THE overwhelming experience of my first national event
I was talked into attending the Mineral Wells Champ Tour event. I had no idea what it even was, but there was no conflict with my local events so what the heck. I was looking to gain more experience, meet some more STH folks and have a good time. So a few days before the event I reached out to Thomas Thompson and asked him a few questions. He pointed me to this amazing article here. That was a massive help and really answered most of the questions I had. It did not prepare me for several things which I thought I would share with others. These are not in any specific order but maybe it will give you some things to consider.
I got to the event a little later than I had anticipated on Friday or Day 0. I did have time to walk the track, but I choose not to. Why? Well the layout was massive, and I knew that being new to autocross there was no way I was going to remember any of it the next morning. Heck, half the time I don’t remember what I was surfing on my laptop the night before. I caught up with Brian Fipps (another STH driver who had invited me to join him for what I was sure was going to be a slaughter).
A little background is probably beneficial at this point. I bought a Volkswagen GTI as a commuter car mainly because the cheap power they are capable of making. Also, was a TDI fan and own a few. Autocross came into the picture after I purchased and modified the car. This all started about half way through last season. It is a blast to drive on the street, and autocross provided an avenue for me and some buddies to have some legitimate bragging rights (Which I usually own at least locally).
Going into the tour, I knew that I am usually at least 2 seconds or more behind Brian and Eric Hunter locally. Either usually wins the STH class and place well in PAX. So, you can imagine my first thought was if I am 2 or more seconds behind on a small track this is only going to get amplified here and it did by quite a lot!
I woke up around 4:00 on Saturday (Day 1) and tried to sleep until 6:00 but I was realizing this is “kind of a big deal” and was thinking “What the heck am I doing here?” Eventually I headed over to the event after a quick shower. Meanwhile the weather in TX changed, like it tends to do frequently, and it was windy and cold. I had a 1st heat work assignment and ran in the second heat. I parked the car and hit the track I walked it 2 times back-to-back and I am pretty sure it took about 40 minutes at a good pace. The whole time I am walking it I am thinking this is going to be a fast course. Are my brakes going to make it? Am I going to make it? Will my tires last? All while trying to remember what cones to be looking for next and remember the last gate and where should I be vs where the car will probably be.
I forgot to mention all of the amazing distractions there are around. At my local events there are around 50 cars and it feels like over half are Miata’s. Don’t get me wrong, there were Miata’s there but there were so many awesome cars. I talk a lot of trash in general, but the reality is I usually find something to like about any sports car. I don’t know the exact number of cars that were there but probably over twice as many as I was use to.
Well, there is no time to take it all in. I had to get checked in for my work assignment and all you pros know where us rookies end up. Yep, I was working Corner 6 which I did not mind one bit except I should have packed a parka and face mask and gloves. It was cold and the wind was blowing 30 to 40 mph which I think helped and hurt all those light Miata’s! During heat 1 runs I tried to watch as much as possible, but I was nominated to write down all the cars numbers and cones etc. I believe this is the “audit” job. Unfortunately, this meant I was more focused on the car class and number vs where they were or what they were doing. Butterflies were starting to build up by this point as I knew it was just a matter of time before I would be out there dodging those orange bastards while they laugh at me in my side mirrors! (The cones not the corner workers).
Heat 1 wraps up and I run straight to the restroom and then straight to my car which was at the far end of the lot. Did I mention this place is huge! I get up to grid, find my grid spot and successfully wedge myself between 2 other cars. Grid spots were way too tight. Just when I opened my door the wind picked up and, yep, you guessed it. I tried like hell to catch the door, but it was too late it had already kissed the car next to me which was a VW Golf R of course! I apologized to the owner and told him I will gladly pay to have it PDR’d. He was about as cool as one could expect to be. After that we tried to push the cars down a bit and stagger them to avoid this moving forward the rest of the day.
Things are starting to go downhill quick and I have not even made it to the starting line! A few minutes later the grid worker comes by and says 5 cars! I jump in get my helmet and check a few things. I pull up to the starting line as I watch the others in my class take off. The starter gives me the wave and off I go at this point there is lots of doubt, so I am throttling out for sure! Remember it is cold and so are my RE71R’s so I really go nowhere quick.
After making the first turn and heading down the short straight. I am so focused on the next turn that I completely missed the optional 3 cone slalom and by optional I mean you can go left or right but you still have to actually do the slalom! Approaching the next corner I realize I started with a DNF and then I realized I still needed to drive at a decent clip because I knew that Audi TT was going to be all over me with AWD. At this point I should have been pushing extra hard as it really did not matter however, I found my mind wandering and also upset that I blew it right out of the gate! Needless to say, my time was 6 digits vs 5 like most others.
I finished my first run knowing I had significant time to make up. My second run was a vast improvement however nowhere near anyone else. I made more improvements on my 3rd and final run of the day but still far from where I should have been. In between runs I watched other’s, but it is hard to judge speed and really see lines from a distance. I was able to get a few glances at some Solo Storm data that provided some insight as well. So off to get a bite to eat and relax for a few in the car while staying warm. I wandered around and ended up joining some great people for dinner that showed me what this sport is all about.
I headed back to the hotel and had a difficult time getting rest. Lots of things were running through my mind, mainly tomorrow’s plan which involved taking out cones at the expense of a better raw time. That is not how it went down though. In my head I was like, “I am
really going to push the car and if I take out cones well, I take out cones.” In reality, I think I hit one cone over two days. Maybe I am not taking the right line in fear of hitting cones or maybe I am still not pushing the car to the point where I take out cones. Either way, I ran my three runs and kept pushing shaving time off each run but still in last place.
I am not going to lie I am not usually intimidated buy the size of the course and the guys I was running with certainly had me second guessing my autocross future at least at a national level. Then something magical happened. Thomas Thompson was in a position that he could take the disqualification and still win the class. So he offered to let me ride along with him or drive my car on his last run. Don’t get me wrong I love my GTI but I knew it was no where near the class limits from a modification standpoint. So that decision was easy and it was the best decision I made all weekend! I was really a little uneasy with the offer but after he explained the situation I was on board.
ViDEO From RiDe Along
Let me just say to all the experts and veterans in the sport the best thing you can do is let the new guy catch a ride with you. I would actually go as far to say that one of the best things a club can do is find a way to offer this to all rookies and novices. Not everyone is comfortable asking to ride along especially with the faster guys at their local events. So find some way to make it easy for them to have this opportunity. The reality is that I remember that run better than any of my own runs and I believe that is a good thing. If I can just find some way to pull that run up from my memory and start to apply some of the techniques it will be a huge help. I ask for rides all the time at my locals and I ask the guys that are way faster than me for a reason. It is too bad that there is not an opportunity for this to happen at a national level without a penalty because I believe there is a big difference between a 30 to 50 second course and a 75 to 100 second course not to mention the talent level that shows up.
For all of you that might disagree or think that people should race locales for several years and then attend MidDivs. I have one-word contingency! I am totally fine with where I placed, and I know that by participating I helped increase the potential earnings plus helping to grow the sport. Plus with all the new guys showing up we get to work the course for you! So would I do this again? Absolutely! I was just looking to see when and where the next big events are at. I might be heading to Mississippi in the near future! I hope as fellow novices you don’t let people discourage you from attending larger events. There is no reason you should not attend the next one that is close to you or make it a road trip and go visit a new city. Just make sure you have a great time and make some new friends along the way.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Houston, Texas – April 1, 2019) National Autocross News (NAXN), the premier independent news source for autocross in North America, announces the formation of the National Autocross Championship by NAXN, a multi-day double course event located at some of the most unique autocross venues in the country.
The inaugural event will take place from Aug 9-11th, 2019 at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, New York in the shadow of New York City. (Future Championship locations will rotate every year to different regions of the country). A full rule book will be release in the coming weeks, but classing will follow the familiar classing of the SCCA’s Solo program. The winner will be determined by average finishing place for each day over the two days, with lowest total time serving as the tie breaker. Drivers will not be required to compete in the dark.
Contingency programs are still being confirmed but most major auto manufactures are on board (Hydundai, Dodge, and Alfa Romeo are just a few). Contingency will pay out to 10 places in open classes.
After negotiating a lucrative television and digital rights broadcast contract, the event will be broadcast live on ESPN 8 “The Ocho”. Additionally, thanks to key sponsorships from Miller Brewing Company, Peak Antifreeze, and Discount Tire, the organization will be able to hire professional workers at all positions, leaving the driver to focus on competition and comradery.
We look forward to establishing this annual event as the true World Autocross Championship over the coming years. For more information as it becomes available visit www.naxn.org.
SEB is asking for member feedback on making vehicles classed in Street under NOC(not otherwise classed) inelligible for National Events. Full list(It’s long) included in the fastrack.
Kart advisory committee looking for input on sunsetting some engines in JA and JB. If you or someone you knows actively uses any of thee engines listed. please provide feedback to the KAC.
BMW M3 E9X chassis will not be moved from FS ot BS at this time, SAC will continue to monitor participation in FS and would appreciate member comment on the future direction of FS.
Sunset rule updated to 1988
CSP MX-5 classification updated to 2006-2015
2016-2019 Acura NSX added to SSP
Full FastTrack Solo Section
Classic American Muscle (CAM) is now entering its 4th Year as an official SCCA Solo Category and has proven to be a runaway success in the CAM-S and CAM-C programs, with CAM-T being mostly along for the ride, but still figurehead of the class idea.
I know CAM was under heavy fire from old hardcore solo competitors when it first came to be a part of the Solo program, but CAM has proven without a doubt that it’s a popular formula. A formula that brings in and retains members who build multi-use cars and some cars that just don’t fit the standard mold for a national solo class as they exist.
No “boogeyman” has come to fruition despite constant rumors and fears. Why? Because the rule makers for CAM have pushed back with quick rule changes when the threat of a boogeyman appears. A Jeep-Vette that was being built and then had rules written to be outlawed in CAM-S before it could ever show up comes to mind. This discourages building a car to the rules. because it could be extremely expensive to build a car for CAM to have it immediately be disqualified.
The Street Touring Pony (STP) supplemental class has come and gone in the time CAM has existed probably due, in part, to the success of CAM. For 2019, STP will not be at Solo Nationals. This is the life of some supplemental classes. Sometimes they just don’t work or catch on for one reason or another and they are put out to pasture. This is most certainly NOT the case with CAM.
CAM makes a great case for itself as a regional development tool. In 2018 I put together class participation numbers for CAM in every region in the SCCA Southwest Division. Texas region had the largest CAM participation each event. But they also have the largest average event attendance in the division 9 events with 12.4 CAM & 145 Total Average event participation. The 2nd highest number of CAM competitors per event was West Texas region with 9 events, 8 CAM cars per event and 37 total average competitors per event. Over 20% of the competitors in an event being in CAM? That’s awesome and a testament to how popular the class structure is.
If CAM is to be a forever supplemental class and stay in the current configuration run by Raleigh Boreen, there’s nothing wrong with that, except it needs to be removed from Solo Nationals. Have the penultimate event of their series the weekend before Solo Nationals alongside the ProSolo Finale, but don’t continue to have it be a part of Solo Nationals, because it isn’t a class that should be there in current form.
To be clear, I want more classes like CAM. The open rules concept is great because it gets away from some of the restrictive structure that hurts SCCA in retaining members at a regional level. It’s a very inviting format and I definitely want to see similar classes for FWD, AWD and RWD cars that can’t compete in CAM. However, if more classes were to come to fruition, I would want to see them run by an Advisory Committee and not by one person making changes on the fly.
With the 2019 Solo season about to begin and Solo Nationals at the breaking point in terms of participant numbers for a 4-day event. We have a supplemental class going into its 5th year that could possibly prevent people from participating in non-supplementary National Solo Classes at SOLO NATIONALS. But above all else, we have a class at solo nationals that has exceeded the Supplemental class time-frame and will still not crown a National Champion.
If a class is not going to be run in the same form as the rest of Solo, with SEB involvement, an AC consisting of competitors, rules changes that are open for comment by the membership, and ultimately crowning a National Champion each year, it should not be a part of the Solo National Championships. I am all for creating a fun and inviting atmosphere at Solo Nationals, but ultimately the highlight of the week is the tight competition that results in crowning national champions. Either being in the battles or witnessing them in your class.
CAM needs to be a full-fledged part of the National Solo program, or it needs step aside fully to do its own thing fully separate from National Solo. I would much rather see the first, I would rather see CAM transitioned away from the national office and into the control of its competitors and the SEB. My hope is that this piece will help take that conversation and bring it to the table on a national level, so the CAM competitors might take control of their own class and define the future of CAM on their own terms.
Response to Post: Op-Ed: The Lady Box – A Classing Dilemma
In my first full season of SCCA solo competition, I was faced with a surprising question for 2018; should I compete in open or a ladies only class. This was my first time entering into any kind of motorsports, although I had been involved in competitive activities most of my life. I was taken aback, almost immediately became defensive, somewhat offended, and quickly answered with driving in open class. I didn’t see a reason to choose ladies class. After all, I was autocrossing for a new experience. Even though I only knew a small group of people and this world was foreign to me, I didn’t feel I needed to be separated by my gender.
As someone who believes in and fights for equality of not only women but all people this ideology made me uncomfortable. Ladies class sounded like a safe place for women to go instead of driving in the big scary world of open class; another push in our society where women are not enough and need their own playing field where they won’t get hurt. A large percentage of women within their early twenties would feel that this way of thinking would be a disservice to not only women in motorsports but women as a whole. Autocross and other motorsports are not heavily dependent upon physical abilities or things that cannot be learned. Women of this day are stepping up to the plate of claiming their own power to make a better tomorrow for girls after them. The act of unnecessarily creating and maintaining a separate class for women perpetuates the idea of us not being good enough, where we are more than capable.
Furthermore the men of this generation often feel the same. I was lucky to already know a few autocrossers coming into the sport, two of them male. Everyone was supportive and excited for me. When discussing open and ladies classes they saw no reason why I needed to drive in a segregated class. Throughout my first season, I developed new friendships and acquaintances often started by friendly conversation in grid or being introduced to others within my class. Some also offering ride-alongs to help improve my driving. Two women later becoming mentors of mine, both helping me to drive fast and smart. One in particular influencing me enough to participate in Prosolos and national events this coming season.
During the course of my first full season, I volunteered as a novice chief in my local region. It was a rewarding experience to be a helping hand to those new to the sport, especially to female newcomers. I was a soundboard to novice women who might feel nervous or inadequate at their first event. Autocross can feel like a boys club to some women, so why is there a need to drive home that feeling of segregation through separate classing? Speaking with women over the course of being a novice chief, it was expressed that having a female in a volunteer position made their experience more comfortable.
I plan on participating in my first national event in 2019. Again, I have to answer the class question. The thought of running a less populated ladies only class is preposterous to me. I might not place as well in open as I would running in a segregated ladies class. But placing is not as important to me as inspiring current and future generations is by having the courage to go against where they are told they should be.
The mention of a men’s only class would be a far fetched idea to most, why is it so far fetched to remove the outdated ladies only class? In one of a limited number of sports where men and women are equal on a physical playing field, is there a segregation of women from men? Women are given the choice of running ladies class or open class. The important part is not the fact that we have the choice, but that this is sending a subliminal message to future generations of female motorsport participants, that motorsport are not a level playing field for them.
The following class changes/assignments have been recommended
|Vehicle(s)||Prev Class||Proposed Class|
|Lotus Evora 410 Sport||New||Super Street|
|Lotus Evora S||SS||A-Street|
|Porsche Cayman S, GTS (981 chassis) (2013-16)||SS|
|Porsche Boxster S, GTS (981 chassis) (2013-16)||SS|
|Porsche Cayman Base (2013-2016)||AS||B-Street|
|Porsche Boxster Base (2013-2016)||AS|
|Lotus Evora (Non S)||AS|
|Audi TTS Mk3 (2016-18)||AS|
|Mazda MX-5 Miata (ND2) (2019)||New||C-Street|
|Audi S3 (2.0T) (2015-17)||BS||D-Street|
|Audi TT (AWD) (2008-17)||BS|
|Audi TTS (2009-2015)||BS|
|Ford Focus RS (2016-2017)||BS|
|Mitsubishi Lancer Evo (2003-2015)||BS|
|Subaru WRX STi (2004-2017)||BS|
|VW Golf R (2015-2017)||BS|
|Nissan 350Z(exc Nismo) (2003-09)||CS|
Street Touring Pony (STP) will be eliminated as a class.
Supercharger pulleys may now be replace to allow drive ratio changes
Same make engine swaps are to be allowed in Prepared with a 0.10 lbs per CC weight penalty