For Middleburg's Manaker, Race Cars, Polo Bring Joy


(Wednesday, June 13, 2007 1:28 PM EDT

Looking for Ralph Manaker? You'll probably find the Middleburg resident on a plane, astride a horse or in one of his race cars.

Originally from New York, Manaker moved to Middleburg in the early 1990s, but he spends a lot of time away from home as president of BCD Travel.

He travels so much for the company that he runs out of pages on his passport. His work has brought him to Latin America, the Pacific Rim and all over Europe (his favorite destinations are Zurich and Portofino).

Because he spends so much of his time out of the country, he said, he loves coming back to his farm to spend time with his wife, Elle, and attending to his favorite hobbies - race-car driving and polo.

Manaker always wanted to race cars, and even though his dad warned him that racing is an expensive hobby, he was determined to make his dream come true.

“As a kid, all I wanted to do was race cars,” Manaker said in a recent interview. “I found out that the job with the highest starting salary was a patent lawyer, so I studied law and engineering.”

Manaker eventually became a trial lawyer, and practiced law until the mid-1980s. During that time, he was able to race cars, even driving professionally during the mid-1970s.

In his younger years, Manaker said, he “just cared about going fast” and winning, but now, at 58 years old, he races cars for the sport's challenges, and for his personal enjoyment.

Manaker owns two race cars, a Swift Formula Atlantic and a Lola 97-20, which holds the record on the Summit Point Track at Summit Point Motorsports Park. He also drives a Ferrari 360 Modena.

“I've always been a car fanatic,” he said. “Unless your car payments are two times more than your mortgage, there's something wrong.”

He and his team, REM Racing (REM stands for Ralph and Elle Manaker), race about seven or eight times a year.

In addition to racing cars, Manaker also is an avid polo player. Up until 1983, he had never ridden a horse, but after lessons at Cornell, he picked up the sport and hasn't stopped since.

His mind-set for racing cars is similar for polo: winning isn't Manaker's top priority when playing the game.

“I just enjoy playing [polo], not winning the game,” he said. “I'd rather go out, play a gentleman's game and have a good time.”

Manaker said he has enjoyed having success in his work and pursuing his hobbies, but just being at home also is very satisfying for him.

“I find racing and polo great distractions. When I work, I work hard, and when I play, I play hard,” Manaker said. “ . . . But I love being on the farm. I don't really like traveling, because there is nowhere as beautiful as here.”

Middleburg resident Ralph Manaker works hard as president of BCD Travel, but also plays hard, when it comes to his favorite hobbies, polo and race-car driving.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)

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