Runway history: British Car Club of New Orleans to drive down Keesler runway
403rd Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 15, 2016
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The British Car Club of New Orleans is commemorating the Post World War II use of U.S. Air Force runways for auto racing by driving down the Keesler Air Force Base runway May 21.
Club member and Hurricane Hunter pilot Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa is organizing the tour and said the event is a great opportunity for Keesler residents to experience a bit of history and see some really cool cars. Club members own such classics as vintage MGs, Jaguars, Rolls Royces, Mini Coopers, Triumphs, Austin Healeys and more. Ragusa drives the 1974 MGB Roadster that he bought and drove as a college student years ago. Restoration on his car began about 8 years ago when it was pulled out of storage after 15 years. As with many such classics, the restoration may never end, he said.
More than 30 cars are participating in the event. The car enthusiasts will drive down the runway at 11:15 a.m., through a part of base housing around 11:45 a.m., and then display their cars at the marina here from noon to 1:00 p.m. The attendees will also take a driving tour of the base before they depart.
The idea for the event was steeped in history, said Ragusa. He explained that in the Post-WWII era of early U.S. auto racing, there were several tragedies due to people racing on roadways. This mandated the move from road racing to tracks, according to author Terry O’Neil in the book “Runways and Racers: Sports Car Races held on Military Airfields in America 1952-1954.” However, before the tracks were ready, Gen. Curtis LeMay, a sports car enthusiast, allowed the use of U.S. Air Force runways at Strategic Air Command bases to the Sports Car Club of America for racing. The first two SCCA champions in 1951 and 1952 drove British sports cars.
The event is a way to show the tie between British sports cars and U.S. Air Force runways and for the car club owners to learn about Keesler AFB, its missions, and its planes, he said.
He expressed his personal excitement over spending this day combining two of his passions – his Air Force flying career and his British roadster, which once proudly displayed “AimHigh” on its personalized license plate back in the 1980s.