Action County: Harley Van De Wege |

Action County: Harley Van De Wege

ADAM BOFFEYsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Silverthorne’s Harley Van De Wege feels more at ease driving on a race track than he does on the interstate.Although the local Formula V racer acknowledges that there is some inherent danger associated with his beloved hobby, he said it’s significantly reduced by good driving.”I feel much more comfortable out there racing with people I know than driving on I-25 or I-70,” Van De Wege said. “You have no idea if someone’s been drinking, if they’ve just fought with their wife or if they’re doing something in the back seat with their kids. Race drivers on the track don’t do that.”The Denver native first got into formula racing in 1997 after he purchased a 1972 Caldwell D 13. The vintage vehicle is comprised mostly of Volkswagen parts, making replacement parts relatively easy to come by.Formula Vs can travel up to 110 miles per hour (120 at sea level), which means skill is required to race them effectively.”It’s nice to test your limit, especially with a car like this,” Van De Wege said. “It’s basically an under-powered car, so the horsepower can’t always get you where you want to go. It’s important to maintain speed through the corners. If you’ve got something like a Corvette, you can go through the corners at just about any speed you want and then get that speed back. With a 55-horsepower car like this, you can’t get it back.”

Van De Wege, who co-owns the car with his brother Jim, has competed in nearly 90 races during his 10-year career.”There’s a very competitive group of about 20 drivers,” said the retired data systems programmer, who’s competed in Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Utah and Las Vegas. “I’ve probably only won about two races.”Not just a race car driverBefore Van De Wege got into Formula racing, he was a sports official.After 46 seasons of calling volleyball, basketball and softball, he’s hanging up his gear.

“I accomplished my goal of reffing a game in each sport and playing in a softball game after I was 65 years old,” said Van De Wege, who turned 66 last December.The long-time local first donned the zebra suit in the early 80’s, backed by the motivation to keep young people active.”Kids that participate really need the help of having the games put on and officials are critical to that,” he said. “I once saw a T-shirt in a magazine that read, ‘Without referees this would just be recess.”Van De Wege, a member of the Summit County Softball commissioners board, started umping locally soon after moving to the county in the mid ’90s. Although he feels he’s paid his dues, the father of four said he will miss being behind the plate. He still enjoys playing in the local league. “I knew age would be a factor at some point,” he said. “But I don’t feel that my skills have deteriorated. If anything, I’ve taken a couple of extra seconds to make decisions. If there’s one tip I could give (to new umps), it’s don’t make calls before the play is over.”

Over the hill?Van De Wege is not only a ski guide for Copper Mountain’s Over the Hill Gang, he is the most recent recipient of the organization’s Gold Run Award, which is given to one outstanding male and female guide at the end of each winter.One of some 90 guides (there are more than 600 members), Van De Wege was recently issued something of a rotating trophy.”A few years ago the former president, Chuck Armstrong, donated a pair of skis his dad used for jumping in the late ’20s,” he said. “They decided to make something of them, so now one goes to a male guide and one to a female guide to keep at their house for a year. The ski’s about 7 feet, 10 inches long. … It was quite an honor to receive the award.”

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