StarFest 2018 – An MBCA event for the record books

Article by Gary Anderson
Images by Gary Anderson, Peter Emslander, Ron Seifert
Members of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, for a record-setting StarFest® 2018, the largest club gathering held in at least two decades, with 300-plus participants enjoying factory tours, technical sessions, performance driving and show events, as well as evening gatherings during the eight-day event May 15-22.

StarFest 2018 – An MBCA event for the record books • May 15-22, Birmingham, Alabama

Members of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America gathered in Birmingham, Alabama, for a record-setting StarFest® 2018. This year’s StarFest was the largest club gathering held in at least two decades. Adopting a menu-style approach to the event, organizers Jim Roberts, Mason Beale and host Alabama Section offered the 300-plus participants who registered from sections and regions all over the country the opportunity to sign up for specific driving and show events, as well as evening gatherings during the eight-day event May 15-22.


The event officially kicked off with a reception at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum Thursday, May 17, at which a panel consisting of members from the Alabama and Daimler teams that were part of the original decision to locate the first overseas Mercedes-Benz automobile production plant in Vance shared their memories. Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham, the local dealership, hosted the second reception in its brand-new autohaus on Friday, with the buffet served in the spotless and gleaming service center.

Founders’ Panel: Key members of the Alabama and Daimler teams that brought the Mercedes-Benz automobile production plant to Alabama recall the past.


Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham hosted a reception in its brand-new facility, serving a buffet in the gleaming service center.


Carol Ross from the San Diego Section chats with StarFest co-chairs Jim Roberts and Mason Beale at the M-B of Birmingham Reception on Friday.


Rallyes & tours

During those initial four days, participants could also drive one of the four rallyes of varying distances laid out by the organizers to take advantage of the marvelous scenic back roads, roadside attractions, museums and restaurants of northern Alabama. Questions that could only be answered during visits to the various sites along the routes provided a means for participants to prove that they had actually driven the rallyes and the basis for trophies presented to those who persevered. On Thursday, some members elected to see the area by taking a guided Southern Heritage bus tour organized by the host section.


StarFest offered attendees a wide range of driving experiences to choose from. Question and Answer Rallyes, like the "Old Mill and Covered Bridges Rallye" provided scenic tours of the backroads of Alabama


Vance plant tours

Every type of Mercedes-related event possible was available on the program, with the highlight being a tour of the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Vance production facilities – one of the five largest Mercedes-Benz factories in the world – during the first four days of the event, starting and ending in the Visitor Center, with its museum and gift shop. Tour participants could also attend technical classes on buying, servicing, inspecting and insuring their cars, as well as presentations on the heritage and racing history of the marque, in the training center on the day of their tour.


StarFest attendees toured the gigantic MBUSI manufacturing plant in Vance, Alabama.


Saturday MBCA Concours

StarFest organizers arranged for a traditional MBCA concours on the landscaped parking plazas of the MBUSI Visitor Center on Saturday, including Silver Star certification inspections, and participants could take a break from the sunny car displays to inspect the classic cars on display in the museum and have lunch in the cool meeting area. Concours winners were celebrated at the gala banquet Saturday night, with Jason Hoff, current president and CEO of MBUSI.


The MBCA Concours judging and display was held at the lovely MBUSA training center campus.


Laura Peters's 220 Coupe and Michael Hoegl's 1913 Benz were the centerpieces of the show winning Judges' Choice and Concours Best of Show respectively.


A number of new candidates for the MBCA Silver Star Preservation Certificate were inspected in conjunction with the Concours.


Packed and ready to go: Laura Peters’s 1955 220 Coupe, Judges Choice at Concours.


Beautiful interior of Laura Peters’s 1955 220 Coupe.


During the Concours, members had access to the Mercedes-Benz Experience museum at the training center.


Talladega Superspeedway

Sunday, the attention and excitement shifted to the first driving events of StarFest, held at the spectacular Talladega Superspeedway. Participants began by following pace vehicles in their own vehicles at autobahn speeds around the banked oval, the fastest course in America, and then separated to various venues within the huge course to practice off-road techniques, Safe Drivers/Safe Families instruction and vehicle-handling exercises, and compete in timed acceleration and autocross runs; trophies were awarded at the evening reception.

Running on Talladega’s high-speed oval.


Metallic Grey Mercedes-AMG GT C slumbers in the paddock shade at Talladega Superspeedway.

Michael Hoegel’s 1913 W5 Benz at speed on the gigantic oval Talladega track.


Threading through the cones during Safe Drivers/Safe Families instruction and vehicle-handling exercises at Talladega Superspeedway.


Autocross competition at Talladega was excellent preparation for hot laps at Barber. Alabama Region of the SCCA set up the challenging StarFest autocross course..



Barber Motorsports Park

On Monday morning, StarFest driving events moved over to the impressive and beautiful Barber Motorsports Park for driving-skills practice employing the full Barber road racing course. Driving skills programs designed for both novice and experienced drivers encouraged the application of techniques learned on Sunday in the various classes and driving exercises. All drivers got a taste of the thrills and abilities engineered into their Mercedes-Benz vehicles.


Pit scene at Barber Motorsports Park’s road course.


Coming in off the track at Barber Motorsports Park.


In its element: Pristine silver, black and red 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution at speed on the racecourse at Barber Motorsports Park.


At Sunday’s evening reception, Kristen and Nicole Jebeles of Birmingham proudly display their “Sports Fahrer Verein” (Sports Driver Club) certificates, earned by driving at both Talladega and Barber in Safe Drivers and car handling courses.


Fond farewells

The complicated and ambitious program that was StarFest 2018 finally came to a close, marked by a breakfast gathering held at the event’s Birmingham headquarters hotel on Tuesday morning. Then happy members packed up all the gleaming new trophies, certificates of participation and shiny Star gear into their luggage for the journey home; with them also went fresh memories of new friends, new driving skills and renewed pride in their chosen marque.







Special Interest Class 

Michael Hoegel •  1913 W5 Benz

JUDGES’ CHOICE                        

Pre-1962 Class

Laura Peters •  1955 220 Coupe


1. Thomas Zarrella • 1969 280SL

2. Randy Bibb • 1969 280SL

3. Tommy Couch • 1970 280SL


1. Nancy Kuhn • 1991 190E

2. Mario Puente • 1990 190E


1. Joan Couch • 1971 250


1. Stephen Sherrod • 1978 280C

2. Randy Darden • 1967 250SE

3. Martin Trey • 1991 560SEC

CLASS 5 – PRE-1962

1. Bruce Webster • 1960 190SL



1991 300SL  •  Brandon Berry  •  Peachtree Section   

1993 300D  •  Alan Kypson  •  Triangle Section

1984 300SD Turbodiesel  •  Ken Brasfield  •  Central Virginia Section  

1985 280SE  •  Mike Dougherty  •  Fort Worth Section   

1988 560SL  •   Sam Ferlisi  •  Alabama Section 

1989 560SL  •   Robert J. Sanders Jr.  •  Northern New England Star Section 

1983 240D  •  Jonathan Sones  •  Tampa Bay Section   

1976 280C  •   Stephen Sherrod  •  Eastern Oklahoma Section  

1987 260E  •   Ron St. John  •  Mississippi Section 

1980 280SL  •  Dr. Robert Stelfox   •  Lone Star Section 

1990 420SEL  •  Dave Thomason  •  Peachtree Section

1978 280E  •  Wesley Wormser  •  Southern Stars Section 

1969 280SL  •  Thomas Zarrella  •  Minuteman Section   



                — CLASS 7 • VINTAGE SEDANS —   

1.         Keith Morgan            1967    300SEL

                        — CLASS 8 • W113 —           

1.         Ralph Nealy  1969    280SL

2.         Janine Porretto         1970    280SL

                        — CLASS 9 • R107 —

1.         Jerry Chenault           1986    560SL

2.         Robert Sanders Jr.    1989    560SL

3.         Ted Love        1979    450SL

                        — CLASS 10 • W126 —         

1.         Chris Gregoriou        1990    560 SEC

2.         James Seastrom       1983    540SE AMG                            

                        — CLASS 11 •  R129 —         

1.         Christie Prince          1997    SL500

2.         Jim Hinsdale            2000    SL500

3.         Kurt Leyser     1998    SL600

                        — CLASS 12 •  R230 —         

1.         Ron Swenson            2003    SL500

2.         Ernie Fancy    2007    SL550

3.         John Allison  2007    SL550

                        — CLASS 13 • R231 —          

1.         Rick Hamilton           2014    SL63

2.         Paul Bailey    2015    SL550

                        — CLASS 14 •  SLK —

1.         John Fair        2001    SLK320

2.         Dan Marcin   2007    SLK55

3.         James Harbold         1999    SLK230

                        — CLASS 15 • CLK —

1.         Dale Parker   2007    CLK63

2.         Zachery Johnson      2002    CLK55

                        — CLASS 16 •  W124 —        

1.         Alen Kypsn    1993    300D

2.         Randy Bibb    1992    500E

3.         Ed Owen        1986    190E

                        — CLASS 17 •  MIDDLE-AGE AMG —          

1.         Michael Mariotti      2002    E55

2.         Brad Gollihue           1999    C43

3.         Tim Fead       2000    E55

                        — CLASS 19 •  MODERN E-CLASS —

1.         Jim Wallace  2012    E350

2.         John Stone    2012    E63

3.         Joe Neurauter           2012    E350

                         — CLASS 20 • LATE-MODEL C-CLASS & CLA —       

1.         Mike Roth      2017    C300

2.         Richard Murdock      2016    C450

3.         Alexander Furla       2016    CLA250C

                        — CLASS 21 • MODERN SEDANS —

1.         Diana Quinn 2007    CLS550

2.         David Shepard          1999    S600

3.         Stewart Doane         2003    S500

                        — CLASS 22 •  SUV —           

1.         Rob Brown     2012    ML350

2.         Ken Sidorowicz         2018    GLA45

                        — CLASS 23 •  AMG GT —    

1.         Donald Birdwell      2018    GT R

2.         Sak Reeves    2018    GT C




James Beck   2018 S63         8.89

Bobby Gammill        2014 CLS63     9.12

Reuel Hamilton       2007 CLK430   9.56

Neal Smith    2009 SL63       10.22

Doug Bloomberg      2005 SLK55     10.31

Richard Murdock      2016 C450       10.70

Cliff Hoffman            1983 540SE     11.26

John Fair        2001 SLK320   11.61



Walt Anderson         1997 SL500     38.264

John Stone    2012 E63         39.998

John Fair        2001 SLK320   40.563

Daniel Marcin          2007 SLK55     40.843

Tommy Sawyer          2012 CLS550   40.994

Ken Sidorowicz         2018 CLA45     41.459

Doug Fielder 1999 E300       45.771

Greg Greeson           2009 SL550     47.714

Dale Parker   2007 CLK63     49.714

Wesley Wormser     1978 280SE     50.669

Richard Murdock      2016 C450       73.016



•  Huntsville Space & Rocket Center & Bankhead National Forest  •  250 miles •

1. Doug & Joan Bloomburg


•  Talladega National Forest Scenic Drive “The Copperhead” & Cheaha State Park  •  170 miles •

1. Gene & Joann Long

2. Doug & Joan Bloomburg

3. Dan Marcin


•  Covered Bridges of Blount County & European-style Shrines  • 130 miles •

1. Tom & Bernice Sawyer

2. Steve & Carol Ross


•  Birmingham Area: Barber Museum, Southern Museum of Flight & Vulcan Park  •  60 miles •

1. Ray Everett



FIRST REGISTRATION: Alfred Abken •   San Francisco Bay Area Section




Event Co-Chairs: Mason Beale & Jim Roberts

Registration: Donna Kalinkiewicz, Ken Champlin, Forest Cook, Ralph Neeley, Wayne Novy, Dodie Roberts

Financial Management: Jim Sparacio  •  Event Guide: Diana Quinn  •  Signage: John & Deb Murray

Logistics: John Murray, Deb Murray, Ralph Neely, Ken Champlin

MBUSI Site Selection Panel: Don Erwin, Billy Joe Camp, Jim Folsom Jr., Elmer Harris, Heinz Neunzig, Linda Sewell

Evening Events & Technical Sessions: Danny Brewer, Ed Bolian, Pierre Hedary, David Kalinkiewicz, Graham Robson 

Southern Heritage Tour: Nancy Jones

Concours Judging School: Pierre Hedary, Keith Morgan, Pete Lesler, Terry Kiwala

Concours Judges: Mason Beale, Jim Roberts, Jason Burton, Julie Bruggner, Ken Champlin, John Fair, Terry Kiwala, Ralph Neeley,

 Wayne Novy, Andrew Opicka, Diana Quinn, Jim Quinn, Mike Regennitter, Steve Ross, Jim Sparacio, Elaine Spiller

Factory Tour Guides: Mason Beale, Jim Roberts, Dustin Raney

Off-Road Program: Heinz Neunzig, Burch Cameron, Jason Hoff, Andreas Ogger  •  Rallyes: Jim Roberts, Rhiannon Gage

Safe Drivers/Safe Families Driving Program, Talladega: Jason Burton, Ken Champlin, Ernie Fancy, David Abarr

Acceleration Runs and Autobahn Laps, Talladega: Mason Beale

Driving Skills Track Program, Barber: Mason Beale, Jim Roberts, Jason Burton, John Fair, Porter Fell, Gene Jurick, Steve Spector, Chad Steven & the Audi, Porsche & BMW driving coaches

Autocross: Alabama Region, SCCA

Special Assistance:

Jason Hoff, Felyicia Jerald, Subrina Champion, MBUSI  •   Mike Regennitter & Cindy Tumbleson, MBCA National Business Office  • Gene Jurick, MBCA National President