Birth of the Mitty

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Story by John Webber

It all started in the late 1970s, when Steve Simpson was a member of the Atlanta Jaguar Club. “I had long been interested in racing,” Steve says, “and so I encouraged a bunch of our members to get together and put on an event at Road Atlanta where we would rent the track and have these speed trial runs, one car at a time.”

The first one was held in 1977, and these budding racers invited the Jag club and the Aston Martin club to help spread out the cost. The event was received with a lot of enthusiasm. Steve, of course, drove his Jaguar E-Type.

“We ran [the event] like that until about 1980 or ’81,” Steve recalls. “Sometimes we did what we thought were clever things. We thought the back straight would be intimidating, so we put in a cone chicane. Virtually every car that wrecked, wrecked there. It was a disaster.”

In about the third year of this event, Steve remembers, they started to notice a lot of neat old race cars being towed in on trailers. “Finally I got the bright idea that what we really needed to do was to focus on these historic race cars, not the street cars,” he explains. So they took the next step and established what was then called the Walter Mitty Challenge Vintage Racing Group.

“We started hosting historic sports car races, along with timed runs for street cars,” he recalls. “That was 1981. Then in ’82, we added a second event at Road Atlanta called the Atlanta Historic Races.”

In 1983, the group added a third race at Roebling Road in Savannah. “We continued on throughout the ’80s running three major events,” Steve says. By then, the Walter Mitty Challenge had grown into a huge event on the East Coast.

Steve continues, “In 1990, we hired a guy full-time to help us run [the group] and we re-christened it Historic Sportscar Racing, LTD.” Interest and participation increased. In 1991 the racing schedule grew to five events per year, and today HSR has nine events scheduled for 2017. In addition to the one at Road Atlanta that started it all, their current schedule hits other favorites like Sebring, Daytona, Virginia International Raceway, and even Quebec’s Circuit Mont-Tremblant.

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View comments on the GRM forums
JimMurphy New Reader
4/30/18 12:59 p.m.

So who is Walter Mitty and how did this event get named after him?

evildky SuperDork
4/30/18 6:37 p.m.

Who is John Galt?


Walter Mitty is a fictional character who chased his dreams. Don't know anything about how why when or where they named it after him.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/18 11:43 a.m.
evildky said:

Who is John Galt?


Walter Mitty is a fictional character who chased his dreams. Don't know anything about how why when or where they named it after him.

You know, somewhere we have a longer version about the birth of this event, including the reason for its name. I'll see if I can put my hands on it. 

Tyler H
Tyler H UltraDork
5/2/18 1:50 p.m.

Wikipedia says:

"The American Heritage Dictionary defines a Walter Mitty as "an ordinary often ineffectual person who indulges in fantastic daydreams of personal triumphs".

I can't think of a more succinct way to describe my personal experience in amateur racing.  I am a Walter Mitty.

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