The Classic Sports Racing Group (CSRG) is the second oldest vintage/historic car racing organization in North America, having held at least one track event for each of the 46 continuous race seasons. Tom Franges started vintage car racing in 1990. He served on the CSRG Board of Directors for 4 two-year terms and spent 3 years as its President. He is currently the Race Director, a position he’s held since 2009. We chatted with Tom about what it takes to put on vintage motorsport events.
MSR: What types of events does your organization offer? And what makes your organization unique?
Tom: We are a not-for-profit membership association which puts on on-track events dedicated to vintage and historic race cars. We have been doing it for 46 years. Of the four events we do each season, two are smaller club events, much in the spirit of early 50's SCCA races, and two are spectator events. At each event, we give family, friends and spectators the opportunity to experience a few laps at near racing speed in a historic race car and we try to raise money for local charities.
MSR: What are the highlights of your season?
Tom: Each of our four events, plus our annual membership dinner, is its own highlight. We have featuredinvitational run groups at most events, and at our fall Sonoma Charity Challenge, we raise thousands of dollars for charity by selling three-lap track rides in some of the entered cars. In 9 years, we've raised about a half million dollars for the Speedway Children's Charities of Sonoma County, California.
MSR: What kind of event promotion has been successful for you?
Tom: There are two branches in our promotional efforts: one targets racers, to get good grids, and the other targets spectators, to get new people interested in vintage and historic car racing. The most effective promotion to entrants has been our Contact Patch e-mail news, which is sent to nearly 600 members and others who have participated in our events over recent years. We are just beginning to understand promoting to spectators and are doing a lot of experimenting.
MSR: What are some of the challenges you’re facing?
Tom: The biggest challenge is an aging demographic. The cars we race created their histories in the period from just before WWII through the mid-1970s. The people who were in love with those cars in their day are aging, and their cars are becoming too rare and valuable to be used for bashing around a race track. The challenge is to bring in new cars and enthusiasts without driving out the older ones. And a sub-sector of that challenge is the dramatic technological changes in race cars which began in the late 1980s, and which have made more contemporary race cars than the ones we race very complicated and expensive to put on track. The second biggest challenge is the ever-growing number of vintage and historic race events that are available to our participants. This results in schedule and budgetary conflicts for participants.
MSR: What motivates you? Why do you keep doing what you’re doing?
Tom: Other than liking old race cars and being around them, I like the people who gather around old race cars. I like the process of putting the event together. I like bringing all the pieces, all the issues, all the divergent personalities together into one focused project. I like making molehills out of what others see as mountains.
MSR: What lessons have you learned about running events?
Tom: Actually, what I think is happening is that I'm able to apply most of the lessons about getting things done, motivating people, managing complex things work, and distinguishing between the possible and the desirable, that I've acquired over 77 years of life. And I've confirmed to myself that a well thought through database system like MotorsportReg.com can make life far simpler. But I suspected that before I started working with MSR, I just hadn't experienced it.
MSR: Finally, any favorite MotorsportReg features?
Tom: Well, the very best feature of all, and way ahead of the others, is the human support. Quick, clear, patient and totally effective. Aside from the reports, I'm still uncovering features of the system. One I use a lot is the driver/car history, bottom left of the driver profile page. What run group was that driver/car combination in at the last event? One click tells me. But the second-best, after the human support, is the ease of setting up an entry form for the next event.
MSR: Thanks for your time Tom!
Tom: You’re welcome.
To learn more about CSRG or to become a member check out their website. You can also find a list of all of their events, including the upcoming 10th Annual CSRG Charity Challenge at Sonoma Raceway, on their calendar.