1962 Petite Prix

Category: Racing
Published on Wednesday, 12 September 2012 15:38
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1962 PETITE PRIX

 

The last "Petite Prix" was held November 3 & 4, 1962 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. Coverage of this final street race is presented in three parts:

62 petite1. Ron Nance's story from the November 5, 1962 Daily Oklahoman.

2. Anatoly Arutunoff's comments on the event from his book "One Off."            

3. My personal comments and recollections.

 

Washburn Zips To Impressive Racing Victory

 By Ron Nance 


Harry Washburn, a veteran sports car driver from Shreveport La., scooted into the lead in the opening lap and whizzed to an easy victory Sunday in Oklahoma’s sixth annual Petite Prix sports car feature race before more than 6000 fans. 

wasburn

Washburn turned the 30 laps over the 2 mile course, laid out over the state fairgrounds, in an average speed of 56.91 mph. The race took 53 minutes.

17 Curves On Route

Washburn was piloting a Cooper Maserati and showed extreme skill in manipulating the sports machine over the course which contains 17 curves of varying degrees.

The two-day races produced no serious accidents, although several autos suffered minor damages, both from the enduring race schedule and bumping other autos in the curves.

Defending champion Jack Hinkle of Wichita Ka., was one of the unfortunate ones in Saturday's program, blowing the engine in his Birdcage Maserati and was not able to get the machine ready for Sunday's featured Petite Prix race.

 12 Races Held

The feature was race number 12. Seven races were held Saturday and five Sunday as the southwest’s best sports car drivers competed. Finishing about a half mile behind Washburn was Jack Miller of Colorado Springs, Co. driving an Elva. He had an average speed of 56.52 mph. Harvey Woodward of Shawnee Mission, Ka., was third in an Elva while Oklahoma's highest finisher Enus Wilson of Okmulgee grabbed the fourth spot in his Maserati.

In other races Sunday, number 8 was won by Rogers Hills of Dallas in a Sprite. Number 9 winner was Jim Watson of Chapel Hill, Tenn., in a Porsche. Number 10 victor was St. Louis’ Ed Walsh in a Lotus-Saab. Tulsa’s David Morgan piloted his bullet shaped formula Junior machine to victory in the number 11 event.

Car Hits Pole

Morgan average 56.67 mile-per-hour in the his 20 lap race. He was running Washburn a stiff challenge in the feature event before losing control of the auto coming out of a curb and hitting a light pole near the course. On two of the straightaways the big machines were hitting speeds above 120 mph.

In each race there were different classes competing. Oklahoma City had several class winners. Edmond’s Jerry Salyer finished third in the Petite Prix F modified class. He also drive drove a Porsche.

Sunday's Results

results 

Toly's Comments

So the next year the club asked me to sponsor the race. I lost $10,000; most of that was buying TV time to broadcast film of the race and the ‘62 Sebring race film as a promo. Hmmm. I wonder where that film is ?

Anyway, in 1962 we had a Queen for every class and had them kiss not just the winner after the race, but all the drivers on the grid before the race. I had to check out a wee contretemps when I noticed the driver of a beautiful red F2 Cooper-Alfa fighting off the embrace of one of Our Girls. Turns out, the driver was the late Edna Sherman of Denver. I must say that with gray curls peeking out around the edges of her helmet, goggled and without makeup, she did bear some resemblance to George S. Kaufman. I think her car blew up. It was built somewhere on one of those Colorado mountains and we always figured that it had too much compression and/or spark advance to stay together near sea level. Sure looked great, though.

You know how people in major races take their crew around now on a victory lap? In those days winners took their victory laps with the trophy girl. Dave Morgan won F Jr. in his Lotus 20, and he talked the trophy girl into straddling the engine cover and holding onto the rollbar, as he drove gently around. morganUntil he got to the back straight, and then he opened the throttle. The young lady dropped the checkered flag she’d been carrying and got her chin right down on the rollbar, her long hair vibrating in the wind. Mouth and eyes wide open, she dismounted at the finish line and bounced up and down in happy panic. I remembered her name for 20 years, and it just might be in a little event program I have in some scrapbook or another. She’s probably about 35 years old now, right?

That was the last ever Petite Prix and I really don’t know why.

Some guy raced Fiat Bianchina (one of those tiny 500cc cars with a one-square-foot canvas sunroof), with the race number 1/2. He had a cigar in his mouth, unlit. Safety, you know.

The late Harry Washburn, a great guy from Louisiana killed in a private plane crash, won the feature race in his Cooper Monaco.

start

 As the sun set. I sprang for a champagne and barbecue party at C. S. Trosper’s sports car dealership. Rented 400 champagne glasses and 410 were broken that Saturday night. Can’t remember how many cases of champagne people drank.

In a gesture of friendliness I invited several girls I’d been dating to be my guests. I was going to go into more detail here, but let’s just say that was a big mistake. Then somebody slammed my dad’s hand in a car door and I was given a police escort at high speed to the wrong hospital. Remember, that November weekend was the same as the Puerto Rico Grand Prix and I’d really planned on going. Then I got into this sponsorship stuff even though God invented time so everything wouldn’t happen all at once! 

 

My  Story

Mike Dickey and I drove to Penn Square Mall to watch the "Acceleration Trials" on Friday night before Saturday's races. In 1962 and earlier years, SCCA qualified cars for the first race by timing them from a standing start through a short distance, usually 300 ft. (my archived reference materials are still unpacked, so I may be wrong as to the exact distance). Starting positions for a car's second race were based upon finishing position in the first race. The only official timing was during actual races,  practices were un-timed.

This qualifying method explains the photo below wherein Jack Hinkle's Birdcage; the ultimate lap record holder for the Petite Prix, is starting from the second row.

start2

Mike and I arrived too late for the acceleration trials, but one race car remained. Enus (Sonny) Wilson from Okmulgee was cutting hot laps around the empty mall parking lot in his purple Maserati 350S. Under the hood was a Chevy V-8 with eight Hilborn Fuel Injection stacks protruding from the hood like a pipe organ. Much noise and excitement until the Mall Manager flagged Sonny down. As a consequence, Oklahoma Region was banished from the mall until 1964 when a management change allowed the first Sports Car Festival.

On Saturday morning Mike and I reported to the timing and scoring scaffolds for our first ever race workers meeting. Since we were minors, we sat on the ground floor because it was "safer" than the second story. goansTiming in 1962 was done entirely by hand with analog stop watches. The old hands could time several cars with multiple stop watches, computing lap times in their head. I think I worked my way up to two cars by the end of the weekend.

My memories of the races roughly parallel Toly's and Dean's reports, with the following additions.

Toly's description of Edna Sherman is most kind. To a sixteen year old male, Edna looked like a man. Nice race car though.

Harry Washburn's Cooper was really quick. The numbers were hastily applied electrical tape that flapped in the breeze every time the Cooper passed the start/finish. Too bad Hinkle blew up, as a Cooper vs. Birdcage duel would have been most entertaining.

The black over red FIAT Bianchina was absolutely the cutest "race car" in the field. J stock I think. Interestingly I saw an identical Bianchina on a car lot on NW 23rd in Harrah, about 1990. I didn't stop to check it out, but I bet it was the same one raced in 1962.

startsundayThe most exciting time for me was the start of Sunday's feature race. Immediately after I took this photo (left) from my timing seat, Jerry Salyer pulled right to pass another driver and clipped the hay bales between the track and the scoring scaffold. The haybales came into the scaffolding, gently bumping the table and my knees! So much for the ground floor being safer!

 

I also have comments on the photo from Toly's book showing the start of Saturday's feature race start. Bill Moore of Ponca City in his Corvette Special blasts off the line while Gary Wilson's Ferrari is about to be sandwiched between Hinkle's Birdcage and Enus Wilson's Maserati. Behind them is Bill Janowski in the box shaped "Monsterati."  Barely visible to the right of the Monsterati is an AC with a Chevrolet V8. This is 1962, two years before Shelby's Cobra.

The photo below shows some old-timers at the '62 Petite Prix. Left to right John Saucier, Bill Roberts, Doc Foerster, Dick Thomas and Mary Kay Leslie.

saucier roberts