The motorsports season got off to a fast start the weekend of January 13-15 during the SCCA/Andy Porterfield Memorial race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California as part of the SCCA U.S. Majors Tour. The Second Southern California installment of the series will be at Willow Springs International the Weekend of March 10-12.
The U.S. Majors Tour is the SCCA’s top-flight amateur series across several classes from a B-Spec Honda Fit to Spec Mazda Miata’s to Sports Racers to Ground-pounder GT1 Corvettes and Mustangs and numerous open-wheel categories — 27 classes in all! The Fontana 2.84-mile combination high banked oval/road course provided challenges in both car set up and driving — while turn nine on the infield section provided serious spills and thrills!
While most fans who attend races at the monstrous 2.0-mile super speedway for NASCAR and IndyCar events, many may not even be aware of the infield road circuit. Incorporating the front straight and turns one and two of the oval — the infield adds another 19 corners and slight undulation for the road racing set. Two long straightaways connect with tight right and left handers and through chicanery that feed the cars back onto the oval. Gearing needs to be tall for this track — particularly as the oval section, incorporating the long banked straightaway and turns one and two is a long time on the loud pedal for these types of cars.
The SCCA has a long and storied history in the United States as the pre-eminent sports car and racing club. Beginning in the late 1940s, a need developed as many US servicemen from World War 2 brought home nimble, European cars, that were a night and day difference from the heavy American sedans that ran on the highways of the United States. The SCCA facilitated the European flavor of road-racing with quick smaller bore cars — and the crowds came out to see them too! Open road racing at places like Bridgehampton, Elkhart Lake, Pebble Beach, Watkins Glen, offered drivers — and its new fan base-alike the opportunity to see these unusual cars race in a competitive and sanctioned environment.
Beginning in 2013, the U.S. Majors Tour was created as a series of premium national events for top-tier amateur drivers. The purpose was to offer an enhanced race experience for drivers and fans, from pre-race to the on-track action to what happens after the checkered flag. For the weekend warrior, this provides a great opportunity to get the feel of a “pro” weekend. But needless to say, you have to be on your game. These are serious competitors in the series.
According to Jim Lewwllyn, PR Director for the SCCA, “For decades, ‘National’ racing served as the top Club Racing level, providing a path toward both Divisional Championships and the National Championship Runoffs®. But a proliferation of events began to dilute the number of participants available for any single race weekend. Additionally, the system made it difficult for sponsor involvement as regions where essentially competing against one another for financial support from companies.”
The SCCA has had its share of top flight Pro Series as well. Going back to the 1960s, the mighty Can-Am, Trans-Am, Formula 5000 and World Challenge series were the pinnacle of pro racing in the United States. However, consider that much of the membership of the club never completely approved of sanctioning pro racing. There was always a certain amount of in-fighting from the “purist” members who always thought of racing to be a complete gentleman’s sport and to keep the club purely for amateurs.
The Majors Tour keeps the racing at the amateur level, with an undoubted “pro” feel. The different types of race teams that show up to compete range from the “mom and pop” trailer, tool box and compressed air tank to the semi-trailer and “army” of mechanics. It is open to all — well at least those with the budget — to get on track with a prepared car and run against serious competition.
“The U.S. Majors Tour program was designed to offer attractive competition clusters and provide quality track time that drivers would see as a good value for the entry fee,” said Eric Prill, SCCA Vice President of Competition Sponsors could more easily involve themselves in SCCA activities, and the quality of competition was and remains very high as the best racers around still look forward to ‘Majors’ weekends.”
The Majors tour has played well as a national championship for the SCCA. Prill commented, “In 2017, the Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA® Super Tour was added as a special sub-series within the U.S. Majors Tour. Beyond being held at top-notch venues around the U.S. including Road America, Circuit of the Americas, Virginia International Raceway, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, Sebring, and more, the Hoosier Super Tour offers a heightened experience for both competitors and racing fans. Race weekends include segmented timing and scoring, a service simply unavailable at other amateur motorsports events. The series also has a dedicated ‘Super Tour Radio presented by Hoosier Racing Tire’ team of announcers capable of providing consistent insight and entertainment heard at tracks or online at SCCA.com.”
The Hoosier Super Tour includes dedicated staffing with a series race director, administrator, technical timing resource and technical inspector working in conjunction with local event personnel, as has been the case since 2013 with the U.S. Majors Tour program. Up to three static cameras broadcast Hoosier Super Tour races live online at SCCA.com, and onsite SCCA public relations staff provide weekend media coverage. Which means you can catch the events live on your computer, or connected device.
Prill said, “The birth of the Hoosier Super Tour also allows for cost containment and greater control of non-Super Tour events to Regions and Divisions. For non-Hoosier Super Tour events in the U.S. Majors Tour program, also known as Conference events, Regions have greater flexibility in planning and event structure to meet local needs. While annual calendaring is approved by the central office to avoid conflicts wherever possible, host Regions or race groups have sole management responsibility of the events, leading to potentially lower costs for racers due to a reduction in series staffing and services. Separation of the Super Tour from Conference events enhances sponsor opportunities, allows for an increased focus on marketing and can buoy the fiscal resources of various Regions.”
During the Andy Porterfield Memorial weekend at Auto Club Speedway, points towards a national championship were distributed to top finishers. Much like in the past, where top regional finishers earned points towards competing in the the legendary SCCA Runoffs. the Runoffs is undoubtedly the largest gathering of amateur racers in the US. the annual pilgrimagee has run at many great tracks throughout the years including Mazda Raceway laguna Seca, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Daytona International and Road Atlanta.
The 2017 SCCA Runoffs are scheduled for Indianapolis Motor Speedway the week of September 25-October 1. The fabled track will host the top racers from all regions on the purpose built road course, which incorporates part of the famed oval. The road course starts just shy of turn four — as the cars run down the straight of the circuit clockwise — as opposed to the counterclockwise Indy 500, and re-enter the oval just before turn one. The 13-corner, 2.621 mile circuit is the same course used for the IndyCar “Grand Prix of Indianapolis” and the FIM MotoGP series (which adds another 3 corners and chicanes).
For many, Indianapolis is a “bucket list” track. The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) has had a very successful string of events at the track, attracting hundreds of vintage racers, wanting to check off Indy on their logbook. Because of the intrigue of running the legendary speedway, there are numerous teams and drivers that will be pushing extra hard this year. The Majors Tour will get priority for the runoffs grid, which has caused a a bit of grumbling within the ranks of non-Majors, regional competitors on the SCCA chatrooms. However the SCCA expects nearly 800 competitors during the weeklong end of season classic.
Spectators are welcome at all SCCA events. To see this passion from so many competitors each year is always worth a visit. Classic events such as the famed June Sprints at Road America, which has been run for nearly 60 years, provide a “rights of spring” to many midwestern racing fans. Many recall the June Sprints “riots” of the 1960s when college kids literally took over the town of Elkhart Lake in a beer soaked frat party of racing and libation.
At its fundamental level, the SCCA was created for the common man to get on track, emulating the racing heroes of the day, and to experience the thrill of wheel-to-wheel competition. For those of us who dream of getting on the “other side of the fence,” the SCCA throughout its history, has been that opportunity.