Monday, October 14, 2013

Ross Fosbender: Great Gearhead Guy

Ross in 2011
When I first met Ross Fosbender in 1991, he was a legend in our sports car club.  His own sports car story is typical of racers our age.  What made him a legend was his driver coaching and service to the club.

Ross was born in 1940 and grew up next door to a charter member of the Chicago Region of the SCCA.  He spent a  lot of time with gearheads next door as a kid, which fueled his interest in things mechanical and competition.  Although his college degree was in liberal arts, his interest in technology remained strong.  His business career was in technical sales of precision instruments.

His first car was a '41 Ford with a blown hemi, which he drag raced.  In 1961 he bought a Triumph TR-3 that was "already a half-assed race car" and went road racing.  Then the "first of my sixteen Alfas (some were parts cars)."  He still has a '57 Veloce Spider, which he's owned twice.  He raced a "stick axle" Corvette.  And a Formula V.  "I was never fast--I was a journeyman driver."  His last wheel-to-wheel event was in 1997.  Then he ran HSAX in his Toyota Supra twin-turbo street car and Cressida station wagon.  He retired from HSAX in 2008.  If a Cressida wagon makes you smile, consider that Ross took himself to school on car classifications: it was a consistent winner.

His favorite course was Meadowdale "because it was so damned fast."  His favorite race was in his E Production Veloce there.  He raced mostly at Meadowdale and Blackhawk Farms, with forays to Road America, and Grattan and Wilmot Hills in Michigan.

He rarely goes to club events today.  "I'm a doer, not a watcher."  While his race wins are still recalled by old timers, it's as a driving coach that 40-somethings remember him best.  His was patient and encouraging with newbies.  "Speed comes with confidence, and confidence comes with experience." Ross was the author--in our club anyway--of this excellent rule: "Both Feet In When You Spin."  For many years he was the major presenter at the club's Indoor School.  He did the "How To Drive" segment, in which he  talked newbies through a video lap of Blackhawk Farms.  Until all questions were answered.

Most importantly, he has logged a lot of right seat miles as coach.  His coaching method was simple and effective: hand signals.  He demonstrated turn-in points and proper apexs by pointing where the car should be going.  As a driver improved, he augmented hand signals with audibles.  "Brake!"  "Gas!" Ross was glad to debrief at the end of a session, but while he was in the car, the instruction was nonverbal, intuitive, and easy to follow.  Of all the students he's had over the years, Ross is most proud of one who started in a Sprite and wound up being competitive in a Lotus 23: "He was so smooth!"  

Ross's other major contribution to the club was "what needed to be done."  He held several offices, including President.  If he wasn't racing, he was working a corner, tech inspection, or timing and scoring.  As with drivers, he trained many a corner worker.

Ross's major contribution to the sport outside of our club was his role in resurrecting his beloved Meadowdale.  After the course closed, it was an illegal dump for many years.  Along with other racers who loved the course, fans of open space and outdoor activities, and local governments, Ross helped build a coalition to get Meadowdale purchased by local governments and turned into a Forest Preserve: Raceway Woods.  Raceway Woods is now cleaned up.  A paved bike path follows the original course uphill and down dale.  There are signs at each corner featuring track maps and pictures.  Ross also developed one of the "go to" websites for Meadowdale history.  Meadowdale would not exist as it does today without his efforts.

Ross co-owned and raced this Guilietta successfully for several years in the mid-1960's.  This win was at Madison (WI)
in 1967.  The string came to an end when his co-owner rolled the car at Blackhawk Farms.


Anonymous said...

Great article about my big brother. I remember him making those numbers for this car. He was exacting of them. Ross was an over all super person! Missing him, Lisa

Pilote Ancien said...

Thanks. When I met him (1990's-ish), Ross reminded me of the best of the Old School SCCA guys. Didn't know him super-well, but enjoyed each others' company (I like to think). Have not been in touch (much) with Cheryl since he passed. Had thought to invite her to a Midwest Council event or two, but imagine she knows many MC people better than me--and who to call if she wants to stroll down memory lane.

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