Notes From The Archives – The Sports Car Olympics

September 6th, 2018 by James Chartres

The Sports Car Olympics

Words by:  Gary Horstkorta – June 2018

Perhaps it was the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley Ski Resort that inspired the Northern California Sports Car Council (NCSCC) to announce a new event – The Sports Car Olympics.  While not an SFR sanctioned event, many of the council members were also active within the Region as road racers, workers or autocrossers. The Sports Car Olympics would be a unique event for NCSCC member clubs combining several different disciplines over one weekend in summer and held at the Squaw Valley Ski Resort and Olympic Village.

Ad for Squaw Valley in the Sports Car Olympics program

Sports car clubs were a thriving group of enthusiasts who enjoyed a variety of activities all under the umbrella of the NCSCC. There were approximately 50 member clubs which scheduled their own events throughout the calendar year. Rallies, Poker Runs, Gymkhanas/autocross and social events were all part of their regular functions.  However, the Sports Car Olympics combined many of these single activities into one, jam packed, fun weekend.

Halda Speedpilot ad from 1956

The list of events included a Funkhana (fun in-car games fashioned after a gymkhana); slot car grand prix; a full scale time and distance rally; a car knowledge quiz; parking lot autocross; night autocross; hill climb at Mt. Rose; concours d’elegance and several indoor car related activities plus group breakfasts, dinners and the awards banquet.  Certainly a jammed packed weekend of fun to keep everyone busy. Average per person cost was around $30.00 which included entry fee to all events, all meals and lodging for three nights.

The Halda Speedpilot used by Blanchard in rally competition

The first event was held in August of 1961 with top overall honors going to Bob Jones.  In 1962 the date moved to May but is best remember for the unseasonable rain and snow of the event weekend.  Over 150 entrants gathered for this years “games” coming from all over California and even Idaho. Despite the weather, the hardy ones pushed on and Erik Ressler was the overall winner in a VW.

In 1963, NCSCC established a permanent date for the event which was Labor Day weekend.  Winner that year was Ron Stroke in a brand new Cobra. 1964 marked the first year a women won the overall points title when Marge McHenry took top honors in here Corvette. In 1965 a relative newcomer and dedicated rally enthusiast, Gary Seaborn was the overall winner.

Moving on to 1972 and the 12th Annual Sports Car Olympics to focus on one the performance of one particular entrant.  Ron Blanchard of Redwood City was a car enthusiast and avid autocross racer and rally driver in the 1960’s.  In 1966 he purchased a new Corvair Monza which he setup for autocross. Blanchard was one of the 160 entrants that year in his Corvair and entered five of the events – the Time & Distance Rally; Autocross 1 & II, Concours d’ Elegance and the Sports Car Quiz.  To say he had a good weekend would be an understatement since he won all five events plus he won the Overall Points Title as well.  Needless to say he took home an armful of trophies.

Ron Blanchards Corvair – 1966

Blanchard passed away in 2014 and while his son Dan was going through his Father’s effects, he found a box of items related to his father’s autocross days.  Among them were the trophies from the 1972 Sports Car Olympics, a few photos and a device called a Halda SpeedPilot.  This nifty mechanical “computer” was a state of the art timing device used in rallying and greatly assisted a driver and navigator maintain a steady pace over a given distance.

Ron Blanchard’s trophy haul from the Sports Car Olympics

The Speedpilot was made in Sweden and introduced in the mid-1950’s, it was priced at $125.00.  The Halda was a great aid to rally drivers for years to come. Although digital technology eventually replaced this type of mechanical device but they are still highly prized by vintage rally drivers and there are a few specialist around to maintain and repair them.  Fortunately for the SFR Archive, Dan Blanchard donated not only his Father’s trophies from the 1972 Sports Car Olympics but also a Halda Speedpilot his Father used in rallies.  Thanks Dan for thinking of the SFR Archive and donating these items.

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