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Race for Rotary: Cape club takes to the speedways to raise awareness, money to end polio

By Staff | Sep 4, 2015

Rotary Club of Cape Coral is taking its fundraising effort to the speedways around the state to raise awareness and money to support the organization’s End Polio fund.

A group of volunteer Rotary members has been working for several months to prepare a Mazda RX7 for the race track. Four drivers then will race it on Sept. 26 at Sebring International Raceway in a 14-hour ChumpCar World Series event.

“The car appropriately has a Mazda rotary engine in it, so its a nice tie-in,” said Thomas Burt, Racing for Rotary committee chairman and one of the four experienced drivers lined up for the Sebring race. “The motor has no pistons and like three moving parts in it. Another driver, B.J. Quinn, donated the car; driver Charles Espenlaub donated the safety equipment; and Kevin Koelemeyer, of Regency Insurance, is the title sponsor of the car. Cape Collision has stepped up and is donating the paint job.”

The ChumpCar name is a parody on the former Champ Car open wheel racing series. The series sponsors races in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Its road course races range in length from 6 to 38 hours.

Cape Coral Rotarians have been reaching out to anyone interested in making any dollar amount donation per lap the car makes at Sebring and other ChumpCar events in the future. Burt said the group has raised $6,000 so far without the car being seen. He expects that amount to grow to as much as $20,000 by the time it makes its racing debut at Sebring.

“I expect the amount to go up exponentially over time once people see the car and become interested,” Burt said. “The End Polio fund is the main charity of Rotary International throughout the world.”

It’s not the first time the Rotary Club has taken its message to the public with race cars. The club once built two demolition derby cars.

“Those cars are good for an afternoon,” said Burt. “A race car can last for years. As Rotarians we can take the car to Rotary clubs where we race and get them revved up, too. The car really is a moving billboard that we can take to many places and events to show it off and expose people to Rotary who may not otherwise know about us.”

While the Sebring race is bearing down on the group’s preparation time, Burt expects the car to be ready to race in time.

“Even if it kills me it will be ready,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to race cars, have fun and fellowship raising awareness of the positive impact Rotary clubs have throughout the world.”

He also expects the car to compete in other future ChumpCar events in Florida, for now.

Rotary Club of Cape Coral received its charter in 1964 and its current membership is about 75 men and women with influential business and professional backgrounds who meet for breakfast every Wednesday at the La Venezia Ballroom. The club is part of more than 30,000 Rotary Clubs representing more than 160 countries with a worldwide membership of more than 1.2 million.

The End Polio charity drive has been waged since 1979 and helped to eradicate polio in all but three countries worldwide.