For a car guy from Northern Ohio, the Put-In-Bay road races hold a special place on the bucket list. I cannot hear the name without thinking of MGTCs, Triumphs, Elvas, Porsches, Lotuses, Morgans, Sprites, VWs, and more racing through the 1950s streets of South Bass Island in Lake Erie. Heck, they even raced Crosleys! The races are an important part of the area’s history, and now the history is being relived each summer.
Put-In-Bay is an important national historic site as well. During the War of 1812, US Navy warships commanded by Oliver Hazard Perry used Put-In-Bay as a base of operations, and defeated the British fleet in the Battle of Lake Erie. A monument was erected to this victory, and an immortal slogan was born from the fight: “We have met the enemy, and they are ours…”
Put-In-Bay has been a summer resort for more than 100 years. During the 1950s, one of the top attractions was a series of races held on the public roads of the island. The events were designed for race cars limited to engines under 2 liters, and this resulted in grids of great variety and beauty. 120 different kinds of cars participated over the years, and there were more than 420 car/driver combinations that competed. Sports cars and racing were all the rage in the 50s, and these races also attracted many amateurs into the sport. Many of the drivers were first time participants. If this sounds like a recipe for camaraderie and epic fun, it was!
So this summer, I made the commitment to take my brother to the races. After a short ferry ride from Marblehead Ohio which is directly across the channel from South Bass Island, we rented a golf cart and set out to find the races. This year they were staged at the airport, but the historic racetrack through town was marked so you could drive the original circuit in your cart. The town is a great resort town still, with many bars, restaurants, and shops to patronize. The set up at the airport was excellent, with vendors, a tented grandstand, and unrestricted access to the cars. The cars were spread around the track in various locations, and everywhere the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. We saw many cars that we had never seen before, and their owners were glad to talk about them. To top it all off, a vintage biplane put on a good show with flybys and precision flying. After he landed, the races started!
WIlliam Hoffer, Director of Marketing, Grundy Insurance
Excerpts from the official press release follow:
“Vintage racing the way it should be . . .”
The annual Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion is “as if all the old Road & Tracks stored on
our shelves suddenly came to life,” said a recent participant. The event, now in its eighth
year at historic Put-in-Bay, Ohio — where sports car races were held from 1952 to 1959
and in 1963 — continues to attract vintage racing enthusiasts and participants who value a
low-key event at a historically significant location where the emphasis is on enjoyment.
This year’s Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion featured two days of spirited racing around a
hay-bale lined airport circuit plus an original course tour, a car show, rocker cover races,
a “recollections roundtable” program (interviews with participants in the original sports
car races), an on-your-own-time rallye and several social gatherings. New this year was a
free trackside “Fan Zone” sponsored by the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce providing
tent-shaded bleachers for spectators and plenty of nearby concessions.
Held from Sunday afternoon through the Wednesday morning before Labor Day, this
year’s PIBRRR attracted a near-record entry of about 100 cars (including about 50
vintage race cars and 50 non-racing entries) and a large crowd of spectators. In addition,
live online streaming video coverage of part of the races on www.wpib.com (an onlineradio
station that covers many Put-in-Bay events) reached more than 14,000 viewers.
Participant and supporting sponsor Chris Silvestri summed up the event on the Put-in-
Bay Road Races Facebook page by commenting: “Vintage racing the way it should be!”
Elva Sports Racers Again Top 2016
For the second year in a row, The 1960 Elva Mk VI skillfully driven by Joey Bojalad of
Sewickley, PA topped the field in the event’s last race of the day — Put-in-Bay Cup race
– earning Joey his second “King of the Rock” award.
PIBRRR’s most prestigious honor, the Paul Henry Award — given to the entrant best
representing the spirit of the Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion — went to long-time MG
enthusiast Tom Baumgardner of Tallmadge Ohio. Tom has attended every PIBRRR
since the founding event in 2009, raced his MGA at PIB several times, served as the
event’s lead technical inspector through 2015 and has the distinction of attending
PIBRRRs in 6 different MG sports cars.
Put-in-Bay is a nostalgic enclave on South Bass Island, a short ferry ride off the shore of
Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio. A resort community little changed from the ‘50s, it is
one of the very few places in North America where post-war sports cars raced through
towns and countryside on public roads and where those roads exist today virtually
PIBRRR 2017 is scheduled for August 27-30, 2017. For more information
see www.pibroadrace.com and feel free to join us on our facebook page.