A ‘You Were There’ special
Road America’s historian takes us back to Can-Am’s first visit to the scenic US circuit
It was Tony Curtis who got Tom Schultz into motor racing. In 1956 Tom saw the film Johnny Dark about a cross-country sports car race and was enthralled. Shortly afterwards he went to his first race, and he’s been going ever since – he reckons he’s visited 42 circuits over 602 race weekends, following F1, Indy and sports car racing. But, he adds, “I absolutely abhor NASCAR and assiduously avoid it”. And if keeping those statistics makes you think he might be a historian – correct. After a career in the US Army and then banking, Tom is now track historian for Road America. He went there first in 1958 and has since put in some 300 weekends at the Wisconsin track which replaced the Elkhart Lake road course. In fact, as they say, Tom wrote the book: it’s called Road America – Celebrating 50 Years of Road Racing, just one work among his many racing writings. He began photographing the racing in 1960, and because his personal archive of 37,000 images is entirely in colour it has proved a useful record of livery for those restoring cars of the era, as well as contributing to many racing books.
In all those races Tom selects one nine-day period as being “in many ways the highlight of my spectating career, what with the magic of discovery”. The discoveries began with driving 650 miles to his first Grand Prix, the inaugural Canadian race at Mosport in 1967, and returning to Road America next weekend for its, and Tom’s, first Can-Am event, the subject of these photographs. “I spent all three days there and the weekend was pure heaven,” he says. “As you can see from the photos, I met and spoke to John Surtees, Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, Jim Hall, and other greats who were a young man’s heroes. It was a spectacular weekend. I, like everyone else, was blown away by the McLaren M6A, which made its debut there and simply dominated the weekend.” It remains a memorable event for Tom: “imagine me walking about slack-jawed taking all this in for the first time. I was not looking at photos or reading a magazine; here they were, right in front of me. I was truly blown away.”