I managed to be in SCCA for decades without so much as investigating – or even thinking about – how SCCA worked at a national level, let alone consider how to participate in its governance.
For once, I’m not referencing the critical need to get involved at the Region-level, rather I’m talking about how to drive change (or continuity) on a national basis; think about big topics such as: why do we have so many classes with few entrants? Why is my class getting consolidated? These mandated parts are nearly impossible to find, how do we upgrade to parts from this century? Is a roll bar, roll cage or nothing required in this class? Should this driver/steward/official have his event participation privileges revoked? Not easy answers when dealing with a national audience.
If you think the SCCA National Board of Directors (BOD) decides all of these big issues, you’re only partially correct. Once elected to the BOD, I was able to walk the exalted hallway (at Kansas City Airport Hilton) of BOD meetings, I was able to peak behind the curtain of power and I found … a mirror! What?! There’s regular SCCA members and fellow racers sitting on these committees?!? I mean, where are smoke-filled rooms, double martini power lunches, squinty eyed fat guys and imperious women of high office deciding the fate of my max camber and treadwear rating on my “street” tires?
Wow. Who knew the National BOD works on strategy and broad issues impacting the Club, while the actual rules making is done by the broader membership through Volunteer Committees? I had no idea who, what, or how anyone got on the Club Racing Board (CRB), Solo Event Board (SEB), Road Rally Board (RRB), or any of their Advisory (or Ad hoc) Committees (AC). I never thought about Volunteer Committees and their specialized AC’s (e.g., Spec Miata has a SMAC). As it turns out, the BOD these days, tries very hard to stick to broader issues impacting the Club versus second-guessing CRB, SEB, RRB, etc. recommendations. That’s not to say the BOD doesn’t return recommendations requesting greater clarity or consideration, but we are many years past since the BOD spent it’s time arguing sway bar diameters.
So, how do you get involved on a committee? First, you need to be subject matter expert (SME); just bear in mind, we don’t need – or want – the guy who has laser-focused concern on making his car more competitive. You don’t need to have been racing or prepping cars for 15 years, but you probably need to have been racing sufficiently long that you are known and respected by your racing peers. Typically, you’ll have experience at the highest level of competition (Runoffs, Solo National Championship), but it’s not a mandate. If you feel you are qualified, reach out to current member on the Committees or AC’s in which you’re interested and tell them that you want to get involved, possibly joining the Committee. Once you know you’d like to join a Committee, it’s best to submit your racing resume prior to an opening, as succession planning normally has a year or more head start.
The following are some brief snapshots of the experiences some Committee members from this area:
Derrick Ambrose is on the B-Spec AC, which he helped co-found at a Touring Committee meeting. Derrick found the “understanding of the rules changing process and working on making balanced changes with data instead of subjective driver input” to be real positive. His only negative experience was when a CRB liaison attempted to influence a decision against hard data. Derrick recommends every driver would benefit from serving on a committee, as it “gives a better understanding of how the system works for rules” and the related discussions that impact each class.
Ryan Otis on the STAC (Street Touring Advisory Committee); he was approached by a SEB member who let me know there was an opening on the committee and encouraged him to submit a resume.
Ryan believes the most important thing about being on a committee is the involvement in the rule making process and the awareness that “you are there to serve the membership, not your own personal interests.” Self-awareness also is an important personal attribute for success on a committee: “nearly any topic will invite different opinions, so the ability to communicate clearly and respectfully is key.”
Sean Hedrick is a member of the Spec Miata AC, have been recruited by Todd Butler and others. The positives he’s found are the “ability to help guide the class into the future … continue making it better,” which includes closing unintended GCR loopholes. As SMAC gelled, discussions have become more focused. SMAC has manufacturer involvement, as “Mazda is extremely supportive of the SMAC.” Sean has found challenges and benefits from “different communication styles and personalities … on and around our committee.” Minuses being on an AC revolve around broader membership communication: “no matter what we do, it will upset some people.” Being on a committee may require thick skin, as internet “experts” do not let their lack of facts impact their occasional eagerness to “publicly state what we are doing wrong.”
Jeff Zurschmeide, a one-time chair of the Production AC, was recruited into the position by others on the committee. Jeff gained in-depth insight on both the rules and the rule-making process. The downside to being on a committee was the “incessant lobbying” by those wanting “an easy walk to a championship.” Overall, Jeff found his time on the committee as a very positive experience, building strong friendships, and giving him deeper insights into the way SCCA works [to which I’ll add] and how sausage is made!
Potential candidates generally want to know how much time they would be committing. There’s no hard and fast rule, as it greatly depends on the Committee and the magnitude and nature of the topics at hand. A caveat: it can be incredibly frustrating on some Committees and energizing on others. If you are a fist pounder, with ears serving as much function as an early Fox body side scoop, you won’t get far. When you are selected to be part of a Committee made up of your racing peers, who willingly dedicate their time and energy to make SCCA racing better – it can be a very positive thing for both the Club and you.
Good Luck & Good Racing!
The SCCA National Convention, with a new SCCA President, the highest attendance in years, energized members, and motivated speakers, was a hit with attendees. I expect you’ll hear from Regional leadership in attendance at Convention some of their meeting highlights. At our Convention, I led a packed to brim Time Trials Town Hall meeting where we discussed some exciting developments in Time Trials (TT). TT helps address a critical need for SCCA to develop racing programs that provide additional opportunities to have fun with cars, by allowing:
SCCA is the leader in amateur motorsports in the United States: we need to assert this position in everything we do – or lose it. We also need to look to the future and ensure members have access to motorsports. 70% of SCCA participation is solo racing; it’s no secret the precarious position of many autocross sites, particularly here on the West Coast. Key sites have disappeared at a desponding rate, creating risk to our solo racing community. For us to be confident in our ability to stage highly accessible, time-based competition for the next 20+ years, we need to have a robust product line within a motorsports environment.
Track Events, such as Track Night in America (TNIA), bring SCCA 5,000+ new participants a year. More than 1,000 different participants entered a TNIA event in Oregon and NW Regions since the program started a few years ago. Do you think TT is an opportunity in the Pacific Northwest? Without a robust TT program, we are asking those who wish to compete – particularly those in street cars – either to take a huge financial step up to road racing, take a side step to autocross, or run with our competition.
Let’s look how Solo was built and it’ll shed some light on why we’re taking the path we are with TT. In 1950’s and 1960’s, autocross, gymkhana, etc. were operated by 100’s of unaffiliated organizations, with little or no cohesiveness. In 1972, SCCA planted a flag and asserted a leadership position by staging the first Solo National Championship event. With this National Championship came a rulebook, along with procedures and policies that established standards that SCCA Regions and private clubs have followed. This dynamic of a National Championship event, with its own rules, in effect, created an identity for autocross and established SCCA as the leader in that space
Today, SCCA solo regions have their own identity – and the freedom to execute their program as they see fit. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find a program that does not enjoy benefits from following the model set by Solo Nationals. The National SCCA BOD believes SCCA needs to take the lessons of Solo and apply them to Time Trials. Here’s where we’re going:
It is critically important to recognize the creation of the TTB and the TT National Championship have no impact on any current Divisional or Regional TT or Hillclimb program. Divisions and Regions are free to continue (or start) with rules and classes that make sense for their areas. The only caveat is SCCA TT safety rules set a minimum; Divisions/Regions may add safety measures. What is hoped, however, is local organizers recognize the great benefit of street cars in TT competition and look for ways to reduce barriers to entry to SCCA competition – not create new hurdles.
There is a very real possibility of running a TT competition at an airport. While some may think Hood River, there are numerous SCCA Regions in Idaho, Montana, and Alaska with small airports, zero road racing, but a ton of enthusiasts. What if … we took an airport and created what would be a series of extended Solo courses, one where you run the track in sections, in different configurations? How about scoring PIR not only as a single continuous lap, but run it in segments, so maybe some competitors can smoke the tight turns 2– 7, while others are great at high speed transitions in 9 – 12, and the maximum speed folks romp the straights. Based on the buzz around the country, expect Regions new to TT, to start adopting SCCA National Championship rules to local competition.
Good Luck & Good Racing!
SCCA Governance. Just saying those words, a few years ago, got my eyeballs rolling and my head slowly nodding to the negative, eliciting thoughts of “oh great, what new rule did they come up with now?” Well, over the past few years on the SCCA Board of Directors, I’ve got that pronoun changed from “they” to “we.” I also discovered something else: good SCCA governance does not mean new rules … it means setting new direction when the Club needs it, while staying the course with things that work well.
To say there are competing voices for attention amongst our membership base would be a fair statement. The advantage of being a national (international, when you factor in our members living in Canada) organization is we can see what is working well, as well as what is struggling, across the country to build a better whole. The path forward for SCCA is to strengthen our Regions. Our Regions health and future is 100% dependent upon event participation.
The hiring of new SCCA CEO/President Mike Cobb was a huge step forward in building a Region-focused SCCA. Mike Cobb is one of us, a life-long car enthusiast and SCCA solo racer, who built his career in building dynamic promotions and programs to develop strong regional franchisees around the country. That Mike’s business acumen is off the charts and that he has thrown himself into his new job is just the beginning. SCCA is investing in the future, with soon to be announced programs to strengthen our Regions and build our membership base.
If you missed it, in 2017 SCCA set all-time records for participation at our Solo National Championship, our Club Racing National Championship Runoffs (held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway), and our Rally Cross National Championships. Track Night in America (TNIA) is being lauded as one of the most successful grassroots motorsports programs in the country, with the Pacific Northwest being among the highest attended programs in the country. While now former leaders committed SCCA Pro into stunningly weak agreements, we are slowing working our way out of them. Still, the deliverable of SCCA-FIA Formula 4 is the brightest open wheel path to the big time, running with Formula 1 at Circuit of Americas this year and again this coming year.
The Runoffs return to the West Coast in 2018, running at Sonoma (sentimentally, still Sears Point). While extra Divisional qualifying slots are available to us (NorPac), past entry data shows nearly everyone qualifies via the Majors path of 3 race weekends, while most of the rest enter via the 2 Majors weekends, plus 2 Regional weekends path. When you consider that just a few years ago, particularly if you ran in a highly competitive class, you needed not only to race 6 or more weekends – you needed to finish at the front of the pack – just to have a chance of qualifying for the Runoffs. Now, there is certainty: race 3 or 4 race weekends and you’re going to Sonoma! What that means is you can run all of your qualifying race to qualify for Runoffs with Oregon and NW Regions, without any long tows!
At the other end of things, expect to see a strengthened Time Trials program, with a National Championship race offering a simplified set of rules, while being hands-off to any current Regional Time Trials programs. The intent is to take the success of TNIA and extend it to build SCCA membership and participation. The fact is, the great majority of TNIA participants (totaling nearly 700 different individuals at PIR and ~600 in NWR since 2015) will not be throwing a cage into their car – ever. There are, however, a good number of those enthusiasts, along with numerous “track day” participants, and ChumpCar racers who would enjoy competing in the right Time Trials format.
For the first time in a long time, I can say with confidence, you can expect next year to be a great year for SCCA members, as I anticipate seeing solid action steps taken to develop our Regions. Again, what SCCA can do best to support Regions is to remove barriers to entry and build exciting events to retain and build member participation. In the end, however, it is your participation, your enthusiasm and support, which makes SCCA so special. I want to thank Todd Harris and John Taylor for their hard work and dedication as Region Execs, along with commitment of our Region Board of Directors, to help lead our Club. Congratulations and thanks to Tim Ferrick for stepping up to be Oregon Region’s new RE.
I hope to see some of you at SCCA’s National Convention in Las Vegas. Best of wishes for a happy, healthy, successful New Year. Good Luck & Good Racing!
Seems as though a good deal of people in volunteer leadership positions like to tell folks how long they’ve been at it. The challenge of being a long-time member is often you want to keep things the way they were … or move things back to what “normal” is supposed to be in your memory. But, something “funny” is happening with SCCA leadership: we’ve got a bunch of progressives in leadership roles. Look no further than our new SCCA CEO/President, Mike Cobb. Mike was hired for his business acumen, yet he’s a long-time Solo competitor and passionate “car guy.” The BOD could have easily gone with an insider, but we chose to think differently. Nothing speaks to change more than the Club Racing’s 2017 National Championship Runoffs.
Anyone around the Solo racing world can’t help but notice the outstanding success of the SCCA Solo National Championships: it is a huge party, a celebration of having fun with cars, and top notch Solo racing. But, a funny thing about the Solo Championship: while many competitors are there to bring home a trophy, a good many are there for the competition and just happy for a clean run and to participate. SCCA Club Racing looked at the fun, camaraderie, and terrific competition of the Solo National Championship and opted to try something new, adopting a participation only requirement to race at the Runoffs.
You know the Runoffs: totally serious competition for all the marbles. The Runoffs are an expensive, intense, and long week, and for those in the PNW, one heck of a long tow most years. Even rotating the Runoffs to “bucket list” tracks such as Laguna Seca and Daytona or returning to favorite Mid-Ohio still resulted in many classes struggling to fill Runoff fields. Yet, in large classes, such as Spec Racer Ford, SRF3 III, and Spec Miata you could be beating 20 or 30 or more cars every weekend and not qualify for the Runoffs. So, for 2017, to celebrate SCCA’s first national championship crossing the bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we’re doing things differently by having an open invitation to race based on participation at Majors and/or Regional races during the regular season. As of this writing, we are already at 895 entrants for the 2017 Runoffs!
At this year’s convention, a number of former racers and stewards angrily complained about how we will “ruin competition” by allowing anyone to participate at the Runoffs. Well, what’s interesting is we’ve yet to hear complaints from SRF, SRF3, Spec Miata, or Formula Vee drivers – you know, the folks who in race in large fields and may never qualify for the Runoffs under the old system? In years past, we were inundated with requests for waivers -- not from participants in large classes, but from darn near everyone else. In fact, in 2016, I believe the entire Runoffs qualifying field petitioned to allow any and all B-Spec comers to race simply to support the class, create additional competition, and have fun racing together. What a novel idea: racing for fun, competition, and camaraderie. Ask most any SRF 2/3 or SM racer why they love the class and those are the same reasons you get!
Crossing the bricks at Indy for the 2017 Runoffs will be a forever memory for anyone fortunate enough to do so. For our volunteers, the big fields will mean non-stop action and a ton of work … but it is a moment you’ll want to experience yourself. I’m sure there’ll be challenges, but enlisting Motorsports Reg to build our paddock plan for us will be a very good thing and I’m hoping that despite the pressure and expense, having what may be close to 1000 competitors will make for an amazing event. Success at Indy in 2017 will prime the pump for our 2018 Runoffs return to the West Coast as we run at Sonoma Raceway. I hope to see you at Indy!
Good Luck & Good Racing!
Many of you here have spent untold hours on project cars – be they destined for turning race laps, ogling at a Cars & Coffee, or hauling you to your favorite backroads fishing spot. You have it clear in your head what you want, you start out with the best of intentions, you’ve got the energy, and a proper budget. THEN … reality sets in and you recognized the thunderous scale by which you underestimated what was necessary to do the job right. For nearly 15 years I held onto a pile of receipts for a Lotus Europa restoration project; I did so, in case I were ever stupid enough to be tempted by the allure of restoring an “affordable exotic” car, I would runaway screaming.
What if … what if you had a project of such immense importance you were unwilling to compromise? What if you realize the cost of compromising would cost far, far more than the cost of doing things right? Well, bucko, you would sweat the details, question and challenge past assumptions, you would conduct “what if” scenarios. Hopefully, you would also be sufficiently wise to reach out to experts both to help guide your effort and review your plans.
I think you will agree, the SCCA is facing unprecedented change and challenges: everything from increased competition from other racing bodies for drivers, workers, and officials, competition for track time, both from other car clubs and alternative use groups, disappearing solo venues, aging membership, with the upcoming generation of Millennials seemingly as interested in a virtual experience as the real thing. The thing is those challenges can all be met, with the right leadership executing the right strategic plan. The SCCA national Board of Directors (BOD) has sworn to find the right SCCA President, even if it took months and months of work to do so. Your BOD has worked relentlessly to find THE right person for the job. We looked at people in and out of the racing industry, with and without SCCA history – what we required appeared at times to be a bullet proof unicorn. As you will have read elsewhere, we are thrilled to have Michael Cobb join SCCA, Inc. as President/CEO.
Fortunately, we had a simply outstanding candidate pool for this critical club leadership role. Michael has heart and mind, passion, experience, and perspective. His professional experience was so strong, he made the initial candidate cuts without the BOD’s knowledge he was an SCCA member and active participant in SCCA solo competition. Yup – Mike is an incredibly qualified professional, a passionate “car guy,” who is “one of us.” You will soon read much more about our new SCCA President. But, this is only the beginning … while he will hit the ground running. He now will take the same diligent, professional approach in structuring plans as we did in finding him. That doesn’t mean he’ll be sequestered for months on end – quite the contrary, he already has plans to reach out to our Regions, broaden his view of current SCCA events, dig, question, and listen to our membership.
Now, with Michael’s hiring, I’ve been looking at building a rallycross car from a 996 C4 … hmm, how hard can it be?
SCCA racers are vastly better than average when it comes to car control (and having fun with cars). Many of you instruct at HPDE's and race schools. As satisfying as it is for an instructor to get someone who has never been on track before up to speed or help find that half a second improvement to a long time “track rat,” a good number of racers have found a great way to “pay forward” their car control skills is by training teens in car control fundamentals -- skills that can save a young driver from what may otherwise be a terrible accident.
The leading cause of death to Americans, ages 16 – 19, is auto-related accidents. Further, 20% of deaths among vehicle passengers of all ages occur while a teenager is driving. Tire Rack Street Survival (TRSS) program is outstanding at helping transfer knowledge to the “good kid,” who finds himself in a driving emergency, so he can come out of it alive, preferably avoiding an accident altogether. TRSS is the largest, non-profit, hands-on teen defensive driving program in the country.
Since 2008, Oregon Region SCCA, working with Oregon Region Porsche Club of America, has sanctioned 18 TRSS events at Portland International Raceway. That’s nearly 600 young area drivers who have gained hands-on defensive driver training. SCCA sanctions our Street Survival events – providing us with insurance coverage – while Tire Rack has been the amazing primary sponsor of Street Survival. Sponsorship from Michelin Tire and Enterprise Rental Car help hold costs down to $75 per student.
There’s an expression, “Givers Gain,” or stated differently, we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. I guarantee you, “Givers Gain” holds true when you see the teen driver who going in to class has no clue how to correct a skid, has never practiced maintaining control of his vehicle during an evasive driving maneuver, and really doesn’t know how to use ABS the way it was intended – suddenly has that light bulb go off and they gain new, real world applicable driving skills.
For the past several years, our TRSS events have sold out quickly. I strongly encourage you to volunteer at our sold-out March 12th TRSS event. We have Will, Tim, Allie, Rich, Joe Blair, and Peter Lovejoy (former SM racers) already signed up to instruct. Ken's response must be stuck in his outbox :-) because he's a regular instructor too. Looking through this mailing list, there are about another 10 of you who have instructed ... some of you, several times over. We could use about 8 more instructors for March 12th .
Note: student drive their own cars. All driving takes place in the North Paddock of PIR. There is no use of helmets or special safety equipment, as the idea is to show kids how to respond to an emergency in the course of their normal driving. Important to note: we do not reference racing or building speed beyond that set mph specified for a driving exercise. Finally, there is a short on-line instructor certification class for any new instructors. Karen McCoy can send you the link and I can send you some material on the driving exercises when you volunteer. Also, there’s a swell yellow golf shirt for you – just need to know your shirt size. Please hit me up with any questions. Thank you!
The Sports Car Club of America Board of Directors named Lee Hill, of Brandon, Florida, as the leadership's Chairman during its December meeting. Hill replaces outgoing Chairman John Walsh, who had reached his six-year term limit on the Board of Directors.
Hill is completing his second year on the Board as the Area 3 Director. An SCCA member since 1993, he has been a regular competitor in Spec Racer, Spec Racer Ford and Spec Racer Ford Gen3 for more than two decades. He was a Central Florida Region Assistant RE for five years, the Region's webmaster for nearly 10 years, and is a frequent F&C volunteer.
Outside of SCCA activities, Hill operated an information publishing business, Hill-Donnelly Directories, which was sold in 2002 to a publicly traded information company, but Hill stayed on and acted as the division's president for another three years. He has also conducted various consulting activities, primarily in information and business process management/improvement.
"I'm honored and gratified to have been selected by the Board of Directors as Chairman for 2017," Hill said. "I look forward to addressing the SCCA's needs in the coming year, beginning with the opportunity to bring a new, highly-qualified President to the Club."
The BoD also set its slate of officers for the 2017 calendar year. Dan Helman (Vice Chairman), KJ Christopher (Treasurer), and Tere Pulliam (Secretary) remain in their 2016 roles for the coming year. Bruce Lindstrand will serve as the first alternate.
Additionally, the 13-member board appointed duties for committees and liaisons to oversee the Club during the 2017 calendar year. Those assigned to fill Board committees are as follows:
- Budget & Finance: Christopher (Chairman), Marcus Merideth, Helman, Lindstrand, Jim Weidenbaum, Charlie Davis
- Compensation, Audit and Investment: Helman (Chairman), Chris Albin, Pulliam, Weidenbaum and Bob Dowie
- Planning: Arnie Coleman (Chairman), Helman, Jack Burrows, Dowie, Weidenbaum, Earl Hurlbut and Albin
Board liaisons to various committees and subsidiaries are as follows:
- Solo Events Board: Dowie, Hurlbut
- Club Racing Board: Lindstrand, Merideth, Davis
- Time Trial Advisory Committee: Pulliam, Weidenbaum
- Executive Stewards: Pulliam, Coleman
- Court of Appeals: Coleman, Dowie
- RE & Operations: Dowie, Burrows
- Road Rally Board: Hurlbut, Dowie
- RallyCross Board: Albin, Coleman
- SCCA Foundation: Weidenbaum, Lindstrand, Burrows
- Ventures: Helman (Chairman), Lindstrand
- IT/Website: Christopher, Weidenbaum, Coleman
- Governance Committee: Pulliam (Chairman), Coleman, Burrows, Helman, Davis
- Strategic Planning Committee: Coleman, Weidenbaum, Merideth, Burrows, Albin