Jack Spitler Hoffco Kart Prix Winner 1961

Columns: Stories
Met at a vintage karting event in the USA, in 2011, Jack Spitler, (died October 12, 2017, aged 83) recalled his trip to Europe in September 1961 as a member of the Grand Prix Kart team Club of America run by "Red" Crise, then president of the now defunct GPKCA. Then races in England, Italy and Nassau made up the 1961 World Championship for single and twin engine karts. (by Frank Weir-Photos: Jack Spitler Collection

Jack recalled how he was awarded one of the two all expenses paid GPKCA European tour team positions by winning the Hoffco Kart Prix at Tipp Raceway, a one quarter mile banked road course near Tipp City Ohio. One hundred and forty American karters and their pit crews came from far and near for the final phase of the three step elimination.

The Tipp City races were the climax of a summer long contest of organised racing amongst Hoffco karters to determine two national champions to participate in 'Red' Crise’s European tour.  When it concluded 2041 karters throughout the United States had been whittled down to two national champions. The nationwide runoffs began by Hoffco kart dealers organising races for Hoffco karters in their areas. Winners then moved to distributor areas for semi finals, the semi final winners qualifying for the Tipp City finals held over two days at the end of July 1961.  

It was planned that the two national champions would be selected because of their driving ability as much as their speed and engine performance. In light of this, classes were set up so that heat one starting position was according to qualifying time, with the fastest driver on pole. Heat two was inverted according to time trials. Heat three placed the karter on pole that had the highest accumulated points from the first two heats. Not more than sixteen karts were allowed in any race and there were never more laps than the number of karts in each race. Ties were broken in each class according to the highest qualifying time. 

Jack recalled the excitement of the two day meeting building up to the final minute of the weekend. Even then the winners were still not known because three competitors had tied with the same number of points. Racing had been held under Motocross scoring. Carl Phipps, Gary Hall and Jack all had perfect scores of 1200 points and there were only two prizes!

Jack drove a twin McCulloch MC20 powered Interceptor in the B Super class. Phipps competed in B Standard favouring Power Products AH58 engines on his Interceptor and the other gentleman with a perfect score from the eliminating races was Gary Hall who raced in A Super. 

According to Jack the spectators became very excited when they learned how the two champions would be selected from the tied point’s totals. Two Hoffco Interceptors set up with new steering geometry different from previous production karts and equipped with Power Products engines, one as a single and the other as a dual were wheeled on to the dummy grid. It was announced that none of the three drivers had ever tried these new karts. The drivers were informed that they would be allowed to familiarize themselves with each kart and then they would be timed for three laps driving each machine. The single engine time added to the dual engine time would determine each driver’s position.

Jack recalls the coin flip to decide the staring order; a moment filled with tension amid complete spectator silence. All three landed heads up! As a result of the second toss Jack was first on the track with the twin engined kart. After practice he did three fast laps in 70.9 seconds. Hall’s three lap time was 71.5 seconds and Phipps recorded 70.6 seconds. Jack then drove the single engine model to a time of 75.7 seconds for the three laps giving him a total time of 146.5 seconds. Phipps posted 76.3 seconds for a total time of 146.9 seconds and a narrow margin separated Hall who clocked 76.2 seconds for an accumulated time of 147.7 seconds.
That was it! Spectators swarmed over fences, through gates, congratulating the two champions. Jack Spitler and Carl Phipps would be the guests of Hoffco during the European tour. David Hoff who headed up the Hoffco Kart Division confirmed at the awards ceremony that Jack and Carl would be the guests of Hoffco from their home to Europe (Banbury England and Milan Italy) and back home again.

Jack explained that Hoffco never had a factory racing team and everyone that took part did so by themselves. Despite the seriousness of the competition Jack said that good sportsmanship prevailed throughout the two days of racing.

Jack remembered that the then Attorney General of Ohio, the Honourable Mark McIlroy and his aide Ted Daker attended the kart race; it was a very important event.

Did Jack have any success in Europe? He said that the Banbury/Shenington races were long, around 25 minutes in duration. He remembered finishing third behind an Irishman with an Italian sounding name (Corrado Morrelli) in one race and fourth in another. The Italian races were held at the Pista Rossa track north of Milan; Jack did not have a good meeting finishing outside the top three spots. However there was some jubilation for the Hoff camp when fellow Hoffco champion Carl Phipps finished second in the first heat for the duals.
Since retiring from being a tool and die maker Jack has discovered vintage karting. He’s planning to attend vintage events that are close to his home state, so don’t be surprised if he’s at Fremont for next year’s Big One with an old Hoffco. 

Created by: cggiuliano - 10/03/23

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