Vintage Sports Car Racing at Put-in-Bay

Road RacesVintage Sports Car Races & Reunion ~ Monday, Sep 23 — Thursday, Sep 26, 2019 Schedule

The tenth anniversary of Put-in-Bay Vintage Sports Car Races and Reunion features two full days of racing on the Put-In-Bay Airport as well as a full day of pre-racing events.  Much more than just a vintage race, the Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races and Reunion welcomes owner-drivers of non-racing, vintage sports cars of types similar to the race cars.  These “street cars” participate in all the various events and activities, except the actual races.

Beginning with a small event in 2009, the Put-in-Bay Road Races Reunion celebrates sports car races that were held on the streets of the town of Put-in-Bay from 1952 to 1959 and in 1963. The reunion engages racers and non-racers alike in an event that reaches back in time and re-creates the atmosphere of sports car racing in a uniquely beautiful setting.

Put-in-Bay Vintage Sports Car Races Delight Entrants

Sports Car RacesPut-in-Bay — The Put-in-Bay vintage sports car races continue to evolve from a quirky little “Reunion” event back in 2009 to one of the most enjoyable vintage racing experiences in North America, according to many participants.  (Text and photos contributed by Manley Ford, Put-in-Bay Road Race Heritage Society)

vintage road races

This year’s 10th annual event again took place on Ohio’s historic South Bass Island where sports cars raced through the public streets from 1952 to 1959 and in 1963.  Today a 20-minute ride on the Miller Ferry from Port Clinton, OH takes entrants back in time to an island enclave seemingly little changed from 60 years ago. Catering primarily to smaller-bore pre-‘73 cars, today’s Put-in-Bay Sports Car Race revival is designed for those who especially value a low-key race environment in a relaxed, nostalgic setting where the emphasis is on camaraderie and fun.

For the 2018 event, organizers responded to mounting event-scheduling conflicts on the bustling summer-resort island and moved the event from its traditional — since 2013 — late August date to the middle of the last week of September.  So this year racing was held on Tuesday and Wednesday September 25 and 26 when little else was taking place on the small island.  Unique in vintage racing for inviting both racing- and non-racing entries, the event drew a wide variety of vintage production cars, sports racers, and open wheel cars.

vintage road races

Jeff Graham of Southern Shores, NC in his black ’58 Bugeye

Featured cars for PIB 2018 were the Austin Healey Sprite Mk I (Bugeye), which first arrived on the sports car scene sixty years ago, and Porsche, celebrating its 70th year.  Numerous examples of both marques were on hand including — at one end of the spectrum — a couple of delightfully original Bugeyes and — on the other end — a Le Mans winning Porsche 962 (display and touring lap only) brought to the event along with some other stunning race entries by Stan and Malcolm Ross of Columbus, OH. Overall, entries hailed from fifteen U.S. states and two Canadian Provinces.

As in past years, races comprised four race groups plus an exhibition group.  While rain threatened initially on Tuesday and caused a brief delay, it was pretty much gone by the afternoon, and Wednesday yielded about the most glorious and comfortable racing weather anyone could ask for.

At the end of two full days of racing around the 1.2 mile Put-in-Bay Airport circuit, the top placing cars from the production and sports racer groups were invited to race for “King of the Rock” honors in the traditional Put-in-Bay Cup Race, again won (fourth consecutive year) by Joey Bojalad in his fast and smoothly driven Elva Mk VI.

New this year was a combined “race-within-a-race” competition where those who entered D-H Production classes at both July’s Waterford Hills Vintage Races and this year’s Put-in-Bay Races became eligible for the first annual Great Lakes Vintage Challenge (GLVC) earning points based on finishing positions in the group races in both events (see race results for this year’s winners).  Next year, organizers expect to expand the Great Lakes Vintage Challenge to include, C Production, B, C and D Sedans, and Formula Vees and to include VSCDA’s annual event at Grattan in the points chase.

Put-in-Bay – Not Just a Race – It’s a Customer Pleasing Event!

Sports Car Races Car Show at Heinemans Winery displayed both race and street-entrant cars.

PIB 2018 kicked off with a car show where both race and non-race entrants displayed their cars at Heineman’s Winery (an island institution).  Despite ominous skies it was a spectacular array of cars in a charming setting.  As a light drizzle began, the car show was followed by a briskly paced original course tour through the town escorted by the cooperative and supportive Put-in-Bay Police Department.  Sirens blared and engines roared as island residents waved flags around the route and while spectators lined the streets and cheered their favorite cars. As always, the tour provided a rolling spectacle to viewers along the route and a chance for drivers to get a sense of what it was like to actually race the narrow and rough roads of Put-in-Bay “back in the day”.

Other diversions included lunch-hour track touring for entered street cars, increasingly popular and zany “rocker cover races”, several social gatherings, and the Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce’s free trackside “Fan Zone” providing bleachers and plenty of nearby concessions for spectators and entrants.

Another popular feature is the opening-evening wine and cheese reception featuring an interview session with a returning veteran of the original ‘50s-era races.  This year’s special guest was John Petrone Sr. of Kirtland, OH who delightfully recounted stories from his days racing a Triumph TR3 at Put-in-Bay back in the ‘50s.

Yet another social event was added to the schedule this year – an optional lunch held at the Put-in-Bay Yacht Club during the Tuesday racing schedule providing a break for long-suffering spouses and supporters.  Island classic-MG owner Laureen Mooney and race supporter Karen Diehl of Diehl Insurance spearheaded the lunch, which included a silent auction benefiting ALS research. Nearly 50 attended and all gave rave reviews.

Ralph Zbarsky brought his stunningly original factory 67 MGBGT Sebring and Targa Florio racer all the way from Vancouver, BC. The car earned 2nd place in the competition class in the PIB car show and Ralph took home the Paul Henry Award, the PIB Sports Car Races highest honor for the entrant most exemplifying the spirit of the Put-in-Bay event. Giving chase in this Daniel Mainzer photo is Thomas Warner in the yellow Porsche 356A coupe and Daniel Styduhar in his Triumph TR3A.

At the post-race awards on Wednesday evening (see race results) the event’s highest honor, The Paul Henry Award, was presented to the entrant deemed best representing the “spirit” of the Put-in-Bay Road Races.  This year’s recipient is Ralph Zbarsky who brought his historically significant, factory built Targa Florio and Sebring ’67 MGBGT all the way from Vancouver British Columbia to compete in the E Production class.  In a note to organizers on his way home, Ralph wrote:

“I just wanted to let you know that your … event is top notch. It was a great personal honour to receive the Paul Henry award for 2018, and meet some of the previous winners. Your team deserves a ton of credit for all the hard work you put in to have such a great event. The community support is remarkable, the other competitors were sharp and respectful, and to race through hay bales (at an) airport brings me way back to a hundred years ago doing that at the Bremerton airport…. anyone who has not experienced that type of racing has not really raced.”

Tentative Dates Set for 2019 Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races; Event to Feature “Tin Tops”

2019 dates are tentatively set for September 24th to 27th with racing on Wednesday the 25th and Thursday the 26th, one day later in the calendar than the 2018 schedule.   PIB2019 will celebrate “Tin Top” sedans in various classes including Minis, Volvos, VWs, Cortinas, Alfas, Corvairs, BMWs, and Datsuns to name a few brands.  “Heck, we may even consider Barracudas, Falcons and Dodge Darts,” commented race director, Jack Woehrle.  “ Should be fun!”

2019 will mark the 10th anniversary year of the event, which started in 2009 with a modest reunion.  It wasn’t until 2012 that the event initially included wheel-to-wheel vintage racing, so 2019 will actually be the event’s 8th racing event.

The Put-in-Bay vintage sports car races generally welcome drivers of vintage race-prepared pre-1973 production cars up to 3 liters, sports racers up to 2 liters, Formula Vees, Formula Jrs. and Formula Fords, but exceptions for larger bore cars have been made for significant cars that otherwise fit the age and preparation criteria.

For more information see

Valve Cover Racer Demonstrates Creative Flair

Valve Cover Racer

Click to enlarge!

Put in Bay Road RacesPut-in-Bay Road Race Heritage Society holds an exciting series of racing and associated activities.  One of the highlights is the valve cover races held at The Goat restaurant.  This year it is scheduled for Tuesday evening, 25 September 2018, at 6:30pm.

Steven Nemec  built two cars to enter in the competition open to everyone, not only registered racing participants.  His “cars” are a tribute to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  The first is a tribute to “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, a top competitor in NHRA drag racing.  The second is loosely based on a 1960’s animated cartoon called “Wacky Racers.  It depicts the only female racer in the show:  Penelope Pitstop.

NHRA drag racing

Penelope Pitstop

Classic Road Racers Arrive on Monday

Put in Bay RacingPut-in-Bay Road Races begin the celebration of the 10th annual event on Monday, 24 September 2018.  This spectacular round of racing offers two days of racing on a challenging airport circuit.  The competition is organized by the Put-in-Bay Road Race Heritage Society.
PIBRR celebrates sixty years of Austin Healey Bugeye Sprites and seventy years of Porsche with a low-key event at Put-in-Bay on Ohio’s South Bass Island.  Sports cars raced the island streets in the 1950s and ‘60s, as seen in this clip from the Nemec Collection.



Put-in-Bay Road Races Honor Sports Car Racing Tradition

Put in Bay Road RacesPut-in-Bay Road Races begin the celebration of the 10th annual event on Monday, 24 September 2018.  This spectacular round of racing, organized by the Put-in-Bay Road Race Heritage Society, offers two days of racing for pre-1973 production cars up to 3.0L, sports racers up to 1.5L, plus vintage Formula Vee, F-Jr, and F-Ford on a challenging airport circuit.
Put in Bay Road Races
PIBRR celebrates sixty years of Austin Healey Bugeye Sprites and seventy years of Porsche with a low-key event at Put-in-Bay on Ohio’s South Bass Island.  Sports cars raced the island streets in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Entry options included racing and non-racing vintage sports cars plus a “Great Lakes Vintage Challenge” for D-H production cars entering both the 2018 Waterford Hills Vintage Race and Put-in-Bay event.  Plus original course touring, special social events, car show, rocker cover races, and guest stories.  Past entrants say there is more guaranteed enjoyment than any other vintage racing event.

Put in Bay Road Races

Click to enlarge!

Put in Bay sports car racesPur in Bay Road Racing

2018 Sports Car Races Scheduled for September

Approaching its 10th year, the annual Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races and Reunion event has a revised date pattern for 2018.  Previously held in late August, the 2018 event has moved to late September (Sept. 24 – 27) with racing to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 25 and 26, 2018. 

Put in Bay Racing

Kurt Neimeyer ‘s 1958 Alfa Giulietta raced by Kurt’s father back in the day!

Put-in-Bay Ohio 12-28-17 — The 2018 Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races will honor 60 years of the intrepid Austin Healey Bugeye Sprite (introduced in 1958) and Porsche which in 2018 will be celebrating 70 years of building some of the most desirable cars ever conceived.  Strong turnouts for racing and road-going examples of both marques are anticipated as well the usual array of vintage sports cars such as Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Austin Mini, MG, Lotus, Morgan, Triumph and others plus a growing gaggle of vintage open wheel cars.

Put in Bay Road Races

Joey Bojalad’s Elva Mk VI took “King of the Rock” honors for the third consecutive year.

Following a record entry for the 2017 event — where owner-drivers of more than 100 race cars and some 60 street cars came to play — organizers are expecting a comparable turnout in 2018 despite the date change.  “Bugeye Sprites were highly represented in the original ’58 and later races at Put-in-Bay and a variety of Porsches were significant competitors at the original races,” said event founder and race director Jack Woehrle. “Both marques represent their own brand of durability and

competitiveness, so we think it’s quite fitting to honor them for our 10th annual event.”

Put in Bay Racing

Tim Suddard’s 1957 Triumph TR3

The modern-day Put-in-Bay sports car races began with a small reunion in 2009.  That event marked the beginning of an effort to celebrate the history of small-bore sports car races that were held from 1952 to 1959 and once in 1963 at historic Put-in-Bay.  The event has steadily grown and evolved into a substantial annual sports car happening focused around vintage races at the Put-in-Bay Airport featuring the same types of cars that raced on the island “back in the day.”

Put in Bay Road Races

1950 view of Turn 4 by Stu Kerr

Uniquely offering entry options for both racing and non-racing participants, today’s Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races generally welcome vintage race prepared pre-1973 production cars up to 3 liters engine displacement, sports racers up to 1.5 liters and vintage Formula Vees, Formula Juniors and Formula Fords.  Entry exceptions are not uncommon, so interested racers of cars outside the normal entry guidelines should reach out to Jack Woehrle (contact information below).  There is also a limited quantity of non-racing entry options for pre-’64 “Heritage” sports cars and for post-’63 “Guest” street cars.

Tentative 2018 General Schedule of Events for Registered Participants*Put in Bay Racing

Monday, September 24:  Arrival day for most participants (although some will likely arrive Sunday or earlier).  Registration, race-car tech inspection, afternoon car show and tour of the original course, early-evening wine and cheese reception and “recollections roundtable” presentation.

Tuesday, September 25: Track orientation for racers followed by practice sessions and group-race qualifying.  Lunch-break track touring. Early evening rocker cover races at The Goat restaurant.

Wednesday, September 26: Two rounds of group races, official opening ceremonies, track touring, and Put-in-Bay Cup race.  Food, drink and awards follow at Joe’s Bar.

Thursday, September 27: Farewell morning brunch and departure.

*Spectating at many Put-in-Bay Road Races events is free to the public including the races themselves, the car show, viewing the original course tour, and the rocker cover races (which anyone including non-participants can enter). 


Put-in-Bay is a nostalgic enclave on South Bass Island, a short ferry ride off the shore of Lake Erie near Sandusky, Ohio. A resort community little changed from the ‘50s, it is one of the few places in North America where post-war sports cars raced through towns and countryside on public roads and where those roads exist today virtually unchanged.

For more information see (2018 event registration, should be available by mid-January) and feel free to join us on our facebook page.


The Put-in-Bay Sports Car Races are supported by presenting sponsor American Modern Insurance Group, the Lake Erie Shores & Islands tourism bureau, The Put-in-Bay Chamber of Commerce and many other supporting sponsors and program advertisers.  Contemporary photos by Daniel Mainzer!

Contact information:

Event Coordinator, Media Contact: Manley Ford  manley776 “at” / 734 502 2435

Race Director: Jack Woehrle: jackwoehrle “at” /  803 463 5388

Car Show Coordinator: Rich Hahn: putinbaytr3 “at” /  216 226 2323

Advertising and Sponsorship:  Kurt Niemeyer ktrg65 “at” / 513 304 1177