Elkhart Lake needs help

Does motorsports history have any meaning to the cities and towns where significant events have occurred in the past and, perhaps, are still going on today? Street races were the genesis of motor sports, occurring on regularly used roads well ...

Does motorsports history have any meaning to the cities and towns where significant events have occurred in the past and, perhaps, are still going on today? Street races were the genesis of motor sports, occurring on regularly used roads well before the advent of permanent road and oval tracks.

One recent case in point is the City of Long Beach, CA, which relishes and even worships the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which remade a town once known as "Iowa by the Sea" into a destination for race fans. And now Long Beach is a destination for convention-goers, as the city has reinforced and rebuilt its convention facilities.

All of the downtown renaissance in this burb by the Pacific Ocean can be traced to the dreams of one Christopher Robin Pook, who conceived and [literally] built the track and the event that will celebrate its 30th anniversary on April 18th.

If one looks farther back in the history of racing in the United States, one comes across the Villages of Watkins Glen, NY and Elkhart Lake, WI, both of which constructed seminal permanent road courses after successful sporting events on their city streets.

For the latter, a time of reckoning has come, as the purpose-built circuit called Elkhart Lake's Road America prepares for its 50th year of compelling racing activities in 2005.

Apparently, the Sheboygan County Board has decided to re-map and re-grade two roads that were part of the original Elkhart Lake country road course when it opened in 1950. County Highways A and P played an important part of the street race's history and remain intact - at this time.

Original street races were organized by members of Chicago Region of SCCA and the Village of Elkhart Lake. The circuits were generally triangular in nature and, for the first year, 1950, the start-finish line was on County Road P. Competitors raced north to County Road J, then South into the Village and West on what is now County JP, then called County Highway X. Racers reconnected with County Highway P, making a 3.3-mile voyage each lap.

The following two years the circuit enlarged to 5.3 miles, starting in the Village of Elkhart Lake, taking Lake Street South to County Road A, West on County A to County P, North to County Road J and South back into Elkhart Lake and the start-finish line.

The County intends to alter the part of the 1951 and 1952 circuit called Schoolhouse Straight that juts west out of Elkhart Lake and also revise the Kimberly Korner, named for Jim Kimberly, a race founder, organizer and successful sports car racer.

Elkhart Lake's Road America, the 4.048-mile permanent road course, together with local citizens from the Village of Elkhart Lake and the Town of Rhine have retained an attorney to combat this project and halt construction. Although the changes would re-grade the roads to designate them as "major feeders", traffic records show the number of cars on these particular roads has actually declined over the years.

At a conservative estimate, Road America believes it brings in anywhere from 500-750,000 visitors to the area each year for its premier motorsports events, who generate upwards of $50 million annually to the area.

In addition to its American Le Mans Series races and its Champ Car World Series events, the track has three vintage races that celebrate road racing's history in the US and in the Village of Elkhart Lake. The July 15- 18 Brian Redman International Challenge Presented by Jaguar is the acknowledged largest vintage race in this country, Road America asserts.

This project - which will change the aura of one of the most valuable historical motor racing settings in the country - is set to begin in July and would disrupt ingress and egress to the track and to the Village during that time, its most populous of the year.

Race fans are urged to quickly voice their objections to the project by contacting the Sheboygan County Board of Supervisors at: www.co.sheboygan.wi.us/html/contact.html.

Please refer to Project ID 4213-05-71.

Preserving racing history is everyone's job.

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About this article
Series Automotive , Road racing , SCCA
Drivers Brian Redman