This year I've had the opportunity to visit several new (to me!) race tracks and shoot. One of the trips i had been most looking forward to was Road America.
Road America, and the village of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, are chock-full of motorsport history. I remember reading The Last Open Road a book by Burt Levy chronicling the origins of road racing in the US as told by a young racing wrench, Buddy Palumbo. Buddie's adventures took him to places like Watkins Glen, Giants Despair, and Bridgehampton, but his first visit to a quiet, sleepy little resort town named Elkhart Lake really captured my imagination.
Back in 1950, the Chicago region of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) joined forces with the Village of Elkhart Lake to hold it's first annual road race. That original track ran through the Wisconsin countryside, back through town, and back out to the countryside again. A full lap of the original course was about 3.3 miles. In 1951 and '52, a different course was used, 6.5 miles in length. To my knowledge, the original course still exists, and you can drive it, though it isn't clearly marked for obvious reasons. If it were: I'd be posting video right now!
After the tragic death of a 12 year old in an accident at the Watkins Glen road races in New York, road racing on public roads was all but banned. The sport survived for a few years on airport run ways, but it really blossomed again when permanent road courses were built.
One of these permanent tracks was Road America, just outside of Elkhart Lake. Built in 1955 on 525 acres of Wisconsin farmland by Cliff Tufte, Road America's original 4-mile, 14 turn configuration has never been altered. They have hosted some of the greatest racing series, cars, and drivers of the last 50 years. Names like Phil Hill, Briggs Cunningham, Augie Pabst, Andretti, Unser, Paul Newman and Rahal have raced the course and walked the streets of Elkhart Lake. The list could go on forever.
The track itself is epic. Huge elevation changes, sweeping fast corners, and the infamous "kink" make for an incredible viewing experience. The facility itself is massive, needing a car, or at the very least, a golf cart to get around. Photographically speaking, it affords many opportunities for great shots. What an incredible place. I can't wait to go back!