TOPEKA, Kan. (June 13, 2005) - Whether you realize it or not, if you’ve been to even a handful of Sports Car Club of America Club Racing events over the years, you know Mark Weber.
It might be name recognition, as Weber has spent the better part of his SCCA tenure as a photographer whose work has appeared in almost every major motorsports magazine in the country.
It might be through stories about long-time racers told around SCCA paddock campfires or in tech sheds.
Chances are, however, that if you know Mark Weber, it’s by his unmistakable casual look - a trademark untucked Hawaiian shirt, shorts and a thatch of gray hair that so savagely roams his dome that no comb has dared come in contact with it in years. It’s a look that Albert Einstein himself would have marveled at.
If that description doesn’t match anyone you know, it’s not Weber’s fault. Some people refer to him as “the photographer,” and he is everywhere on a race weekend, either competing or scooting from spot to spot with cameras in tow.
Mark Weber...then and now
(recent photo courtesy of Vicki Jarecke)
Take a walk with Weber around a track, and it quickly becomes clear that he has a story or two about everybody, which isn’t surprising considering his 30 years of SCCA experiences and 400 SCCA Club Races - a plateau he topped June 5 at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kan.
The stories come easily because, for Weber, being at a track, any track, on a race weekend is a little slice of heaven.
“The people at the race track, some of them I’ve known for 35 years,” the 52 year old from St. Louis said. “Some of them are my very best friends in the whole world, and that’s a pretty dandy thing. I don’t know as many people in St. Louis as I do at the race track.”
Weber’s SCCA journey began in 1970. He was a pioneer of sorts, venturing into motorsports whereas no other member of his family had ever done so previously.
Though no one had ever paved a way for him to follow, Weber’s path, from a very early age, was guided by his keen interest in cars.
“I’m the kid who never grew up,” Weber said. “I went from model cars, to slot cars, to go karts at the age of 12 and then to big cars. I thought cars were cool and a neighbor took me out to Mid-America Raceway for a USAC stock car race. Then, I found out there was SCCA sports car racing there as well two or three times a year.
“I went to a few of those as a spectator, and then went to a place called ‘European Car Parts’ where I could buy parts for my Sprite that I drove on the street. There was a little poster that said ‘St. Louis Region SCCA, call this number.’”
Weber called it, attended a local meeting and joined the Club soon after.
Nearly 35 years have transpired since he first obtained his membership, and Weber has witnessed change ebb and flow its way through the Club.
Two things stand out most notably, he said - the level of technology in the cars he now competes against and the preparation time that others spend in building their rides.
“The saying goes ‘if the rule says the part is free, it’s far from it,’” Weber said. “When I started Production car racing, you could build your own racecar and be productive. Now, you have to engineer a car. It’s not like the good ol’ days where the rules were restrictive enough that a backyard mechanic could build a car to the edge of the rules and be competitive.
“Now, you look at any car that might win a national championship in Production Car racing, and those cars aren’t just built, they’re engineered with test days and more test days. I’m not an engineer. I want to go race something. I don’t want to have to spend all of my time on the setup.”
Besides various issues with cars, Weber has been known to speak his mind with club leaders on various levels when he felt things weren’t quite right, but that’s more the exception than his norm.
Weber is a wealth of knowledge, which he good-naturedly imparts to others as part teacher, two parts comedian and all motorsports enthusiast.
Amazingly, the wildest characteristic Weber possesses may not be his joke repertoire or his hairstyle. It could be his penchant for not sitting still.
Whether it’s early-morning ice hockey (consider it a sunrise league) a couple of times a week in St. Louis (even competing against St. Louis Blues players on occasion), shooting race photography all over the country for a myriad of clients, working ride-and-drive logistics events for RealTime Racing and Logistics or doing his own racing, Weber is hardly ever home.
“Last year I was on the road about 265 days, and this year is going to be worse,” Weber said. “That number probably included a few vacation days, but very few. All the other days were car related. It’s plenty of days on the road, and I don’t really know how long I can keep doing that.”
A typical Weber weekend played itself out a few weekends ago when he wrapped up a photo shoot in Detroit before flying to St. Louis to load up his race car and arrive in Topeka, Kan. after midnight for a National race on Sunday.
As soon as the race was over, he reloaded and drove back home that evening, just so he could grab a few hours of sleep before playing hockey at 6:30 a.m.
There aren’t many insomniacs who would attempt to live that way, and Weber admitted that maintaining that lifestyle has taken a toll on him, but he’s far from ready to give it up.
“The problem is, I keep managing to pull those schedules off,” Weber said. “It keeps working, so I keep doing it.”
Whether the rest of his life keeps up its hectic pace or not, Weber says his race plans are to keep competing against the young guys until he hits 600 races. It will take some time, but it’s a goal Weber feels confident he can achieve by averaging about 12 races a year and continuing to compete in two classes (F Production and G Production).
“I started competing when I was 21,” Weber said. “And for a long time, 20 years or more, I would do 40-45 events a year between shooting races and racing, whether that was a one-day thing or the Runoffs.
“So, I am in my 32nd season now and have 18 to go for 50, where I would be 71 at the end of that season. Right now, I feel good and figure I will race 18 more years. But when I’m 71, I will reserve the right to say ‘Hey! Let’s go another year and see how we feel.’ I think I still have the energy to make 600 races in 50 years, which would be a pretty sweet number.”
Yes, Mark, it would be.-30-
Link to story: http://www.scca.com/News/News.asp?Ref=324