Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) announced six top contenders for its Vintage Race of Champions (VROC) Charity Pro-Am presented by Chopard Watch championship for the next race at Virginia International Raceway. All are in the hunt for either the A Production or B Production championships. Willy T. Ribbs and Boris Said, fresh off their VROC victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, appear to be the drivers to beat in AP and BP, respectively.
NASCAR’s Bobby Labonte and Mike Skinner, also favorites in AP, have filed entries. Expect Wally Dallenbach Jr. and Mark Dismore, both top contenders for the BP championship, to run at the front in the decisive VIR contest.
In addition to the professionals, amateur drivers Ed Sevadjian, Gary Klutt, and his father Peter Klutt are in the hunt for the amateur AP title while Jim Caudle, John Cloud, and Shannon Ivey are the leaders of the BP championship. Sevadjian, with Ribbs, won in AP at IMS while Caudle and Said shared the winning BP car at the same event. Cloud won the Road Atlanta BP round with co-driver Max Papis in March.
Chopard, the Swiss artisan of luxury timepieces, and the Official Watch of SVRA, will present an SVRA-branded watch to the champions of AP and BP, both professional and amateur. It is modeled after their prestigious Grand Prix De Monaco Historique Race Edition timepiece. Since 2002, Chopard has served as sponsor and official timekeeper at the renowned Grand Prix De Monaco Historique.
Ribbs is the first black driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He did so twice, in 1991 and again in 1993. He also tested a Formula 1 car in 1986 with Bernie Ecclestone’s Brabham team. Ribbs was Trans Am’s most prolific winner from 1983 through 1985 when he scored 18 of his 19 career-total victories. He was series Rookie of the Year in 1983, winning five times and more than any other driver. After Trans Am, he moved to Dan Gurney’s IMSA Toyota team for two years and picked off 10 race wins. Ribbs gained recognition as a rising talent when he won the Formula Ford championship in England in 1977. He was inducted into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Labonte is the first driver to win both the NASCAR Cup Championship (2000), and the Busch Series Championship (1991). He backed up those accomplishments by winning the elite 2001 IROC Championship with two victories in the season’s four races. In a NASCAR Cup career that spanned 24 seasons Labonte amassed 21 race wins and 26 poles. In what is now the Xfinity Series he scored 10 race wins and 10 poles. He won in NASCAR’s top three series: Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks. It was announced in May that Labonte will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, class of 2020, in January. He is also a member of the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. He drove a 2009 Joe Gibbs Toyota Cup car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed last month and regularly competes in the NASCAR’s Whelen Series in Europe.
Skinner, who has a career total of 28 race wins and 50 poles in NASCAR Truck competition, was the series champion in 1995. In 1997 team owner Richard Childress promoted him to join Dale Earnhardt Sr. as his teammate in the NASCAR Cup series. He again delivered by winning the 1997 Rookie of the Year title as well as six pole positions and a pair of exhibition race wins in Japan. In 2013 he was recognized for his accomplishments when he was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame. Skinner, who competes regularly in SVRA, has continued his career with occasional races as well as hosting the NASCAR Radio show, “Skinner Round-up” with his wife Angie on Sirius XM. He drove his NASCAR Truck up the hill climb at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer.
Said amassed myriad accomplishments beginning at the onset of his career when he won SCCA Rookie-of-the-Year in 1987. He was national runoffs champion three times, in 1989, ’90, and ’91. He scored GT class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1997 and 1998, as well as the 12 Hours of Sebring also in 1998. In 2004 he was crowned the Rolex Sports Car Series GT champion and followed that up by becoming the first American to score a 24 Hours of Nurburgring victory in 2005. His prowess as a road racer attracted the attention of NASCAR teams where he raced in all three major NASCAR series, scoring wins in Xfinity and Trucks.
Dallenbach launched his professional racing career in the Trans Am series in 1984. He was immediately successful, winning the Rookie of the Year title. The following year he won the championship for Jack Roush’s Mercury Capri team to make him, at 22, the series’ youngest champion. He repeated as champion again in 1986 for the Protofab Camaro team. These championships earned him an invitation to the elite IROC invitational series in 1987. Other outstanding accomplishments include four class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Dallenbach enjoyed an eleven-year NASCAR Cup career and also competed in NASCAR Truck, Xfinity, IndyCar, IMSA Camel GT, and a win in the open wheel division at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb.
Mark Dismore captured the attention of the American open-wheel community in 1990 when he dominated the Toyota Atlantic (Pacific Division) championship, winning eight of ten races. He won overall at the 31993 24 Hours of Daytona driving Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers Toyota prototype with Rocky Moran and P.J. Jones. A star driver for Kelley Racing in Indy cars he won the 1999 Texas Motor Speedway race. Throughout his career, he competed in 64 Indy car races and in addition to his victory in Texas he won four pole positions. His success earned him two invitations to the elite IROC series.
The VIR event will benefit IGNITE – the Autism Society of North Carolina’s community center for young adults with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome. IGNITE was founded by The Evernham Family Racing for a Reason Foundation – a nonprofit established by legendary NASCAR crew chief Ray Evernham and his family.
The VROC Charity Pro-Am presented by Chopard Watch is a Saturday feature event at VIR. The cars are 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs of SVRA “Group 6” A and B Production. The professionals will be paired with amateur drivers. Amateurs will start the race and be required to drive a maximum of seven laps. In addition to the Pro-Am, there will be a festival of other activities at VIR including professional Trans Am by Pirelli series races on Saturday and Sunday. The weekend also presents the Hagerty Insurance “cars & caffeine” car corral, and 300+ vintage racers ranging over 100 years of automotive history racing in SVRA Groups 1 through 12.