There's no denying this is an unusual year for pretty much everything. In terms of SCCA competition, we've seen dozens of events canceled all over the country. A few Majors races were held before the quarantine, but the COVID pandemic has sent everyone's racing plans into the blender. At this writing, it looks as though Northwest Region's majors will happen this weekend, and Oregon Region's rescheduled July 11-12 majors are hopefully going to happen.
But it's less likely that racers around the country will be able to qualify for this year's Runoffs through the various paths that SCCA had created. In the Northeast, for example, racing is simply not going to be possible. With the affects of COVID quarantine falling unequally on different regions, SCCA staff and the Board of Directors put their heads together. The result is a one-time accommodation designed to encourage drivers to support whatever racing is available in their areas, while allowing some latitude in qualifying for the Runoffs.
You can read the whole detailed program here on SCCA.com, but the gist is this: instead of requiring three Majors weekends, we're requiring only one Majors attendance, plus two other SCCA races. They can be regionals or Majors.
The Top 10 or Top 50% requirement is also suspended. If you participate, you can enter the Runoffs. However, once at the Runoffs, you must still qualify within 15% of the polesitter's lap time to compete in the race.
Finally, you can substitute those two events by simply paying a standardized entry fee and not attending the event. The money will be split between SCCA and the host region.
The money-track to get to the Runoffs was the controversial bit. No one likes the idea of buying one's way into the Runoffs, but there are many SCCA drivers who are at higher risk for COVID, plus the risks of extended travel and attendance could be prohibitive. I want to stress that this is a one-time accommodation. COVID-19 is what the great Northwest rally steward John Forespring would have called Force Majeure. He would say, "That's French for Tough S**t."
For those who plan to attend the Runoffs, I encourage you to attend as many races as possible. Do go to Northwest Region's Majors, plan to attend Oregon Region's Majors, and support the regionals we're able to hold this summer. Both regions and all our area race tracks are facing financial challenge as a result of this pandemic.
Solo drivers - we are also looking at the SuperPass this year. Stay tuned.
Above all, please do take precautions and keep yourself healthy. If you think you may be sick or have been exposed to the Coronavirus, please stay home and keep yourself and your friends safe.
Quarantine Reading - Faster! - How a Plucky Heiress and a Brave Driver Beat The Odds in Pre-War Grand Prix Racing
With the entire country under stay-home orders in response to the Coronavirus, we're all going to have a lot of time on our hands. Racing is being canceled and we're not sure when we'll get back to it.
All that means there's plenty of time to pick up a good book and learn some fascinating racing history. In the 1930s, the Silver Arrows from Mercedes-Benz were the envy of Grand Prix racing. They were backed by the German government, and part of the propaganda campaign of the Nazi party.
In racing, dominance always invites challenge. It's in our souls as racers to look at the leaders and try to catch them. And that's exactly what happened. Faster is a pulse-pounding tale of triumph by an improbable team of upstarts who beat back theSilver Arrows during the golden age of auto racing.
They were the unlikeliest of heroes. Rene Dreyfus, a former top driver on the international racecar circuit, had been banned from the best European teams—and fastest cars—by the mid-1930s because of his Jewish heritage. Charles Weiffenbach, head of the down-on-its-luck automaker Delahaye, was desperately trying to save his company as the world teetered toward the brink. And Lucy Schell, the adventurous daughter of an American multi-millionaire, yearned to reclaim the glory of her rally-driving days.
These three people banded together to challenge Hitler’s dominance at the apex of motorsport: the Grand Prix. Their quest for redemption culminated in a remarkable race that is still talked about in racing circles to this day—but which, soon after it ended, Hitler attempted to completely erase from history. The tyrant could not stand to be an object of ridicule, especially when beaten by people he considered losers.
Bringing to life this glamorous era and the sport that defined it, Faster chronicles one of the most inspiring, death-defying upsets of all time: a symbolic blow against the Nazis during history’s darkest hour. Author Neal Bascomb has an easy storytelling style, which makes this book enjoyable as well as edifying.
You can buy a hardbound copy of Faster for just $28 through Portland's own Powell's Books by clicking here.
Dave Franks was a Great Friend
I met Dave Franks in the late 90s. I don’t remember exactly how we met, but he was looking for a car to go racing, and I went with him to buy this derelict old Austin-Healey Sprite.
In the space of a year, Dave took that moldy old car and he made it into a jewel. He did things right, and when he arrived at the racetrack, everyone noticed that fact.
Dave and I started racing together. Our cars were about evenly matched, and Dave picked up racecraft quickly. By the middle of his first year, it was all I could do to stay ahead of him, and soon I was chasing him. Dave was a smart, clean driver, and his fellow competitors noticed that, too – a few years ago they awarded him the Wemme Trophy - the highest honor for overall achievement in our vintage racing organization.
The other thing to say is that Dave was a friend you wanted to have, especially in moments of stress. When I asked him to take on a leadership role in our racing club, he said yes. He became a racing steward – the people who resolve disputes – and he was respected by the drivers enough that they accepted his judgments.
Dave always had a calm, smart word when things were going badly. I think that quality is what I will miss most now and going forward.
I mention all these things because auto racing, at least to those of us who do it, is a powerful metaphor for life.
It’s often said that tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone, and that’s the reason to make the most of every day. It’s fair to say that Dave Franks made the most of the days that were given to him. He certainly made my days better, and I will remember him as a friend and a mentor.
Three Great Racers Depart
It’s been a rough winter. Since last month’s tribute to our longstanding board secretary Mary Thompson, three more great members of Oregon Region SCCA have passed away. Each one brought a unique combination of passion and dedication to the sport.
Gary Bockman’s contributions to the sport have been
well-documented, but that doesn’t describe the experience of being around him when he was winning, or when things went badly. In each case, you got a deeper look at the character of the man. In victory, Gary was exultant - he’d stop and climb the catch fence, or simply be jumping around for the sheer joy of the moment. His enthusiasm was contagious. I also saw Gary just after he missed winning an SCCA national championship because of a failed $10 part. He was down, but far from finished. He came back to compete again at Sonoma. Above all, Gary loved racing and the racing community.
Marshall Atherton was a mainstay of Oregon racing for well over 50 years. He competed in the very first Rose Cup back in 1961, and remained active as a driver well into this century. Marshall always had a smile for everyone, and he was generous with praise and assistance. He founded 99West Trailers, and that business has helped out countless racers. Marshall was a true gentleman of the sport.
Dave Franks introduced himself to me in 1997, saying he was planning to build a Sprite to go vintage racing. We went together to look over the project car he purchased, and began racing together soon after. Dave put together a leading racing program in just a few years, bringing his immaculately prepped Sprite to every Oregon Region event. It wasn’t long before Dave was drafted into the steward’s corps, and he served on the region board of directors as well.
There will be a memorial for Dave held at Stickmen Brewery in Tualatin on Sunday, February 9 from 1-4 pm. Everyone is welcome.
Oregon Region SCCA survives and thrives entirely on the basis of its members. This is especially true of those who step up and help organize and manage racing programs. These three racers have left a legacy of friendship and service, as well as a great example of how to have fun in racing. I think the best way to honor them is to contine to race, to be a friend, and to work for the good of the sport.
There are many sayings about the value of volunteers in SCCA. They’re all true, and we know that nothing would get done without the energy and commitment of our active SCCA members. Yet for all that, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that we arrive at the track and people are already there. Things are already set up and ready to go.
Mary Thompson was one of the people who made sure that our racing events happened. You might have encountered Mary at registration, or driver services, or at the Rose Cup Room, but it’s a fair certainty that if you came to an event at PIR, Mary was there quietly doing some necessary job. If you hung out where she was, she’d have a friendly word for you and if she knew you at all, a big warm hug.
I knew Mary because in addition to everything else, she was the secretary of the Oregon Region Board of Directors. I’ve been going to board meetings pretty regularly for 20 years, and Mary had been there longer than that. The board secretary takes the minutes of board meetings and transcribes them. She records the motions and votes and reports them. She also tallied the election results each year. That’s the official job description, anyway. But Mary did so much more than that.
Mary was the club’s memory. She could (and did) tell you if something had been discussed or attempted years or even decades earlier. She could calm a tense situation, or just offer some good advice. I’m pretty sure she was never elected by the membership, but she was the leader who helped guide this club through good times and hard times alike – and always with love for the people she was working with.
I don’t know how Mary came to Oregon Region. She may have driven a race car for all I know, or been a corner worker. But I do know she was the heart of our club, and she made a profound difference for the good of our sport.
I honestly don’t know what we’ll do without her.
We’re publishing the Loud Pedal a little early this month because I’m headed to Bowling Green, Kentucky for the second annual Time Trials Nationals.
The Time Trials program has been going for a few years now, and it’s growing into a full-fledged SCCA competition venue. I think it’s one of the most important things we’re doing to secure the future of SCCA.
We’ve all noticed a cyclical slowdown in Road Racing. It happens. 20 years ago, Don Smethers explained that he’d been observing for 30 years (at that time - up to 50 now) how attendance rose and fell over time. We’re a low point these days, but I believe racing will always come back.
Part of coming back is looking at what new people want to drive, and how they want to race. When we see hundreds more cars show up for marque club track days than are turning up for SCCA events, that’s a big clue.
There’s a large market out there that wants to drive their street car on track. That makes sense, as many current street cars have more power and better handling than race cars did just a few years ago. But it’s also that in the midst of a busy life, a person may not want to invest in a truck and trailer for a dedicated race car. Time Trials gets back to SCCA’s “run what ya got” roots, when drivers taped up their headlights and drove to the track in their race cars. We need to provide a place for people who just want to have fun with cars in their own way.
As I write, the Solo Nationals and RallyCross nationals are complete. We’ve got coverage of the RallyCross champions in this issue, and we’ll get reports from our Solo folks in November.
The Runoffs are also coming up in the next few weeks, over at Virginia International Raceway. The distance has kept a few west coast drivers away, sadly, but I will be there to cheer for our Oregon and Northwest drivers who make the long tow.
I’ve been going to the Runoffs since 2004, and it never loses the excitement I felt the first time I went. This is more than a championship race - it’s a tribal gathering. At least we don’t have to do it in the desert in the middle of summer!
After the Runoffs, we’ll gather once more to honor this year’s outstanding drivers, and then it’s a short wait to the SCCA national convention in January. The fun really never ends, does it?
If you read the 2018 financial report in SportsCar magazine, you know that SCCA needs to save money. Believe me when I tell you that this is top-of-mind for every board member right now.
One way that the board is looking to save money is to change the way we manage our elections. It sounds like a small thing, but it’s significant. Every time there’s a ballot sent to every SCCA member, it can cost the club tens of thousands of dollars for printing and mailing, return postage, and ballot counting.
The problem is, the club’s legal bylaws require that we “mail” out ballots. That part of the bylaws has been rendered obsolete by technology, and there’s no good reason to spend this money when we can hold elections electronically. Oregon Region and many other regions already hold their elections this way.
There will be more next month in SportsCar and here in the Loud Pedal, including a look at the proposed new language for the bylaws. Then, we’ll send out a paper ballot for what will hopefully be the last time, to vote on the bylaws change. I plan to vote for it, because there are much better things we could be doing with that money.
By the time the October issue of the Loud Pedal is released, we’ll be well into national championship season. This year, I’m attending the Time Trial Nationals in Kentucky, and then the Runoffs in Virginia. Next year, I plan to visit the Solo Nationals.
It’s been a busy summer so far, and here on the final day of July, things show no sign of letting up - we’ve got a Triple Regional and Solo events coming in August, and then more events in September, leading right up to the Solo, Time Trials, RallyCross and Road Racing national championship events.
One of my jobs on the SCCA Board of Directors is to be board liaison to the Time Trials program. This year, that program will hold its second national championship event at NCM in Bowling Green, Kentucky at the end of September. I’ll be there, and I’ll be at the Runoffs at VIR a few days later in October.
If you have never attended an SCCA national championship event, I strongly encourage you to look into it. These events draw the top competitors in the nation, and you can gain a year’s worth of experience in your preferred racing venue in a matter of days. Plus, the elation of seeing champions crowned can’t be matched.
If you can’t manage to compete at one of these events - and it can be expensive, for sure - then consider going as a volunteer. Working at the Runoffs or Solo Nationals is a wonderful experience, and you’ll make friends that last a lifetime.
Finally, I want to congratulate Oregon’s Rose Cup Champions. Peter Baljet won the 59th Rose Cup race, but Will Schrader, John Black, Ken Sutherland, and Eric Dolson all received well-earned victories that weekend. You’re what it’s all about.
If you’ve been around Oregon Region for any length of time, you probably met Monte Shelton, and it was probably memorable.
I have two memories of Monte that, for me, perfectly illustrate who he was. The first happened some time after he survived a heart attack. He was telling me how he went to the gym six days a week, working out and running for a couple hours each morning. I said, “Gee Monte, I wouldn’t want to run a hundred-yard dash against you, and I’m half your age!”
Monte looked at me, smiled, and said, “I’d kick your ass.”
The second happened in the same era. I had a pretty hard day on the annual Monte Shelton Northwest Classic rally. Two of my old cars had broken down on the rally that day, and I finally rolled into the hotel in my daily driver during the “beer wash” car washing party.
I went into the hotel to check in, and when I came back out, there was Monte washing my car for me. I said, “Monte, you don’t have to do that.” He replied, “You know, my first job was washing cars at a lot on Sandy Boulevard, and I still love to do it.”
Those memories are pure Monte - equal parts competitive and gracious. He had a big heart and a genuine affection for people. That’s how I plan to remember him, and I hope the memory helps me become more like Monte Shelton.
By Jeff Zurschmeide
Area 13 Director,