Steve Sargis keeps the Spitfire Spirit alive
Steve Sargis has been racing Triumph Spitfires for over 30 years,
and he's still keeping them at the front of the pack.
For decades, British sports cars made up the heart and soul of SCCA Club Racing. The venerable MGBs, Austin-Healey Sprites, and Triumph Spitfires showed up to do battle at the Runoffs each year, along with a smattering of Fiats, Alfas, and later, Datsuns, Mazdas, Hondas and Toyotas.
These days, it's rare to see an old British car at the Runoffs, even in the Production category classes they used to dominate. G Production is gone entirely, and the Mazda Miata dominates in E and F Production most years. Even H Production – formerly the sole province of the MG Midget and Austin-Healey Sprite, has been taken over by VW Rabbits and Honda Civics. The newer cars bring decades of automotive design improvement to the track, and the vintage-eligible British machines must struggle to keep up.
But there are still a few drivers bringing the classic SCCA racecars to the track, and among those, Steve Sargis is still racing strong – and winning. With six prior championships to his credit – including wins in H Production in 2010 and F Production in 2011 – Sargis is still the man to beat behind the wheels of his Triumph Spitfire.
“Why do I still race a Spitfire? Because I'm crazy, I think. Who knows?” Sargis muses. "I've been racing Spitfires since I started in 1979. You get into a certain car and you accumulate all this stuff, and then you feel comfortable with them over the years, I guess.”
Campaigning a car that hasn't been manufactured in decades brings its own challenges. Simply finding body panels, engine parts, and other components often requires more than visiting a website.
“You have to make everything yourself, except for the engine blocks and heads. You can still get some old stuff around. Over 30 years, you accumulate a lot of knowledge about where all the stuff is at, plus other guys don't race them anymore and that stuff becomes available too. But it will run out eventually,” Sargis admits.
Sargis is racing two Spitfires this weekend, including an older model in GT-Lite, where he qualified third and led several laps in the race. He also has a newer model (from the 1970s) in F Production, where he qualified second. The F Production race happens at 1:20 p.m. Central time on Sunday.
Prather and Lentz deliver closest finish in Runoffs history...well, one of the closest
LEFT: Kent Prather added to his list of championships with a new record today – the closest finish in Runoffs history. Although he didn't hold it for long...
The GT-Lite race on Saturday afternoon featured a photo finish of just 0.002 second as Kent Prather recovered from a four-off exit of the last corner on the last lap of this National Championship race. Prather's Mazda Miata ended up in a drag race to the checker with second-place Robert Lentz (Nissan Sentra), pulling ahead by inches as they passed over the line.
SCCA officials initially confirmed the razor-thin margin of victory, and that this race is now the closest finish in SCCA Runoffs history. However, subsequent analysis revised the winning margin to 0.023sec (because of
different transponder placement on the two cars) which actually makes it
the third-closest finish in Runoffs history.
For more on this wild finish, click here for the full report.
Burt “BS” Levy lives his dream
RIGHT: Burt Levy sets up his shop and sells his novels at most vintage races and major SCCA events around the country. He does a steady business and loves to chat with his customers.
If you visit the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, you're likely to encounter Burt “BS” Levy. The man is known as the “World's Fastest Novelist,” and he's a fixture in the vintage and club racing scene.
Levy started his first novel – a docudrama about the early days of sports car racing – in 1986 and took eight years to get it finished. When he shopped the manuscript to the big publishing houses, the response was unanimous: the book would never sell. Undeterred, Levy took out a second mortgage on his house and self-published The Last Open Road in 1994.
“I had a little bit of a following from my magazine work, and I knew that there were all sorts of different styles, schools of thought, genres, sects and demographics across the motorsports spectrum, while the New York publishing types seemed to lump it all together into one loud, low-brow bunch of knuckle-dragger. My entire business plan amounted to I'll Show You!” Levy says.
The results over the past 18 years have been fantastic – Levy has sold over 50,000 copies of The Last Open Road. Beyond that, he has gone on to write 4 more books continuing the original story, plus a compendium of his shorter works known as The Potside Companion.
One feature of Levy's books that endears them to racers while defying conventional publishing wisdom is that racers can sponsor the book and receive ad space in a special section in the middle of the book.
“We try to spice it up a little by throwing in some insider gag ads, actual period ads, and pictures of some of the cars mentioned in the narrative so non-car types can get a visual image of them. To be honest, it was the sponsorship and advertising idea that turned this into a viable business plan,” Levy says.
You can purchase Levy's novels at the Runoffs, most vintage races and at www.lastopenroad.com.
• Jeff Zurschmeide is a regular contributor to SportsCar magazine.