A Return to Yesteryear: The Pace GP at the Bend Chattanooga Race Course

Grand Marshal Corky Coker drove his 1911 Mercer Raceabout around the course, with Grand Ambassador Brian Redman running shotgun. (Chattanooga Motorcar Festival photo.)

Sports car racing legend Brian Redman, the Grand Ambassador of the 2021 Chattanooga Motorcar Festival, Festival founder Byron DeFoor, and Grand Marshal Corky Coker took several laps around the new Pace Grand Prix at the Bend 2-mile (approx.) course in preparation for the Oct. 15-17 event, and shared their thoughts.

The new track replaces the Time Trials course used in 2019. The City of Chattanooga has completed repaving of several sections, and safety barriers surrounding the course will be installed in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Historic Motor Sports Association officials were on site finalizing the operational structure for the event, which will include several racing groups limited to 12 competitors on track at a time.

Redman, a nine-time sports-car racing champion, toured the track with Coker in the latter’s 1911 Mercer Raceabout, while DeFoor, several days later, took his 1972 BMW CSL out on the eight-turn circuit for a few laps as well.

“I drove round the race track with Corky in his magnificent Mercer Raceabout, capable of 100 mph – but we certainly didn’t go that fast,” said Redman. “The course winds through an industrial park, tree-lined on one side and down a city street protected by safety barriers. There are fast areas and tighter turns to provide ample overtaking opportunities.

“There will be both hard braking and sweeping turns,” added Redman. “Top speed will be around 150 mph in the right car. Second, third and fourth gears (top) will be used but it depends on the cars.”

Byron DeFoor checked out the course in a 1972 BMW 3.0 CSL Turbo, alongside a 1973 Porsche 911, a 1972 BMW 2002, and a 1966 Jaguar XKSS. (Chattanooga Motorcar Festival photo.)

“The track is nothing like a modern-day track, but suits historic road racing like it originally was,” said DeFoor after his laps. “[It threads] between buildings, industrial plants and parks. I loved the scenery — river and mountains on the back straightaway. Some streets are freshly paved while some have been around since the turn of the century.

“Some of the old buildings are almost entirely cleared away, and that [area] will be the hub for manufacturer and sponsor displays during the Festival,” DeFoor added. “The Jim Pace Memorial is in the process of being constructed and will resemble a national park.”

“What an honor for the Festival to have racing champion and hero Brian Redman with us, supporting us here in Chattanooga,” Coker said. “Brian and I discussed how this year’s wheel-to-wheel racing on the Pace Grand Prix at the Bend will the perfect addition to the [off-track] events of the Festival.”

Those events will include fun for both children and adults: Games, simulators, displays of automobile memorabilia, car club gatherings, specialty displays, celebrities and special guests, panel discussions, and much more.

“There will be entertainment available for all from the time the gates open each day,” said event advisor Alexis Bogo.

With additional family-friendly events soon to be announced later, the 2021 Festival features the Concours d’Elegance, West Village Road Rallye, Mecum Chattanooga 2021 Auctions and The Pace Grand Prix at the Bend.

All proceeds from the Chattanooga Motorcar Festival will support neuroscience research through Fifty Plus Foundation, Inc.

The 2021 Festival’s feature events include the elegant cars of the Concours d’Elegance, two editions of the scenic and challenging West Village Road Rallye, and vintage race cars competing in the Pace Grand Prix at the Bend.

The Festival specializes in fun for both children and adults, offering games, simulators, Automobilia, Car Club gatherings, special displays, celebrities, special guests, panel discussions, and much more. “There will be entertainment available for all from the time the gates open each day,” added Bogo.

The 2021 Festival features the Concours d’Elegance, West Village Road Rallye, Mecum Auctions and The Pace Grand Prix at the Bend. Other family-friendly events will be scheduled and announced later. Additional information may be found at chattanoogamotorcar.com.

Festival tickets will be digital and are available online or purchased at the entry gates the days of the events in West Village, at the Pace Grand Prix at the Bend, and at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The transaction at the gate will be cashless, and there will be an additional charge of $10 per ticket.