Summer is in full swing and this year hundreds of vintage racers will make the journey to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to celebrate the beauty and performance of some of the world’s greatest racecars and sports cars, July 19 – 22 at Road America for the WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK.
Widely known as one of the largest vintage racing gatherings in the United States, over 450 cars are expected to participate and both racecars and sports cars from all walks of vintage are welcome. With 16 different groups subdivided into several sub-classes the breadth of cars has something for everyone and there will be no shortage of spectacular racing.
Every year has a feature and this year as participants descend on the historic circuit, Road America plans to host a historic Trans Am feature and Formula 5000 50th anniversary along with celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the Canadian-American Challenge or Can-Am Series.
Having the historic Trans Am series serve as a feature for The WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman is a fitting tribute for one of America’s most iconic series’ at America’s greatest road course because the Trans Am series has been a fixture at the track since 1970.
That year Mark Donohue was victorious in an AMC Javelin entered by Roger Penske. Factory teams abounded in 1970, the peak of the Trans Am. Donohue beat the works Dodge Challenger of Sam Posey, the works Plymouth Barracuda of Swede Savage, two Bud Moore works assisted Mustangs of Parnelli Jones and George Follmer, and the two Chaparral entered Camaros of Jim Hall and Ed Leslie. The Trans Am continued uninterrupted through 2005, when it took a hiatus, being reborn in 2009. Tom Kendall tops the charts with four wins, while Peter Gregg, David Hobbs, Bob Tullius, Greg Pickett, Scott Pruett, Paul Gentilozzi, Tony Ave, and Cliff Ebben have also shined at America’s National Park of Speed.
Now Historic Trans Am racing is back and honoring the significance of the series in the most memorable way.
The sights and sounds of rare F5000 racing machines will also make their return for The WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman at Road America as the popular open wheel racer celebrates its 50th anniversary.
For those unaware, Formula 5000 was introduced in 1968 as a class within SCCA Formula A races, a series where single seat racers from different origins were allowed to compete, but which rapidly came to be dominated by the cars equipped with production-based American V8s. The engines used were generally 5-litre, fuel injected Chevrolet engines with about 500 horsepower at 8000 rpm, although other makes were also used. The concept was inspired by the success of the Can-Am Series, which featured unlimited formula sports cars fitted with very powerful engines derived from American V8s; the idea was to replicate the concept using open wheel racing cars. F5000 enjoyed popularity in the early 1970s in the U.S. and featured drivers such as Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Bobby Unser, James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, Brian Redman, David Hobbs, Tony Adamowicz, Sam Posey, Ian Ashley, John Cannon and Eppie Wietzes.
Competitors and fans will have the unique opportunity to catch all the action from these rare racers as they traverse through Turn 5, negotiate Canada Corner and barrel up the famed Front Straight to capture a bit of history.
Along with honoring the Trans Am Series and F5000, Road America celebrates the 52nd Anniversary of the Canadian-American Challenge or Can-Am Series. This is perhaps the most fondly remembered racing series ever, as it had minimal rules. Two seats, fendered bodywork, and that was about it. Unlimited engines, fat tires and unimaginable speed sums up what Can-Am was and the McLaren team ruled the early years. They won five years in a row at Road America, twice with Bruce McLaren and once each with Denny Hulme, Peter Gethin, and Peter Revson. In each instance the race was no contest, as the orange McLarens simply were the ones to beat. Their stranglehold on the Can-Am was broken in 1972 when Porsche practiced extreme excess in their designs. Porsche built a twin turbocharged five-liter V-12 engine that put out well over 1000 horsepower. They hired Roger Penske’s team to run the car, and as expected, they won as they pleased. George Follmer took the win at Road America in 1972 and Mark Donohue in 1973, each winning the season championship.
The Can-Am was last held in 1974, its demise essentially due to its success. That is, with virtually no rules, only one or two teams could reasonably win, so the rest went home. But while it lasted it was most memorable. The fans reacted accordingly with the biggest crowds ever at Road America until the top CART years of the mid 1990s which is exactly why Road America and fans alike enjoy the return of the Can-Am cars every year during the WeatherTech® International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK.
The festivities kick off on Thursday, July 19, with gates opening at 7 a.m. Test sessions begin at 8 a.m., and run throughout the entire day. On Friday the on track action resumes with practice sessions in the morning and qualifying sessions in the afternoon.
Friday evening, the tiny village of Elkhart Lake will spring to life with a blend of art-on-wheels as over 100 race cars will parade from the track to downtown Elkhart Lake for judging and spectator viewing beginning at 6 p.m., for the Concours d’Elegance.
This event is a must see spectacle for enthusiasts of all ages as the quiet town is taken over by vintage racing cars. The sound, while not as visceral as being at the track itself is unique in that you are seeing the pinnacle of vintage racing rumble through public roads. Standing ten feet from a 1,000 horsepower big block Can-Am car, or the beyond mad 80’s Formula 1 turbo cars as they idle and rev by you is a sensation that goes beyond hearing and it is inexplicably cool.
Everyone is invited to take part in the concours viewing but Road America encourages fans and patrons to arrive early (before 5 p.m.) to allow enough time for parking and to find your perfect viewing location along the parade route and Lake Street where the race cars will park. Please consider these alternate routes into Elkhart Lake. County Road A from the East, Golf Course Road from the South and County Road J from the West.
The Village once again will be implementing the detours and road closures for the concourse. The major road closings will be E. Rhine Street from Lincoln Street to the intersection of Gottfried and Pine Streets. All roads that intersect with E. Rhine Street will also be closed as to allow no traffic onto E. Rhine during the closure time. In addition, S. Lake and S. East Streets will be closed like in previous years. Please review the map. All closures will start at 3:00 p.m. and last until approximately 9:00 p.m.
On Saturday qualifying resumes in the morning for all groups. Then in the afternoon racing gets underway with qualifying races for each group. Over 100 sports cars will then gather again on Saturday evening in downtown Elkhart Lake from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the second night of the Concours d’Elegance. Brimming with rarity, the street fills again. Most of these cars are rare metal, fast metal, and only once in a lifetime that you will see them metal. The access again is unprecedented.
Seeing owners giving little kids seat time in the cars is part of the fun. In short, events like this, having the young ones exposed to the cars, and the sensations surrounding the event is critical to continuing the heritage of vintage racing and events like The WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK make all of this possible.
On Sunday, the featured racing begins at 9 a.m. Races are held until 10 a.m., when the Concours d’Elegance awards for Best Street and Race car; Best of Show and the People’s Choice award are announced near Victory lane and the paddock vendor area which is centrally located in the paddock. The rest of the day is filled with exciting feature races for each group. Other fan attractions include autograph sessions, an automotive art and vendor fair, on-track touring, disc golf and public go-karting at the CTECH Manufacturing Motorplex.
Tickets are available online or during the event at the gate. Additional information is available at www.roadamerica.com or by calling 800-365-RACE (7223). All races run rain or shine and anyone 16-years-old and under are FREE with a paying adult at the gate. Parking and paddock access is also free.
Road America PR/Photo Credit: Les Tension