Gemütlichkeit 2011 Diary
Mansfield,Ohio, Friday May 20—Members of the Western Reserve Section gathered at the Holiday Inn Mansfield to make the final preparations for Gemütlichkeit 2011. As participants began to arrive, they were greeted by event registrar Sue Morrison assisted by Jean Adamcik and Priscilla Gwinn. Our hospitality room sponsored by Cynthia VerDuin included refreshments, a silent auction display, and vendor tables for members to explore. On Friday evening, our defensive driving and autocross sponsor, Mansfield Motor Group, hosted a reception for Gemütlichkeit attendees as well as their clients. In addition to enjoying great food and meeting new friends and getting reacquainted with old ones, club members had a chance to mingle with the non-members in attendance to explain the benefits of joining MBCA. A highlight of the evening was the opportunity to take a close look at a pair of Classics–the 1934 Packard Dual Cowl Phaeton and 1929 Duesenberg Model J convertible displayed by Mansfield Motor Group owner Ted Schluter.
Saturday, May 21—after days of rainy weather, Saturday dawned bright and clear, much to the relief of our committee members. As concours chair Pete Lesler pointed out, “It never rains on a Gemütlichkeit Concours”, and 2011 held true to form. Our concours site was the historic Kingwood Center, a beautiful 1920s era 47-acre estate that was a perfect showcase for our prized Mercedes-Benz. Over 60 Mercedes-Benz were displayed on the grounds for judging by Pete Lesler’s team of 24 judges. There were Mercedes-Benz of every post-war era represented, ranging from Scott Montoney’s 1952 220 Cabriolet B, Michael Schiltz’ 1954 300SL Gullwing, 190SLs, pagodas, newer SLs including Walt Anderson’s rare 1997 SL500 LaCosta edtion, sedans of all vintages, and a special display of a C63 AMG and the all-new 2012 SLK350 courtesy of MBUSA. We were fortunate to have Lisa Juhl, MBCA Director of Marketing, and Director at Large Josie Lesler at the membership tent to answer questions and pass out Star magazines and membership information to interested parties. Tech sessions were presented by National Technical Director George Murphy (care and feeding your computerized Mercedes-Benz), Fred Gwinn (Race Ramps and proper jacking procedures), and George Saylor from Artimis (highways of the future). The concours received coverage in the local media both prior to and after the event. John Makley, Director of Audience Development at Kingwood Center, was thrilled with the results—over 400 people entered the grounds during the day to view our concours and tour the estate gardens.
Saturday activities concluded with the welcome reception at the Richland Carrousel Park where we enjoyed unlimited rides on the spectacular hand-carved carrousel. Northeast Regional Director Doug Dees commented “When Maria found out that she could ride the Richland Carrousel again, there was no doubt that we were coming to Gemütlichkeit!” Everyone left with a smile on their faces—good food, good friends, and re-living memories of the merry-go-rounds of our youth.
Sunday, May 22—another sunny day began with a classroom session for all drivers presented by Driving Events Chair Gary Goodman covering vehicle dynamics, defensive driving tips, and an introduction to track driving in preparation for the autocross and time trials. As the meeting concluded, drivers headed out to the Richland Mall, site of the Mansfield Motor Group defensive driving and autocross courses. Frank and Mary Alice Cozza began the defensive driving course with an overview of the course elements and were assisted by driving instructors Joe Alexander, Paul Bailey, Norm Crowe, & Terry Kiwala. Event sponsor Mansfield Motor Group provided a C300 for their clients to drive on the course. A highlight of defensive driving was seeing Cincinnati Section member Scott Montoney wheel his 1952 220 Cabriolet B through the course. It was great to see a 60-year-old Mercedes-Benz being driven as it was intended! After the drivers completed the defensive driving course, they began preparations for the autocross. Each car received a tech inspection by Ted Gottfried and a check of proper tire pressures courtesy of Mansfield Motor Group. Prior to their practice sessions, everyone got a chance to do a course walk led by Walt Anderson and Gary Goodman on the fun, challenging course designed by John Tuck and Fred Gesell. After a short lunch break, it was time for the timed autocross. The switch to using transponders for autocross timing, along with the efforts of the timing team of Stephanie and Roland Hahn assisted by Sue Morrison, resulted in a very smooth event with no timing issues. Joe Alexander posted the fastest men’s time in his SLK32 AMG; Mary Alice Cozza had the fastest ladies’ time in her SLK55 AMG. One of the most enjoyable parts of defensive driving and autocross is seeing the grins on the faces of first-time participants. As Indy 500 section member David Floyd said, “I had no idea this was going to be this much fun!”.
The Mansfield Liederkranz was the site of the Sunday evening concours awards banquet. The evening began with a performance of traditional German dances by the Liederkranz Youth Dancers—a talented, energetic group ranging in age from 2 to 14 and dressed in their German finest—followed by a wonderful German buffet. Bob and Joan Donnelly and Rocky Miranti were among the many members who dressed in their German garb to add to the festive evening. The Gemütlichkeit 2011 Concours d’Elegance was the first MBCA national concours judged using the new 100 point scoring system. This resulted in some very close scores in several classes. The Best of Show award was presented to Western Reserve section member Michael Schiltz with his 1954 300SL Gullwing earning 97.5 points. John Fair drove his SLK 320 from Minnesota and took home the Best of Street trophy. Scott Montoney’s 1952 220 Cabriolet B was recognized for both the People’s Choice and Silver Star Preservation awards. All trophy winners were presented with porcelain bowls from the Mercedes-Benz executive dining room in Stuttgart in recognition of their efforts. Fred Gwinn presented Rodd Masteller (Central Ohio Section) with the Race Ramp door prize provided by Brute Industries.
Monday, May 23—the weather finally caught up with us as we began day one at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the wind and rain. The drivers gathered for a brief orientation meeting to review track procedures and were taken on orientation laps by their instructors for a first look at the 2.4 mile 14 turn road course. Mid-Ohio is an internationally-known road course that has been the sight of many Indy Car races. It is a very technical track that is known to be extremely slippery when wet. The drivers had a great opportunity to apply techniques learned in defensive driving while learning the proper wet and dry lines on the track. Going quickly in the rain at Mid-Ohio requires drivers to find that fine line between very uncomfortable and scared to death. It is a credit to the participants, our Porsche club instructors, and the MBCA instructor team of Joe Adamcik, Joe Alexander, Walt Anderson, Frank Cozza, Norm Crowe, Gary Goodman, and Dudley Smith, that we had no off-course excursions during some difficult conditions. Track stewards John Tuck & Fred Gesell kept everyone on schedule and the event running smoothly in spite of the weather. As the morning progressed, the track began to dry out and confidence levels and speeds began to increase. Everyone had the opportunity for a dry practice session after lunch, and then it was time for the acceleration runs on the backstretch.
The competition was very close, with the times in many classes separated by hundredths of a second. Apparently everyone has a lead foot in the South Jersey section, as Rocky Miranti posted the fastest men’s time and Dianne Beck was the quickest of the ladies.
Track driving was not the only activity on Monday. Those attending the Amish Tour boarded a bus in the morning for the chance to see some Ohio countryside and to experience the Amish culture. The group saw a basket-making demonstration, browsed the aisles at Lehman hardware, visited several local shops, and had a hearty home-cooked lunch at an Amish homestead.
Tuesday, May 24—drivers spent the morning using two practice sessions to prepare for the afternoon time trials. It was fun to see the variety of cars on the track—everything from vintage SLs driven by Paul Barrett, Mark Schmiedl, and Pete Lesler, to the latest AMG models. There were two father-son teams–Tom and Seth Potter from Central Ohio and Bill and Jaime Faison from the Triangle Section—always a fun dynamic to watch. Several first-time track drivers attended Gemütlichkeit and got hooked on the experience. Western Reserve president Bill VerDuin commented “Benzes new and old have significant capabilities you wouldn’t anticipate if you just use them in normal driving, and the cars love to have those capabilities explored”.
At the completion of time trials, SLK55 AMGs ruled the day, as Keith Ritter from Pittsburgh and Mary Alice Cozza from Western Reserve posted the fastest times.
The Final Awards Banquet was held at the Café on Main on the square in downtown Mansfield.
The evening’s activities included a silent auction of Mercedes-Benz collectables, a variety of door prizes, and the presentation of trophies to every driver who participated. Keith Ritter was awarded the overall fastest time for the men’s classes and Mary Alice Cozza was the quickest of the ladies. Adam Paige from MBUSA gave the group a preview of the future of Mercedes-Benz and presented the MBUSA award for best overall performance in the concours and driving events to John Fair, Twin Cities section. A special thank you goes to Adam for his invaluable support of MBCA and our national events
Wednesday, May 25—a year of hard work by the Gemütlichkeit committee has finally ended.
A special thank you goes to all the participants, committee members, volunteers from other sections, Mansfield Motor Group, MBUSA, MBCA, and our many sponsors for making Gemütlichkeit 2011 a success.