First posted to this site June 2002
Last revised July 2005

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: In the Beginning...
  • Chapter 2: THSCC Becomes a Prominent Rally Club
  • Chapter 3: THSCC Becomes North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club
  • Chapter 4: Through the Years...
  • Chapter 5: THSCC Enters the 21st Century!

Introduction

Chapters 1-4 of the history of Tarheel Sports Car Club were written in their entirety by THSCC member Mark D. Vitacco and originally published in three parts in the January, February, and March, 1999 issues of the Heel & Toe, Official Publication of Tarheel Sports Car Club, Inc. Historical information was gathered by Mark via taped interviews conducted with current and former members Bowie Gray, Sr., Kurt Spitzner, Holland Hale, Peter Krause, Karl Cason, and Mike Dishman. Also used was a collection of club newsletters provided by Karl and Mike, one even going back as far as the 1960s. Editing of Chapters 1-4 for this online version was done by Mary E. Daniel-Fisher; no historical content was lost.

Chapter 5 was originated, outlined, and written in-part by Mark Vitacco in April 2005. Contributing editors for this chapter were Mary E. Daniel-Fisher, Carl Fisher, and Art McDonald. Chapter 5 was published on this website in July 2005.


Chapter 1: In the Beginning...

So, just how many people does it take to start a sports car club? Back in September of 1964, 23 year-old N. C. State student, Bowie Gray, concluded, after a summer of talking about starting a club, that ten people would be sufficient. After all, why should they have to drive to Richmond or Raleigh when there was a modest, but dedicated group of sports car enthusiasts right here in Wilson, already meeting informally on their own every Saturday morning anyway. After breakfast, the group would head over to one of the local garages to hang out and work on their cars. This "group" in Wilson was perhaps a little bit different from most other car nuts of that era. In the age when the hottest car was a 409 Bel Air, 421 Pontiac, or a 413 Dodge, this group played with Austin Healy 3000's, MGB's, and Triumphs. Those funny little "furrin" cars!

Just about one year had passed since Bowie Gray had won his first rally (spelled rallye back then) in a brand new '63 MGB at a Capital City event. By late fall of 1964, the "Wilson 10" was meeting at Parker's BBQ. Lewellen Fike was elected President; Bowie Gray, Vice President; and Jim Daniel, Treasurer. In addition to holding twelve rallies a year, one each month, they were determined to steal as many trophies as possible from that "other" sports car club in Raleigh, the Capital City Sports Car Club. Someone had a license plate with a logo from a defunct club called the Tarheel Sports Car Club of Eastern North Carolina, so it was decided that the name of their new club would be "Tarheel Sports Car Club of Wilson, North Carolina", using the same logo as that of the defunct club.

Capital was a cool sports car club. The only problem was that it consisted mainly of N.C. State students. Every four years the club needed to reinvent itself and before long the club saw more people leaving than joining. The remaining members decided to join up with the "new" club in Wilson, but a Raleigh "continent" was formed.

Tarheel Sports Car Club was a Time, Speed, and Distance (TSD) rally club then. Some of its members were even nationally competitive in the SCCA® rally events. Bowie's best finish was third nationally behind the Ford and Chrysler factory supported teams. An impressive finish, indeed!

By late 1967-early 1968, interest in autocross had started to take hold. The problem was where to find a site to hold one (funny how some things never change!). After explaining what an autocross was, Bowie was able to convince a store owner to allow the use of his property parking area to hold such an event. Bowie's level of salesmanship was quite impressive as Captain Johnson, Wilson Chief of Police, agreed to supply the barricades and cordon off the area while North Carolina's Department of Transportation supplied traffic cones. However, little did Bowie know how important his salesmanship was really going to need to be.

Despite an area about half the size of the Belk's Distribution Center lot in Morrisville, the Inaugural THSCC Autocross was looking like it was going to be a great success. Things couldn't have been going better when a state highway patrol car came crashing through the barricades with all its lights flashing and siren blaring. The trooper climbed out and demanded to know "who was in charge of this RACE"? All eyes drifted to Bowie who was promptly placed under arrest for "prearranged racing". Using his best salesmanship tactics, Bowie, of course, politely pointed out to the trooper that he personally was not driving a car, and that this was a sports car club participating in an event on private property with the permission of the property owner. But, the trooper still demanded that this was "prearranged racing", produced the statue, which had been highlighted, by the way, and reminded the now THSCC President, Mr. Gray, that he was under arrest!

The trooper then declared to the group that "prearranged racing" was anytime cars competed against one another. Bowie, again very politely, queried the trooper as to how two cars could be competing against one another when only one car was on the course at any given time. He also politely pointed out that the cars were also negotiating an obstacle course laid out with traffic cones while be timed with a stopwatch. The trooper wouldn't budge from his decision; "That's still racing." Bowie even pointed to the statute itself defining racing as two cars and restated that there were not two cars on the course at the same time. But, this member of North Carolina's finest was not impressed in the least with Bowie's polite and reasonable arguments and declared that he was taking our senior club officer "in".

Out of options as well as arguments, Bowie asked to make a phone call. After all, prisoners were allowed one phone call even in the pre-Miranda era, weren't they? "Yeah, go ahead. You get one phone call." As luck would have it, Captain Johnson was manning the desk that afternoon. Bowie explained his predicament. Captain Johnson advised him to stay put, saying that he would be right over to sort things out. Promptly, upon arrival, Captain Johnson took the trooper aside, cursed him out for causing such a ruckus, and sent him on his way. He then turned to Bowie and the rest of the club members, told them to go back to what they'd been doing and to have fun. The club must have really taken Captain Johnson's words to heart as having fun is exactly what THSCC has been doing ever since!

Capital City Sports car Club actually started autocrosses on the local scene. Their first event was held at Cameron Village. Before long, a typical event consisted of both a TSD rally and an autocross. The rules allowed clubs to send either one team to compete in both the rally and the autocross or separate teams of "specialists" to represent a club, so THSCC would send a rally team and an autocross team. Event sites included Raleigh, Richmond, and Greensboro where the club that would later be known as Triad Sports Car Club was forming. On event days, THSCC would take the entire club in three or four cars to perhaps Richmond, cheer for the club's participants at the event, and hopefully return home with a silver-plated bowl, plate, or beer mug. Perhaps a tradition worth bringing back?

For light amusement, gimmick autocrosses where held where drivers might be required to negotiate the course backwards, knock down certain cones on the course, or retrieve objects from the tops of some cones and deposit the objects on the tops of other cones. The TR3s of the day had the clear advantage in these events since the "scalloped" doors allowed drivers to reach out and touch the ground while driving! The ultimate unfair advantage.

The next chapter will look into the start of The Rally Shop and follow THSCC's progression through the '70s.
Chapter 2: THSCC Becomes a Prominent Rally Club

Long before autocross events outnumbered road rally events, Tarheel Sports Car Club was a premier rally club. SCCA® national-level rallies were broken down into Category One (2-3 hour) and Category Two (6+ hour or all night) events. National events of this period were hosted not only by THSCC, but also by other area clubs. Some of those rallies included The Norfolk Colonial Trial Rally, Norfolk Virginia Trail, and Maryland Is For Crabs Rally. THSCC also hosted an SCCA® sanctioned Twin Divisional event entitled the Sir Walter Raleigh Rally which ran from 8am to 6pm, then 8pm to 6am. Talk about a long day! This event drew people seeking SCCA® points from the west coast as well as numerous destinations along the east coast.

Another memorable event run by THSCC was sponsored by a then new "album rock" station in Raleigh, WQDR. The WQDR Rally was a mammoth event by any standards. 400 cars starting from three locations, Crabtree Valley Mall Raleigh, University Mall in Chapel Hill, and South Square Mall in Durham, converged at a secret destination some where in Raleigh. Events of this scale were capable of creating their own traffic jams given the population at the time.

Typical club events drew around 30 teams consisting of a driver and a navigator. Police were frequently summoned by concerned land owners to investigate bright lights traveling at high speed on deserted country roads during the middle of the night, only to discover that it was "just the car club at it again". The Goblins Go! Rally, currently less than a former shadow of itself, was originally a Category Two event running throughout the night and ending with a large party. In addition to the many rallies spearheaded by Bowie, THSCC member John Davison is also credited with numerous successful events including the Bridge Over River Neuse Rally, an excuse to locate and traverse every bridge crossing the Neuse river in Wake County.

Putting on a road rally is no small task. Event Chairs typically spent large chunks of time scoping out roads looking for interesting segments, topography, and intersections. Planning days would involve revisiting locations compiled from the list of interesting road sections. Additional time was then spent mapping out the route, writing the instructions, and running the course to precheck it.

Cars entered ranged from stock class which were equipped with only a factory odometer, stopwatch, and pencil and paper, to advanced class which were equipped with a full onboard rally and navigational computer. During the early to mid '80's, one of the most popular rally cars was the Saab, but everything from pickup trucks to sports cars was entered.

By the 1980's, Bowie Gray had opened a large hardware store in Wilson. The address of the Wilson store provided the address for the mail order firm The Rally Shop. Bowie supplied everything from lights and bulbs to full blown rally computers and Tag Heuer timing equipment. To this day, the The Rally Shop continues to be the business and billing address of Tarheel Sports Car Club.

Enter Kurt Spitzner, current SCCA® Director of Performance RallySM and former long-time employee of Wilson Hardware. Kurt was to play a major role in the transition of Tarheel Sports Car Club from a rally club to a predominantly autocross club. In the next chapter, I'll tell you why the SCCA® does not have an autocross presence in Eastern North Carolina, and who is directly responsible for that, as well as how THSCC became North Carolina's premier autocross club.
Chapter 3: THSCC Becomes North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club

When Kurt Spitzner first started working at the Wilson Hardware Company his new boss, Bowie Gray, invited him (perhaps expected him) to attend the car club meeting in Raleigh. Little did Kurt know, fresh out of college, intimidated by public speaking, that this would lay the foundation for a five year reign by Kurt Von Spitzner, soon-to-be ruler of Tarheel Sports Car Club.

As the story goes, SCCA® National Rally Champion, Mary Whitton, was club President up for reelection. The leading candidate was long time THSCC member Tim Dyer. Kurt overheard a discussion that Tim might be relocating in a couple of months and raised his hand to address the membership. He suggested that perhaps the club should select another candidate as Tim might be leaving the area soon. Speaking out at THSCC meetings was(is) always a risky proposition. Kurt was promptly nominated for President and voted into office. Kurt would reign for 5 years, leaving THSCC to be North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club, an autocross empire stretching from Burlington to the Atlantic Ocean. Even to this day, the SCCA® has been unable to establish and maintain an autocross presence in Eastern North Carolina.

This rest of this chapter tells about Kurt and some of the other people responsible for building the empire.

In the Spitzner era, 1985 to 1990, what we enjoy today as Tarheel Sports Car Club was defined. The first action Kurt took was to move the monthly meeting venue to the Golden Corral on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh and to lighten things up a bit. Before long, 50 to 60 people started showing up to witness the ritual verbal abuse of President Spitzner. It was almost as good as an evening at Charley Goodnight's, and a hell of a lot better than discussing the finer points of rally rules and administration! It wasn't long before autocross event participation grew from 50-60 cars per event to 100-120. Weekly announcements in the N&O became commonplace, detailing charity events, as well as the THSCC series and the North Carolina Autocross Championship series. During his years as President, Kurt accomplished for THSCC what he would later accomplish for CarGuys, Inc.® and set in motion for the SCCA® Rally program.

But, Kurt didn't build THSCC into an North Carolina autocross juggernaut alone. Ed Gelston was a Member-at-Large for most of Kurt's five-year reign and is responsible for getting the club through the first site availability crisis. Upon the loss of the N.C. State Fairgrounds facility, Ed procured a portion of the old Laurinburg-Maxton Airport, an awesome concrete site that is still a club favorite today, and the Belk Distribution Center lot in Morrisville, one of the few really local sites used until 2001 when the Center was sold. Oscar White is credited with developing the clubs autocross Novice School format, still used today. Randy Ubillus wrote the THSCC autocross event manual defining how we run an event, while Tracy Huneycutt designed the artwork for the Heel & Toe monthly club publication and the event trophy plaques. The club enjoyed a deserved reputation as a place to have a good time, but at the same time always gave a well-organized presentation at events.

The social aspect of the club was also in full swing with parties being held at the drop of a hat--or skirt as the case may be. People weren't drinking Diet Coke either. But, when a movement started to change the meeting venue to a local tavern, Bowie finally had step in to killed the idea, reminding members of the club's "family focus".

The question that now comes to mind is, what happened to the rally program? It was not so much that rally had died out, but that it had passed its peak. The demographics of the club had changed. This was evidenced by the look of the 1989 25th Anniversary Membership Roster. The original rally membership was more "mature" now and had less time to devote to driving all around the countryside many weekends a year. All the while, autocross was enticing more of the younger crowd to become members. During the years that autocross has reigned supreme in THSCC, there have been several abortive attempts to revive the rally program; but, the focus has definitely shifted to autocross.

The autocross focus has not been unique in North Carolina to THSCC. The Carolina Autocross Challenge (CAC) was formed with events hosted by THSCC, other North Carolina independents Triad Sports Car Club and Highlands Sports Car Club, and SCCA® clubs Central Carolinas Region and North Carolina Region. The CAC state-wide series was in full swing long before the North Carolina Autocross Championship (NCAC) series was formed.

Mike Landreth of Triad, with the assistance of Kurt Spitzner and THSCC's BFGoodrich® connection, is credited with starting the NCAC series. By the time the NCAC series had begun, SCCA®-NCR had abandoned its autocross program. During the first NCAC banquet, Kurt pronounced THSCC to be North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club. This was never disputed or refuted, being backed by surveys taken of participants in the NCAC series. THSCC took great pride in this claim then and our members continue to work very hard to maintain this claim today.
Chapter 4: Through the Years...

In 1986...
Popular cars during the "golden era" when THSCC first rose to autocross prominence were CRX's, RX-7's, GLC's, and MG's.
The first THSCC club trailer was purchased along with a timing and display board system designed by Randy Ubillos. This system remained in operation until the development in the early' 90s of TITS (Tarheel Interval Timing System) by Neal Harrington.
Membership in the club included ProIMSA racer Amos Johnson and SCCA® Solo II® National Autocross Champions Dick Rasmussen and Grover McNair.
1986 featured the 48 Hours of Rocky Mount chaired by Peter Krause and Holland Hale., a one mile, one minute course covering all three runways. Also held in '86 was the KamiKazi-Cross at the N.C. State Fairground. And, in November, the first"Murfeesboro event" was held at the Tri-County Airport near Rich Square, NC.
In 1987...
Rallies were few and far between by now, but you could participate in a two-day school and autocross at Rocky Mount for $10.
Yokohama® tires were popular long with BFGoodrich®.
Believe it or not, the first "last ever autocross at Rocky Mount" was announced March 3, 1987. This site has been dying a slow death ever since.
The first two-day THSCC NCAC at Rocky Mount, 48 Hours of Hell, was held March 21/22 of 1987. The event drew 118 drivers an a 1.3 mile course. Even the BFG Team T/A® semi was on site.
With back-straight speeds over 100mph at the 48 Hours of Hell, you might say THSCC has also had its own Speed Trial/CarGuys, Inc.® history, but no one in the club has ever admitted to it. Along those same lines, one long standing war story involves Bob Kendrick's 455 Buick 4-door Park Lane modified with a manual Borg Warner 4 speed transmission and sway bars bigger than Mike Dishman's forearms. With four passengers in the Buick, Bob beat a Ferrari, driven by Peter Krause, by .001 seconds. This is rumored to be how THSCC's "fun runs" got started.
In 1988...
Holland Hale was "elected" President of the club in 1988 after Peter Krause walked into his office, announced that Kurt was leaving, that the club needed a new president, and that it was going to be Holland. Further evidence of the long standing tradition of railroading officers.
Social activities were abundant with a club ski trip in February of 1988 as well as quite a number of parties.
The club decided to get down to autocrossing in March and held the first event at Belk's Distribution Center in Morrisville.
At the NCAC event held at the Rockingham Motor Speedway, Ed Gelston became famous for stuffing a 'Vette into the back-straight wall.
The absolutely last ever event at Rocky Mount was announced for July 16-17, 1988, though it turned out to be yet another false alarm.
As the 1980's drew to a close, Mike Greene gained the dubious distinction of being the first member to lose a car at a THSCC event. However, a nonmember was driving Mike's car at the time, so Mike's driving reputation and the outstanding safety record of club members remained intact. An achievement every member today should continue to strive to maintain.
In 1989-90...
Before joining CarGuys, Inc.® as Director of Operations, Kurt Spitzner returned to THSCC in 1990 for one more term as President.
From its start in 1989-1990, there have always been close ties, a synergy, between THSCC and CarGuys, Inc.® The first CarGuys, Inc.® schedule appeared in the January, 1990 issue of the Heel & Toe. Race track access for clubs was almost unheard at the time. Marque clubs appeared and began renting race tracks to host "lapping days" for members, but unless you could afford to travel to the west coast and spend the $5000 tuition for a school with Bondurant, track schools with in-car instruction just didn't exist. Though CarGuys, Inc.® is a business, not a club, it developed a family-type relationship with THSCC and became one of the best driving schools in North America, regardless of price. THSCC members still make up a large number of CarGuys, Inc.® instructors, corner workers, and students. This writer has a video produced by Vette Magazine and CarGuys, Inc.® with a 5 minute segment of Oscar White demonstrating how to perform a technical inspection on a customers new Corvette. This tape also has appearances by THSCCers Kathy Morris and Babette Stone, as well as classroom instruction by the then Grand Poobah of CarGuys, Inc.® himself, Kenley Smith. Could viewing this video be the theme of yet another THSCC party?
In the early 1990s...
The early '90s saw John Davison and Charlie Guthrie railroaded into executive offices.
The "Heel of the Month" tradition was started in May of 1993 by then autocross V.P.'s Mike Dishman and William Huneycutt. The "Heel of the Month" recognizes a THSCC member each month for outstanding driving or some significant contribution to the club or others.
Mike Dishman was very active with the club and brought along strong leadership and management when elected to the office of President in 1994, with Art McDonald and David Dunn elected as Autocross V.P's.
David Dunn, a software developer by trade, wrote registration and timing software to automate the timing and scoring of events.
One of Mike Dishman's most notable accomplishments as President in the early '90s was the establishment of THSCC's fine relationship with the EV (Electric Vehicle) Challenge. In its early days, the EV Challenge was sponsored by Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L)® and Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO)®. It provided a means for high school students in North Carolina and Virginia, who were building electric vehicles at their schools, to come together to test the battery life and speed of the vehicles they had prepared. By this time, the word was out about THSCC's ability to organize and conduct well run rally and autocross events. CP&L representatives met with Mike and the alliance was formed. The EV Challenge later became its own entity and, today, schools from many states now come to North Carolina to compete in autocross events still organized and conducted by THSCC.
In 1994, THSCC celebrated its 30th anniversary.
One more name I can't fail to mention is Steve Blalock. To create our story to this point, we dug up old issues of the Heel&Toe going back to 1989. In every issue, the same name, Steve Blalock, appears under Newsletter Editor.

This was about the time I joined the club, completely amazed at how fast these people could run cars through a pylon course! The parties of today may not be quite as "lively" as they sounded back in the '70s and '80s, but the past does have a way of getting over romanticized--at least sometimes. Still, to this day, THSCC is a fun club of which to be a member and in which to be an officer. You don't have to be a part of a clique, you don't have to put up with ego trips, and having safe fun still comes first before winning. You don't even need to drive well be to liked in this club, though driving well is likely to come with time, experience, and the generous and sincere help of fellow members. There's a great group of folks in the eastern half of North Carolina who enjoy providing a fun time learning to drive better. I, myself, am happy to now be one of them.
Chapter 5: THSCC Enters the 21st Century!

It has been 5 years since my last entry into the chronicles of the History of Tarheel Sports Car Club. During this time, the club has enjoyed unprecedented growth! The active member roster broke 340 as the club struggled to address issues of capacity at autocross events. The millennium, however, started on a somber note as the club lost long-time friends and club members "Geritol" Gene Miller, John Mullis, and Karen Jensen.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

The '90s decade brought fresh faces to the club and, with it, officers who kept the legacy alive while keeping up with the times. One of the first moves to try to keep up with the growing hoards of autocrossers was the retirement, in 1998, of the rubber hoses of Neal Harrington's old reliable T.I.T.S (Tarheel Interval Timing System). T.I.T.S. was replaced with a shiny new Dell laptop sporting TS98 scoring software and accompanied by a fully redundant J.A. Circuits electronic timing system -- complete with laser triggers! (What a bunch of geeks; trading T.I.T.S for lasers! geek ) T.I.T.S served the club amazingly well for almost 10 years and proved more reliable than most computerized timing systems available. However, the newer technology's features and ability to help us handle the larger crowds were compelling. TS98 and the J.A.Circuits system were also being used at various SCCA® National and ProSolo® events and, though limited in their own ways, seemed the best choices for the job.

Though it required some extensive add-ons, TS98 was a mostly adequate replacement for paper, pen, and typing in producing event results. By 2005, though, it was well past time to look for more advanced scoring software. For that purpose, the club selected AXWare and a "backup" laptop - just in case. More on how that turned out in chapters to come.

Arguably the biggest factor in the club's growth surge over the last 10 years was its decision to add a presence on the Web. On March 26, 1996, the first THSCC website went online, authored by Art McDonald and hosted under Tom Fulton's personal website. By the end of 1997, we were ready for a dedicated and more sophisticated site. New member and professional website developer, Karl (Rice) Shultz, stepped in -- and www.thscc.com was born! 1997 continued to be a year of technological add-ons as Mary E. Daniel provided us with the THSCC Email List to allow us to disseminate club information quickly -- or so that members could "talk" (and argue) with each other incessantly without actually uttering a sound. Also in 1997, Mary E. added a rudimentary means of preregistering for events via the web. But, in 1998, Carl Fisher put a hand to this project and developed a full-blown online preregistration system. In 2001, John King put together an addition to thscc.com to share information pertaining to the burgeoning track events program. In 2003, Carl and Mary E. teamed up as club Webmasters and presented the club with a redesigned and much broader-ranging website featuring not only event information and results, but also "items of interest" such as this history, lists of THSCC award recipients over the years, Gene Miller's "Patriotic Songs of Tarheel Drivers", and other THSCC tidbits. And, in 2004, Jason Mauldin brought us the extremely popular THSCC Forums on the web, where countless hours of work-time are wasted daily! In early 2005, Newsletter Editor for-life, Steve Blalock, and Mary E. collaborated to produce the Heel&Toe online, not only saving the club production costs with the ever-growing membership, but also providing an archive of "entertaining literature" for generations to come.

A Van for All Ages

With computer equipment in use for timing and scoring, a more "sophisticated" scoring setup than the long-used popup tents was in order. Armed with this excuse and the desire to release club members from the burden of having to use their own vehicles to tow the club trailer to events, the club purchased a mostly-renovated GMC school bus from club member Blair Stitt just in time for the 2000 season. Repainted white and decorated with flames, THSCC logos and lettering, "the bus" provided an eye-catching scoring sanctuary from 2000 through 2004. It was great! But, after the 2004 season, it was decided that "the bus" was becoming too expensive to maintain and an all-out search for a replacement was initiated by Mike Whitney. In January 2005, a more efficient 15-passenger diesel Ford van was purchased. Through the enormous efforts of Mike and with the extensive assistance of many other hearty club members, "the van" was ready for service at the first event of 2005 in February!

Setting Our Sites

The "last ever" Old Rocky Mount Airport Autocross did finally occur in 2004 as the town of Rocky Mount began development of our former premier autocross site. Combined with the loss of several other long-time sites over the years - the Belk's Distribution Center in Morrisville, Tri-County Airport near Murfreesboro, and the Wilson "Grand Prix" street course - it was time for a full-scale assault on the proprietors of any local vacant lots and airports. Through Miles Beam's ever-diligent efforts, THSCC was able to secure the use of the Lumberton Airport, the old Sanford Airport, the parking lot at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, the Rockingham Drag Strip parking lot, the parking lot at Dealers Auto Auction in Greenville, and, through delicate negotiations with our friendly rivals Triad Sports Car Club, a site-use swap of the Danville Airport. While Lumberton and Rockingham turned out to be not-so-popular for various reasons, Sanford, though a bit gritty, has become a favorite site, with the others also receiving periodic use.

With more participants but fewer regular sites, it was time to try to get more innovative with the sites we have. Through research spearheaded by Mike Whitney, the club has recently implemented the use of wireless timing hardware and a wireless public address system. These two additions are expected to allow THSCC to run more new and different configurations at the same sites.

More Is Better

During the period from the mid-'90s to present, leadership of the club moved from the Dishman era to Ron Spencer and Mark Senior, then back to a second Dishman era aided by Miles Beam and Art McDonald, followed by Mike Whitney, Shawn Whipple, and most recently, Scott Johnson. By the late 1990's, THSCC's reputation for running quality events began to earn income for the organization. The Electric Vehicle Challenge sponsored by Carolina Power & Light (now Progress Energy) contracted the club to organize and run its statewide Electric Vehicle Endurance Rally, Autocross, and efficiency trials attended by students from schools all over the southeast. THSCC also ran events for marque clubs such as the Viper Owners Club, as well as several other events hosted by VIR for various entities. All of these accomplishments were the results of an active membership willing to step up, volunteer, and make such things happen.

The "externalization" of some club programs, in particular the E.V. Challenge, prompted a rethinking of the design of the club's logo in today's society. The rebel "stars & bars" was finally replaced with the N.C. state flag, but not without considerable controversy.

One of the few negative aspects of the millennium was the slow demise of the North Carolina Autocross (NCAC) series. BFGoodrich withdrew its monetary support (and its autocross rubber) to concentrate on pro racing, specifically the Trans Am series. It must also be said that Mike Dishman and Karl Kauffman provided the leadership to drive the program and the glue to hold it together during its last vibrant years. Having left the program after three years of service, with their energy gone from the program's leadership and the BFG sponsorship no longer an incentive, both the number and frequency of events diminished. Though only a mere shadow of its 1990s-self, NCAC still exists as of 2005 and remains the only independent regional autocross series of its kind; a perfect stepping stone to national autocross competition.

As you've read in earlier chapters, THSCC began as a TSD rally club that gradually shifted its primary focus to autocross. But, if holding one or two types of auto sports events is good, holding three or four types must be better! Right?!? So...

During the October 1999 meeting, Mark Vitacco presented a business plan and mission statement to the membership that resulted in THSCC's launching of a High Performance Driving School and Time Trial series run on premier road racing circuits on the east coast. By April 2000, a "track events management" team was formed, sponsorship secured, and a dedicated Time Trial Timing system was developed. THSCC ran a 600Group Racing-sanctioned Legends Car race and Time Trial at Virginia International Raceway. THSCC was the first club to run an event on VIR's South course. The club incorporated the High Performance Driving School by partnering with Triangle Z Club.

In 2005, five years after its inception, the track partnership between THSCC and Triangle Z Club is alive and well, being run jointly by Mark V. and Stacy King with events being held at VIR Full and South Courses, Roebling Road, Carolina Motor Sports Park, and Rockingham Motor Speedway. The mid '90s began a race track renaissance in the U.S. not seen since the end of WWII that prompted the club's program expansion into track events, drawing entries from Canada, New England, Florida, and as far west as Ohio and Kansas.

Another popular, intensely fun, but unfortunately short-lived series of autocross events was the THSCC Night Series. The brainchild of then-president Mike Whitney, this series was held on weeknights once a month at the RBC Center in Raleigh, from September 2002 to December 2003. It was highly attended and, even though no "incidents" occurred, the Center decided not to renew the club's agreement. Hopes remain high for another THSCC night series - somewhere, sometime.

Yet another new venture for THSCC was the addition of several rallycross events in 2003. Rally V.P. Carl Fisher had been searching for a suitable site for several years when one of THSCC's newer members, Kevin Allen, convinced his mother (who just happened to be the owner of a piece of property with grand rallycross potential!) of what a fine group of outstanding citizens THSCC is. She bought the pitch and THSCC rallycross became a reality! Sites and participants continue to grow for the fledgling THSCC rallycross program and 2005 brings the first real THSCC Rallycross Series with a full season of scheduled events at the Four Oaks venue and the BMW Farm.

Happy Birthday to Us!

In 2004, Tarheel Sports Car Club celebrated its 40th birthday! The celebration included a 2-day autocross at Laurinburg, one of the club's "old favorite" sites, and a Saturday-night party. To commemorate the founding, it was only fitting that Bowie Gray, Sr. brought out his MG from the early days and took a few surprisingly fast runs for the antique (car, not driver :-).

One can only speculate about what the next 40 years will bring for Tarheel Sports Car Club. My guess is that we will still be searching for new autocross venues, dealing with rising insurance costs, making fun of new member applications, and, above all, still having tons of fun driving automobiles around both temporary and permanent course configurations -- and eating dead birds together cooked by someone named Bowie.

The History of Tarheel Sports Car Club
First posted to this site June 2002
Last revised July 2005
 

Introduction
 
Chapters 1-4 of the history of Tarheel Sports Car Club were written in their entirety by THSCC member Mark D. Vitacco and originally published in three parts in the January, February, and March, 1999 issues of the Heel & Toe, Official Publication of Tarheel Sports Car Club, Inc. Historical information was gathered by Mark via taped interviews conducted with current and former members Bowie Gray, Sr., Kurt Spitzner, Holland Hale, Peter Krause, Karl Cason, and Mike Dishman. Also used was a collection of club newsletters provided by Karl and Mike, one even going back as far as the 1960s. Editing of Chapters 1-4 for this online version was done by Mary E. Daniel-Fisher; no historical content was lost.

Chapter 5 was originated, outlined, and written in-part by Mark Vitacco in April 2005. Contributing editors for this chapter were Mary E. Daniel-Fisher, Carl Fisher, and Art McDonald. Chapter 5 was published on this website in July 2005.


Chapter 1: In the Beginning...
 
So, just how many people does it take to start a sports car club? Back in September of 1964, 23 year-old N. C. State student, Bowie Gray, concluded, after a summer of talking about starting a club, that ten people would be sufficient. After all, why should they have to drive to Richmond or Raleigh when there was a modest, but dedicated group of sports car enthusiasts right here in Wilson, already meeting informally on their own every Saturday morning anyway. After breakfast, the group would head over to one of the local garages to hang out and work on their cars. This "group" in Wilson was perhaps a little bit different from most other car nuts of that era. In the age when the hottest car was a 409 Bel Air, 421 Pontiac, or a 413 Dodge, this group played with Austin Healy 3000's, MGB's, and Triumphs. Those funny little "furrin" cars!

Just about one year had passed since Bowie Gray had won his first rally (spelled rallye back then) in a brand new '63 MGB at a Capital City event. By late fall of 1964, the "Wilson 10" was meeting at Parker's BBQ. Lewellen Fike was elected President; Bowie Gray, Vice President; and Jim Daniel, Treasurer. In addition to holding twelve rallies a year, one each month, they were determined to steal as many trophies as possible from that "other" sports car club in Raleigh, the Capital City Sports Car Club. Someone had a license plate with a logo from a defunct club called the Tarheel Sports Car Club of Eastern North Carolina, so it was decided that the name of their new club would be "Tarheel Sports Car Club of Wilson, North Carolina", using the same logo as that of the defunct club.

Capital was a cool sports car club. The only problem was that it consisted mainly of N.C. State students. Every four years the club needed to reinvent itself and before long the club saw more people leaving than joining. The remaining members decided to join up with the "new" club in Wilson, but a Raleigh "continent" was formed.

Tarheel Sports Car Club was a Time, Speed, and Distance (TSD) rally club then. Some of its members were even nationally competitive in the SCCA® rally events. Bowie's best finish was third nationally behind the Ford and Chrysler factory supported teams. An impressive finish, indeed!

By late 1967-early 1968, interest in autocross had started to take hold. The problem was where to find a site to hold one (funny how some things never change!). After explaining what an autocross was, Bowie was able to convince a store owner to allow the use of his property parking area to hold such an event. Bowie's level of salesmanship was quite impressive as Captain Johnson, Wilson Chief of Police, agreed to supply the barricades and cordon off the area while North Carolina's Department of Transportation supplied traffic cones. However, little did Bowie know how important his salesmanship was really going to need to be.

Despite an area about half the size of the Belk's Distribution Center lot in Morrisville, the Inaugural THSCC Autocross was looking like it was going to be a great success. Things couldn't have been going better when a state highway patrol car came crashing through the barricades with all its lights flashing and siren blaring. The trooper climbed out and demanded to know "who was in charge of this RACE"? All eyes drifted to Bowie who was promptly placed under arrest for "prearranged racing". Using his best salesmanship tactics, Bowie, of course, politely pointed out to the trooper that he personally was not driving a car, and that this was a sports car club participating in an event on private property with the permission of the property owner. But, the trooper still demanded that this was "prearranged racing", produced the statue, which had been highlighted, by the way, and reminded the now THSCC President, Mr. Gray, that he was under arrest!

The trooper then declared to the group that "prearranged racing" was anytime cars competed against one another. Bowie, again very politely, queried the trooper as to how two cars could be competing against one another when only one car was on the course at any given time. He also politely pointed out that the cars were also negotiating an obstacle course laid out with traffic cones while be timed with a stopwatch. The trooper wouldn't budge from his decision; "That's still racing." Bowie even pointed to the statute itself defining racing as two cars and restated that there were not two cars on the course at the same time. But, this member of North Carolina's finest was not impressed in the least with Bowie's polite and reasonable arguments and declared that he was taking our senior club officer "in".

Out of options as well as arguments, Bowie asked to make a phone call. After all, prisoners were allowed one phone call even in the pre-Miranda era, weren't they? "Yeah, go ahead. You get one phone call." As luck would have it, Captain Johnson was manning the desk that afternoon. Bowie explained his predicament. Captain Johnson advised him to stay put, saying that he would be right over to sort things out. Promptly, upon arrival, Captain Johnson took the trooper aside, cursed him out for causing such a ruckus, and sent him on his way. He then turned to Bowie and the rest of the club members, told them to go back to what they'd been doing and to have fun. The club must have really taken Captain Johnson's words to heart as having fun is exactly what THSCC has been doing ever since!

Capital City Sports car Club actually started autocrosses on the local scene. Their first event was held at Cameron Village. Before long, a typical event consisted of both a TSD rally and an autocross. The rules allowed clubs to send either one team to compete in both the rally and the autocross or separate teams of "specialists" to represent a club, so THSCC would send a rally team and an autocross team. Event sites included Raleigh, Richmond, and Greensboro where the club that would later be known as Triad Sports Car Club was forming. On event days, THSCC would take the entire club in three or four cars to perhaps Richmond, cheer for the club's participants at the event, and hopefully return home with a silver-plated bowl, plate, or beer mug. Perhaps a tradition worth bringing back?

For light amusement, gimmick autocrosses where held where drivers might be required to negotiate the course backwards, knock down certain cones on the course, or retrieve objects from the tops of some cones and deposit the objects on the tops of other cones. The TR3s of the day had the clear advantage in these events since the "scalloped" doors allowed drivers to reach out and touch the ground while driving! The ultimate unfair advantage.

The next chapter will look into the start of The Rally Shop and follow THSCC's progression through the '70s.


Chapter 2: THSCC Becomes a Prominent Rally Club
 
Long before autocross events outnumbered road rally events, Tarheel Sports Car Club was a premier rally club. SCCA® national-level rallies were broken down into Category One (2-3 hour) and Category Two (6+ hour or all night) events. National events of this period were hosted not only by THSCC, but also by other area clubs. Some of those rallies included The Norfolk Colonial Trial Rally, Norfolk Virginia Trail, and Maryland Is For Crabs Rally. THSCC also hosted an SCCA® sanctioned Twin Divisional event entitled the Sir Walter Raleigh Rally which ran from 8am to 6pm, then 8pm to 6am. Talk about a long day! This event drew people seeking SCCA® points from the west coast as well as numerous destinations along the east coast.

Another memorable event run by THSCC was sponsored by a then new "album rock" station in Raleigh, WQDR. The WQDR Rally was a mammoth event by any standards. 400 cars starting from three locations, Crabtree Valley Mall Raleigh, University Mall in Chapel Hill, and South Square Mall in Durham, converged at a secret destination some where in Raleigh. Events of this scale were capable of creating their own traffic jams given the population at the time.

Typical club events drew around 30 teams consisting of a driver and a navigator. Police were frequently summoned by concerned land owners to investigate bright lights traveling at high speed on deserted country roads during the middle of the night, only to discover that it was "just the car club at it again". The Goblins Go! Rally, currently less than a former shadow of itself, was originally a Category Two event running throughout the night and ending with a large party. In addition to the many rallies spearheaded by Bowie, THSCC member John Davison is also credited with numerous successful events including the Bridge Over River Neuse Rally, an excuse to locate and traverse every bridge crossing the Neuse river in Wake County.

Putting on a road rally is no small task. Event Chairs typically spent large chunks of time scoping out roads looking for interesting segments, topography, and intersections. Planning days would involve revisiting locations compiled from the list of interesting road sections. Additional time was then spent mapping out the route, writing the instructions, and running the course to precheck it.

Cars entered ranged from stock class which were equipped with only a factory odometer, stopwatch, and pencil and paper, to advanced class which were equipped with a full onboard rally and navigational computer. During the early to mid '80's, one of the most popular rally cars was the Saab, but everything from pickup trucks to sports cars was entered.

By the 1980's, Bowie Gray had opened a large hardware store in Wilson. The address of the Wilson store provided the address for the mail order firm The Rally Shop. Bowie supplied everything from lights and bulbs to full blown rally computers and Tag Heuer timing equipment. To this day, the The Rally Shop continues to be the business and billing address of Tarheel Sports Car Club.

Enter Kurt Spitzner, current SCCA® Director of Performance RallySM and former long-time employee of Wilson Hardware. Kurt was to play a major role in the transition of Tarheel Sports Car Club from a rally club to a predominantly autocross club. In the next chapter, I'll tell you why the SCCA® does not have an autocross presence in Eastern North Carolina, and who is directly responsible for that, as well as how THSCC became North Carolina's premier autocross club.


Chapter 3: THSCC Becomes North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club
 
When Kurt Spitzner first started working at the Wilson Hardware Company his new boss, Bowie Gray, invited him (perhaps expected him) to attend the car club meeting in Raleigh. Little did Kurt know, fresh out of college, intimidated by public speaking, that this would lay the foundation for a five year reign by Kurt Von Spitzner, soon-to-be ruler of Tarheel Sports Car Club.

As the story goes, SCCA® National Rally Champion, Mary Whitton, was club President up for reelection. The leading candidate was long time THSCC member Tim Dyer. Kurt overheard a discussion that Tim might be relocating in a couple of months and raised his hand to address the membership. He suggested that perhaps the club should select another candidate as Tim might be leaving the area soon. Speaking out at THSCC meetings was(is) always a risky proposition. Kurt was promptly nominated for President and voted into office. Kurt would reign for 5 years, leaving THSCC to be North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club, an autocross empire stretching from Burlington to the Atlantic Ocean. Even to this day, the SCCA® has been unable to establish and maintain an autocross presence in Eastern North Carolina.

This rest of this chapter tells about Kurt and some of the other people responsible for building the empire.

In the Spitzner era, 1985 to 1990, what we enjoy today as Tarheel Sports Car Club was defined. The first action Kurt took was to move the monthly meeting venue to the Golden Corral on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh and to lighten things up a bit. Before long, 50 to 60 people started showing up to witness the ritual verbal abuse of President Spitzner. It was almost as good as an evening at Charley Goodnight's, and a hell of a lot better than discussing the finer points of rally rules and administration! It wasn't long before autocross event participation grew from 50-60 cars per event to 100-120. Weekly announcements in the N&O became commonplace, detailing charity events, as well as the THSCC series and the North Carolina Autocross Championship series. During his years as President, Kurt accomplished for THSCC what he would later accomplish for CarGuys, Inc.® and set in motion for the SCCA® Rally program.

But, Kurt didn't build THSCC into an North Carolina autocross juggernaut alone. Ed Gelston was a Member-at-Large for most of Kurt's five-year reign and is responsible for getting the club through the first site availability crisis. Upon the loss of the N.C. State Fairgrounds facility, Ed procured a portion of the old Laurinburg-Maxton Airport, an awesome concrete site that is still a club favorite today, and the Belk Distribution Center lot in Morrisville, one of the few really local sites used until 2001 when the Center was sold. Oscar White is credited with developing the clubs autocross Novice School format, still used today. Randy Ubillus wrote the THSCC autocross event manual defining how we run an event, while Tracy Huneycutt designed the artwork for the Heel & Toe monthly club publication and the event trophy plaques. The club enjoyed a deserved reputation as a place to have a good time, but at the same time always gave a well-organized presentation at events.

The social aspect of the club was also in full swing with parties being held at the drop of a hat--or skirt as the case may be. People weren't drinking Diet Coke either. But, when a movement started to change the meeting venue to a local tavern, Bowie finally had step in to killed the idea, reminding members of the club's "family focus".

The question that now comes to mind is, what happened to the rally program? It was not so much that rally had died out, but that it had passed its peak. The demographics of the club had changed. This was evidenced by the look of the 1989 25th Anniversary Membership Roster. The original rally membership was more "mature" now and had less time to devote to driving all around the countryside many weekends a year. All the while, autocross was enticing more of the younger crowd to become members. During the years that autocross has reigned supreme in THSCC, there have been several abortive attempts to revive the rally program; but, the focus has definitely shifted to autocross.

The autocross focus has not been unique in North Carolina to THSCC. The Carolina Autocross Challenge (CAC) was formed with events hosted by THSCC, other North Carolina independents Triad Sports Car Club and Highlands Sports Car Club, and SCCA® clubs Central Carolinas Region and North Carolina Region. The CAC state-wide series was in full swing long before the North Carolina Autocross Championship (NCAC) series was formed.

Mike Landreth of Triad, with the assistance of Kurt Spitzner and THSCC's BFGoodrich® connection, is credited with starting the NCAC series. By the time the NCAC series had begun, SCCA®-NCR had abandoned its autocross program. During the first NCAC banquet, Kurt pronounced THSCC to be North Carolina's Premier Autocross Club. This was never disputed or refuted, being backed by surveys taken of participants in the NCAC series. THSCC took great pride in this claim then and our members continue to work very hard to maintain this claim today.


Chapter 4: Through the Years...
 
  • In 1986...
    • Popular cars during the "golden era" when THSCC first rose to autocross prominence were CRX's, RX-7's, GLC's, and MG's.
    • The first THSCC club trailer was purchased along with a timing and display board system designed by Randy Ubillos. This system remained in operation until the development in the early' 90s of TITS (Tarheel Interval Timing System) by Neal Harrington.
    • Membership in the club included ProIMSA racer Amos Johnson and SCCA® Solo II® National Autocross Champions Dick Rasmussen and Grover McNair.
    • 1986 featured the 48 Hours of Rocky Mount chaired by Peter Krause and Holland Hale., a one mile, one minute course covering all three runways. Also held in '86 was the KamiKazi-Cross at the N.C. State Fairground. And, in November, the first"Murfeesboro event" was held at the Tri-County Airport near Rich Square, NC.
  • In 1987...
    • Rallies were few and far between by now, but you could participate in a two-day school and autocross at Rocky Mount for $10.
    • Yokohama® tires were popular long with BFGoodrich®.
    • Believe it or not, the first "last ever autocross at Rocky Mount" was announced March 3, 1987. This site has been dying a slow death ever since.
    • The first two-day THSCC NCAC at Rocky Mount, 48 Hours of Hell, was held March 21/22 of 1987. The event drew 118 drivers an a 1.3 mile course. Even the BFG Team T/A® semi was on site.
    • With back-straight speeds over 100mph at the 48 Hours of Hell, you might say THSCC has also had its own Speed Trial/CarGuys, Inc.® history, but no one in the club has ever admitted to it. Along those same lines, one long standing war story involves Bob Kendrick's 455 Buick 4-door Park Lane modified with a manual Borg Warner 4 speed transmission and sway bars bigger than Mike Dishman's forearms. With four passengers in the Buick, Bob beat a Ferrari, driven by Peter Krause, by .001 seconds. This is rumored to be how THSCC's "fun runs" got started.
  • In 1988...
    • Holland Hale was "elected" President of the club in 1988 after Peter Krause walked into his office, announced that Kurt was leaving, that the club needed a new president, and that it was going to be Holland. Further evidence of the long standing tradition of railroading officers.
    • Social activities were abundant with a club ski trip in February of 1988 as well as quite a number of parties.
    • The club decided to get down to autocrossing in March and held the first event at Belk's Distribution Center in Morrisville.
    • At the NCAC event held at the Rockingham Motor Speedway, Ed Gelston became famous for stuffing a `Vette into the back-straight wall.
    • The absolutely last ever event at Rocky Mount was announced for July 16-17, 1988, though it turned out to be yet another false alarm.
    • As the 1980's drew to a close, Mike Greene gained the dubious distinction of being the first member to lose a car at a THSCC event. However, a nonmember was driving Mike's car at the time, so Mike's driving reputation and the outstanding safety record of club members remained intact. An achievement every member today should continue to strive to maintain.
  • In 1989-90...
    • Before joining CarGuys, Inc.® as Director of Operations, Kurt Spitzner returned to THSCC in 1990 for one more term as President.
    • From its start in 1989-1990, there have always been close ties, a synergy, between THSCC and CarGuys, Inc.® The first CarGuys, Inc.® schedule appeared in the January, 1990 issue of the Heel & Toe. Race track access for clubs was almost unheard at the time. Marque clubs appeared and began renting race tracks to host "lapping days" for members, but unless you could afford to travel to the west coast and spend the $5000 tuition for a school with Bondurant, track schools with in-car instruction just didn't exist. Though CarGuys, Inc.® is a business, not a club, it developed a family-type relationship with THSCC and became one of the best driving schools in North America, regardless of price. THSCC members still make up a large number of CarGuys, Inc.® instructors, corner workers, and students. This writer has a video produced by Vette Magazine and CarGuys, Inc.® with a 5 minute segment of Oscar White demonstrating how to perform a technical inspection on a customers new Corvette. This tape also has appearances by THSCCers Kathy Morris and Babette Stone, as well as classroom instruction by the then Grand Poobah of CarGuys, Inc.® himself, Kenley Smith. Could viewing this video be the theme of yet another THSCC party?
  • In the early 1990s...
    • The early '90s saw John Davison and Charlie Guthrie railroaded into executive offices.
    • The "Heel of the Month" tradition was started in May of 1993 by then autocross V.P.'s Mike Dishman and William Huneycutt. The "Heel of the Month" recognizes a THSCC member each month for outstanding driving or some significant contribution to the club or others.
    • Mike Dishman was very active with the club and brought along strong leadership and management when elected to the office of President in 1994, with Art McDonald and David Dunn elected as Autocross V.P's.
    • David Dunn, a software developer by trade, wrote registration and timing software to automate the timing and scoring of events.
    • One of Mike Dishman's most notable accomplishments as President in the early '90s was the establishment of THSCC's fine relationship with the EV (Electric Vehicle) Challenge. In its early days, the EV Challenge was sponsored by Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L)® and Virginia Electric Power Company (VEPCO)®. It provided a means for high school students in North Carolina and Virginia, who were building electric vehicles at their schools, to come together to test the battery life and speed of the vehicles they had prepared. By this time, the word was out about THSCC's ability to organize and conduct well run rally and autocross events. CP&L representatives met with Mike and the alliance was formed. The EV Challenge later became its own entity and, today, schools from many states now come to North Carolina to compete in autocross events still organized and conducted by THSCC.
    • In 1994, THSCC celebrated its 30th anniversary.
    • One more name I can't fail to mention is Steve Blalock. To create our story to this point, we dug up old issues of the Heel&Toe going back to 1989. In every issue, the same name, Steve Blalock, appears under Newsletter Editor.
This was about the time I joined the club, completely amazed at how fast these people could run cars through a pylon course! The parties of today may not be quite as "lively" as they sounded back in the '70s and '80s, but the past does have a way of getting over romanticized--at least sometimes. Still, to this day, THSCC is a fun club of which to be a member and in which to be an officer. You don't have to be a part of a clique, you don't have to put up with ego trips, and having safe fun still comes first before winning. You don't even need to drive well be to liked in this club, though driving well is likely to come with time, experience, and the generous and sincere help of fellow members. There's a great group of folks in the eastern half of North Carolina who enjoy providing a fun time learning to drive better. I, myself, am happy to now be one of them.

Chapter 5: THSCC Enters the 21st Century!
 
It has been 5 years since my last entry into the chronicles of the History of Tarheel Sports Car Club. During this time, the club has enjoyed unprecedented growth! The active member roster broke 340 as the club struggled to address issues of capacity at autocross events. The millennium, however, started on a somber note as the club lost long-time friends and club members "Geritol" Gene Miller, John Mullis, and Karen Jensen.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

The '90s decade brought fresh faces to the club and, with it, officers who kept the legacy alive while keeping up with the times. One of the first moves to try to keep up with the growing hoards of autocrossers was the retirement, in 1998, of the rubber hoses of Neal Harrington's old reliable T.I.T.S (Tarheel Interval Timing System). T.I.T.S. was replaced with a shiny new Dell laptop sporting TS98 scoring software and accompanied by a fully redundant J.A. Circuits electronic timing system -- complete with laser triggers! (What a bunch of geeks; trading T.I.T.S for lasers! geek ) T.I.T.S served the club amazingly well for almost 10 years and proved more reliable than most computerized timing systems available. However, the newer technology's features and ability to help us handle the larger crowds were compelling. TS98 and the J.A.Circuits system were also being used at various SCCA® National and ProSolo® events and, though limited in their own ways, seemed the best choices for the job.

Though it required some extensive add-ons, TS98 was a mostly adequate replacement for paper, pen, and typing in producing event results. By 2005, though, it was well past time to look for more advanced scoring software. For that purpose, the club selected AXWare and a "backup" laptop - just in case. More on how that turned out in chapters to come.

Arguably the biggest factor in the club's growth surge over the last 10 years was its decision to add a presence on the Web. On March 26, 1996, the first THSCC website went online, authored by Art McDonald and hosted under Tom Fulton's personal website. By the end of 1997, we were ready for a dedicated and more sophisticated site. New member and professional website developer, Karl (Rice) Shultz, stepped in -- and www.thscc.com was born! 1997 continued to be a year of technological add-ons as Mary E. Daniel provided us with the THSCC Email List to allow us to disseminate club information quickly -- or so that members could "talk" (and argue) with each other incessantly without actually uttering a sound. Also in 1997, Mary E. added a rudimentary means of preregistering for events via the web. But, in 1998, Carl Fisher put a hand to this project and developed a full-blown online preregistration system. In 2001, John King put together an addition to thscc.com to share information pertaining to the burgeoning track events program. In 2003, Carl and Mary E. teamed up as club Webmasters and presented the club with a redesigned and much broader-ranging website featuring not only event information and results, but also "items of interest" such as this history, lists of THSCC award recipients over the years, Gene Miller's "Patriotic Songs of Tarheel Drivers", and other THSCC tidbits. And, in 2004, Jason Mauldin brought us the extremely popular THSCC Forums on the web, where countless hours of work-time are wasted daily! In early 2005, Newsletter Editor for-life, Steve Blalock, and Mary E. collaborated to produce the Heel&Toe online, not only saving the club production costs with the ever-growing membership, but also providing an archive of "entertaining literature" for generations to come.

A Van for All Ages

With computer equipment in use for timing and scoring, a more "sophisticated" scoring setup than the long-used popup tents was in order. Armed with this excuse and the desire to release club members from the burden of having to use their own vehicles to tow the club trailer to events, the club purchased a mostly-renovated GMC school bus from club member Blair Stitt just in time for the 2000 season. Repainted white and decorated with flames, THSCC logos and lettering, "the bus" provided an eye-catching scoring sanctuary from 2000 through 2004. It was great! But, after the 2004 season, it was decided that "the bus" was becoming too expensive to maintain and an all-out search for a replacement was initiated by Mike Whitney. In January 2005, a more efficient 15-passenger diesel Ford van was purchased. Through the enormous efforts of Mike and with the extensive assistance of many other hearty club members, "the van" was ready for service at the first event of 2005 in February!

Setting Our Sites

The "last ever" Old Rocky Mount Airport Autocross did finally occur in 2004 as the town of Rocky Mount began development of our former premier autocross site. Combined with the loss of several other long-time sites over the years - the Belk's Distribution Center in Morrisville, Tri-County Airport near Murfreesboro, and the Wilson "Grand Prix" street course - it was time for a full-scale assault on the proprietors of any local vacant lots and airports. Through Miles Beam's ever-diligent efforts, THSCC was able to secure the use of the Lumberton Airport, the old Sanford Airport, the parking lot at the Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, the Rockingham Drag Strip parking lot, the parking lot at Dealers Auto Auction in Greenville, and, through delicate negotiations with our friendly rivals Triad Sports Car Club, a site-use swap of the Danville Airport. While Lumberton and Rockingham turned out to be not-so-popular for various reasons, Sanford, though a bit gritty, has become a favorite site, with the others also receiving periodic use.

With more participants but fewer regular sites, it was time to try to get more innovative with the sites we have. Through research spearheaded by Mike Whitney, the club has recently implemented the use of wireless timing hardware and a wireless public address system. These two additions are expected to allow THSCC to run more new and different configurations at the same sites.

More Is Better

During the period from the mid-'90s to present, leadership of the club moved from the Dishman era to Ron Spencer and Mark Senior, then back to a second Dishman era aided by Miles Beam and Art McDonald, followed by Mike Whitney, Shawn Whipple, and most recently, Scott Johnson. By the late 1990's, THSCC's reputation for running quality events began to earn income for the organization. The Electric Vehicle Challenge sponsored by Carolina Power & Light (now Progress Energy) contracted the club to organize and run its statewide Electric Vehicle Endurance Rally, Autocross, and efficiency trials attended by students from schools all over the southeast. THSCC also ran events for marque clubs such as the Viper Owners Club, as well as several other events hosted by VIR for various entities. All of these accomplishments were the results of an active membership willing to step up, volunteer, and make such things happen.

The "externalization" of some club programs, in particular the E.V. Challenge, prompted a rethinking of the design of the club's logo in today's society. The rebel "stars & bars" was finally replaced with the N.C. state flag, but not without considerable controversy.

One of the few negative aspects of the millennium was the slow demise of the North Carolina Autocross (NCAC) series. BFGoodrich withdrew its monetary support (and its autocross rubber) to concentrate on pro racing, specifically the Trans Am series. It must also be said that Mike Dishman and Karl Kauffman provided the leadership to drive the program and the glue to hold it together during its last vibrant years. Having left the program after three years of service, with their energy gone from the program's leadership and the BFG sponsorship no longer an incentive, both the number and frequency of events diminished. Though only a mere shadow of its 1990s-self, NCAC still exists as of 2005 and remains the only independent regional autocross series of its kind; a perfect stepping stone to national autocross competition.

As you've read in earlier chapters, THSCC began as a TSD rally club that gradually shifted its primary focus to autocross. But, if holding one or two types of auto sports events is good, holding three or four types must be better! Right?!? So...

During the October 1999 meeting, Mark Vitacco presented a business plan and mission statement to the membership that resulted in THSCC's launching of a High Performance Driving School and Time Trial series run on premier road racing circuits on the east coast. By April 2000, a "track events management" team was formed, sponsorship secured, and a dedicated Time Trial Timing system was developed. THSCC ran a 600Group Racing-sanctioned Legends Car race and Time Trial at Virginia International Raceway. THSCC was the first club to run an event on VIR's South course. The club incorporated the High Performance Driving School by partnering with Triangle Z Club.

In 2005, five years after its inception, the track partnership between THSCC and Triangle Z Club is alive and well, being run jointly by Mark V. and Stacy King with events being held at VIR Full and South Courses, Roebling Road, Carolina Motor Sports Park, and Rockingham Motor Speedway. The mid '90s began a race track renaissance in the U.S. not seen since the end of WWII that prompted the club's program expansion into track events, drawing entries from Canada, New England, Florida, and as far west as Ohio and Kansas.

Another popular, intensely fun, but unfortunately short-lived series of autocross events was the THSCC Night Series. The brainchild of then-president Mike Whitney, this series was held on weeknights once a month at the RBC Center in Raleigh, from September 2002 to December 2003. It was highly attended and, even though no "incidents" occurred, the Center decided not to renew the club's agreement. Hopes remain high for another THSCC night series - somewhere, sometime.

Yet another new venture for THSCC was the addition of several rallycross events in 2003. Rally V.P. Carl Fisher had been searching for a suitable site for several years when one of THSCC's newer members, Kevin Allen, convinced his mother (who just happened to be the owner of a piece of property with grand rallycross potential!) of what a fine group of outstanding citizens THSCC is. She bought the pitch and THSCC rallycross became a reality! Sites and participants continue to grow for the fledgling THSCC rallycross program and 2005 brings the first real THSCC Rallycross Series with a full season of scheduled events at the Four Oaks venue and the BMW Farm.

Happy Birthday to Us!

In 2004, Tarheel Sports Car Club celebrated its 40th birthday! The celebration included a 2-day autocross at Laurinburg, one of the club's "old favorite" sites, and a Saturday-night party. To commemorate the founding, it was only fitting that Bowie Gray, Sr. brought out his MG from the early days and took a few surprisingly fast runs for the antique (car, not driver :-).

One can only speculate about what the next 40 years will bring for Tarheel Sports Car Club. My guess is that we will still be searching for new autocross venues, dealing with rising insurance costs, making fun of new member applications, and, above all, still having tons of fun driving automobiles around both temporary and permanent course configurations -- and eating dead birds together cooked by someone named Bowie.