"I've got tickets ordered for the Mitty in April. You can get off work, right?" came the question from long time friend and fellow British car enthusiast Richard Cunningham. Actually the inflection was more in the form of an order than a question. "Uh, sure. Lemme see what I can do," I replied not at all sure that I could swing it.
Fast forward to a really early Friday morning in late April and Richard and I were stowing a lot of gear in the back of my daily driver Honda Civic for the trek to the Big Peach. I've always considered myself a 'travel light' kind of guy but since absolutely nothing about me can be remotely thought of as light any more, my baggage and other required accoutrements seem to have grown over the years as quickly as my middle. Slamming the trunklid, we started our weekend of vintage speed.
For those not in the know, The Mitty is the annual party that the Historic Sportscar Racing Limited organization puts on in conjunction with Classic Motorsports and Grassroots Motorsports magazines at the famous Road Atlanta race track just northeast of Atlanta. Owners of historic racing cars gather to give their cars a good spring workout and put on a show for fans of vintage racing. There's bound to be a car in the dozens present that is of interest to even the most casual auto enthusiast.
|A Feature Race|
Richard and I were warmly greeted by HSR and magazine staff members at the gate and since this was the first race event I attended in about eight years, I had a hard time paying attention to the other cars on the entrance road while ogling the fast movers on the course just a few hundred feet outside my window. We found a convenient spot to park and wandered through the specialty car parking corral and vendors row.
For late April it was beastly hot in the hills of north Georgia with nary a cloud in sight and very little breeze. Most of the vendors had tents set up to protect their wares from the weather and provide a little shade, but instead of cool shade the tents were more like saunas in the heat and humidity.
I chatted with one of the vendors - an automotive artist - and looked through his work. He is a painter, but he also uses modern computer graphic software to create startlingly accurate plan views of classic road and competition cars. One of his prints caught my eye immediately; it was a dead ringer for my brother's vermillion MGB. It became a gift for him in some small repayment for his generosity to me. Richard found a photographer who had been shooting the practice sessions earlier in the day and print of a Group 44 Racing Jaguar XJR became his first souvenir of the trip.
|The Downhill Prior to Turn 12|
|Richard and Bob Tullius (in dark shirt)|
Seeing that the time was quickly approaching for us to take part in the on-track parade laps, we headed back to the trusty Civic and fell in line for access to the race course. I was impressed that the Road Atlanta team didn't require signed releases or provide a litany of thou-shalt-nots, unlike another well-known course that I was able to drive on.
|Richard with a Jaguar XJR7|
The first time around, I completely screwed up the last turn. Just after a quick left-right complex, the course rises to the Audi overpass where the road drops immediately and enters turn 12 to the pit straight. I stayed too far left and almost went down the escape road before I was able to catch it and stay on the course. Much nervous giggling ensued and kept up for the next four laps.
|For All the Marbles|
We finished our parade laps and found a a spot on Spectators Hill to watch the rest of the day's practice session. We were entertained by cars at speed that we remembered from our misspent youths. For Richard, the trip marked his first return to Road Atlanta in over 40 years. We were lost in our thoughts as the historic racers roared past. Soon it was time to head to north Atlanta and to our accommodation there.
|Andy Wallace Chats with His Team|
|That's PBCA's Mike Japp in the Yellow Spit|
The featured marque for this year's Mitty was Triumph and I have to admit that I've never seen so many Triumphs in one place. My best guess would be in excess of 200 TRs, Spitfires and various rarer-in-the-US models. A series of parade laps for the featured marque looked like a bumper to bumper traffic jam. A thrilling sight, indeed.
The day's events included qualifying and racing and we both got what we came for in abundance. Classic racing cars from all classes and marques were given their own races, most of which were 30 minute sprints. While we came for the classic British cars, we were just as thrilled to watch the high-horsepower prototype cars from the recent past as well as classic Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000 and NASCAR classics. The event was even open to classic motorcycles which put on a show to remember.
As the day wore on, the cool weather gave way to more searing, white-sky heat prompting us to seek shelter in the air conditioned Civic while we chugged water.
|The Featured Marque Race|
Road Atlanta has a number of fine vantage points for spectating from hillsides, under shade trees and at points of the track where cars brake hard and downshift (my favorite) and areas of acceleration out of the turns. I have to give the facility high marks for access, amenities and upkeep and everyone we dealt with at the venue was quite friendly and seemed to be genuinely concerned that the fans had a great experience.
Our next goal is to return to the track to take in a Petit LeMans 6 hour race at some point in the future. I can't wait.
Click on the photos to enlarge them