Sports Car Club of America announced today a new, top-level Club Racing program dubbed the “Majors,” launching as a pilot program in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest Divisions in 2012.
Focused on providing fresh, enhanced opportunities for National-level classes within a geographical racing area, the Majors offer a new format race weekend focused on clustering competition and providing greater value for racers. The Majors concept comes from a two-year planning committee directive from the SCCA Board of Directors to evolve the top level of SCCA Club Racing with the changing times. For decades, “National” racing has served as the top Club Racing level, providing a path toward both Divisional Championships and the National Championship Runoffs.
“By definition in the SCCA General Competition Rules, National racing has not changed for decades, but many of these events have evolved away from their true purpose – to provide a high level event for the most serious competitors,” SCCA Chairman of the Board Jerry Wannarka said. “The Majors program does just that, not unlike what the Tire Rack SCCA ProSolo Series does for the autocross community.”
The most significant philosophical and structural change from the current Club Racing model deals with treating competition classes differently from one another at select events. Classes in the Majors program are placed in one of two groups—Invitational or Showcase. The highest subscribed classes in a particular geographic zone will be included in the Invitational program, with the remaining classes comprising the Showcase group. Both the Invitational and Showcase classes will have special opportunities throughout the season.
“There are too many National program classes to create a championship-level experience for each of them on each race weekend,” SCCA President and CEO Jeff Dahnert said. “We are able to do that once per year, at the Runoffs, and it takes a full week. We need a departure from the philosophy that we can be all things to all people at every event. We can provide better programs, but we need to spread new opportunities out over several race weekends.”
For 2012, the Majors program will coexist with the current Regional and National programs in the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest Divisions. These three Divisions will be combined to make up the Majors “zone.” The Majors Championship will be comprised of six weekends, two being geographically held in each Division, including the three BFGoodrich Tires Super Tour events and three Invitational class-only events (one per Division). Additional opportunities will be planned on separate weekends for Showcase classes.
While all 29 National classes will be part of the BFGoodrich Tires Super Tour events, the Invitational weekends will be a special opportunity for the highest-subscribed classes based on combined participation numbers within the Zone. Limiting classes for the Invitationals allows organizers to target two classes per race group, allowing for split starts to cluster like-classed cars together on the racetrack.
“Multi-class racing, whether in amateur or professional motorsports, is done out of necessity,” Dahnert added. “That's why the Runoffs and special festival events are so popular. If you can fill a field with only one class, the drivers are much happier. Every car on the track represents a position.
“The problem is, with so many classes, we need an event as long as the Runoffs to accommodate everyone. The Majors Invitational events take the top 10, or so, classes within the Zone and gives them additional opportunities to run in large fields without the impact of several other classes on the track.”
The top 10 (roughly 1/3) classes represent nearly 70 percent of the entries on a given weekend at an SCCA National event.
All six Majors races in 2012, including the BFGoodrich Tires Super Tour events and the Invitationals, will feature a common pre-event registration process, chief steward and management team from the National Office for continuity and consistency, while still being operated by the local Regions to provide the local flavor and atmosphere. The idea is to take the best elements of the Club Racing experience and meld them with some components often found at professional events. Making events better than, and different from, other events is a key focal point.
Each of the events will feature a pair of “points” races toward the Majors Championship (for the Invitational classes) that will also count toward the existing National and Divisional Point Championships. At Invitational events, drivers can expect to be on track two to three times per day for no less than 20 minutes each. For two-day events, Saturday will feature traditional timed qualifying followed by a 45-mile points race. Sunday will grid cars based on the fast laps from Saturday's race for a brief qualifying race, which will set the grid for Sunday's feature 45-mile points race based on finishing position.
Following each race and the winner's victory laps, the entire field will be brought to impound for technical inspection and award presentations.
Combining participants from the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest Divisions for the six Majors events creates a new opportunity for a meaningful Championship. Not only does a driver need to better the competition from his own Division, but also those from the neighboring Divisions as well.
A driver will count his or her best eight finishes (out of 12 possible) toward their respective class Championship, using the GCR Points schedule established for Divisional Championships. Along with the prestige and prize package to be announced later, the Champions will be recognized as having met the second leg (Divisional Championship) of the four-legged Super Sweep award.
Additionally, recognizing that participating in the Majors Pilot events could hamper a driver's ability to qualify for the 2012 National Championship Runoffs® through the traditional process, any driver who starts at least one race on each of three Majors weekends (in the same class) will receive a Runoffs invitation.
In addition to the Majors Point Championship for the Invitational classes, other awards will be offered, including, but not limited to, special recognition to up-and-coming drivers who are new to Championship racing and a year-end prize for the best performers in qualifying races. Point Championship awards will be announced at a later date.
“There are a great many opportunities to race, score points and qualify for the Runoffs across the country,” SCCA Planning Committee Chairman Bill Kephart said. “The goal of the Majors is to identify key events that a driver can count on for a good field of competitors, not only from within his or her Division, but drawing from the surrounding Divisions as well.
“For the most serious racers in SCCA, competition is the most important aspect of a weekend. Recognition programs and social aspects are important components, but giving a racer a full field to compete in is our primary objective.”
The Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest Divisions were grouped into the pilot zone based on the ability to travel out of Division within, for the most part, one day's tow. Additionally, the average entry counts of each Division could benefit greatly with the incentive for drivers from the neighboring divisions to participate in one or more event outside of their own Division.
"Showcase Events" are for the National-level classes in the program not covered in the Invitational program. For the Pilot program, this will include 19 classes, which makes up just over 30 percent of the total entries based on 2011 participation numbers. Showcase classes will have additional racing opportunities at other events, likely a Bonus National in 2012. This program could also include festival events, anniversary races or marque-specific opportunities.
Like the Super Tour and Invitational events, the goal is to shine a spotlight on these events for the classes they include, creating an atmosphere and opportunity designed to draw racers to that event, thus clustering competition.
Based on combined participation numbers from 2011 in the Zone including the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Southwest Divisions, as well as taking trends into consideration, the following classes and groupings will take place in the three Invitational races and Majors Championship.
-Spec Racer Ford
-Spec Miata, Super Touring® Under
-E Production, F Production, H Production
-Formula 500, Formula Vee
-Formula Mazda, Formula F
The following events have been designated as part of the 2012 Majors Championship Pilot program
March 9-11* Texas World Speedway (Lone Star Region)Super Tour, all 29 classes
April 14-15* Hallett Motor Racing Circuit (AVRG)Super Tour, all 29 classes
May 5-6* Texas Motor Speedway (Texas Region)Invitational Classes only
May 5-6 Heartland Park Topeka (KVRG)Showcase Event component
May 25-27 Pikes Peak International (CDR)Showcase Event component
June 16-17* Pueblo Motorsports Park (CDR)Invitational Classes only
June 30-July 1* High Plains Raceway (Colorado Region)Super Tour, all 29 classes
July 14-15* Heartland Park Topeka (KVRG)Invitational Classes only
*-Part of the Majors Points Championship
Note: One additional Showcase event may be added in the Southwest Division
The 2012 Pilot program is designed to both provide the Majors opportunity and experience for those within the Pilot Zone, but also be a test-bed for a coast-to-coast rollout targeted for 2013. While the Invitational program will initially include approximately 10 classes, there is nothing locking the program into one set of Invitational weekends per Zone. If more than 10 classes within a Zone can support the concept of clustering competition and providing good car counts at each event, then that number can, and will, evolve as needed.
“In a perfect world, we'd have all of our National classes strong enough to support an Invitational-style program,” Dahnert said. “If we have 15 or more classes that can support that concept, then we would look to expand the number of Invitational weekends accordingly.”