November 12, 2001
Winker: the voice of rally racingBY JON NOWACKI
NEWS TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Tim Winker was studying engineering at the University of Minnesota in the early 1970s, but he soon found it wasn't for him.
But it was there where Winker became involved in the University of Minnesota Sports Car Club. His interest in automobiles became a passion, and today the Saginaw resident shoots video and narrates highlights for the Sports Car Club of America ProRally Championship racing series.
A half-hour highlight show from the Lake Superior ProRally in Houghton, Mich., which took place three weeks ago, is scheduled to air at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. tonight on Speedvision. Besides doing the narration, Winker shoots about 15 percent of the video for each show.
"It's great to at least attempt to make a living off a sport I really enjoy,'' Winker said. "I'm not there yet -- it's still a struggle -- but I feel I'm in a good position. I'm in a sport that is growing, so there is a lot of opportunity.''
Rally races feature two-person teams racing cars on remote country back roads and logging trails. One person drives while the other person navigates and warns the driver of impending danger. The series features all-wheel driver vehicles such as the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancers. Races are held as far away as Maine and California, to closer events at Bemidji and Houghton.
"One reason the sport is growing is that people who graduated from extreme games such as snowboarding and skateboarding were looking for that next thrill, so they started getting into motorsports,'' Winker said. "These people might find track racing too tame compared to what they're used to, while performance rallying offers more of a thrill. It's less predictable.''
Winker, 50, is a Minneapolis native. He became involved in rally racing in the 70s, and raced for a couple years starting in 1979.
Winker became acquainted with Duluth drivers Tommy and Bobby Archer through ice races, and in 1984, he moved to the Duluth area to help the Archers with their fledgling automobile performance business.
Winker, who studied broadcasting at Brown Institute in Minneapolis, did the Archers' first racing catalog. He soon became publisher of the Saab club magazine "Nines'' in the mid-1980s, but after 13 years, he quit two yeas ago and started the Wink Timber Media Agency (WinkTimber.com).
"I just got burned out and wanted to try something different,'' Winker said. "I was never really comfortable working in the corporate world. I prefer to make my own hours. I may work 15 hours one day and five hours the next, but I always have something going on.''
Winker lives on a hobby farm near Saginaw, and he is able to produce much of the racing show locally.
Winker's business cards say a lot about him. He has a Waylon Jennings-like photo of him on the cards, proclaiming him as the "Head Cheese'' and "Voice of the Northwoods,'' with the motto, "Making sure your business is heard in the deep woods of a media forest.''
Sean Conlan, a marketing logistics manager for the SCCA, said Winker has that folksy appeal that viewers relate to. Conlan called Winker a historian and ambassador of the sport.
"Tim's been around the sport so long that you can ask him pretty much anything about performance rallying, and he will pull some fact out from 20 years ago,'' Conlan said. "He adds a lot of his own material to the show and mixes in facts and humor. He's just a very nice and down-to-earth person.''
Outside of his business, Winker's two hobbies are imported beers and car collecting, and he remains active in the Arrowhead Sports Car Club. He said it's been quite a life, but...
"Every now and then, I wonder where I would be if I ever got that engineering degree,'' Winker said. "I start thinking that I'd probably be working for an Indy team, but I can't complain. This has been a lot of fun -- I really enjoy what I'm doing.''
JON NOWACKI covers motor sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5305, (800) 456-8181 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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