If you compete in SoCal autocross or you were at Lincoln, Nebraska for this year’s SCCA Solo National championships, you probably have seen Robert Hess in his bright yellow Mazda Miata covered in cancer awareness slogans. As you may have read in a previous article, Robert is an “accidental cancer survivor” who uses his bright yellow Miata to bring his cancer non-profit’s early detection message to the motorsports community.
The two most common cancers in America are breast and prostate cancer. The best defense against these cancers is screening and early detection. After advocating for early detection for more than a decade, Hess created the “Couples Conquering Cancer” program to get men and women working together to increase annual cancer screening rates.
With the International Olympic committee adding mixed-gender team sports in track and field, swimming, and triathlon to the 2020 summer Olympic games in Tokyo, Hess saw an opportunity to create something unique in motorsports and connected with the SCCA Cal Club Autocross Board about creating a male/female team autocross event.
And, on October 21, 2018, Cal Club Autocross and the Cancer Journeys Foundation hosted the first ever mixed-gender team autocross competition – The “Stop Cancer Challenge” at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
Robert Hess and his wife Melissa raced in their 378/873 Mazda Miata against 15 other teams in four age categories using the PAX index to determine the winners. The Stop Cancer Challenge was Melissa’s first motorsports competition event and she “loved it.” First place winners received trophies while second and third place teams received coveted Cancer Journeys Foundation “CJ” mascot smart phone holders.
“I’ve been trying to get Melissa to try autocross for three years with no luck. But she agreed to support the cancer awareness program. She was pretty nervous during her first few practice runs, but then found the throttle,” said Hess.
Hess mimics the SCCA’s #funwithcars slogan with the #StopCancerWithCars hashtag. He notes that the mixed-gender team format offers our sport a number of benefits: 1) growth in the sport through more women competitors, 2) another competitive dimension with minimal additional organizational complexity and, of course, 3) a great opportunity for men and women to think about and schedule those annual cancer screening tests.
“Tara Johns is doing a great job of exposing motorsports to women. My goal is to support Tara’s effort with our mixed-gender team program. Women have a lot on their plates in life and they need a reason to spend time on an activity. I’m hoping that stopping cancer and spending time with their significant other will be that catalyst.”
Looking to the future, Hess would love to see a mixed-gender team challenge added to Solo Nationals and to the national Time trial competition. “I think mixed-gender team competitions would add a unique and valuable dimension to our sport,” said Hess.
Anyone interested in hosting a #StopCancer autocross challenge can contact Robert Hess for events details. #RaceOn and #StopCancerChallenge.