In a summer of Formula Ford 50th anniversary celebrations at some of America’s most storied race tracks, the Sept. 11-15 FF50th at Road America stands out. In the making for nearly two years, the event was a gift to those with a passion for Formula Ford racing from a transplanted Indianapolis FF driver residing in Michigan, Steve Beeler, profiled in this space several weeks ago.
Beeler, though, could not have pulled off such a huge logistical undertaking without help, and he was wise to connect early on with the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association (VSCDA), a 500-member all-volunteer vintage race group serving the Midwest that is among the best-run groups of its type in the country. Beeler hitched his FF50th event star to the VSCDA’s annual Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival which, now in its 34th year, regularly attracts 250 entries — meaning that, with nearly 250 FFs expected, there would be as many as 500 cars in the Road America paddock — very nearly one car per VSCDA member!
And they pulled it off. Although attrition from several events held earlier in the summer meant there were not the 250 FFs expected and downpours on Thursday spoiled the many practice sessions planned, the volunteer VSCDA team got everyone registered quickly, found space for all the cars, trailers and tents in the paddock, streamlined tech, and kept to the practice, qualifying and race schedule for four days — this a schedule with 13 race groups (!), including three for Formula Fords alone.
Impressive, if not downright amazing.
How did they manage this and who was responsible? We asked the VSCDA president, Alex Rorke (a skilled vintage racer himself, competing in the ELVF in a Lotus Elan) to sum it up and name names. To his thanks, all of us at RACER magazine and the Formula Ford Racer Facebook page add our own: Thank you, VSCDA. – Steve Nickless
Just as FF50th Director Steve Beeler and Event Chairs Mike and Deb Korneli were relentless in their effort to bring the FF50th at Road America event to fruition at the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival (ELVF), the VSCDA Board and rest of us in the club were focused on providing the best possible experience and infrastructure for all participants.
We had visitors coming from as far away as Australia. We had a legendary, first-class facility: Road America. And we had first-class excitement for the Formula Ford 50th anniversary event.
To ensure it would reach its full potential, the VSCDA family members threw themselves into the ultimate vintage celebration, their efforts personifying our “Vintage Spirit” ethic. More than 100 people volunteered to make sure the event was a success, and we were very fortunate to have so many accept substantial responsibility. Kathy Newton, for example, who previously managed large corporate events, allowed herself to be appointed “Chief of Paddocking.” Her goal was to make certain that all the teams and drivers were placed thoughtfully in the nearly mile-long, multi-level paddock, and would know their locations long before arrival. Newton contacted each FF participant’s team in advance to ask about its needs, and set up a massive spreadsheet. Upon arrival through Gate 6 and registering, volunteer guides led each team to its paddock location.
This was particularly important because roughly one-third of this year’s participants were new to the ELVF. In a tribute to Formula Ford’s roots in England, it was pouring rain at times when many of the teams arrived; and volunteers like Scott Jagusch enthusiastically guided our guests when being outdoors was far from pleasant.
While those activities were going on, volunteers helping in Registration (see video for a glimpse at the hectic, behind-the-scenes, goings-on) handled credentials for several thousand participants – drivers and significant others, crew, sponsors, media and more.
Concurrent with parking and registering, the innovative Express Tech (designed by VSCDA VP Jim Donato, Treasurer Jeff Freers and Chief of Tech Scott Reif) approach allowed racers with annual tech stickers from accredited organizations to quickly complete their tech requirements, freeing up other members of the tech team to give full focus to cars needing more attention.
Enthusiastic and trained volunteers in Registration, thoughtfully organized Paddocking and Express Tech, combined to eliminate many of the choke points that occur at large racing events. Keeping all the pieces in place was VSCDA Office Manager, Stacey Donato, whose good will, absolute dedication and ability to function without sleep, overcame all obstacles.
Perhaps the most important group of volunteers for the racers was the Drivers Committee, especially Gary Kropf, Charlie Hall, Roger Heil and FF representatives Tim Evans and Bruce MacInnes. They gave their all to be certain the racing was safe.
Only someone who loves vintage racing and the racing community would take on such a thankless task. These men were dedicated, deliberative and successful.
Although this article is about VSDCA and its volunteers, Road America and its leadership — particularly President/General Manager Mike Kertscher and Director of Operations Greg Wieser — were highly professional and congenial partners throughout the entire endeavor. Chief Steward Chuck Shapiro, along with a talented and very capable group in Timing and Scoring, did an admirable job with all our racers, race groups and cross-registrants.
The FF50th and other ELVF events combined to make one spectacular show. Thanks to all 100+ volunteers, the stage was set and ready on every one of its five days — rain, cold wind, and shine.
It was inspiring to see so many people work so hard to help make racing history.
Thanks to all.
—Alex Rorke, President, VSCDA