Springfield Vintage car race canceled Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Vintage car race canceled Tuesday, May 24, 2011

SPRINGFIELD – Gentlemen, shut off your engines. Two months before the Springfield Vintage Grand Prix was set to roar through downtown, the inaugural event was canceled Tuesday, with organizers and city officials promising a new start next summer. Citing legal and logistical obstacles, Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said city officials could not guarantee that the July 22-24 race would be staged as the safe, crowd-pleasing event initially envisioned by the organizers. “We want this to be first class,” said Sarno following a 75-minute meeting with officials from the Vintage Sports Car Club of America and John Hall, the event’s local promoter. “We want to be sure it’s done correctly,” he added. Both Sarno and Peter Roberts, representing the sports car club, downplayed disagreements between the city and the organizers, and denied that the cancellation was triggered by a city demand for a $300,000 performance bond. Both sides also expressed disappointment that a race intended to bring thousands of sports car enthusiasts downtown to help celebrate the city’s 375th anniversary will be postponed to 2012. “Nobody’s more disappointed than I am,” said City Councilor Melvin A. Edwards, who helped organize the event. But city Solicitor Edward M. Pikula said there were too many obstacles – from details of the race route to the need for a special act from the state Legislature permitting racing downtown – and too little time to iron them out. “We’re looking to have this as a longterm (event), something we can do annually,” Pikula said. “The first one we do is the most important thing we do,” he aid. The 1.6-mile race was to feature between 80 and 110 pre-1960 cars, including Porsches, Ferraris, Jaguars, at no cost to the city and with no admission charge for the public. Besides coinciding with the city’s 375th anniversary, the race would have commemorated the city’s role as the birthplace of the first gasoline-powered automobile in North America, produced in the late 19th century by the Duryea brothers. In 1895, the first automobile race in the United States was won by the Duryea brothers. Without the special act from Beacon Hill, the organizers have been hard pressed to line up sponsors to help finance the event, said Heriberto Flores, chief executive officer for the New England Farm Workers Council, which is backing the race. “You can’t raise money if it’s an illegal loan,” Flores said.   READ STORY>>


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