Snow is falling as I write this column, and it sure feels like the middle of winter, but in fact it’s almost the end of February and the first events of the competition year are just three days away! I’m pretty sure Pacific Northwest Solo drivers can handle ice and snow, but a quick course in the Pro Drive SkidCar would help anyone under those conditions.
For me, the first race is still a month away. I’ll be competing in SCCA’s new Time Trials program this year, and I’m excited to get back on track in a car I enjoy just for the fun of going fast and driving a good lap. My plan is to run the whole season of Time Trials in Oregon and Northwest Regions.
Time Trials entries const only $150, plus an extra $20 to rent a transponder if you don’t have one of your own. I encourage everyone who enjoys having fun with cars to consider entering. It’s just about the best deal on open track time that you’re likely to find.
Serving on the national board of directors is keeping me busy - there are scheduled phone meetings every week, and a steady flow of e-mails. As I gain experience with the rhythms of the conversations, I’m seeing the workings of the club more clearly.
The first thing I noticed is how hard the club’s national staff and our program board and advisory committees work, and the depth of knowledge that is encompassed by all these people.
For example, I am a board of directors liaison to the Time Trials Board, and I am watching the incredible amount of time and effort that goes into classing cars appropriately. It’s easy to take classing for granted - or to complain about it - in Road Racing or Solo. But if you think about it, you’ll see that it’s an incredibly complicated jigsaw puzzle because different cars make speed differently.
On the Time Trials Board, we’re trying to define classes for cars as they’re actually being built and used in the track day and street performance world. So rather than asking drivers to build or adapt a car to a set of rules, we’re attempting to tailor the rules to fit around the cars as they already are.
My own car will be competing in the Tuner class, even though it’s almost stock, because of one nifty part that solved a problem for me. I’m viewing this as a positive, however, because it means I can justify some fun performance enhancements over the course of the competition year.
If you have an interest in deep learning about your car’s class or category, consider applying to join the relevant advisory committee. It’s a lot of hard work on occasion, but I think you’ll find, as I have, that it’s worthwhile work.
See you at the track!
It’s been about 18 years since the last time I went to the SCCA National Convention. I didn’t think things would have changed very much, but it turns out that they have - a lot, in fact.
Mostly that’s because we have a much more engaged national staff these days, with people like Chris Robbins, whose job it is to promote regional development.
There were more educational sessions than anyone could possibly attend, all packed into three days of non-stop activity. There were sessions specifically designed to teach regional officials how to begin or grow Solo, Road Racing, and Rally programs, as well as programs for stewards from all disciplines, race workers, and just members who want to become more involved.
From my end, the convention was a week-long affair that started with a full-day session on team building and understanding the function of the Board. We learned a bit about how we operate and what our challenges are. That was a fun and informative day, and it was followed up by a full-day board meeting where we put our new skills to use. Then we had extended meetings with the Club Racing Board, Solo Events Board, and the Road Rally and RallyCross boards, and Pro Racing.
I knew that being a Director was going to be a lot of work, and this week proved it!
Area 13 was well-represented at this convention, with REs from Arctic Alaska, Northwest, and Oregon Regions in attendance. I got the chance to meet Kent Hamilon from Alaska, and to work with Scotty White of Northwest on his region’s plan for the Majors in May.
And I was particularly proud to see Oregon’s RE, Tim Ferrick receive the Jumbo Region of the Year award.
Oregon’s Solo director Rio Rios was there to learn and share, as was Joe Harlan from the Northwest Region Board. Several members from Arctic Alaska also came down to Las Vegas to give their region one of the largest per-capita turnouts at the event.
But don’t go thinking that it’s all work at the convention! The evenings were fulled with activities including go-karting, pinewood derby racing, and a great awards banquet! I got to sit at a table with Dorsey Schroeder, which is a great honor.
As we move towards the start of the 2019 competition season, I feel better than ever about the future of SCCA and the quality of the regions in Area 13.
Thanks for your support,
By Jeff Zurschmeide, Area 13 Director
The first thing I noticed when I was elected to represent SCCA’s Area 13 members on the national Board of Directors is that many SCCA members don’t know what the board actually does.
Here’s a short primer - we’re not the bosses of the REs, the stewards, the CRB or the SEB, or any specialty. In fact, the board is only sort of the boss of one person: the President of SCCA, Mike Cobb. I say “sort of” because it’s not like I can call him up and give him orders, either. The board gives big-picture direction and goals to the President, and then evaluates him on his performance.
Similarly, we may ratify the decisions of the CRB, SEB and every other competition board, but we don’t write the rules for your class. In fact, I think we meddle a little too much with the people who have stepped up to manage the rules of our competition venues.
I’m not an expert in the competitiveness of various cars within any class, be it GT-1 or F500, E-stock or A-Mod. The people who volunteer to sit on the CRB/SEB and the individual class advisory committees are the experts, and as a rule I plan to respect their wisdom.
Okay, so that’s all the stuff we don’t do. Here’s what we actually do:
1) We keep an eye on the bottom line for the national organization. Being on the board involves a lot of spreadsheets that detail the financial operation of the club. This is the unglamorous work that is absolutely critical to the mission of SCCA. If we run out of money, we’re out of business.
2) We evaluate new opportunities for the club, whether that’s sponsorship deals, Pro racing series, and new venues like TNIA and Time Trials.
3) We sit in on the meetings of the committees of the club we’re tasked to monitor. I am the board liaison to the Road Rally Board and the Time Trials Advisory Committee. My job is not to run those meetings, but rather to answer board-related questions and bring the point of view of the committee back to the board.
4) We form subcommittees of the board to handle the details of various issues. I have been appointed to the Strategic Planning and Governance committees.
Strategic Planning is where we look at new opportunities like Time Trials, and try to offer ideas and guidance to the SCCA staff and committees on how we might capitalize on those ideas and open new lines of business.
Governance is more prosaic, being concerned primarily with keeping the Club’s bylaws up to date. At 75 years strong, the bylaws don’t generally need a lot of work these days.
Coming out of my first three-day marathon board meeting, here’s what I know:
1) The SCCA board is composed of people from all parts of the club. We’ve got Solo folks, Club Racers, Rallyists, Officials, and racing business owners. We’ve got a member who has a PhD in Economics and several members who get their hands dirty for a living. It’s a good group of smart people.
2) The major challenge facing the club is Pro Racing, and 2019 will be a pivotal year. Formula 3 and Formula 4 have been launched, and need to prove out to repay the investment made.
3) The regional solo racer and road racer is the economic backbone of the club. That’s where we make our money. I already figured that, but it’s nice to see it proven in numbers.
I’ll know more next month after the convention. We’ve got another two-day meeting scheduled there. I’ll report in again at that time.
By Jim Weidenbaum,
SCCA Area 13 Director
Anyone in the racing community understands there’s a ratio of the amount of time spent wrenching to
amount of time racing which varies greatly by race class, but also by individual within class. Some folks
love working on the car: they have attention to detail and apply mechanical understanding on every facet of their car. Some classes simply demand a ton of wrenching, but even classes where higher levels of engineer ingenuity really doesn’t give you a clear advantage, there are folks who apply Penske-like attention to detail, who are amazing at problem-solving, and know how to dial in a spec/formula class car to be prepared to the highest level of legal competitiveness. These dedicated people not only have specific knowledge, they understand the importance of a disciplined, focus approach to car prep; they literally reprioritize their lives to find the time and money to execute their plan.
OK, you know by now to expect an analogy from me, this disciplined, focused, applied knowledge
approach is how the national Board of Directors works with SCCA staff to deliver on our Mission: fuel a
safe, fun, and exciting motorsports experience for automotive enthusiasts. Most of our 60,000 SCCA
members don’t actively race cars, but they are all auto enthusiasts. When you see programs such as the wildly successful Track Night in America, Solo Spec Coupe, Sprint Rally, and the next big thing: SCCA National Time Trials you can see our outreach to not just racers, but auto enthusiasts – future SCCA members!
If you don’t think growing the membership base isn’t important, take note of the diminishing numbers who show up at each high school reunion. Reunions can be a lot of fun, catching up with old friends, but reunions are not a growth model. SCCA sort of took that model for way too long, but no longer. With Mike Cobb as SCCA, Inc President/CEO, working with a BOD dedicated to good governance, we will continue to make old friends feel at home, while welcoming an influx of new and younger members.
Going back to the wrenching to racing ratio. Wrenching can be enjoyable, catching things before they go wrong, repairing problems, and making things better.
At other times, I have maximized my use and volume of “colorful” language while working on a car. In all cases, I find myself highly focused when working on a car, so when my wife wanders in to the garage to know why I haven’t surfaced all weekend – it’s hard to say anything other than, “well, there’s just a lot to do.”
That’s the same way I feel the SCCA BOD has been operating the past 3 years: wrenching on every critical component, retorquing every nut (homonym intended), which when combined with other actions, deliver on SCCA’s Vision: to be the preferred motorsports community in the US, built on fun, shared passion, and access to an exhilarating motorsports experience.
I truly believe SCCA will get there, but it will require us, as Club members, to get the right folks in leadership roles and to actively participate in Club activities.
So, congratulations to Jeff Zurschmeide on his election to Area 13 SCCA Board of Directors. I have already been in deep discussion with Jeff regarding his transition. I believe Jeff will be an outstanding member of the national BOD and will do the Pacific Northwest proud.
Thank you, Monty Holt for running for the Board: competition for leadership seats makes the Club better.
When I look at our SCCA values (listed below), they absolutely are consistent with the best part of SCCA.
Thank you for letting me represent you as your Area 13 Director these past 3 years.
Good Luck & Good Racing!
Excellence: The Spirit of a Competitor
Service: The Heart of a Volunteer
Passion: The Attitude of an Enthusiast
Team: The Art of Working Together
Experience: The Act of Wowing our Community
Stewardship: The Mindset of an Owner
Hi, I’m Jeff Zurschmeide. Most of you have met me before, but if you haven’t met me yet, I’d like to introduce myself.
I’ve been an SCCA member for nearly 30 years, and in that time I’ve been a driver in Road Racing, Autocross, RoadRally, and RallyCross. I ran my first Autocross at age 16.
Within SCCA I’ve been a race worker, a steward, and an elected regional official responsible for budgets and participation.
In my life outside SCCA, I run a small business in automotive and motorsports publishing. I write stories and take photos for magazines, newspapers, and websites.
Here’s why I’m running to represent SCCA Area 13 on the national Board of Directors. and what I plan to do if elected.
SCCA is a complex organization, with elected leadership at both the regional and the national levels. The two layers of club leadership have very different jobs, but the end goal is the same: to foster a healthy and growing community in all the forms of racing that SCCA sanctions.
At the regional level, we’re concerned with raising attendance, controlling costs, and providing events that are safe, fair, and fun. I’ve lived this first-hand while serving as Road Racing Director and Regional Executive of Oregon Region.
At the national level, the goals are the same, but the national board is charged with looking after the health of SCCA nationwide.
I believe that in order for SCCA to thrive nationally, we need healthy regions that have the freedom to decide how best to meet the needs of their members.
The primary job of the national organization is to support our regions by providing a solid foundation of rules and support, with the flexibility to allow regions to provide the types of events and the competition classes that their members prefer.
To do that, SCCA needs a board that makes smart management decisions. The current board is doing a good job, and my goal is to keep the national board focused and to keep SCCA financially sound.
That means continuing to listen to the regions and individual competitors on national issues such as the location and nature of national championship events, and keeping the board focused on SCCA’s core mission of providing the best motorsports opportunities in North America
To do that, SCCA must adjust to the ways people want to enjoy their cars today. Therefore, I think our new ventures like Track Night in America and the Time Trials program are important and have the potential to keep SCCA in the lead in amateur motorsports.
I’ve got the time and the experience to represent the needs of Area 13, and to keep SCCA healthy for all our regions everywhere.
Thanks for your consideration.
Three years ago, I was elected by fellow Pacific Northwest (aka Area 13) SCCA members to serve on the national Board of Directors. I was still trying to figure out how I was going to balance my work, family, and racing commitments with these new responsibilities, when I arrived at my first BOD meeting -- only to be told it was expected all new directors run for a second term. What?! I’m working out survival tactics one month at a time and they want me to commit to 6 years of this?!?
OK, so now it’s 2018 and I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I am at being unable to run for re-election due to my “other job” – the one that pays the bills – requirement to work out of Chicago HQ. It’s not that I’ve grown fond of working long hours without pay or discovered I actually enjoy having my a** chewed by upset members. Nope, what gnaws on me is the sense of a job not finished. I try not to take myself too seriously, but I take my work damn seriously: SCCA has better governance and focus, better Club leadership and sense of mission than has been the case in a very long time. Still, there is much work to be done, more details to be sweated, Regions to be re-energized, and members to be won over.
I now understand why there was an expectation to run for a second term: the forced turnover of the Board (1/3 of the Board is up for elections every year) makes staying aligned as a governing body quite challenging. For the past 3 years, the SCCA BOD has worked incredibly hard to conduct better governance: to stop second guessing every decision of SCCA staff and to consider new paths without viewing change as a threat to their regency. The SCCA Board acts to enable positive change: not change for change sake, but because we must do what’s needed, not necessarily what’s always popular in the short-term. During my watch, the BOD has stepped in to assert fiscal responsibility when it was lacking and made hard decisions to effect change at the top of SCCA. They were the right calls for the right reasons.
I couldn’t be prouder of the process and the outcome of hiring Michael E. Cobb as SCCA, Inc. CEO / President. Mike reports to the BOD, with daily operations of SCCA run under his leadership. The BOD’s role isn’t to second guess subject matter experts: it’s to ensure decisions are on strategy, well-reasoned, and fair. Knowing the candidate(s) for my Area 13 Director seat, I’m confident the winner will easily step into this role of good governance.
I have to warn my replacement, the minute you join the national BOD, there are those gunning for you, some hanging out on chatrooms and public forums, others at various events, who rarely let facts get in the way of their determined opinions: you are now a dishonest, lazy, irresponsible, power-hungry, backroom dealing SOB, determined to ruin the SCCA for your pin-headed selfish reasons – of course, that’s just what your friends are saying
I sincerely wish we could have some of these nay-sayers take the time to listen and see – not what they want to believe – but, what’s actually happening now, today, and then take that energy and apply it to driving positive change. SCCA is a members-first organization – over 67,000 strong – built on fun, and the shared passion of experiencing motorsports up-close and personal.
I’ll close this with a statement of SCCA values, which you’ll be hearing and seeing in the future.
Excellence: The Spirit of a Competitor
Service: The Heart of a Volunteer
Passion: The Attitude of an Enthusiast
Team: The Art of Working Together
Experience: The Act of Wowing our Community
Stewardship: The Mindset of an Owner
These values aren’t new – they are the essence of our membership: because so many of you demonstrate these values in the Club, it makes my contributions on the BOD a drop in the bucket. It is – and will always be – my distinct honor, privilege, and pleasure to serve my SCCA family and friends as Area 13 Director these past 3 years.
Thank you. Good Luck & Good Racing!
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!