Weathertech International Challenge returns to Road America

Photo Credit: Pierre Munson

Photo Credit: Pierre Munson

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Summer is in full swing and this year hundreds of vintage racers will make the journey to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to celebrate the beauty and performance of some of the world’s greatest race cars and sports cars, July 14-17 at Road America for the WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK. 

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Widely known as one of the largest vintage racing gatherings in the United States, over 450 cars are expected to participate and both race cars and sports cars from all walks of vintage are welcome. With 16 different groups subdivided into several sub-classes the breadth of cars has something for everyone and there will be no shortage of spectacular racing. 

Every year has a feature and this year as participants descend on the historic circuit Road America plans to host reunions for the legendary Shadow racer, and Corvair along with celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Canadian-American Challenge or Can-Am Series. 

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Shadows were developed at a company founded by Don Nichols in 1971 called Advanced Vehicle Systems. They were originally designed by Trevor Harris and entered under the Shadow Racing Inc. banner. The first Shadow, the Mk.1, was entered in the Can-Am series with George Follmer and Vic Elford behind the wheel. The Mk.1 featured an innovative design, using very small wheels for low drag and although the car was quick, it was not the most reliable car in the field.

New designs piloted by Jackie Oliver and Brian Redman saw impressive results in the early 70’s before embarking into Formula 1 and prior to the Can-Am Series being shortened in 1974. Since its retirement from competition some Shadows remain and continue the legacy at vintage events such at the WeatherTech® International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK as a testament to their impressive design and performance from the glorious Can-Am era.

To date, an unprecedented eight Shadow racers are confirmed for the event, including examples of F1 and F5000 Shadows. This will be the largest gathering of Shadows ever at a single event.

Road America will also be hosting a Corvair reunion during the WeatherTech® International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK. Yenko Sportscars, operating in a small shop out of the Yenko Chevrolet dealership in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, produced a handful of potent Stingers, Corvair-based sports cars built with the singular purpose of going racing. The car was competitive straight out of the shop, and in 1967, drivers in Yenko Stingers claimed the SCCA D Production national title and 10 SCCA divisional titles.

Along with the Shadow and Corvair reunions, Road America celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Canadian-American Challenge or Can-Am Series. This is perhaps the most fondly remembered racing series ever, as it had minimal rules. Two seats, fendered bodywork, and that was about it. Unlimited engines, fat tires and unimaginable speed sums up what Can-Am was and the McLaren team ruled the early years. They won five years in a row at Road America, twice with Bruce McLaren and once each with Denny Hulme, Peter Gethin, and Peter Revson. In each instance the race was no contest, as the orange McLarens simply were the ones to beat. Their stranglehold on the Can-Am was broken in 1972 when Porsche practiced extreme excess in their designs. Porsche built a twin turbocharged five-liter V-12 engine that put out well over 1000 horsepower. They hired Roger Penske’s team to run the car, and as expected, they won as they pleased. George Follmer took the win at Road America in 1972 and Mark Donohue in 1973, each winning the season championship.

The Can-Am was last held in 1974, its demise essentially due to its success. That is, with virtually no rules, only one or two teams could reasonably win, so the rest went home. But while it lasted it was most memorable. The fans reacted accordingly with the biggest crowds ever at Road America until the top CART years of the mid 1990s which is exactly why Road America and fans alike enjoy the return of the Can-Am cars every year during the WeatherTech® International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK.

The festivities kick off on Thursday, July 14, with gates opening at 7 a.m. Test sessions begin at 8 a.m., and run throughout the entire day. On Friday the on track action resumes with practice sessions in the morning and qualifying sessions in the afternoon.

Friday evening, the tiny village of Elkhart Lake will spring to life with a blend of art-on-wheels as over 100 race cars will parade from the track to downtown Elkhart Lake for judging and spectator viewing beginning at 6 p.m., for the Nationwide Concours d’Elegance.

Photo Credit: Les Tension

Photo Credit: Les Tension

This event is a must see spectacle for enthusiasts of all ages as the quiet town is taken over by vintage racing cars. The sound, while not as visceral as being at the track itself is unique in that you are seeing the pinnacle of vintage racing rumble through public roads. Standing ten feet from a 1,000 horsepower big block Can-Am car, or the beyond mad 80’s Formula 1 turbo cars as they idle and rev by you is a sensation that goes beyond hearing and it is inexplicably cool. 

Everyone is invited to take part in the concours viewing but Road America encourages fans and patrons to arrive early (before 5 p.m.) to allow enough time for parking and to find your perfect viewing location along the parade route and Lake Street where the race cars will park. Please consider these alternate routes into Elkhart Lake. County Road A from the East, Golf Course Road from the South and County Road J from the West.

Photo Credit: Les Tension

Photo Credit: Les Tension

On Saturday qualifying resumes in the morning for all groups. Then in the afternoon racing gets underway with qualifying races for each group. Over 100 sports cars will then gather again on Saturday evening in downtown Elkhart Lake from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the second night of the Nationwide Concours d’Elegance. Brimming with rarity, the street fills again. Most of these cars are rare metal, fast metal, and only once in a lifetime that you will see them metal. The access again is unprecedented. 

 Photo Credit: Les Tension

Photo Credit: Les Tension

Seeing owners giving little kids seat time in the cars is part of the fun. In short, events like this, having the young ones exposed to the cars, and the sensations surrounding the event is critical to continuing the heritage of vintage racing and events like The WeatherTech International Challenge with Brian Redman presented by HAWK make all of this possible.

On Sunday, the featured racing begins at 9 a.m. Races are held until 12:15 p.m., when the Nationwide Concours d’Elegance awards for Best Street and Race car; Best of Show and the People’s Choice award are announced near the paddock vendor area which is centrally located in the paddock. The rest of the day is filled with exciting feature races for each group. Other fan attractions include autograph sessions, an automotive art and vendor fair, on-track touring, Road America’s Zip Line and public go-karting at the Road America Motorplex.

Tickets are available online or during the event at the gate. Additional information is available at www.roadamerica.com or by calling 800-365-RACE (7223). All races run rain or shine and anyone 16-years-old and under are free with a paying adult at the gate. Parking and paddock access is also free. 
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About Road America: Established in 1955, Road America is located midway between Milwaukee and Green Bay in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The world’s best racers have competed at this legendary four-mile, 14-turn road circuit for over 60 years. The 640-acre, park-like grounds offer amazing viewing opportunities, fantastic concessions and high-speed excitement to hundreds of thousands of spectators each year. In addition to public race weekends, Road America offers a variety of group event programs, the Road America Motorplex for karting and supermoto, and the Road America Motorcycle and Advanced Driving Schools. For more information, visit www.roadamerica.com Follow Road America onwww.facebook.com/RoadAmerica and on Twitter: @roadamerica or call 800-365-7223.

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