The Driving Force – On and Off Track with Meredydd Francke by Jessica Zurell

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Keeping cool at Roebling Road

From dreaming pre-teen to Sports Car Club of America enthusiast, Meredydd Francke knows a thing or two about taking corners, but it’s the camaraderie of the track that drives her.

If you’ve ever been passed by a searing yellow 2000 Ford Escort ZX2 Sport/Rally while en route to the track, chances are you’ve crossed paths with former GGR Driver of the Month, Meredydd Francke, the Floridian gearhead whose experiences in the racing world propel her forward season after season.

Francke began pursuing her interest in cars in 1966 when she started as a corner worker, then went to Driver’s School in 1968 and again in 1972. Over the years, she was a tech inspector, registrar, publications director, writer for the local SCCA publication, SportsCar and Victory Lane,  and crew for her husband, Ken.

“I went back to doing other things, but still wanted to race,” Francke said.  Who could blame her? No matter how many hats she wears, she stays on track.

These days she races an H Production 1960 Bugeye Sprite in Limited Prep, with tires by Hoosier, and a 1968 vintage Datsun 510 – “which is patiently awaiting an engine swap,” she said. Expected to be finished and ready to go sometime between April and July, she hopes to do well in the South Atlantic Road Racing Championship (SARRC).

The yellow get-from-A-to-B Ford has a snazzy pedigree, too.

“It’s one of only 2000 produced, a two-liter with four-wheel disc brakes, upgraded suspension, sporty engine chip and a cold air box that came with a Borla header and exhaust,” she said. “I ended up with an aftermarket exhaust header and a hand-built exhaust by Peter Shadowen, 2010 GTL champion.”

Francke began racing in SCCA Vintage and loved it, but once she caught the bug, she wanted more, more, more! She and Ken have been to tracks all over the country, from Lime Rock to Summit Point, from Mosport, to her favorite track, Louden. As a youngster, she hadn’t realized that she, too, could race one day. The most valuable lessons she learned came from hands-on experience on and around the track.

“In today’s work, the thing to do would be to join SCCA and get some visibility, probably as a volunteer, then to start autocrossing and take it from there,” she said. “Now that I’ve done all this different stuff, I can look back and say that the driving force (no pun intended) was, and still is, people. The camaraderie and competition. And of course the cars, the challenge of learning the rules and race-craft, trying to improve all the time.”

She gets her kicks from seeing her former students out and about in the circuit, beating other drivers at Roebling Road, and making the most of retirement by feeding her need for speed. When the next season ramps up and spring has finally sprung, you’ll find her – most likely with Ken – hugging every single corner.

Meredydd’s H Production Bugeye Sprite is crewed by Ken, her “long suffering husband and fellow H Prod driver.”

Meredydd and Ken at last year’s SeDiv Convention on Jekyll Island.

Meredydd’s top spots off-track

Martin Highway in Martin County, Fla.West of I-95, it’s not a driver’s road, but it’s beautiful.

Dixie Highway through Coconut Grove in Miami, down to Fairchild Botanical Garden, is another scenic byway with trees making a tunnel over the road.

And for a challenge, northbound I-95 west of Jupiter, Fla., where there’s an uphill, off-camber left turn, then a decreasing radius left-hander toward the toll booth.

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