Mike Stott -UBS Financial Enduro Series
The ChicagoSoft GT Challenge
by Walter Pietrowicz
What’s a spring trek to the land of cheese and bratwurst without a stopover to view some of its temporary residents, hundreds of vintage auto racing machines in town to participate in Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) ChicagoSoft GT Challenge at Road America (RA), Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Presented by Red Morgan Enterprises, the GT Challenge featured the spunky SVRA gang and their speedy chariots which invaded and temporarily increased the local population (approximately 2000, and not counting the cows, of course) of the quaint resort area. This year’s edition was a co-venture with participants from SVRA’s once sister organization, Historic Sportscar Racing, Ltd. (HSR), who joined the May 13-16 outing.
Residing just east of giant Lake Michigan and north of Chicago, the Elkhart Lake area has maintained a deep connection with motorcar racing since hosting races through its public labyrinth of county roads between 1950-1952, eventually moving to the purpose-built road course arena, Road America (RA) in 1955. Today, RA continues to thrive and is only one of a handful of road circuits that has retained its original 4.048-mile configuration of 14 twists and turns. Sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), the inaugural 1950 3.35-mile main event was won by Jim Kimberly (Ferrari 166 Barchetta).
With Thursday’s stormy and drenching wet conditions out of the way, drivers were greeted with dry and seasonably cool temps as Friday’s Optima Battery Sprint Series individual group practice and qualifying sessions got out of first gear and sang with thundering voices. The event’s initial formal contest, the first of two protracted shootouts, the Badger 200 presented by Mike Stott/UBS, concluded the day.
Despite Lee Milazzo’s ’96 Mustang T/A posting the fastest lap (2:18.476) early in the shootout, Brad Blum wheeled his 914 to the Badger 200 victory. Amusingly, the lengthy race also featured the 1932 MG J2 of Curtis Liposcak and a 1933 J2 model of William Goulette, running with the big dogs and understandably, both continually checking their rear views for the constant rear assault by the faster mechanics throughout the blacktop battle. It was, indeed, a rare and visual treat dynamically showcasing the evolution of sports cars in action.
The Badger 200 also acted as an informal test bed, proving the recently divorced SVRA and HSR combatants could play nice together. Enthusiasts occupying either side of the ARMCO were rewarded with plenty of blacktop action by what turned out to be an interesting blend of the competing hardware unfamiliar with each other, both fighting for the fastest way around RA’s sandbox of challenging appointments and elevation changes.
Saturday was again dry, and positively warmer as the final qualifying rounds and qualifying races were the order of business again for the majority of the day. Mirroring Friday’s schedule, Saturday also concluded with a prolonged asphalt battle, the Mike Stott/UBS sponsored Dairyland 150 enduro. Featuring a large grouping of HSR hardware, it was a no brainer that the fight for the top spoils was between two Audi R8 LMP rocket ships and George Robinson’s Riley & Scott missile. Once again, posting the fastest lap wasn’t enough to secure a win as Bill Adam piloted his R8 across the finish line in first place, while Robinson did manage to break up the German party, taking second. Travis Engen’s R8 finished third.
The on-track social presented by Red Morgan Enterprises provided the perfect arena to continue some bench racing while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts and friends, and of course, food and drink.
Awakening to yet another delightful and beautiful day, the formal contests were poised to start with the exit of the last warm-up session. Quickly, Philip Airey proved his front-runner performance all week was no fluke, capturing the Group 8 top prize in his Lotus Elan, while local resident, Brian French’s Benetton F1 machine screamed to an uncontested win over a Group 9 field that contained eight Lola T97/20s among other winged and slick open-wheeled peers.
Bookending lunch, the thundering roar of predominately American horsepower from Group 6 precluded the midday culinary break, while the Prewar group slowed the blacktop dance a tad following lunch. Brad Hoyt’s Vette outran a duo association of Z28s for the Group 6 win.
Other winners included the following:
Group 10 – Travis Engen / 2005 Audi R8 LMP
Group 7 – Justin Segel / 1972 Chevron B21
Group 4&5 – Dennis Olthoff / 1966/02 Ford GT40
Group 1&3 – James Jackson / 1964 Porsche 356SC Coupe
Group 2 (Monoposto) – Ted Wentz / Brabham BT23c F2
Obviously, while the aforementioned winners were the documented race group’s overall champions, SVRA and HSR separately awarded individual podium positions to their own participants.
Additionally, Road America was one of the nine planned stops for the newly formed “Cayman Interseries” racing championship, and featured, what else, 2009/2010 Porsche Cayman S’s. They too, handed out their own awards.
The weekend can definitely be deemed a great success, but the co-venture deal that was penned before the organizations’ formal split will go down as simply a flash-in-the-pan. And while each racing association has had its philosophical differences defining its own existence, the real lesson learned here is that no matter the horse, it’s still a horse race. Thanks to Competition Director, Carl Jensen and the SVRA crew for another stellar weekend of vintage auto racing.
Covering the past, speeding to the future, see you at the Gold Cup.