Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

2020 Chairman's Update

The Captain is my hero. Having Roger Penske as our 25th anniversary honoree was a huge compliment to all who make The Amelia happen. His extraordinary generosity went a long way toward making our 25th anniversary Amelia a success at a time when much of the news was bad.

RP brought us good luck. The country came to a social standstill just days after the concours. We were fortunate to present the concours unmolested and blessed to have perfect weather all week. After 2017 and 2018 the weatherman owed us and paid off handsomely for our celebration of Roger Penske, his race team and his many achievements -- on and off the race track.

Typically, The Captain encouraged many of his people to shine. Anyone attending either or both seminars got an unvarnished look inside top level international motorsport from an insider’s perspective that few people have ever experienced. If you were there you were taken inside Team Penske from their early days as a small garage operation in Pennsylvania to their unprecedented 18th Victory Lane celebration at the Indianapolis 500 in 2019.

Roger’s generosity extended to everyone involved in The Amelia. His wife, Kathy, told me . . . “You can get him for three days: I can’t get him for three hours!”  It was great to watch Roger when all five Penske Trans-Am Camaros rolled onto the field in noisy, earth-shaking formation. We could tell he was really touched. For that we owe old pal Pat Ryan who conceived the idea and put the whole thing together. Well done, Pat. Thank you.

Someone told me that the amazingly complete and populous Cars of Roger Penske Class was a concours unto itself. That sort of compliment has special meaning for us and we genuinely appreciate such kind words. It was a huge and unprecedented display. That picture hangs on a wall here at Amelia HQ and I still shake my head in partial disbelief when I look at it. How can we adequately thank all the owners -- especially RP -- who made this unique display happen?

I have other heroes who were there all weekend: about 700 of them. Our irreplaceable volunteers, as usual, gave their hearts and souls to make our 25th anniversary Amelia work without a hitch or a hiccup. Bless you all and thank you for making sure that everything went exactly as it should. Even RP himself, an acknowledged perfectionist, was impressed and said so -- privately -- in plain language. There’s no higher praise. Take a bow, everybody.

Hats off, too, to Chevrolet for a stunning display of mid-engine Corvettes.  It must be tempting for a huge outfit like Chevrolet to go into “retail mode” when they put on a display with the depth and content of the show they brought to Amelia. Instead the Chevy “pavilion” was museum quality. A number of guests told us so. I can tell you the new C8 Corvette that motivated our mid-engine Corvette class is exactly as one longtime “car-guy” friend described it when he said, “The new C8 is a quarter-million dollar exotic at one third the price.” Bullseye.

Inside The Amelia there were changes that were obvious and some that weren’t. Our new two-man announcing team was singled out for high praise. Having a tenured historian as part of the new “two-mic” format brought depth and a new dimension to the show and the awards presentations.

A new local printer for our event program shows that we no longer have to go outside the 904-area code for ultra-premium quality publishing. Producing the program has always been a major time-consuming endeavor but this year Hartley Press made everyone’s life simpler and the whole process faster and smoother. I’m proud of our program and want it to be a premium product, the kind of publication you’d be comfortable leaving on your coffee table all year. And that’s exactly what we got from Hartley Press. Bravo. Kudos to Chuck Queener for his exceptional talent as Art Director.

The realities of life during the pandemic have compelled us to reevaluate our format. The biggest and most noticeable change will be fewer classes. I often get criticized for having “too many cars on the field”. Some even suggest that we have, and I quote, “too many race cars”. Not guilty: you can never have too many race cars.  I’ll make no apologies for being known by many as “the racers’ concours” or “the fun concours”.

In 2021 racer Lyn St James will be our honoree, so there will be a diverse mix of competition cars in The Cars of Lyn St James Class. We’re very pleased Lyn accepted our invitation. She is a poised and articulate spokesperson for motorsport and the business of motorsport and is possessed of an enviable work ethic, a deep and impressive competition resume, a dazzling smile and a quick wit.

As usual The Amelia garnered more than its share of publicity. In June there was an added bonus when Mark Becker, Vice-Chairman of the Amelia, authored the cover article in the authoritative magazine Antique Automobile, (Volume 84, Number 3, May/June 2020) the official publication of the AACA -- the Antique Automobile Club of America -- about his National Award-winning and Zenith Award nominee 1942 Chrysler Royal three-passenger business coupe. Having a published authority on staff has added even further luster to The Amelia’s international reputation.

On the subject of heroes there was sad news from London soon after our 25th anniversary Amelia Concours. Our only two-time Amelia, Honoree, Sir Stirling Moss, died, at age 90. A quarter of a century ago he set us on our course and then he and Lady Susie helped us celebrate our 20th anniversary in classic style. He left us with some precious memories. On Monday after The 2015 Amelia, Sir Stirling did some driving -- and a few interviews -- on some private roads here in Jacksonville. Those of us lucky enough to have been there saw him drive “722”, his 1955 Mille Miglia-winning Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. The sight and sound of Sir Stirling driving his World Sports Car Championship-winner put lumps in a few throats. (Talk about job perks.) It was an honor and a privilege to know him and call him “friend”. For everything you’ve done and meant to all of us at The Amelia, thank you, Sir Stirling.

 BW

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