In 1970 the recently opened Road Atlanta circuit hosted the SCCA Runoffs, the prestigious National Championship event for the amateur organization. Called the “American Road Race of Champions” with the slogan “The Olympics of Auto Racing” on the first poster promoting the event, the Runoffs were to stay at Road Atlanta until 1993.
Prior to 1970, the Runoffs were held at Riverside and Daytona in an alternating east/west format from 1964-69. Road Atlanta was a compromise of sorts. Although certainly not geographically in the middle of the USA, competitors fell in love with the challenging circuit.
The 1970 Runoffs were successful, despite some minor problems resulting from the newness of the circuit. Of course, Road Atlanta was somewhat in the “middle of nowhere” 43 years ago, as Atlanta has since grown northward.
Here’s a look at the winners of the first SCCA Runoffs in 1970:
C Sedan – Ed Spreen, Mini Cooper S
D Sedan - Craig Fisher, Fiat Abarth Corsa
G Production – William Koch, MG Midget
FV – Harry Ingle, Zink
H Production – Dennis Daly, Austin-Healey Sprite
E Production – Don Charles, Triumph GT-6
Formula B – Skip Barber, Tenco
Formula C – Michael Rand, Brabham BT-21
F Production – John Kelly, Triumph Spitfire
C Sports – Dan Carmichael, Lotus 23B
D Sports – Marvin Thompson, Bobsy
Formula A – Dave Heinz, Lola T-172
D Production – Jim Fitzgerald, Datsun SRL-311
A Sedan – Roy Woods, AMC Javelin
B Sedan – Vic Provenzano, Alfa Romeo GTA
Formula F – Skip Barber, Tenco
Formula Super Vee – Tom Davey, Zeitler
C Production – John Morton, BRE-Datsun
A Production – John Greenwood, Corvette
B Production – Allan Barker, Corvette Sting Ray
A Sports – Oscar Koveleski – McLaren M8B
B Sports – Milt Minter, Porsche 906
The A and C Production races probably had the most names Road Atlanta fans remember today: Bob Sharp, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Peter Gregg, Jim Fitzgerald, John Paul Sr., Bob Tullius, Tony DeLorenzo, Dick Barbour, Pete Harrison and John Morton.
In the D Sedan race, future Road Atlanta official John Burns took a fifth place finish! Gordon Smiley raced in G Production. Sadly he would perish in the most horrific accident in Indianapolis Speed history during practice for the 1982 Indy 500.
Other entrants included Dave Helmick (1973 Sebring winner), Bruce McCaw (now a famed Seattle businessman and car collector), IMSA Camel GT racer Jeff Kline, Sebring regular Bill McDill, and rally racer Jon Woodner. Of course, there are many others who would go on to leave their mark in SCCA history, and others who were just having a good time. That’s what the Runoffs are all about.
Written by: Ken Breslauer