Car lovers rallied for Sun-Up at Vero Road Rally Magnifique

VERO BEACH — The excitement grew as one spectacular car after another pulled into the parking lot of the Sun-Up Center for the Developmentally Disabled, gearing up for the inaugural Vero Road Rally Magnifique (VRRM).  Polished and buffed to perfection, the 56 participating cars ran from exotic, as in Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus to a vintage 1959 Studebaker and even a most unusual two-story dune buggy.

A tuxedoed James Bond, aka PNC Bank’s Paul Tripaldi, hoisting a Gatorade “martini” had decorated his classic Porsche 911 Targa, with a large 007 decal.  And Klaus Fisher had enrolled four Amalfi Racing Team cars, piloted by family members and friends.

Event chair Karl Steene likened the event to an old fashioned drive in the country, and it was certainly a perfect day for one.  Susan and Ed Smith had graciously invited me to ride along with them as a co-navigator, to get the full experience, so we took Ed’s Lexus SUV Hybrid rather than Susan’s sporty little two-seater BMW Z4.

Cars were not given their route packet until just before being released, at one-minute intervals.  Then, with a wave from VRRM flag-girl Dr. Susan Fries, we were off.  Directions were interspersed with questions along the way about things observed and historical trivia.

The route took cars along Old Dixie and at the historic Hallstrom House; we came to the first checkpoint.  Members of the Antique Car Club served as checkpoint marshals, and a question at each of the seven stops was to identify the make and model of their superbly preserved cars.  Probably the trickiest question was about identifying four men watching over everyone at a cemetery.  We learned later that organizers hadn’t realized there were actually two statue groupings of four men watching over everyone.

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution and then what is now the Antique Mall building, where we learned Al Capone and Gloria Swanson reportedly stayed were the next stops.  Cars then headed back north to Vero Beach, crossing over the 17th Street Beach, heading back along Ocean Drive and then east again on the Merrill Barber Bridge.  We phoned a friend to learn that Merrill Barber had served one term as Mayor of Vero Beach and two terms in the Florida Senate.

Then on to the old Vero Railroad Station, home of the Indian River County Historical Society, through the Indian River County Administration Complex and past the Vero Beach Theatre Guild, to Aviation Boulevard and over to the Vero Beach Municipal Airport.  The final lap took us southwest, along Route 60 to the Polo Grounds and then southwest again for a Finish Line Party at the residence of honorary co-chairs Kathi and John Schumann.

Guests enjoyed reliving the experience with their friends over wine and hors d’oeuvres, viewing some of the Schumann’s rare and exotic cars and watching famed Formula One Driver Brian Redman tear up their test track.

A live auction featured several luxury trips, to the San Francisco Wine County, Ireland, Monaco and Tuscany, jewelry, collectibles and two immediate driving experiences with Kathi Schumann in her Ferrari and with Redman in John Schumann’s Dodge Viper.

Earlier in the day, prior to navigating with her husband Jerome in their 2007 Corvette, Laura Atchison mentioned that the rally had been on her bucket list.  They were also the high bidders on the Tuscany trip and Atchison said, “That was another one on my bucket list.  My father recently passed away, and I decided I’m not going to put things off.”

Gary Ball won the bid for the drive with Kathi Schumann.  When they returned, a beaming Ball said enthusiastically, “It was fantastic!”

His wife Susan added, “He can’t stop smiling’ he’s just grinning ear to ear.”

In the end, driver Jack Illare and navigator Jeff Greer won the First Place trophy in a 2005 Ford Expedition.

“It proves there was no advantage in having a $100,000 car,” announced Karl Steene.

Actually, the Expedition held the advantage; Nancilee Wydra, Trish Burke, Stacey Greer and Shelly Lyn Rostosky all went along for the ride.  “If it hadn’t been for the women answering all the questions, and the crazy driving of this guy, we never would have won,” said Greer.

Second Place went to the only sports car in the top three spots, Dick Patton, driving 1996 Acura NSX and his navigator Ray Brown.  Third Place was awarded to driver Lacey Rice and her navigator mother Barbara Rice, driving a Honda Element, large enough to hold the other family members on their team.

Susan Smith, pleased at being high bidders on the fabulous Swarovski necklace and earring set, said, “We would absolutely do this again.  The trip got us driving all over town, finding out more about Vero Beach, the clues were creative; the whole rally was fun.  Dennis [Bartholomew, Sun-Up Executive Director] really does a good job and hopefully this raised a lot of money for them.” {igallery 173}


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