Mustang, Mazda, Porsche, BMW, Corvette, Acura… Racing on a track with twists, turns, up and down grades…
You might immediately bring to mind the 12 Hours of Sebring… And you would be right. Throw in Cadillac, Lamborghini, Lexus and Aston-Martin with some exotic prototypes and you could fill the IMSA field at Sebring.
However… On the same weekend in March, a paddock full of enthusiast racers gather for club racing at another track a little further north. The track is also on the IMSA schedule but later in the year. (A little later than originally scheduled because of Le Mans… )
Virginia International Raceway, just along the border with North Carolina, is filled with many of the same manufacturers running with IMSA, even if the model years are a little older. The National Auto Sport Association and the March Madness gathering brings club racers of the Mid Atlantic Region to VIR. The drivers are the owners and they take their track time seriously and push the racing they do with the same dedication as the “pros” do. They may have a day job on Monday that is distant from the racing life but the weekends the club gathers are their holidays.
They tune their own cars, trade performance tips and upgrades and take part in course classes to improve their laps. Once the tests and registration and course instruction is done, they line up on the grid and race. There may not be big payouts or national media and sponsorships but the thrill of door to door racing and a shot at the checkered flag and some trophy thrown together from bits in the back of a garage is enough.
This is grass roots love of speed and the cars that bring it. Virginia International Raceway is host to several clubs and similar events throughout their schedule. Practically anyone can come with a car and race. Granted, there are safety items the car must have and the driver must pass some basic racing classes for rules, etiquette and skill to run with other cars but the door is there to drive through.
You might want to have an understanding spouse or a bit of a cushy bank account. Perhaps both. Racing is not the cheapest weekend but it also is not the most expensive. Plus, different clubs have different classes of participation so there is likely a spot for your budget.
The Twelve Hours Of Sebring is pretty big. However, It’s not big enough to keep these NASA club drivers out of their cars when the green flag waves. Some of them may catch the last few hours of Sebring on TV but it’s more likely it will be on in the background as they recall their own day at the wheel with their fellow drivers.
Virginia International Raceway hosts IMSA in October. Between now and then, there is room for the clubs to have lots of laps on the same pavement. Go racing.
Event / Track images gallery. *Note: For official NASA Mid Atlantic photos for purchase, contact Tae Tyson at Flat Out Images or Tony Politi at Politi Pixels. Images below are reference / editorial only.