We headed off to Road America for our third racing weekend of 2021. Our first two racing venues were ones in which we had never been to before. We had a very successful and fun time down at Barber Motorsport Park in Birmingham, Alabama. We got to race against another XKE Coupe, visit the largest motorcycle museum in the world, and had a blast in Birmingham. The XKE ran well and the weather was beautiful.
Our 2nd outing was at Mid-Ohio Raceways. This track, as well as Barber, are both very technical with numerous tight turns and switchbacks. It took the better part of 3 sessions to get comfortable with each of these tracks, but overall, the car performed well and I improved my times on each race. I escaped with no damage; however, I did have a 720 degree spin at Barber and a split window Corvette blew his engine right in front of me, resulting in a big cloud of white spoke that I had to drive through blindly. Luckily, I made it through and we really enjoyed the weekend. On both of these weekends, Terry Zerr and Floyd Allyn crewed, with Terry’s friend Mark Shapland joining us at Mid-Ohio.
The only work that was done on the car in 2021 were 2 new sets tires and a new set of wheels. I’ve been racing for 7 years with the standard 6” wheels. I purchased a set of 7-inch wheels with a bigger backset, which allowed me to go to a slightly larger tread width. I also changed from radial tires to bias ply, as the bias ply tires flex less and are a little for fun to race on than radials.
The Weathertech Brian Redman International Challege is one of the premier racing events in America. This year, 430 cars were entered in 14 different race groups. Any time at Road America, you expect to be up against very experienced skilled drivers in extremely well-prepared race cars. Here we were, my crew of Meg and John Sippel Mark Shapland, and Bo Bohanson (Mark’s brother in law), preparing the XKE, while huge teams and crews were prepaing numerous race cars. It’s a bit intimidating to say the least. The track sits on 640 acres in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine. It has hosted races since September 1955 and currently has over 400 events a year. Road America is one of only a handful of road circuits in the world maintaining its original configuration being 4.048 miles in length with 14 turns. The track features many elevation changes, along with a long front stretch where speeds approaching 200 mph may be reached. Road America's open seating allows spectators to venture throughout the grounds. Grandstands are available throughout the track, as well as permanent hillside seating where crowds of more than 150,000 can be accommodated. We were told that 25,000 tickets had been sold for Friday and Sunday, with 100,000 tickets sold for Saturday. What a thrill to drive in front of that many viewers and fans.
I was put in Race Group 3, which included Vintage AP, BP, AS, Prototypes, and sport racers. 30 cars were in my race group. This included 2 genuine Ford GT40s, 4 Lola T70s, Porsche 906R, Devin, 2 Cheetahs, 2 Echidnas, 2 Lotus 23b, a LaBoa MK2, BMW 23b, Jaguar XK150, 2 Jaguar XKEs, Crossle C5, De Tomaso Pantera, 3 Shelby GT350s, and 2 Corvettes.
We had begun our trip up to Elkhart Lake on Wednesday morning as we had an early practice session on Thursday. We got to the track early Thursday, set up our pit area, got the XKE through inspection, and off for our first session. It had rained the night before and was a bit cool. I managed to have a fast lap at 2:56. I felt very comfortable on the track and was getting used to the new tires, which handled in a totally different way than the radials. Meg and John got to the track later that afternoon and we all attended a great Welcome Party for drivers and crew at the Road America Center.
Our Friday schedule called for 2 Qualifying sessions, the first at 8:35 am and the second after lunch at 3:50 pm. The weather was spectacular and The Jaguar ran really well. I knew with all the extremely fast cars in my race group, that if I started in the back, I would get 5-6 clean laps. The changes made to the XKE over the last 2 year worked extremely well! Much stiffer in the turns and I could now stay in 2nd and 3rd much longer as I was still builder power up to 7100 RPMs. Previously, I quite making power at 5,250 RPMs. I was down shifting and using 2nd gear like never before. What a difference it made at turns 5 and78 and in the carousel. I was running lap after lap at 2:55. Being consistent is the trick to going faster. That evening we all went into Elkhart Lake for the Race Car Parade. The streets were lined with hundreds of people as the race cars drove the 3 miles from the track to the main street and then parked. It was literally shoulder to shoulder. We all met at Siebkens Pub, famous as a race driver’s hangout. We spoke at length with several famous drivers including David Hobbs, Brian Redman, and my favorite, Burt Levy. After several Southern Comforts and viewing all the cars, we headed to Sheboygan to our favorite restaurant, the Duke of Devon. A great dinner, then early to bed.
The Saturday schedule called for 1 Sprint races at 10:55 am. I was gridded 27th and again, this would give me open track for 5-6 laps. The weather was perfect and the track dry, and I was now running laps consistently at 2:52. We ran the new Hoosier TDR tires for the entire weekend. After our Saturday lone race was completed, we spent the day watching all the races from various viewpoints. We also spent quite a bit of time up at The Lions Club Patio Concession Stand. You can a lot of the track from there, while enjoying fresh roasted corn and Ostburgerers (a hamburger with a brat). When racing was done, we again went into the town of Elkhart Lake for the Sports Car Parade. Really nice street cars and lots of them Jaguars. Later, we met up with Meg and John at City Bar and Grill in Plymouth, enjoying fried perch, shrimp, cod, and some wonderful wine that Mark brought. Watching John trying to open the bottle was hilarious!
On Sunday, we had only our Group Feature race at 2:30 pm. I was gridded 25th for the Feature race. I was really running well and with a lot of confidence. I ended up 18th overall and 1st in Class. The good news was that I was now running consistent laps 2:50, and had a fast lap of 2:49. The best part was the cool down lap after the race. Fans all over the track were waving at me and there were numerous Jaguar flags and banners being waved. What a great experience. I was awarded a medal for 1st in Class. I anxious to return in September for the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival, as I know I have 5 more seconds in me that I could share off. It was a great racing weekend!
I can’t thank Mark, Bo, Meg, and John enough for their hard work, companionship, and encouragement that they provided this weekend. Sharing the weekend end with them was a blast and I’m very appreciative.
Don’t forget, I’m racing here in St. Louis on August 7th and 8th at World Wide Technology Raceway. Admission and Parking is free. HVR racing is having a hospitality tent with food for all our friends, including all JAGSL members. Come out and watch the races.