Put-in-Bay Road Race Heritage Society

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Jack Woehrle, Bob Williams and others hard working volunteers (wrung out most likely from having just put on the 2009 Mid-Ohio vintage races over the previous four days) led a committed gaggle who recently helped crank the clock back some fifty-plus years on nostalgic South Bass Island in Lake Erie in Northwest Ohio. The event's purpose was to re-kindle the memories of sports car races held on the public roads of Put-in-Bay (the island's better known name) from '52 to '59 under the auspices of the Cleveland Sport Car Club. The MG Vintage Racers were well represented at this modest but delightful gathering. In fact, MGVR's own webmaster, Chris Kintner, equipped with a brain-full of knowledge and anecdotes, because his grandparents were the husband and wife team that ran the races, fittingly emerged as a star "expert witness" for the event.And so it was, on June 29 and 30, 2009 (the Monday and Tuesday following this year's SVRA Mid-Oho vintage race) an enthusiastic contingent of current, former and perhaps future vintage racers (and a few original racers from the original races, way back when) gathered for two days of reminiscing, road-painting, course-touring, ribbon cutting, donation arm-twisting, tale-telling, slide-showing, and laying the ground work for future events.

There was also a fair amount of the usual Put-In-Bay activities typical of resort islands in the summer: cruising the nightspots, checking out the local wineries, and sampling the seafood. Many of the race reunion attendees could also be found cheering on the summer workers as they celebrated the island's official "Pirate Week" by competing in a very entertaining if somewhat damp card-board and duct tape boat competition down at the harbor.The race reunion event was the brainchild primarily of Jack Woehrle who attended, he claims as a youngster (as if he's ever stopped being one) the VERY last race held on the island, run in '63 by the Toledo and Detroit sports car clubs, which – at the time – was considered a "renegade" event by the Cleveland club. It seems the Cleveland group had ceased the races after the 1959 event for two fairly obvious reasons: 1) Any observer of airborne Porsches sailing by closely placed phone poles, front porches and spectators and MG TCs vaulting haybales into front yards HAD to recognize the danger of something really bad happening, and 2.) The Ohio legislature passed a law that was quickly interpreted as forbidding such activity on state-maintained roads. Nonetheless, the '63 version took place but ended abruptly when an Elva sports racer crashed heavily, and the Ohio State Patrol on hand wisely stepped in and called an immediate halt to the street races, finally and forever. Fortunately no deaths or significant injuries apparently resulted from any of the races.Capture and PreserveToday on the picturesque island, evidence that these races ever happened at all is limited to a small display at the local Lake Erie Islands Historical Society museum and some material on the museum's website (www.leihs.org). And until this event, which Jack and others at SVRA have been contemplating for a number of years in some form or another, there were no visual markers on the island in any way depicting or commemorating those races. Now, at least, there's a freshly painted checkered-flag crosswalk where it was determined the start finish line for the races used to be. And these weren't just any races. Scan the entry lists and you'll find the names of familiar motor racing luminaries like Carl Haas, Chuck Dietrich and Chuck Stoddard among the then young and boisterous competitors at the Put-In-Bay races. In short, there's a history here begging for preservation and, possibly, some form of actual re-staging, or so a few have allowed the possibility. Jack and Bob are emphatic about the immediate mission. Action is called for NOW to capture and preserve the history of the Put-In-Bay races, because the opportunities for doing that dwindle with each tick of the clock. The tactics for how to successfully achieve that mission are evolving, and were openly discussed during the two-day event:

And.....maybe, just maybe get the ball rolling to one day bring back vintage 50s era small-bore sports car racing to the island. Not to the public roads, but perhaps to the tidy little airport at the island's southern end, where Ford Tri-motors flew passengers into the early '70s. Yes, it's a stretch given the logistical and fiscal barriers, but it's a notion that is being talked about and one that the islanders, reportedly, are eager to explore. So, hats off to SVRA's leadership which allowed and encouraged its passionately-committed staffers to pull off this neat little event, and special kudos to Jack Woehrle and Bob Williams for their obvious personal commitment to the mission. Who knows? Maybe "Pirate Week" will one day give way to "Put-In-Bay Sportscar Races Reunion" week.

Put-in-Bay Road Race Reunions

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The PIB Course Marker Project

Start Finish Marker

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Past Posters by Bob Colaizzi

Bob Colaizzi, infamous vintage racer and talented artist, has contributed PIBRRR posters each year since 2010.

2017 Poster

PIB 2016 6 4 FINAL FlatSM

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©PIB Road Race Hertiage Society 2013