The title of this piece probably won’t mean much to most, but some years ago E-Prod was where the old Porsche Speedsters and Roadsters went out to play in SCCA, and they were a mighty force. The Sports Car Club of America used a runoff system for their amateur racers, like the preliminary competition in the Olympics, to sort out the best of the best in each of their classes. Those cars and drivers were invited to compete in what was known as the American Road Race of Champions, or the Runnoffs. For more than a decade this was held at nearby Road Atlanta, making for relatively easy coverage of a lot of cars dear to the hearts of PCA members.
It seems a little surreal from the current vantage of garage-queen Speedsters-valued in the six figure range-to think of the time when they were cheap and competitive in motorsports (I will never forget that I turned down a ’58—it didn’t have a motor and was a bit ratty, and the price of $600 seemed a bit much). But in 1985, track competition in these cars was wickedly intense, and each year there were new tweaks on the hot set-up. All of the competitive cars were stripped out and lightweight; they almost all ran with straight single-pipe exhaust—“stingers”—but the guys from California modified theirs to protect from one of their own who was alleged to intentionally bump a competitor from behind to collapse the exhaust and make him slower. There were even rumors of another car built with an elaborate system that increased the rear track on the car once it got rolling; that might not have been entirely within the spirit of the rules.
The day I caught this 1985 image I had conned my way into the pace car—as I recall, a Datsun 240Z—for the start of the E-Prod race. There was no harness or other restraint, and I placed myself on the shallow rear deck and looped my left arm over one of the taped-open struts that held up the rear glass. Being a pace lap, the ride was fast, bumpy, and exciting—correctly executed for the competitors but not for the photographer. The light changed constantly as we went around the long Road Atlanta track, and there were questions about balancing exposure and what shutter speed I needed. Other than whether any of the images would even be usable, the only question in my mind was whether that skinny strut would hold, and failing that, whether I would bounce before being ingested by either the Alfa or the Porsche that were scant feet away from my perch. In subsequent years I shot a good bit of car-to-car, under much better controlled circumstances, but I never tried this again.