Despite the weekend weather forecast of rain, clouds and cool air, we made it out to Virginia International Raceway on Saturday for the first of two Grand Am Cup Series 6 hour class events. Saturday featured a 3-9 PM race among over 35 GS class sports cars. Also on tab was the first east coast appearance of GT Live which has also appeared at California Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway within the last year. I knew that Grand Am would have no problems racing in the rain or on a wet track but I didn't expect much of GT Live to run as drifting, motorcycle stunts, amateur and kart racing were not exactly wet track events. My buddy Carey and I arrived at VIR early and accessed the track paddock with my Media/Photo pass that allowed me free access and parking.
It was by far the coldest weather I had ever endured for a race. Not that 50 degrees F is very cold, its just that I was sick with a cold and we had stayed up late the night before after watching the Carolina Hurricanes lose in Raleigh at the RBC Center. This was game 2 of the season and game 1 of my season ticket package. Also on my mind was a 10 mile road race the following morning back in the Raleigh/Durham area that I was entered in. Yes, I do race after all - just not in a car but with my two feet in running shoes. Because of my cold and race Sunday morning, this would be the first time I spent a day at VIR without drinking a beer.
So we arrived at VIR in time for the ontrack practice and qualifications for the Grand Am Cup ST class cars who would be racing the next day in the second 6 hour race of the weekend. The 'S'treet 'T'uner cars are more like cars that you and I drive every day. Slightly modified Acura RSXs, Mazda RX8s, Chevy Cobalts, Dodge Neons are a few examples. Saturday's GS class cars comprise larger engine and HP cars such as Mustang GTs, Porsche 996s and BMW 3 Series. I know the Lexus IS300 was run in the past in one of these series, I wondered how it would do today; especially with me as the pilot.
The GT Live part of the weekend did their best to maintain interest and excitement throughout the day and managed to carry out most of the events they had scheduled. Its just that the girls, music, and party-like atmosphere that they portrayed in their promotional materials and videos had not made it out to rural Virginia on this cold, cloudy weekend. Never the less, I was there for the racing and there was plenty of that.Of particular interest was the US Stunt Riding Championship that matched up teams of stunt riders on street bikes - yes, motorcycles - doing tricks and suicidal moves on the VIR front stretch. Performances were judged by crowd reaction and applause. I got to take photos from across the track - free from spectator traffic.The 6 hour race started around 3 PM with the pole-sitting Tafel Racing Porsche 996 jumping out to an early lead over the second place Blackforest Motorsports Mustang GT. Further back in the field was notable road racer and aspiring Nextel Cup regular - Boris Said in one of the Turner Motorsports BMW M3s. Way back in the field with an early off-course excursion was Grey's Anatomy regular and aspiring race car driver/owner - Patrick Dempsey in the Hyper Sport Mustang GT.
For some reason, which I still don't know, the Playboy Racing Mustang GT driven by a foursome including former Champ Car driver Memo Gidley wasn't in the race despite qualifying ninth earlier. We know the car was there because I took a picture of it in the paddock on race morning; I don't know what happened.
After a few hours of racing, Carey and I decided to leave. The weather was only getting worse and we had seen and done enough for the day. I figured I had got enough pics and that there wasn't gonna be a whole lot of additional stories developing. Our day was cut short and we exited the track with the GS cars speeding by, still with 4 hours of racing to go.
As always, VIR did a great job with the weekend setup and fan access. If GT Live plans on returning to VIR, perhaps they could schedule for a August or September event instead of the traditional rainy period in October that Grand Am normally occupies.