1963 Road America 500

Thick in the early salvos of the Cobra Ferrari Wars and the Fords were in prime shape. This one, though, wasn’t just about the big boys. There was a healthy field of Porsches, Elvas, Lotuses, a lone Stanguellini, and even one of the ultra-rare Echidnas.

I love seeing old footage of Road America because you can immediately see how little it’s changed in the intervening years: Turn 5 is still tricky and prime viewing; the blind turn into 6; Canada corner managing to get the best of more than a few drivers.

1963 Road America Program Cover

The invaluable database at Racing Sports Cars has more details.

Against All Odds: Datsun BRE Racing

It must have seemed absurd at the time when BRE and Datsun decided to take on Alfa, BMW and the other more established sports sedan racing teams. Naturally there’s great film here from Road America, Riverside, and other iconic tracks, but the interview footage and shots from the shop and offices give a fantastic peek into the team and the challenge they faced.

From the grindhouse narration; John Morton and Mike Downs at the top of their game; and the atmosphere of the golden era of the Trans Am Series: this sure is fun to watch. The trackside bikinis don’t hurt either.

One of the great liveries of the 70s. Thanks for sending this in, Craig!

Onboard for the Formula Vee 50th Anniversary Race at Road America

The Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association always has a fantastic grid for their Formula Vee group. With 20 or more racers, it has to be one of the most densely packed Formula Vee grids in the States. Last weekend’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, though, brought even more out to the track to celebrate Formula Vee’s 50th anniversary together with a FV-only feature race. (Edit: Paul just wrote in to tell me that the event drew 34 Formula Vees for the weekend. Yowza!)

What I like most about Jeffrey Tschiltsch’s onboard footage here is that it really showcases one of my favorite aspects of the group: they manage to run really tight. Even towards the end of this video, there’s still five or six cars within a few seconds of each other; never more than a turn apart. Keeping together as a pack and drafting one another in the long straights at Road America makes these little 1200cc powered racers an exercise in true racecraft. After all, there’s not a lot of horsepower to rely on when you make even the smallest mistakes. Sure, taking advantage of every newton of momemtum and using every aerodynamic advantage to try and win is true for every race group, but this particular formula really manages to deliver on similar performance and racing characteristics across a variety of builders. It’s just such a joy to watch.

I have to also give kudos to Jeffrey for actually using YouTube’s usually annoying commenting tools to give some honest commentary for the video, pointing out some hairier moments, some near misses, and even his own mistakes to give us some insight into the on-track thoughts and analysis of the moments that defined the race for him. Thanks for sharing these, Jeffery.

Man, I love Road America.

Road America ’59

A half-hour of 1959 Road America footage? Yes, please.

With all the changes that happened to America’s great racing courses over the years, I am reminded what a treasure Road America remains. Riding onboard this Porsche in the opening minutes of this clip, it’s plain to see how much of the course is virtually unchanged. Turn 5 is still harrowing, complete with a little wiggle as we close the gap on another driver. We need some radical correction as we overcook it into the always tricky Turn 6, half-obscured as it is by the crest of the hill up under the Toyota Pepsi bridge.

Be sure to stick with the video until the main event, watching the Alfas of William Wuesthoff and Chuck Stoddard mix it up with the dominating Porsche Carrera GTs of Blanchard, Rickert, Collins, and Jennings might be one of the best things you do today.

We’ll go back onboard late in this video, and start overcooking it again through 5 and 6… well, at least it’s an accurate depiction of my own lines on Road America.

I still don’t know why this staccato rhythm of voiceover hasn’t make a tremendous comeback—even just for the kitsch factor.

Finishing order and more for the June 1959 Class F/G/H/I/J race at Racing Sports Cars.

Elkhart Lake Kohler Challenge Vintage Parade

We pulled into Elkhart Lake for the 2009 Kohler International Challenge with Brian Redman last Friday night hoping to catch the parade of vintage cars from the track into downtown Elkhart Lake for a small concours d’elegance on the streets of my favorite small town. Parked in front of Siebkens, the crowds and the rain kept us from taking in too much of the rows of gorgeous machines lining both sides of the street. So, as is traditional, we disappeared into the Siebkens bar for a few Spotted Cows. When we finally made our way back into the streets, we caught this procession of the cars making their way back to Road America.

I’ve identified as many of the machines as I could in this video. It really says something when there’s just too many GT40s and Cobras to accurately identify which one belongs with which driver. Ah, Elkhart.

The Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge at Road America

Peter Gidding's Maserati 250F at Road AmericaHow could I have missed this? Road America is only a few hours drive away and somehow I completely missed the chance to see some marvelous vintage Ferraris at a racing pace in the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge. The series is open to pre-1980 machines, and divided into disc and drum brake classes.

The drum brake class featured two—two!—Maserati 250Fs on the starting row. Ultimately the pole-sitter, Peter Giddings, won the drum brake race by more than 30 seconds. No surprise there, Giddings has won most of the events since the series started in 2000. So chalk another one up for Giddings. No matter though; whatever the official site lists in standings for the event, the folks hanging out at the Turn 5 fence and the Hurry Downs benches were the real winners. It’s a bit of a rarity to see vintage machines from Maranello racing hard here in the Midwest and I’m really kicking myself for missing the opportunity.

Veloce Today has a wonderful gallery.

If you’re in Quebec, don’t make the same mistake I did. The next Shell Ferrari Historics will be hitting Le Circuit at Mont-Tremblant from July 24 to 26.

Elkhart Lake ’57

From the LIFE Vaults: Onboard at Road America

Digging through the Life Magazine archives recently uploaded and indexed by Google, there’s a great deal of vintage motorsport to explore. This time, we’ll go to one of my very favorite tracks for some quick shots of the 1960 Road America 500. And what better way to do that than to ride along in a Briggs Cunningham Lister Jaguar.

Here we are driving up the short uphill straight after just passing turn 5. Today we’d be approaching the Toyota bridge just as the hill crests before we get on the brakes for the slightly blind turn 6. It looks like we’re closing on Wayne Burnett’s Ferrari Testa Rossa.

Whew, that was a quick lap. We’re already back to the finish line. It looks positively quaint compared to the main straight of today’s Road America. The building on the right looks absolutely grand. It looks like we’ve caught up with our Briggs Cunningham teammate in the #60 E-Type lightweight and just ahead of him it looks like Wayne has held us off.

No, I don’t know why that Porsche is facing the wrong way either.

Let’s thank our host for the trip.

The photo isn’t labeled, but I think that’s Ed Crawford (correct me in the comments if I’m wrong).

We’ll see more of the Life archives in the future. Check out our complete series.

On-Board Brabham BT29 at Road America

Another excellent video from the Mito Media team. I’m not having much luck finding more information on the production company. Is it just Alex King who is responsible for all these brilliant videos? Or is there a wider team? Obviously in the video we showed last week there had to be more than one camera operator.. Regardless, whoever Mito Media is, I hope they keep dropping fantastic vids like this On-board with James King (any relation?) in his Brabham BT29. This is exactly the kind of footage I was pining for when we discussed Motorsports Hero last month. Keep ’em coming, Alex.

Is this the same James King caught here by Flickr uploader sjeacle in another Brabham (this time a BT7) at this year’s Monaco Grand Prix Historique?

Seen at Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival: Porsche 910-25

Walking the paddock at any vintage race is half the fun of attending. There are scores of wonderful racing cars and dozens of friendly drivers happy to chat about them. At this year’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, we did even more chatting with drivers than usual, as Paul is on the hunt for a vintage Formula Vee. One car this year, however, stopped me dead in my tracks—along with everyone else that passed—the Porsche 910.

910-25 at rest.

Parked among some of the most arresting cars of the weekend, a Maserati 250 and a Cooper Formula car, it was the only car I can think of that could draw all attention away from these 2 other iconic cars. Immaculately restored in 2001, this car has competed recently in such estimable races at the 24 Hours Lemans Classic and the Monterrey Historics.

But of course the truly remarkable story of this prototype racer begins much earlier than that. The 910 series was originally conceived of as a hillclimb car, but quickly found success as an endurance racer. Think about that for a moment. Hillclimbs are short sprints up a mountainside. One way, one trip. The fact that this hillclimber was readily adaptable to endurance racing speaks volumes about Porsche’s late-60’s engineering. That a car designed for short bursts of speed could also run competitively for 24 hours is simply staggering.

This example ran the Targa Florio in ’67 (a race won by fellow works drivers Paul Hawkins and Rölf Stommelen in 910-08), and won the 1000km at the Circuit of Mugello with Gerhard Mitter and Udo Schuetz at the wheel. Sadly, 910-25 didn’t complete the Sunday race at Road America, dropping out of competition in the 1st lap. The car was hauled out of the track on a flatbed, but I didn’t see any signs of damage. Does anyone know what happened?

Here’s a photo of 910-25 as she appeared at the ’67 Targa Florio.
910-25 at the Targa Florio

This article in Washington CEO Magazine shows that the current owner of Porsche 910-25 is AEI Music Founder and Real Estate developer Michael J. Malone. Congratulations, Mr. Malone, on one fine automobile.