4/28/2021

Road trip to the world of motorsport

Brock Keen is taking his followers on a journey to meet the heroes of the US racing scene. How will he be received there?

In conversation, Brock Keen comes across as confident, eloquent, humorous; a typical American from the West Coast. ''Before meeting the greats of American motorsport in California, though, I was nervous, just too scared,'' he readily admits, ''after all, I am not a racing driver myself.'' As it turns out, those fears were unnecessary during a little trip for the man who has become a cult figure thanks to his Instagram profile @996roadtrip

 

Brock Keen has had a fascination for Porsche ever since he was nine years old and sat in a neighbor's gray 928. He has long since been acquiring his own sports cars from Zuffenhausen. He is an enthusiastic follower of motorsport. ''I love the speed, the adrenaline, race car design. This interplay between mechanical perfection, mechanics and drivers requires perfect collaboration,'' he stresses. On this road trip, he wanted to immerse himself in the world of this sport. He visits racing drivers who have celebrated many successes in a Porsche, and specialists who know how to make a Porsche go even faster. They are all known far beyond the American West Coast.

Starting point: Portland/Oregon, then twelve days and 4,000 miles through California. The car: A Porsche 911 Carrera 4S from the 996 model series. The accommodation: A Porsche 911 Carrera 4S from the 996 model series. And last but not least, his 911 is equipped with a roof tent for two people. He ordered it for a Range Rover. It doesn't fit on the SUV, but it does on the sports car.
Porsche and some friends provide help with the meetings. The first meeting point turns out to be impossible, forest fires make race tracks like vineyards inaccessible. Kevin Buckler, the first target, suggests: "Come to Petaluma." The small town is about an hour's drive north of San Francisco. The Daytona overall and Le Mans class winner operates his nationally known racing team, 'The Racers Group,' in downtown Petaluma, as well as the boutique for his 'Adobe Road Wines.' ''It's a phenomenal combination,'' Brock Keen says with a laugh. There's plenty of room on the grounds between the wine shop, restaurant and open-air stage, even for a Porsche 911 with a roof tent.

The driver and fan stroll along the nearby Petaluma River. First impression: ''Kevin is completely normal, downright down to earth. He welcomes me as if we've known each other well for years." Dinner, including wines, is provided. On the second day, he invites Kevin Buckler into the hallowed halls of 'The Racers Group.' In professional GT motorsport, no independent team has won more North American sports car races than Buckler's racing team, founded in 1995. 

 

In between exciting 911s for the race tracks and countless trophies, Buckler uncorks a bottle of wine. The two businessmen philosophize about business life. ''Running a business is a lot like running a 24-hour race,'' Buckler says, ''you go through a lengthy process, sometimes everything seems hopeless. But it's far from over, you always have to attack. That's when success comes.'' In his early 40s, Brock Keen knows from personal experience, ''sometimes you have to take an extra lap.'' Five generations ago, his family came to Oregon by covered wagon. Keen has founded several companies in recent years, including in the field of outdoor clothing. Some business ideas have caught on, others have disappeared from the market. ''That's all part of it. I like to take risks and love adventures, both at work and on road trips.'' 

 

When one of the meetings falls through, Brock Keen improvises and drives a few hours to the Willow Springs race track. Together with the photographer, he looks for a place to sleep. Not far from the track, a cat gets in the way of his traveling companion. She lolls on the rear spoiler of one of the Porsche GT3s parked there. What a motif! But a golf cart is already turning the corner. ''We thought it was security, afraid of trouble.''

Then Brock Keen recognizes an idol, the charming Martina Kwan. ''Hey Martina, I follow you on Instagram!'' The multiple winner of California Club Championships competing in Porsche with roots in Hong Kong smiles back. Her companion introduces himself. ''I'm Dwain Dement.'' No reaction. ''Don't you recognize me?'' Yes, now I do! Dwain Dement is the head of Vision Motorsports, an integral part of the US Porsche scene. The result of a long conversation – the Porsche with a tent roof finds a place for the night at the most beautiful spot on the race track. ''It's haunted there,'' Martina Kwan predicts. And indeed: in the middle of the night, the two campers startle. Both heard it: The cheers of people in the stands from races long since past. Did Brock Keen finally arrive in the Mecca of motorsport at this very moment?
Patrick Long is an icon, not only in the USA. After 2003, Long is the only American on the list of Porsche works drivers. He has won all the major long-distance races. In conversation, Long finds plenty of time and leisure to talk at length about topics ranging from motorsport, to business, to kit and caboodle. In North Hollywood, Rod Emroy, a friend from the old days, presents his 356, which everyone calls 'Outlaw' because of its drastic conversions.

At the Porsche Experience Centre in Los Angeles and headquarters of Porsche Motorsport North America, Brock Keen stands before a Porsche 917 that competed at Le Mans and the 911 GT1. ''It was exciting for me to touch these race cars,'' he says with a quiet smile. On the handling course, he searches for the perfect line under professional guidance, in his own 911 complete with roof tent, of course. 

 

Dwain Dement, on the other hand, is the one who gets Brock's unhealthy-sounding 911, which is smoking because of a defective AC compressor, back on track. On a Sunday.

After countless hours of hospitality and content-rich conversations, Brock Keen knows one reason why Porsche is so successful in motorsport. ''Fast cars are one thing, sure. But it's about so much more, about community, friendship and helping each other.'' Brock Keen feels at the end of this journey that he too is one of the racers.

 

Photographers: Brandon Haley & Marc A. Goldbaum

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