2015 MAMA Spring RallyPosted on May 15th, 2015
Two-day drive event attracts journalists from coast to coast
By Nina Russin
People from Wisconsin are fond of reminding out-of-towners that their weather can chance in the blink of an eye. In May, when MAMA hosts its annual Spring Rally at Road America in Elkhart Lake, the weather can vary between balmy sunshine and bitter cold depending on the day.
This explains how I found myself standing in the middle of 25 mile-per-hour winds on a 45-degree day this past week, wondering which of the cars available for testing came with heated steering wheels.
The Midwest Automotive Media Association has been coming to Wisconsin’s preeminent motorsports park for over a decade to hold the larger of its two annual driving events. The two-day program starts with a fish fry at the Lake Street Cafe, a local haunt popular among racing fans and concludes with a day of off-roading and autocross in the far reaches of Road America’s 640-acre facility.
In between there is a day of hot laps on the track together with a city streets course during which the hundred journalists in attendance can literally drive their hearts out.
If this sounds too good to be true, it is. This year OEM offerings included the Mercedes AMG GT-5, Maybach S-600, Maserati Ghibli S Q4 and Quartroporte, Dodge Challenger Hellcat, BMW M4 convertible, Cadillac ATS V coupe and convertible, Mitsubishi Evo MR, Nissan 370Z NISMO and Lexus RC F among others.
OEMs use the gathering as an opportunity to talk marketing strategies (Subaru and Cadillac) or in some cases, unveil new product. Dodge took the wraps off the Viper ACR, the most powerful track car on the market, to a standing room only crowd.
Dodge introduced the first Viper ACR in 1999 as a street legal racecar for track club racing. The new 2016 model comes with a 645-horsepower V-10 engine and an available extreme aero package to get the power to the ground. Extensive use of carbon fiber keeps the body light and maintains an optimum 50/50 weight balance. MSRP is $117,895 excluding destination charges and the gas-guzzler tax.
The event is also a time for reflection. The automotive world lost two of its most beloved members this past year: Patrick Hespen, a member of the Chrysler PR team and journalist Denise McCluggage. At the annual banquet, Tony Swan gave a moving tribute to Denise, prompting many of us to share stories about the woman whose accomplishments as an elite skier, racecar driver and journalist are legendary.
Patrick Hespen, who passed away in December after a prolonged battle with cancer, had motor oil in his blood. The MAMA rally was his favorite event of the year. In his honor, MAMA introduced the Patrick Hespen Autocross Award to go to the driver with the fastest time on the autocross course.
The Spring Rally is also the kickoff for voting on MAMA’s Family Vehicle of the Year award. Eligible vehicle must be priced below $50,000, have four doors and be new or substantially updated in the past twelve months. Contenders for the 2015 award include the Volkswagen Golf TDI convertible, Ford Focus SE, Ford Edge, Toyota Sienna, Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax and more. MAMA will announce the winner of the 2015 competition at its Chicago Auto Show breakfast next February.
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