16 December 2014

Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association is about racing, education

The iconic Steve McQueen, summing up his character’s love of racing in the 1971 film “LeMans,” said: “When you’re racing, it’s life. Anything that happens before or after is just waiting.”

Mike Korneli knows the feeling. Korneli, in his first year as president of the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association, included a version of McQueen’s quote on the club’s new-and-improved website (www.vscda.org). Most of the club’s 500 members would concur.

“We’re a club, so there’s a social aspect to it, but we’re passionate about the cars and the racing,” Korneli said of the VSCDA, the preeminent vintage race organization in the Midwest. “It’s the racing that brings us together.”

The VSCDA began more than 35 years ago, the brainchild of John Kleen, owner of a 1936 328 BMW and a 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Kleen drove the BMW in events sponsored by the New England Chapter of the Vintage Sports Car Club of America and helped to form the Prairie Region Chapter. But the VSCCA’s preference for pre-war cars left few racing options for owners of later-model vehicles. So Kleen and fellow motorsports enthusiasts Tommy Moore, Hal Ullrich, Art Bly and Paul Dauer formed the VSCDA in late 1978.

The club originally allowed the participation of cars built through 1960, later changed the year to 1972 and currently includes models through 1989. Korneli said expanding eligibility makes racing more affordable “so young people can get involved and get excited about racing too.” The VSCDA also allows newer cars at their Road America event for the more experienced drivers.

Korneli, 60, owns a 1971 Jaguar V-12 E-Type and joined the not-for-profit VSCDA in 1998. In addition to racing and serving as club president, Korneli is also co-chair of the organization’s largest event, the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival at Road America in Wisconsin. The Sept. 17-20, 2015, event coincides with the 60th anniversary of racing on the Road America course. Also on the 2015 VSCDA schedule are events at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Mich., April 30-May 3; Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit, Ill., June 19-21; and Grattan Raceway in Belding, Mich., Aug. 14-16. The South Haven event includes a driver’s school.

“Most people who are new to vintage racing have a lot of questions,” Korneli said, “and we’re here to help answer those questions.”

Korneli said the VSCDA has a solid membership, “but it’s tough for clubs like us to stay viable. You have to stay on top of what your members want and need so you can keep moving forward.”

Owning a vintage car is not a requirement for membership in the VSCDA. In fact, vintage cars are available to rent for those who want to participate in the driver’s school in South Haven.

For more information about the Vintage Sports Car Drivers Association – including a schedule of events, videos, photos, results and diagrams of every track – visit www.vscda.org.

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