Friday, July 16, 2010

Fans flocking to Pittsburgh for Vintage Grand Prix

Friday, July 16, 2010
By Anthony Fenech, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is no longer a local thing.

That was the first thing that came to Steve Weber's mind as he stood in New York City, peered through a crowd of people and saw a familiar T-shirt.

The shirt was a walking advertisement for next weekend's 28th annual Vintage Grand Prix in Schenley Park and a reminder that the race and all that surrounds it is one of the city's major summer events.

"I smiled," said Mr. Weber, on-site media director for the Vintage Grand Prix, about spotting the familiar logo. "When I travel, you'd be surprised by how many I see. It's a good feeling."

Another good feeling is that Mr. Weber and Vintage Grand Prix officials expect another turnout of more than 250,000 people as the weeklong festival of cars and racing begins this weekend with black ties, tail pipes and a race in Beaver Falls.

The festivities kick off tonight with a black-tie gala at the Pittsburgh Golf Club in Schenley Park and continue on Saturday and Sunday with a muscle-car races at BeaveRun Motorsports.

The events surrounding the Grand Prix have expanded through the years, and this year includes a car show highlighting the featured Audis, Corvettes and Yenkos in Shadyside's Walnut Street business district from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday; a cruise displaying the cars at the Waterfront complex in Homestead from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday; and a Downtown parade at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday preceding display of the cars at several Golden Triangle locations.

Those events lead up to the July 24-25 competition in Schenley Park, which attracts racers from all across the world as the nation's largest vintage car race and the only one run on city streets.

"It is truly one of its kind," Mr. Weber said, noting its distinction as one of the only road courses in the world. "But nobody shows the personable side that we do, and the drivers and fans alike enjoy coming for that."

They come from neighboring cities, states, countries, and even the not-so-neighboring places.

"Everywhere," said Mr. Weber. "And I do mean everywhere: Iceland, France, England, Germany, South America, Australia. You name it, they come."

Race weekend will feature more than 150 drivers competing on a 2.33-mile circuit course complete with 23 turns, in cars 50 years or older, under two liters with a horsepower around 150.

Admission is free, and fans have the opportunity to walk away with a number of souvenirs such as shirts, hats, novelty items and bags.

"They aren't junk," Mr. Weber said, adding, "One of the drivers told me once that if it wasn't for the Grand Prix, he wouldn't have any luggage at all."

He said the event raises around $100,000 a year for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Allegheny Valley schools and, to date, has donated more than $2 million to local charities.

Corporate sponsors, including Shop 'n Save, whose sponsorship Mr. Weber credits with keeping the race alive, help with costs.

"Certainly, people love a free event," he said. "We just hope people will be generous and donate to our charities."

More information on Grand Prix events is available at

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