“To each their own..” as the saying goes. Some folks build flawless show cars, others live for straight line acceleration, off-roading or racing in a circle. Some of us want it ALL: Speed, Stop, Turn, Show and Race. After all, if your car can do it all, then it’s the ultimate hot rod. The Motor State Challenge is an annual pilgrimage where enthusiasts satisfy their need for speed driving pro-touring muscle cars and late model sports cars.
The Motor State Challenge just celebrated its tenth anniversary. The event was started by the folks at Motor State Distributing — a speed equipment warehouse based in Watervliet, Michigan. You don’t normally see big box product warehouses hosting events for end users. That sort of “outside the box” thinking is exactly what our great hobby needed at the time. Young pro-touring manufacturers needed help getting into the supply chain, while speed shops needed to think beyond street/strip. Kudos to Motor State Distributing for creating an event that brought every one together.
Thursday: Road Tour With Police Escort
The Motor State Challenge starts with an impromptu car show at Motor State Distributing’s headquarters. The meet and greet is a great chance to catch up with old friends and compare winter performance upgrades. After a driver’s meeting, we all fire up our engines and line up for a road tour with police escort. It’s a sight to see. Law enforcement officers on motorcycles race forward to shut down side streets so that 100 plus hot rods can rumble through various towns and back roads. Inevitably, crowds form along the route. The tour is followed by a barbecue in the host hotel parking lot.
Things have changed significantly over the last ten years. Engine output and tire technology have progressed significantly. With so much available power and grip on hand, pro-touring cars are faster, easier to drive and more reliable than ever. Another interesting change, ten years ago the Motor State Challenge hosted classic muscle cars almost exclusively. Today, many enthusiasts show up with one classic muscle car and one late model muscle car. We see many instances of husband and wife teams who show up with a late model Corvette or Gen 5/Gen 6 Camaro as well as an old pro-touring car. Can the old muscle cars keep up with the latest offerings from Detroit. The answer is yes, sort of. Since the late model cars are also heavily modified, the performance gap between old and new opens up. Separate classes exist for early and late cars.
Friday: High Speed Thrills
Friday morning, we all head from the host hotel to Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI for 8 hours of high speed thrills and paddock camaraderie. You and your car will get seemingly unlimited on-track time. Gingerman is a great learning track with limited elevation changes and plenty of run-off. If you like drag racing, Gingerman, has two long straights and one short straight. You can really open up your engine. Experienced drivers are always on hand to offer guidance from the passenger seat. If you have never participated in a track day, the Motor State Challenge is a perfect place to start. If you prefer, lap times are logged with transponders. Rain cut the day short, but not until after many sessions of run-time.
Saturday: Technical Fun
On Saturday, Motor State Challenge participants travel to tire heaven as we utilize the Tire Rack’s test track for the autocross segment. Like Gingerman, this course is perfect for first time participants and pros alike. Numerous grass-covered sections may seem easier to navigate that true parking lot courses. Like the day before, bad weather held off long enough for everyone to get 8 runs or more. If you like driving, the Motor State Challenge has plenty.
The skies turned black around 3 pm and the rain started to fall. We all gathered under a large tent for the awards ceremony. RideTech took home five trophies including first and second place in the Manufacturers Late Model class and second place in the Manufacturers Vintage class. While we are proud of our effort, we are even more proud to be part a thriving community. We are a community of hot rodders with cars — old and new — that perform well in every way. Events like the Motor State Challenge bring people together where we can proudly show off our cars, help each other and enjoy seat-time.
With our cars tucked away in the shop, we can look back on the 10th annual Motor State Challenge with a sense of pride. We brought home five trophies. Tom McBride sweeped the Manufacturers Late model class winning three trophies. Bret Voelkel and Chris Smith placed second in Manufacturers Late Model and Manufacturers Vintage classes. Beyond our on track performance, RideTech is proud to have been there for the inaugural event as a sponsor and as participants. We’ve watched the Motor State Challenge grow over the years. It’s one of the best driving events on the calendar. We’ll be back next year and we hope to see you there.
Motor State Challenge Webpage with extensive galleries, click HERE
For a complete Facebook gallery of Motor State Challenge Award Winners, click HERE
For the South Bend SCCA Region, Click HERE
For the Tire Rack, click HERE
Photography by Steve Chryssos and the Motor State Distributing staff.