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The Driftless 500

GAYS MILLS - Here’s an idea I’ve had for a few years: how about having a local road race called ‘The Driftless 500’? My friend Brad has a lot of interest, experience, and background in several aspects of auto racing. He and I talk about this once in a while after having seen an article about just such a race (by another name) in ‘The Week’ magazine several years ago. 

Face it, we’ve got some great roads for driving. People, oftentimes in groups, come here during summer and fall just to drive on the scenic highways and byways of the Driftless with their Harleys, classic cars, or just regular cars.  Our roads are not boring, mind numbing, straight or busy.  They are beautiful and interesting, the kind you see depicted in advertisements. Even if you have to commute to work here, most folks would look at your drive to work as a pleasure cruise.

So, “when life gives you ___________, you make the best use of it“, to paraphrase a very old saw.  An amateur road race would be a way to celebrate and use what we have been given: great roads through an enchanting landscape. It would be a unique event and probably draw visitors to the area. It would also provide some friendly competition among the mechanically inclined among us.

One major problem with such an event immediately springs to mind: a road race on public roads? That would likely never meet the approval of any authority. Ah, but this would be different kind of ‘race.’ This would be more of a modified enduro, which refers to a long race based on endurance rather than speed. 

Which brings us to another feature of this event–its name.  The ‘500’ in the name refers to the total amount that any of the cars can cost!  This would be a non-destructive derby so to speak. The cars would need to be street legal, drivable and safe, but low in cost or appraised value.  What used to be called ‘work’ cars (if you didn’t live too far from work).  Also known as ‘first’ cars, cars that are affordable for new drivers.

I envision about a five-mile loop for this event. The loop would include some state highway and county highway mileage, and some township road travel. The loop would include a pass in front of the grandstand at the county fairgrounds where spectators could gather to monitor the progress of their favorite entry.

I suggest a 12-hour race, say from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Teams of drivers could trade off driving duties and skip a lap for lunch or bathroom breaks. This would potentially be a 500-mile race if drivers could average 41.66 miles per hour. I suggest a limit of 10 entries. There would be a staggered starting time so there is no congestion to start with.

Of course part of this contest would be simply to finish the 12-hour event. A $500 car may have some problems enduring the enduro. But the car or cars that travels the most miles in the 12 hours would be the winner. Another way to win might be to declare a most efficient car if all entries were to keep track of their gas mileage. 

Just something to think about in the dead of winter.