You wouldn't know it, but three days earlier the front of this Dodge Viper was all but missing from an on-track incident. Determination and a lot of hard work mean this car will make qualifying. (Philip Royle photos)
The National Championship Runoffs, SCCA's week-long amateur road racing winner-take-all event, kicked off earlier this week at Road America with an attendance level flirting with the record books. The event's structure is different from many motorsports events. This year, some 700 competitors came to the four-mile road course for a day of practice (Monday, Sept. 16), followed by three days of qualifying (Sept. 17-19), and then a race. Because there are 28 championship classes, the racing spans three days, from Sept. 20-22.
To prep for the Runoffs, Road America offers competitors test days prior to the event. Consequently, many drivers head to the track early to set up their racecar for the specific needs of the circuit – and with so many competitors this year, many found test sessions a necessity. Unfortunately, they can also bite you.
Touring 1 competitor Tim Myers Jr. pilots a Dodge Viper, and was testing on the Sunday before the Runoffs when his car slid wide on Turn 13, making contact with the outside wall. The accident essentially sliced the right-front corner from the Viper. So what to do? Rather than give up, Myers and crew hunkered down to repair the damage.
Monday and Tuesday were spent sorting through much of the bent and broken pieces, as well as ordering replacement parts. “The new parts didn't arrive until last night,” says Myers. By noon on Wednesday, the car was nearly ready for qualifying.
That is the theme here at the Runoffs: determination. A number of drivers encounter problems during the event, but no one towed hundreds, often thousands, of miles to Elkhart Lake, Wis., to give up without a fight.
On Monday, we reported on the MSR Houston group, speaking with Sydney Davis, an E Production driver. Later that day, on the first lap of her practice session, the race motor in her Mazda Miata locked up heading into Turn 3, pushing her into the wall. The solution? Patch the body and find another motor.
“It's alive,” she announced a day later; the MSR Houston crew had banded together, sourced a junkyard motor, installed it, and headed to the dyno for tuning. “I've got 122hp,” she says – down about 60, she notes.
The crew at Barrington Performance help their customers at the SCCA Runoffs with any
transmissions problems, keeping their drivers on track.
Walk the paddock at this gargantuan event and you'll quickly come across a multitude of similar stories.
Transmission specialist Ron Olsen has a number of Mazdas at the event running his Barrington Performance dog-engagement transmissions. Between his own qualifying sessions (he races, too), Olsen is busy assisting customers with any transmission issues they might have, cracking open boxes, making repairs when possible, and offering loaner transmissions when not.
“I've got three transmissions to do, then I'm on to yours,” Olsen told me as I checked on the transmission I had broken yesterday. Yes, that's right, I'm fighting my own battle here at the Runoffs. My issues will sideline me for qualifying, but I'll do whatever it takes to get the car back on its tires before the green flag – just like everyone else here.
• Follow all the Runoffs action live via online Timing & Scoring here: http://www.sccahost.com/sccalive/
• For detailed coverage of the 50th SCCA National Runoffs, go to scca.com/runoffs. The races can also be seen live Sept. 20-22, on www.SpeedcastTV.com.