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Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline
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  Chicagoland MG Club:Driveline
Just a Simple Wrench
Jake and Ann Snyder
Tenth Annual Chicagoland MG Club camping trip

What can be said about the Chicagoland MG Club camping trip to Road America that hasn't been said before? This annual event was initiated in 1996. Before that, there had been casual discussions about the possibility of a club camping trip. So when, at a club meeting, new (then) members Deb and Bill Mennell mentioned that there was a campground just across the road from Road America, the idea for a perfect club camping event was born.

The first year that we camped at Plymouth Rock Camping Resort, the July vintage racing weekend at Road America was still under the auspices of the Chicago Historic Races. The following year the event became the Brian Redman International Challenge or BRIC for short, and this year it was held from July 15 to 17.

Road America, a four mile road course near Elkhart Lake Wisconsin, is the premier road course on this side of the Atlantic, or quite possibly, in the world. The history of the track is embedded in the fatalities that occurred at other tracks in the early to mid-fifties when the races at Elkhart Lake and other venues were held on public roads. A new course was constructed that was separate from public roads, and the racers from Chicago and the environs flocked to it. This course is superior in the width and uniformity of the track and in the challenges provided by the many elevation changes in the moraine topology. Catch fences made of chain-link now protect everyone including the workers who provide communication to the drivers using various colored flags and communication to Control using short-wave radios. There are very few times when the extensive Safety and Rescue staff must be called to execute their precision maneuvers to protect a driver who has meandered off-course or whose car has leaked a flammable material and become a mobile torch. This does not happen often, and the drivers' suits are capable of resisting open flame long enough to escape from the cars if the cars are damaged and begin to burn. Many of the race cars carry onboard fire suppression systems, as well. While the sport is not as safe for either drivers or spectators as watching a race on television, the compensation in terms of actually being there is a consideration in the small risk involved. There is virtually not a type of vehicle built and raced in the last fifty years that is not represented at the BRIC. Ever read of an Allard? There were several there. What of vintage F1 cars of the type seen under tents at Indianapolis for the Formula 1 races? Well, they are there, under tents to be sure. And they are also on the track, in forty-mile exhibition races. And the drivers were competing to cross the finish line first, no matter that the trophy was but a tiny percentage of their costs in participating. There are Can-Am cars, to remind those among us who saw them race in the '60's and '70's of our youth, as well as to remind those among us who did not see the original races of the youth they had missed. And there are other classes, with the many British cars and their fanatical owner-drivers. These are racers whose only concern after seeing a many-thousand dollar engine "go away" in front of them, will ante-up several thousand dollars more for a new engine for the next race.

Friday night is the start of the camping trip, and everyone drives into Elkhart Lake to see the parade of racing cars that travels from the track to the streets surrounding Siebkens for the Racers' Concours. The many cars are fantastic to watch as they travel at speeds far under their design minima, some overheating and needing to be pushed into final position.

The Saturday supper together is always a great time at the campsite. Following supper, many of the Chicagoland MG Club campers again journey the two or three miles from Plymouth Rock Campground to Elkhart Lake to view the Concours d'Elegance, an eclectic mix of sports cars and sports racers spanning fifty years or more. The educational value of this one event is exceeded only by walking the paddock during the BRIC itself.

No trip to Road America is complete without a visit to Siebkens. This place should be a national monument, but should you ever be there at one in the morning on a Saturday, you will not be among those to nominate it to such a fate just yet. It is just too much alive. The restaurant is excellent, though reservations must be made well in advance on a popular race weekend. And a little known secret is the beach behind the Lake Cottage across the street, just in case you would like to see the lake up close, though the signs remind all that the beach is reserved for Siebkens guests. And our favorite to finish an evening is a cup or cone of ice cream from Gesserts, just up the street.

The high point of this weekend is the Can Am racing. While much limited compared to the original races of many hundred miles, the courage and competitive spirit of the drivers and teams must be applauded. The cars on the track are priceless, and the opportunity to see them in their natural environment is a spectacle beyond compare. The BRIC at Road America must be on the summer schedule of every motorcar enthusiast. This is a wonderful event, low-key and friendly. If you have been there, you know what we mean, and if you are planning to go camping with us next year, let us know early.

©2005 Chicagoland MG Club, All rights reserved.