FORT RILEY, Kan. (July 22, 2014) - Sgt. Hubert Jefferson gripped his black suede-covered steering wheel, revved up his 426-horsepower engine and released the clutch. The result was the earsplitting sound of screeching tires against the airfield's tarmac.
He and 11 other Soldiers raced in the Salina Region Sports Car Club of America autocross event hosted by the Fort Riley Morale, Welfare and Recreation July 18-20 on Fort Riley's Marshall Army Airfield to provide a safe, secure and legal way for Soldiers to race their cars around a sanctioned autocross track.
"I've been looking forward to this for a while," Jefferson, a flight operations specialist with the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., said while standing next to his shiny Inferno Orange Metallic, 2013 Chevy Camaro Super Sport. "It's a great way to relieve stress and challenge our driving abilities."
During the first day of the event, every car was inspected, registered and designated a car class depending on the type of vehicle and the size of the engine. The drivers also received a detailed safety brief and attended a driver's training course, which helped them get familiar with the rules and regulations of racing in a sanctioned SCCA autocross event.
"It's a safe way to drive fast and have a ton of fun," said Staff Sgt. Adam Meuser, 1st CAB, 1st Inf. Div. Meuser won first place in the stock V8 class, beating out Chevrolet Camaros and Dodge Challengers with his Audi S4 sedan. "It's not about how fast your car is in these types of competitions, it's about how you handle your car through tight corners and to strategically approach turns with the most momentum possible."
This event brought together professional autocross racers from throughout Kansas, students from Kansas State University's and the University of Kansas' mechanical engineering schools, Soldiers, veterans and children. With cars ranging from Chevrolet Corvettes, Honda Civics and even small go-karts, the event was open to anyone wanting to race.
"Racing on the airfield is more than a way to kill some weekend, it's an experience that gives Soldiers a chance to meet new people," said Sgt. Anthony Branch, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., who raced his black 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8. "I wish we could do these races more often. It really gives us a place to get together and just talk about cars and racing. I had a great time."
This year marked the fifth time MWR has hosted autocross races. This is the first year for a two-day event.
"This is the best year ever," said Brad Carlton, MWR recreation programmer and event coordinator. "I want to thank the SCCA, the sponsors for the continued relationship and support for the Fort Riley Soldiers."
MWR and Salina SCCA officials worked together to help give Soldiers more time to race and socialize with other enthusiasts around Kansas.
"We are very happy to share our sport with Soldiers here on Fort Riley," Tim Harrison, SCCA safety chief, said. "We appreciate everything that they do and wanted to make sure that everyone was safe and had a good time."
Events like this help Soldiers gain a respect for the sport, their vehicles and the importance of safety in a vehicle. It also provides a place for Soldiers to experience high-adrenaline driving competition, Carlton said.
"It's easy to underestimate yourself and your skills as a driver with a fast car," Jefferson said. "That's why a lot of Soldiers get hurt in privately owned vehicles because they think they know how to handle their car, but don't realize it until it is too late."
With more than 100 racers participating in the weekend's races, six Soldiers had the fastest times around the half-mile racing course. They were awarded plaques for their first-, second- and third-place finishes against other novice drivers.
"This was pretty awesome," said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Leslie, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Inf. Div., after he received the results of the car class for his 2010 Mitsubishi Evolution X. "I really can't believe I actually placed first. I was just trying to get the best time and had a blast racing around the turns."
With the smell of burned rubber still in the air, Salina Region SCCA officials encouraged all the Soldiers to attend the next event. Carlton said Fort Riley MWR would continue to provide Soldiers and their families with quality programs and services that promote resiliency and strengthen Fort Riley Soldiers.