With the new schedule format, drivers can elect to spend just three days
at the Runoffs, saving budget racers thousands in expenses.
In an effort to battle rising costs for competitors, SCCA reorganized its classic National Championship Runoffs format for this year. In past years, the Runoffs claimed a full week for every competitor, but this year racers are offered three qualifying sessions over two or three days, and then their race on the following day. Classes are staggered throughout the week so that no driver is required to be on-site for more than four days. The first championship races were held on Thursday, and will continue through Sunday intermixed with qualifying sessions for the later races.
Competitor response has been mixed, with a majority favoring the new schedule.
“I'd rather have a more relaxed schedule, but I'm retired. This schedule is better for the younger drivers who can't take two weeks off work to be here,” remarked Acura driver Stan Czacki.
SCCA is looking closely at the new format to gauge overall reaction. Club President Jeff Dahnert commented, “Some people have said that if you have two qualifying sessions on one day and have a mechanical problem, that can put some pressure on you. But a lot of people really like it. If you want to be here for the whole week experience, you can, but if you've got time constraints and you need a shorter week, you can do that. We'll do some exit surveys after the event, and we'll make some decisions from there.”
Level 5 Epic Thrash
The Level 5 Motorsports mechanics and logistical team moved heaven and earth to put this car back on track after the engine exploded in practice. (Mark Weber photo)
Drivers tend to get the glory, but every Runoffs has its legendary mechanics. This year's prize goes to the Level 5 Motorsports team, who put in a heroic effort to get driver Scott Tucker back on track after a catastrophic mechanical failure.
The car in question is a unique Porsche 996, outfitted with all wheel drive and competing in SCCA's Super Touring Over (STO) class. The engine seized during practice on Monday, and the shock of that engine failure broke the transmission case and turned the driveshaft, front differential, and all four axle shafts to junk.
“It was the only transmission of its kind in the world, so we worked all night to change the car over to a two wheel drive transmission from a GT-3 Cup car,” says Ed Zabinsky, Level 5 Program Manager for the Porsche STO program.
With the newly reconfigured car, Tucker went out and qualified on the pole in the Super Touring Over (STO) race. But the epic thrash wasn't done yet.
“We were able to find three transmissions in different parts of the country, and between the three of them we had all the gear ratios and pieces we needed to make one transmission that would work in that car. So we sent airplanes and guys all over to get these pieces and people to the track. We had a guy here working full-time for two days building one transmission out of three,” Zabinsky says.
When the green flag flew, Tucker grabbed the borrowed gears in the new transmission and put the competition in his rear-view mirror. At the end of the race, he claimed a decisive 37.843-second margin of victory, averaging 102.781 mph. But the work isn't even done yet.
“The rest of the story is, now we have to un-build the transmission to get the parts back to the people who sent them to us,” Zabinsky says.
B Spec Class
B-Spec brings low cost racing in affordable cars back to SCCA Club and Pro Racing. With strictly limited modifications, competitive B-Spec cars can be built for well under $10,000.
This year's Showroom Stock C race at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs included an unusual “race within a race” featuring the new B-Spec cars from the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge series.
Designed for “B-platform” street cars such as the Honda Fit, Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, and Toyota Yaris, the class allows only minimal modifications. Coil-over suspension, cat-back exhaust, brake flex lines, and a little bit of camber is all you get.
Joel Lipperini of Racelabz in Pittston, Pa. and Sage Marie of Huntington Beach, Calif. traded the lead throughout the race. At the end of the contest, it was Marie who took home the $3,000 check for first place, and a whole season of World Challenge entries for 2013.
Lipperini claimed the second prize of $1500 and two World Challenge entries. We caught up with him after the race.
“It was a blast! I had a great race with Sage and it was really fun to be here,” Lipperini said.
While the cars are slower than a conventional SSC sport compact, they are well-matched against each other. All the eligible vehicles are normally aspirated and feature 1500-1600cc engines.
“These cars are so easy to work with. There are really no parts issues, and even our brakes and tires last several races. I've seen eligible cars for sale as low as $4000. We've got four B-Spec cars in my shop right now, and we expect more next year,” Lipperini noted.
Asked what he'd like to change, Lipperini gives the standard racer's answer.
“I hope that they loosen up the rules just a little bit to let us go a little faster. A high-flow catalyst and a cold air intake would be more in line with what people are doing to these cars on the street, and just a little more power would be great. This is a wonderful class and a great way to get less expensive race cars into people's hands,” he said.
* Jeff Zurschmeide is a regular contributor to SportsCar magazine.