It wasn’t until mid-life that F & W business owner Roger Funk found an outlet for his voracious need for speed. When the salesman gave Funk the keys to his new Porsche in the late 1990s, he also handed him the keys to a whole new world – in the form of an application to join Porsche’s Club of America.
A society of car enthusiasts, the club offered Porsche drivers – among other things – the opportunity to see just what their new vehicles were made of. In addition to monthly meetings, organized road trips, rallies and even races, club members were first encouraged to participate in driver instruction courses at Lime Rock Race Park, a natural terrain motorsport road racing venue in Salisbury. “The course is designed to teach drivers how to operate the car the way it was meant to be driven – aggressively – in a well-organized program in a safe environment,” Funk said. “The lure is it allows you to test your ability without fear of hurting someone, breaking laws, or encountering police around the corner.” With over a mile of road track, sweeping corners and elevation changes, the course helps drivers hone eye-hand coordination, make quick decisions and gain confidence while putting their pedal to the metal.
A self-proclaimed “speed merchant” Funk was immediately intoxicated by the adrenaline of fine-tuning his driving skills at speeds forbidden in everyday society. So much so that it wasn’t long before he decided to test his own skills in club-sponsored races. The time was right for his new found hobby – after educating six children the college bills had just stopped arriving in the mail, his Post Road heavy equipment sales business was doing well, and he had more time and money to devote to a lifelong passion. “I’ve always thought of a car as more than a means of transport,” he said. “I’ve always had a love affair and an affinity for cars.”
Once he started racing, the experience was exhilarating. “When you are going 150 mph your car feels different, there’s different resistance in the steering wheel. The car lifts up from all the air coming through it,” he said. “When you are hitting speeds of 175 mph it is fantastic!” Now in his seventies, Funk shows no signs of slowing down. He has raced on tracks all over the country, at the Pocono Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and at the “grand-daddy” of them all – the Daytona International Speedway. Modest about his accomplishments, Funk admits he does well, often finishing on the podium at his racing events – which are NOT divided by age. “I am not tense when I’m racing, often I’m barely perspiring when I finish,” he said. “Oddly enough, my abilities have increased. I’ve been blessed physically and with my years of driving experience I can sense when something can happen before it happens. For a guy my age to be a driver and test my abilities – it doesn’t get any better!” A highlight of his “career” was being invited to participate in the popular Ren-Sport reunion held in Daytona a few years ago. “There were 50,000 spectators and when I got in my car, volunteers had to open up the crowd so I could get through. I thought I was dreaming! People knew my name and were giving me high fives and thumbs up…it was the real deal!”
Simsbury resident Jim Newton, Funk’s longtime friend and fellow racer, said Funk is well known on the circuit for his endurance and skill. “Racing over the age of 70 is a rarity and he drives better than people who are much younger on machinery that is very sophisticated. He’s very talented and he doesn’t drive his age – he’s in great shape,” Newton said, adding that Funk’s many years in the heavy equipment business may contribute to his success. “He knows how to handle a machine, whether it’s a truck or a tractor or a back hoe. He’s always been around equipment and things that work.”
For Funk the fellowship of his fellow car enthusiasts is as much a draw as the adrenaline. “I’ve developed many friendships and I really enjoy the social part of it. The camaraderie has really added to my enjoyment of racing,” he said.