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Fun and philanthropy combine — Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Tribune-Review
| Tuesday, July 3, 2018 8:51 p.m
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Bill Stoler
A 1974 Renault Alpine 110 takes a turn on the Schenley Park race course in the 2017 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix.
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Matt Little
The PVGP Tune-Up Party, formerly held on the Roberto Clemente Bridge downtown, moves to Heinz Field this year.
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Bill Stoler
Race cars cross the Panther Hollow Bridge in the 2017 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix race.
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Tony Matucci
An aerial view of the American Car Show at the 2017 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Schenley Park.

The motorsport mania that takes place during the 10-day Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix is great fun for gear heads of all ages. For vintage race car drivers, it all comes down to the main event.

Schenley Park Race Day on July 15 is the culmination of months of preparation for drivers and pit crews that make sure the vintage cars are looking and performing their best — and for the volunteer team that donates countless hours to produce a world-class event to raise funds for PVGP’s two charities: the Pittsburgh Autism Society and Merakay Allegheny Valley School.

Behind the wheel

Drivers range from seasoned racers – like Rob Roost of Ligonier, whose father competed in vintage races in the 1970s and ’80s – to first-time participants like Greg Petro of Wexford, who recently got his racing license and will be competing in his first PVGP.

Roost will be entered in two races with his 1971 BMW 2002, one for his car’s class and a special race for the German-made BMWs, the event’s marque of the year. He says his dad will be on hand to help out.

Petro, who grew up in South Oakland and attended the University of Pittsburgh, says he followed the PVGP for years since its start in 1983 and he looked forward to someday being able to take part. His car, a 1963 British-built Turner in Shelby blue with Wembley white stripes, was built the same year he was born.

Moving art

“It’s moving art for us,” Roost says. “If somebody needs something, everybody is willing to step in and help. That’s what makes vintage racing special.”

He says Schenley Park is a very unique and difficult race course. If drivers take a turn too quickly or steer off course on the 2.8 mile track, they can meet up with one of the road hazards – such as street signs, telephone poles, fire hydrants, catch basins and parking meters – in the only U.S. vintage races still run on city streets.

Leading up to race weekend will be car shows and special events at locations in and around Pittsburgh, including the PVGP Historics races at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum.

BMW Marque of the Year

As PVGP’s 2018 Marque of the Year, BMW and the BMW Car Club of America are bringing their 49th Annual O’Fest (Oktoberfest) to the PVGP. Hundreds of BMWs are expected with special events and celebration of the 50th anniversary of the iconic BMW 2002.

This year’s annual Tune-Up Party on July 11 moves from its previous location on the Roberto Clemente Bridge downtown to Heinz Field this year. The paid event for ages 21 and up will feature a display of historic and vintage race cars and hors d’oeuvres served in the PNC Champions Club.

‘Passport to Elegance’

The PVGP’s “Passport to Elegance” Jet Center Party, a new event in 2017, will return this year on July 12 at the 18,000-square-foot hangar of the Voyager Jet Center at Allegheny County Airport. Tickets are $375 for this exclusive party that includes food and wine pairings, live music and displays of rare and exotic cars and historic airplanes.

Dan DelBianco, executive director of the PVGP, says all of the events wouldn’t be possible without the nearly 1,000 volunteers that donate their time and talents. More than $5 million has been raised for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and Merakey Allegheny Valley School since 1983.

“Sunday afternoon is great because the pressure is off,” he says. “It’s a relief when we know we’ve done it successfully and we’ve done it well.”

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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