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A Texas Post Card: From Stuttgart With Love

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 6 2015
Porsches from the Ralleye (RacinToday photos by Paul Moseley)

Porsches from the Hill Country Rallye in Texas settle in for the evening at the Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Convention Center . (RacinToday photos by Paul Moseley)

 

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

KERRVILLE, Texas – The Hill Country was alive with the sounds of Porsches two weekends ago during an annual rite of spring situated in the seat of Kerr County and spilling over into surrounding Parts Unknown.

Porsche logoThe 2015 Hill Country Rallye attracted 94 registered Porsches of various vintages and over 130 Porschephiles for two full days of serious driving mixed-in with back-road sightseeing and the inevitable parking lot story-swapping.

“How lucky we are to have these cars and for them to be so much fun to drive – and such good investments,” said Al Zim, owner of Zims Autotechnik in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Bedford, summing-up the event’s
reason-for-being. Beginning with Thursday afternoon’s pre-event registration and continuing through check-out Sunday morning, the Y.O.
Ranch Hotel and Conference Center parking lot formed the backdrop for a

From Stuttgart with love.

From Stuttgart with love.

continuous car show featuring air-cooled 356, 912, 911, 914 and 930 Porsches.

No trailer queens are allowed at HCR, making it a bona fide “run-what-you-brung” event.

“These are great cars,” said veteran event organizer/participant John Brindley of Austin, emcee of Saturday night’s dinner/raffle/SWAG (stuff we ain’t got) program. “They’re so well-engineered they’re just fun to drive, and almost everybody does it here without any type of problem. That’s an incredible thing. These cars are meant to be driven and they run better when you drive them. It’s like a body – you’ve got to exercise it.”

Morning exercise sessions were run over optional “Destination Undecided” routes mapped-out by tourmeister Jamie Novak of Austin. “We did 240 miles on Friday and about 210 miles on Saturday,” said Novak, owner of a 1971 Soft Window Targa. “I’ve been driving out here for 11 years and have a mental list and an old map that is colored with all the routes, which ones are

A line of Porsches do what they do best – hit a curve on a beautiful stretch of country road.

A line of Porsches do what they do best – hit a curve on a beautiful stretch of country road.

marked as dirt or roads or water crossings or any of the other things along the route. Every year I try and add different roads if I can, but after 10 years I’m starting to recycle roads. I mean, I’ve gone 10 years without doing the same routes.”

For first-time participants, the Hill Country’s version of two-lane blacktop emerges as one of Texas’ best-kept secrets. Framed by largely unmolested country scenery, the roads roll and meander through Fredricksburg, Ingram, Llano, Junction, Stonewall and Johnson City, birthplace of former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and his historically heavy right foot.

“There’s some exceptionally challenging roads,” Novak said. “I’ve lived on the East Coast, I’ve driven in the mountains, I’ve driven in a lot of different places and been on the track a lot. And some of our roads, they don’t compare to anything else that I’ve driven. We have ranch or rally roads that are one-and-a-half-cars-wide, but if you can hold 50 mph or 60 mph through them you are really pushing the car hard. And we have the Three Sisters routes, which are probably the best roads in Texas, highly populated by motorcycles. From a motorsports standpoint you can’t find that anywhere, sections that are 30 miles long of just nothing but twisting, turning, switchback, up-and-down elevation. It really is amazing.”

Drivers are reminded to service and fuel their cars the night before each

Thirsty Porsches line up for drinks.

Thirsty Porsches line up for drinks.

route, as gas stations truly are few and far between. During each morning’s driver’s meeting participants are urged to find a pace that fits their abilities and to obey the law. The latter advice doesn’t always apply to the posted speed limit.

“Well, we are Texas and the law enforcement is not what it is,” said Novak, jokingly. “I mean, you have small towns and the local law enforcement around the small towns. But in-between them, unless there is an incident, they let you just do your own thing. You’re responsible for your own actions at that point, so as long as you stay within the limits you can explore and have a great time and not have to worry about necessarily what might happen in other places.

“We have cars that are street-legal but close to being a race-prep in some cases, and we have those that are 100 percent stock, and we go out and mix-it-up together. The reality is everyone has different capabilities. You come here, you enjoy the roads, you come back with a smile and sometimes dirt-smeared sunscreen – but everybody has a good time.”

The tour originated in 2001 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as the brainchild of Porsche enthusiasts Ed Mayo, owner of Mayo Performance in Euless; Jack

Porsche 911s take a break in the shade.

Porsche 911s take a break in the shade.

Griffin, director of marketing/partner in Garages of Texas in Plano and Bill Conway of Austin. While detailed event records are sketchy, the original car-count was approximately 12. The event was staged in 2003 in Midland at the Petroleum Museum _ home to Jim Hall’s jaw-dropping Chaparral Collection_ before migrating down to Austin.

“In today’s vernacular you’d say it’s grown ‘virally,’ ” said Brindley, owner of three Porsches. “Originally it was just a one-day deal in ’01. In ’04 when Jamie and I got involved, we said let’s get together on Friday afternoon, drink some beer and go drive on Saturday. And because people drove-in from all over, let’s everyone spend Saturday night and drive home on Sunday. A couple of years ago we expanded it to arrive on Thursday so we have a full day of driving on Friday, a full day of driving on Saturday.”

In addition to Lone Star State residents, the roster of participants included Porsche owners and their rides from Arizona, California, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia, Mexico and Finland. Pekka Heusala of Helsinki, Finland – who has logged over 300 laps on Germany’s famed Nurburgring – dodged a Tejas-sized bullet Friday when a wild turkey barely cleared the windshield of the 1969 911E he was driving on-loan from owner Manuel Ferrara of Monterey, Mexico.

Ed Cullen of Southlake, near Fort Worth, was not as fortunate, as his pristine 1964 356 sustained damage to its left front fender after rubbing against a marker stick on Saturday morning. (The Band-Aid applied over the boo-boo that afternoon was a nice touch). For the record, no vehicles were wrecked and no wayward livestock harmed during an event that has nearly

Care is taken while backing a vintage 911 into a parking spot in Texas.

Care is taken while backing a vintage 911 into a parking spot.

doubled in size from two years ago.

While the escalating number of participants presents a logistical problem for event organizers, the Rallye’s economic impact represents a windfall for the Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Charlie McIlvain, president/CEO of the Kerrville CVB and owner of three Porsches, said the event generated approximately $90,000 in revenue, including $7,500 from hotel, souvenir, gas and sales taxes.

“That was a pretty nice piece of business that we loved having here,” said McIlvain, adding that the Kerrville CVB has become “aggressive” in its marketing to car-and-motorcycle-centric clientele. “We like that kind of business,” McIlvain said. “We’ve got some pretty nice terrain here. The motorcycle riders claim that Kerrville and the Hill Country is one of three best rides in the country. That’s a plus and we have developed a brochure for motorcycle and sports car enthusiasts to encourage those itineraries.”

Serving as unofficial Rallye host comes naturally for McIlvain, who participated in Friday’s tour in his 1999 Carrera Cabriolet. The prize of Charlie’s collection, however, clearly is a 1955 Speedster – a Holy Grail Porsche purchased by his father in 1960 – that is undergoing a restoration. “I did enjoy seeing all the cars last week,” McIlvain said. “I’m such a Porsche fanatic that I love the fact they were here. I don’t get quite as involved with

The unmistakable lines of Porsche 911s.

The unmistakable lines of Porsche 911s.

all the events but I enjoy the cars and the people. You just meet so many genuinely nice people at these events.”

Sean Brindley, son of John and owner of a 1989 911, handled the bulk of Rallye organization and registration duties this year and thus has a working knowledge of most participants and their cars. “There’s something about the people behind the cars,” said Brindley, the youngest participant at 27. Cullen, 79, was the oldest driver in his yellow 356.

“What I love about these events is the majority of time you hang out with a lot of people and they don’t ask what you do professionally – they just talk about a common interest,” Sean said. “I’m 27-years-old and Ed (Mayo) and Al (Zim) are in their 70s and we can have conversations about anything. It really is neat to have this common bond that brings good people together.”

The event was capped at 100 Porsches this year by a committee that included the Brindleys, Novak, Conway, Mike Vriesenga of San Antonio and Morrie Larson of Austin. Despite an awards night suggestion that the car-count be boosted to 200 to accommodate additional kameradschaft, the entry list likely will remain frozen when the next registration notice is posted early in 2016.

“If we get enough volunteers to help keep the process going, it (200) might be a possibility,” Novak said. “The other thing that’s a challenge – a lot of these small towns, there are not venues that can support that number of people (invading en masse). Kerrville is actually one of the biggest towns here and this (Y.O. Ranch) is, I think, the only place in Kerrville that can handle this number of people.

“Obviously, we’ve grown a lot and we’ve had some concerns voiced from people that have been here 10 years over the fact that it’s grown so much, and is the dynamic going to change with so many people. I don’t think it has.

“We did have a lot of newcomers this year, and it’s all been word-of-mouth. It’s people telling stories to their friends, or descriptions on web boards and everything else about what a great time we have and the great roads. It’s all literally friends of friends of friends of friends. And we’re all friends here.

“All I can say is…come back next year!”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 6 2015
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