Historic Racing At Thompson Speedway

Nestled in the rolling foothills of northeastern Connecticut, Thompson Speedway has been hosting sports car racing since the early 50’s. Back then, hoardes of MG’s fought to stay ahead of upstart Porsches on the narrow, twisty track.

After falling into disrepair over many decades while NASCAR style stock car racing took priority, the original track has been re-created exactly as it was when sports cars first raced there in 1952. This past weekend, the sharp bark of unmuffled race engines reverberated across the Connecticut countryside once again as the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) and Vintage Racers Group (VRG) brought historic racing back to Thompson Speedway.

Many of those same MG’s and Porsches were back in action at Thompson, along with a host of Alfa Romeos and Austin Healeys. There was also a 2 cylinder Panhard on hand, a Bugatti, a Ferrari engined Alfa Romeo, a Volvo PV 544, and a Hillman Minx. Among the upper classes were several Lotus race cars, a beautifully kept Tojeiro and an ultra-rare Devin fitted with a turbocharged Corvair motor.

Vintage sports car racing is not a casual indulgence. The Bugatti has had the same owner since 1985; a lovingly maintained MG TC has been in the same family for nearly 50 years. The atmosphere in the pits was won of congenial hospitality, with most contestants knowing each other and eager to talk about their vehicles with spectators.

The racing was equally informal. While every driver was putting everything into the competition, vintage racing is no place for trading paint or rubbing sheetmetal — not with what these classic cars are worth. No one wants to see their on-track experience end in tears.

I had a chance to chat with Ed Hyman, official photographer for VSCCA. He knew virtually every car on track, who owned it, when they bought it and what modifications they had made to the car during their stewardship. Besides being a walking encyclopedia, he is an affable ambassador for the sport.

For a while this weekend, it was 1952 again and the dawn of the golden age of sports cars lay just around the next corner and beyond the next hill. These great old cars have the power to turn back time and make us all young again, at least for a little while.

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Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.