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Robert Johns, Named Grand Marshal of 2022 Kastner Cup at PVGP

May 18, 2022 – Racer Robert Johns is being honored as the Grand Marshal for the 2022 Kastner Cup Races held at Pittsburgh International Race Complex during the July 15-17 Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Historics.

Robert Johns was born in Bradford, PA, and began working in his father’s auto repair shop at the age of twelve, which fueled his interest in racing. By age nineteen, he was full-fledged, fast-car crazy. In fact, he attended the last two original-course races at Watkins Glen in 1951 and 1952. These races instilled in him the auto racing fever.

Robert Johns enlisted in the Air Force in 1954 and was stationed in Europe. In 1955, he caught the racing bug. August 1955 started his career off with a second place overall at the BSCC Gymkhana in Eschternach, Luxembourg. He earned a second place in the BSCC Hill Climb, again in Eschternach, and a fifth place at the HMSC race at the Air Base in Phersfeld, Germany. During the HMSC Flying Mile trials in Mainz, Germany, he took his first win in the Up to 2000cc class and second overall with a speed of 112mph. He acquired a podium finish at the EMSC event and another at the annual Nurburgring-Eifel Rallye with a third place overall. He secured a first place win in Class E 2000cc and a first overall in the annual lap time record at the Nurburgring Nordschleife. One more for 1955 earned him a second place in the Up to 2000cc class at the HMSC International SCC Hill Climb.

In 1956, he successfully completed and received his Certificate of Excellence at the Swiss Automobile Club Racing Driver’s school in Monza, Italy. Johns gained a first in the 2000cc E Class at the HMSC event at the Air Force Base Road Races in Landstuhl, Germany and a first in class, third overall in two races that included large displacement cars. In July 1956, he earned a first place in the Up to 2000cc class at the HMSC Sports Car race in Buchel, Germany.

All of these events were run while he continued to serve in the Air Force, in and out of Europe and his base of operations during an eight month tour, including five months in North Africa. These were all impressive and he made a name for himself while he fulfilled his duty to our country.

After returning to the States, he jumped back into the driver’s seat. In October 1956, at the SCCA Regionals in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, he claimed a second place finish in E Production in the 25.6-mile race and another second in the 75-mile race, his second favorite race. Also, in October, he chalked up a win and second overall in E Production at the SCCA Hill Climb in Albuquerque, New Mexico and second overall in the SCCA Pecos Valley photo rally. November’s SCCA Time Trial Gymkhana at the White Sands Proving Ground earned him an overall win.

These events set the stage for Bob’s entry in the FIA World Sports Car Championship’s 12-hour Florida International Grand Prix for the Amoco Trophy on March 23, 1957, his favorite race event for obvious reasons. Bob was just out of the Air Force three months earlier and was invited to race as part of an independent team consisting of three cars. All three cars were 1956 TR3s that had previously run the ’56 Alpine Rally. In 1957, 65 cars entered the famed 12-hour endurance race, 38 cars finished. The #34 car clocked 159 laps, calculating to 692 miles during the grueling duel with the elements, the equipment that’s been pushed to the brink, consistent maximum team effort, and driver fatigue: mentally and physically. A fight to the finish and the TR3 crossed the line as 19th overall and first in the Grand Touring 2000, Class 7II (Grand Turismo 1601cc – 2600cc) with the sister car, #33 coming in second in class, piloted by Bob Oker and Ed Pennybacker.

Shortly after, Bob retired from racing. He is a VTR Hall of Famer and was an inductee in the British Sports Car Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2017.

by Shawn Frank

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