MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - The Cherry Point autocross began with an inconvenient delay due to rain and lightning strikes within five miles. After 45 minutes of waiting, the rain and lightning cleared, letting the racers commence to skidding their cars along the wet windy track.
Hosted by the Single Marine Program, the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point autocross is a timed circuit race meant to teach Marines and guests the importance of safety and auto control at Foxtrot Taxiway, a converted stretch of airstrip to racetrack aboard Cherry Point, Aug. 11.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, motor vehicle crashes account for nearly one third of U.S. military fatalities annually. To back their claim the center had put on a study of 18 electronic databases addressing the motor vehicle related injuries from 1970 to 2006.
"I don't know how many Marines have actually come up to me to tell me how this event saved their lives or prevented a potentially fatal situation," said Jen Krivohlavy, a single marine program coordinator with MCAS Cherry Point."It teaches safety and it is fun."
A variety of automobiles, from homemade hot rods to 20-year-old Honda Civics, entered the race. Most Marines drove their cars they drive everyday to and from work.
From the amateurs to the sponsored professionals, all participants found enjoyment while staying safe at the event. Some guests made the drive from Wilmington or further to compete. Other patrons were from the local Havelock, New Bern, and Morehead City, N.C., area.
Ashlee Woh, 16-years-old from Havelock, has been racing since she was 15 with a drivers permit and her father, John Bodnar, a Cherry Point contractor currently deployed to the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, usually rides shotgun.
"This is my first real go on this track," said Woh. "I just really hope I don't mess up his car."
SSgt. Christopher Henkle, supply chief with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, and his father retired Maj. Steve Henkle, said the event was a blast.
"We're not here to win, we're here to have fun," said Christopher. "This course wasn't designed to go too fast on. As soon as you start picking up speed there's a turn or obstacle you have to slow down around."
"I love the enthusiasm I see from the Marines," Krivohlavy said. "This is the number one favorite event of the SMP."
At the moment, the Cherry Point autocross is the only autocross course in the Eastern North Carolina region, Krivohlavy said. The next big Single Marine Program autocross challenge will be held in October. It will be Cherry Point's first time sponsoring the Eastern North Carolina regional championship.