Photos by Tom Strongman
Few things in vintage sports car racing are more charming than Road America’s midsummer event, The Hawk with Brian Redman. Track time is the central focus, of course, but what really makes the weekend special happens in downtown Elkhart Lake on Friday and Saturday nights.
In 1950, sports cars raced on the roads around and through this tiny lakeside village. Lake Street was part of the original course, and the turn in front of Siebken’s is known as the Hard Left.
By 1952, racing on public roads around Elkhart Lake stopped. Road America was built on 525 acres of farmland outside of town in 1955 and it quickly became one of the nation’s most challenging and scenic tracks. The pavement that climbs up and down the hills of the Kettle Moraine region is more than four miles around and has 14 turns.
Touring the paddock during the vintage racing weekend is like walking through a living history museum. Refurbished race cars, driven mostly by amateur drivers, hit the track in full flight. Exercising the cars at high speed is more important than who wins or loses, although competition is still present.
On Friday night, race cars drive into town from the track, rumble down Lake Street and park in front of Siebken’s Resort, one of the most legendary bars in auto racing. Still warm from the day’s racing, the racers rest as the streets overflow with bystanders who want to get close.
On Saturday night, highly polished concours cars gather under the leafy shade of early evening and pose like art objects. Because most of the cars are at least 40 years old, strolling Lake Street is like shaking hands with an old friend at a class reunion.
The Hawk with Brian Redman is a time machine, a journey back 50 years to a time when racing was a gentleman’s sport and not a business.