Harrison County

From MGs to Austin Healeys, British cars race through Keesler

JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDLt. Col. Jeff Ragusa and his wife, Susan, pose with their 1974 MGB during a meeting of theThe British Car Club of New Orleans at Keesler Air Force Base on Saturday May 21, 2106.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDLt. Col. Jeff Ragusa and his wife, Susan, pose with their 1974 MGB during a meeting of theThe British Car Club of New Orleans at Keesler Air Force Base on Saturday May 21, 2106. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- James Bond was not there, nor was Austin Powers. But vehicles similar to those they made famous could be seen sporting around Keesler Air Force Base.

Keesler on Saturday played host the British Motoring Club of New Orleans as a way to commemorate the post-World War II use of U.S. Air Force base runways for auto racing.

The car show was spearheaded by Air Force Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa, who said he has had a "lifelong love" for British cars.

"I owned a little British sports car in college that, through a weird turn of events, I never lost it," he said.

The "weird turn of events," he said, meant he first had to let go of his beloved 1974 MGB.

"When I went to college, I sold the car to my dad," he said. "But then he sold it back to me."

Ragusa was driving his metallic royal blue MGB as he led the procession of vehicles in formation down the airstrip at Keesler.

He said the Keesler meeting grew out of a large-scale coastal event.

"I met some members of the car club at Cruisin' The Coast and I joined the club and we do a handful of events every year and they asked if they could get a tour of the base," he said.

He said the car show also held some historical significance.

"After WWII and before race tracks were built, Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay allowed racers to use runways for races. The first two winners in the U.S. racing circuit were driving British sports cars, so we thought we would tap into that."

Although there is no proof races were ever held at Keesler, he said it was still a "cool event."

"We only had two cars break down but they both made it all the way to our main picture spot, which was in front of one our aircraft."

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