The TACH Report: Road America Next Stop for C.A.R.T. Traveling Circus, Best Road Course In The U.S.
14 August 1997Carved out of the Kettle Moraine valley of Wisconsin, just an hour from Milwaukee and 20-minutes from Sheboygan (the Wurst Capital of the World), the Road America four-mile, 14 turn road racing course has been termed the finest road course by people in the know--the drivers. Founded and designed by a 1950s group of Chicago area well-to-do SCCA types (Jim Kimberly of Kleenex and Freddie Wacker of Wacker Drive in Chicago) and managed by Elkhart Lake Mayor Cliff Tufte, the track was an instant hit. SCCA weekend warriors loved it, and the annual June Sprints in May, and the Badger 200 milerin September were THE race weekends to look forward to. Hotel/Motel space was at a premium, and the hot hot spot was Siebkens resort which featured a ring-a-ding bar and German menu. In the early days a tremendous Concours was part of the weekends' "must see/do" activities, but eventually the rowdies moved in and put an end to this.
From the start, a zillion car nuts had their lives altered by attending the sports car races and learning about RSK Porsches, Birdcage Maserati, Ferrari Testa Rosa, Corvette Gran Sport, and Cunningham race cars. Now they were sports car nuts.
The names: Sherwood Johnson, Kimberly, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, Hap Sharp, Bob Holbert, the complete Ken Miles Cobra team, John Fitch, Motschenbacher, Penske, Donohue, Follmer, and on and on.
The Elkhart Lake B&B became popular: Brats and Beer. The "crazy corner" was turn two, the zoo, where you could see a bunch of beer swigging kooks who used a casket as a cooler.
Turn five, however, was THE place to spectate, as you could see the Cam Am cars come down through the gears from about 190 mph to grab the two slot, turn left, and climb the hill into the turn six left hander. In fact there were/are a great many elevated viewing spots at RA where you can look down and into the cars and watch the drivers work. There's a run-off area at turn five, in case you lose the binders or miss a shift, but none at the turn 12 left hander, although there should be, as you hit it going pretty quick.
Today, besides next Sundays CART race, RA plays host to two very successful vintage car races, the June Sprints, Toyota Atlantic series, Indy Lights, and motorcycles.
Many years ago I had the experience of driving two cars in the same race, but that's another story.
If you can find a room (the local college rents dorm bunks) go to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, as it always features Cliff Tufte weather and great racing.
Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel