm might have Scarlett O'Hara pouring juleps for the customers if he put his mind to it.

Most of the pouring on race day had to do with plain old proletarian water. First, the 10,000 spectators baked in 100° heat. Then strong winds beat across the course, causing the evacuation and near collapse of refreshment tents, and finally a cloudburst deluged the general scene. In the worst of the wind and rain a stouthearted band of small-car drivers muddled through resolutely to the end of their race, which was won by the Alfa Romeo Veloce of Pittsburgh's consistent Ed Hugus.

The rain eased and finally stopped during the next event, a 45-mile dash for Classes F and G modified cars, but not before two of the nation's outstanding Porsche drivers engaged in an electrifying duel on the rainwashed asphalt surface. Both Charlie Wallace of Chevy Chase, Md. and Bob Holbert of Warrington, Pa. drove the latest RS Spyders. The lead changed hands frequently on the opening laps. On the fifth lap Wallace, pressing too hard, spun out and reentered the race in third place. Holbert, who demonstrated his ability to drive very fast while staying well within himself, went on to take the checkered flag, while Wallace regained second place.

A slender, blue-eyed, self-taught driver who moved up to the Porsche this year after four years of successful but relatively obscure competition in MGs, Holbert operates a Porsche-Volkswagen agency at Warrington, Pa. in workaday hours.

In view of the adverse weather, the day's racing was remarkably formful. Dick Thompson's Corvette was never threatened in a 45-mile race for the larger production cars. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kuhn (SI, July 15), squeezed his A.C. Bristol ahead early in the Class E 45-miler for production cars and kept it there.

The pattern for the 20-lap feature race was set in a seven-lap preliminary for the hottest cars. Texas' Carroll Shelby showed up with his old, striped overalls and a new 4.5-liter Maserati—the eight-cylinder 400-hp model with which Juan Fangio and Jean Behra dominated the 12-hour Sebring race in March. When it runs trouble-free in the hands of a superior driver the 4.5 is an awesome piece of machinery. Shelby had tuned up with a victory in a regional SCCA meeting at Lime Rock, Conn. Now, in the short race, he zipped away smartly from a starting position on the second row and passed the two front-row 3.8-liter D Jaguars entered by Briggs Cunningham within a few yards. Walt Hansgen gamely pursued Shelby in the leading D Jag, and Charlie Wallace gamely chased Hansgen in the other, but the Texan won comfortably.

Again, in the feature race, Shelby charged past the D Jags from the second row as if whipped from a catapult. The real race was between Hansgen and his teammate, Wallace. Hansgen is a hell-for-leather driver who likes to keep his foot down, and so is Wallace, but Hansgen has had more experience in the Jags, and Wallace on this day was not always on the pavement. When Wallace finally miscued on a corner he fell far behind Hansgen, but by that time he was so far ahead of the rest of the field that he kept third place. Out in front Shelby drove an impeccable race, turning each lap within a second or two of his time for the last. The big red Maserati was 15 seconds ahead of Hansgen's Jaguar at the flag, having averaged 78.2 mph.

An effort at thinking big, down there on the course that Kemm built, failed to turn up any reasonable alternative to this conclusion: barring bad racing luck or mechanical failure, nobody is going to beat Shelby on home soil during the rest of this season. He is the best driver, and he has the fastest car.