Report by Will Silk and photos by Tim Kemmis
The Kohler International Challenge (KIC) with Brian Redman was held from July 14-17, 2011 at Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The historic 4-mile, 14-turn track was filled with over 400 vintage race cars in 10 groups, many collector car corrals and thousands of enthusiastic spectators.
Road America’s annual Kohler International Challenge is one of the biggest events in vintage racing in North America. The 2011 event was no exception, and I was there with my friends from Executive Autosport supporting two F5000 cars and a vintage McLaren M8F Can-Am machine. It’s all about the racing at Road America, as the race car parade on Friday night in downtown Elkhart Lake is something everyone needs to experience. The people just embrace the racers and the racers return the love. A top notch event with incredible food and great race cars that seems to get more popular every year.
The first two cars on our list were those operated by Jim Stengel. The mighty McLaren M8F Can-Am was in top form and incredibly fast in Jim’s hands until Saturday when a cracked transmission case was noticed after the qualifying race, putting it on the trailer for the remainder of the weekend. It was a real shame too, because the car was such a crowd pleaser with its “Batmobile” body work and its earth-shaking Chevy big block mill. The McRae GM1 that Jim drives in F5000 gave us fits all weekend having had a new engine in place for this race, though ignition problems at top end were persistent through Sunday’s feature race.
We also supported Seb Coppola and his Lola T192. The team really thrashed on this car as Chris Schneider of Executive Autosport drove it Thursday and claimed it was the scariest car he had ever driven in 30 years of racing. We manufactured our own lower control arm bushings for the left rear to cure excessive play that was upsetting the car. With that corrected, the next big to-do was putting the differential back together, as Matt Connolly and I worked hard on Saturday morning to get Seb out for the practice session. The differential had lost a few vital pieces over the years and we had to rebuild it in the paddock. Thankfully, the guys from RM Motorsports were able to lend a hand on the assembly rebuild, leaving Matt and I to throw it all back together. Seb missed a lap or so, but was able to make most of the session and it helped set things in place for him to really improve, finishing very well in Sunday’s race.
Saturday’s qualifying race was filled with excitement, as early in the race Paul Dudiak suffered an unfortunate off which heavily damaged his classic McKee Mk12C. Thankfully, Paul was fine, but the McKee will take a good bit of work to bang back into shape for future races. While the course was set to go green, Tony “A2Z” Adamowicz prepared to strike on the restart, his Eagle being ferociously fast on the straights. When the green flag dropped, Tony passed Rick Parson’s and Chris Pederson’s Lola T332s like they were in reverse and rocketed up the massive Road America front straight, only to have Rick and Chris get back past in the first few corners of the lap. Tony was in top shape, and with the assistance that Executive Autosport and his own RIAM crew provided, the Eagle was virtually unbeatable. Rick mentioned after the qualifying race that he thought A2Z had slipped some Wisconsin Moonshine in the tank to get that sort of boost.
Sunday’s race was a good one for the Eagle as well, as Parsons departed early with issues, leaving only Pederson’s T330 in front and Tony a few seconds back. The race appeared headed towards this finish, but with two to go, Pederson’s crew said Chris lost the clutch and that Tony had the win at that point. It was unfortunate for Pederson’s team as they worked hard all weekend and Chris looked incredibly strong from the pit lane, particularly during the race. Barry Blackmore finished second in his Lola, with Jim Stengel rounding out the podium in his red McRae GM1.
F5000 wasn’t the only big open-wheel draw at KIC this year, as the Historic Grand Prix class was also a fan favorite, providing sounds of high-revving Cosworths that acted as music to the ears of the many Formula One fans present. Very fast and competitive, Chris Bender drove to victory in his Rothmans / Newsweek 1982 March 821, eclipsing the 1982 Williams FW08 of Michael Fitzgerald by a mere 0.826 seconds. Always quick Dan Marvin rounded out the top three in his iconic 1974 Brabham BT-44.
For those that liked their wheels enclosed, the Carl Haas Porsche 356 Challenge was an excellent tribute to one of the main cars that made sports cars what they are in the United States. Carl’s history at Road America goes all the way back to the founding days when he competed there as a driver. Keith Denahan took the checkered flag in another tight race, beating Paul Swanson by 0.589 seconds and third place finisher Mark Eskuehe was only 1.642 seconds.
If those races weren’t highly contested, then check out the North American Jaguar E-Type Challenge. The race honored the 50th anniversary of the legendary Jaguar E-Type, the design and performance icon that continues to create a sensation at historic racing events throughout the world. Farrell Preston and Larry Ligas battled the entire six laps, but it was Preston that took the photo finish win by 0.044 over Ligas. Included in this field was the Group 44 Jaguar E-Type of Mike Korneli.
Truly there is something for everyone at Road America.
Photographer Tim Kemmis documented the 2011 edition of the Kohler International Challenge at Road America, offering the following 125 images that capture the diverse selection of vintage race cars.
Kohler International Challenge at Road America 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)