Through The Esses - Kristian Skavnes  Looking For 24 At 42
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Hemmingson and Skavnes on the podium
© Andrew S. Hartwell

Lime Rock Park recently hosted the fifth race of the 2007 KONI Challenge Series. Running in the ST Class were a pair of new (for this season) Subaru Legacy's entered by the ICY / Phoenix race team. The #111 car, piloted by Chuck Hemmingson and Kristian Skavnes, won the race, giving the team a top spot after just three races with the new cars.

And this win came after they stopped racing the station wagon. More about that later.

We talked with Skavnes this week to learn more about the background of the Subaru effort, and about his racing experiences. Skavnes considers Lime Rock to be his home track as he learned how to drive a race car here and has spent many fast hours ripping through its turns.

My father sponsored John McKnight who was racing a 1978 Saab 99 Turbo in SCCA Showroom Stock A. My father owned a Saab dealership - and he still does. John actually won the national championship that year, at the runoff in Road Atlanta. Then he got disqualified for boost or something and Don Knowles got the championship instead. This was back around 1978 or so.

My father later started racing himself and he got me started in it. My first year in racing was in 1982. I ran a showroom stock 5 liter Mustang in SCCA club racing.

Skavnes was introduced to the sights, sounds, smells and tasks of racing as a young teen.

In 1978 I was 14 and I was at the track all the time with my Dad - every weekend. I did all the chores that needed to get done, and I got to be familiar with the cars. Before that my dad used to take me to Watkins Glen to see the races. And I went to the races willingly. I used to draw pictures of cars and I had all the Matchbox cars. I was a car freak from the time I was a little kid.

Moving up the aging calendar a few years found young Skavnes being given the opportunity to pass up doing the chores and instead do the driving.

In 1983 dad let me use his Mustang. Paul Hacker was my instructor at Lime Rock and he signed me off for my regional license. I did pretty well with that first season as I ran the Mustang to the NORRDIC regional championship that was held at Pocono.

I then started racing front wheel drive in a 1980 Saab 99. I remember my first thoughts were I hated how slow the car was and front wheel drive didn't really thrill me either. I ended up in 1985 running a Honda CRX in SCCA nationals where I finished in 3rd place just a bumper's width ahead of Steve Lewis, making it a 1-2-3 finish that year for Honda. That was my first time at the SCCA Runoffs.

Having established his talent behind the wheel, Skavnes sought out other opportunities to set tires squealing in pursuit of a win, this time in a professional race series.

I next sort of begged my way into a ride in the Escort Endurance Championship - a pro series in the SCCA. A local guy named Jerry Lustig, who ran Autosport Honda, had a three car team. We agreed I would race with his team at an endurance race in Canada. I flew up to Mosport to run in the 24 hour race there, but when I got to the airport no one was there to pick me up! I somehow managed to make my way to the track though and get into the car.

I did a few laps around Mosport, which back then was a pretty crazy place. You had pits in front of and behind a row of pit stalls! I managed to qualify the car on the pole, beating out Scott Sharp in his 300ZX. It was the first time an Acura Legend was ever on the pole.

The race was going great with us running in second place in the 23rd hour. Then I had a CV joint break going into turn two and it brought the motor right into the driving compartment! That left the car a smoldering mess! If the race had gone 22 hours it would have been a great outcome!

That was a hot race too. I was sweating and dehydrated. I think I was even peeing blood at that point. It was so draining for me because my teammate would do very short stints and so they kept putting me back in the c