Scott Tucker's speed
In all the 50+ year history of SCCA at Road America, no Club Racing driver had ever driven a lap of the 4-mile Road America circuit in less than two minutes until Wednesday, Sept. 19. That was the day Scott Tucker (LEFT) of Level 5 Racing delivered a qualifying lap time of 1:58.997 in his West Race Cars WX10.
“I wasn't aware of what a big deal this was, and I became aware of how relevant this is to the whole community just yesterday,” Tucker said.
Tucker races in SCCA's D Sports Racer class, which is designed to encourage innovation in lightweight purpose-built cars running motorcycle engines of 1000cc or less.
“I've been racing a prototype West car in the IMSA Lite class in ALMS for three years, and we found that we could modify it and bring that car to the SCCA Runoffs and run it as a D Sports Racer. We decided to do that last year, and we started working on the body and the engine. It started out as a simple project, but as most projects go you start one thing and it goes to another.”
With the amount of development going on in the popular D Sport class, lap times have been dropping for the last 10 years, dislodging the relatively static Formula Atlantic cars as SCCA's fastest class.
This new record also throws down the gauntlet between West Race Cars and the dominant Stohr Cars.
“The team goal was to break the two minute barrier; that was our mission statement. The guys really put their heads down and reworked the car from top to bottom. My job was the easy part,” Tucker said.
Here are a comparison of lap records for Road America in a variety of cars:
Dario Franchitti, 2000 Reynard-Honda, CART Champ Car: 1:39.866, Qualifying
Allan McNish, 2008 Audi R10/TDI ALMS P1, 1:46.935, Qualifying
Juan Fangio II, 1992 Eagle Mk III Toyota GTP, 1:47.913, Qualifying
Lucas Luhr, 2012 HPD-ARX 03A ALMS P1, 1:50.191, Qualifying
Martin Plowman / David Heinemeier Hanson, 2012 Morgan ALMS P2, 1:54.218, Qualifying
Kyle Marcelli, ORECA FML9, ALMS PC, 1:57.172, Qualifying
Mark Donohue, 1973 Porsche 917/30 Can-Am Spyder, 1:57.518, Qualifying
Scott Tucker, 2012 West WX-10 Suzuki, SCCA D-Sports Racing, 1:58.997, Qualifying, SCCA Runoffs
Richard Westbrook, 2012 Corvette Daytona Prototype, 2:01.744, Fastest Race Lap
Mario Andretti, 1975 Lola T-332 Chevy, SCCA F5000, 2:02.077, Qualifying
Seth Neiman / Marco Hotzer, Porsche 911 RSR GT3, ALMS GT2, 2:04.415, Qualifying
Nelson Piquet Jr., 2012 Chevy Impala, NASCAR Car Nationwide Series 2:13.066, Qualifying
Honda at the Runoffs
While Honda is generally more concerned about its current model year cars racing in Showroom Stock, every Honda driver at the Runoffs gets support, including Jim Hargrove of Surrey, British Columbia, shown here in his GT-Lite class Honda Civic from the 1970s.
When it comes to amateur racing, Mazda is the 800lb gorilla of automakers, providing unparalleled contingencies, championship prizes, and other benefits to the brand's racing drivers. But Honda is making great efforts to challenge the Zoom-Zoom folks on their own turf.
“We used to have a contingency program run by American Honda, some money out there but not much else. No technical or direct support,” says Honda's Lee Niffenegger. “Then the Honda Racing Line was put together by a bunch of people who came together from all over the company to create a program. I came from Honda R&D, where I was a technical expert and project leader.”
Of course, Honda had experience at the professional level in Formula 1 and CART, but little experience working with the amateur privateers in SCCA. Yet Honda engineers like Niffenegger had been racing the company's products in their spare time, and had expertise to offer.
“We put everything under HPD, who had a lot of experience with open wheel, but not much with production cars, so I was brought over to take care of our production-based racing programs. Anything that involves a production-based car,” Niffenegger says.
The needs of an amateur racer are similar to a pro team, but generally the cost to support an amateur racer is much less than a pro effort. Here's how Honda stepped up:
“We have discounted parts, a contingency program, hospitality for our drivers here at the Runoffs, and technical advice. One of our goals is to take the lead on developing Club Racing cars like the 2006 Civic SI. We share whatever we learn in terms of setup and development – so it's kind of an extension of what HPD does,” Niffenegger explains.
SCCA Worker of the Year
Worker of the Year Joi Robinson.jpg - (L-R) Peter Calhoun, BFGoodrich Tires, and Joi Robinson. Robinson won an all-expense-paid trip to the 12 Hours of Sebring as SCCA's Worker of the Year.
The most common thing in the racing world is to thank the race workers for their time and skills – and that's as it should be. Race workers are a subculture like no other group of volunteers in the world. At the end of the final day of every SCCA Runoffs, the workers hold a special ceremony at the post-race beer. The names of all the race workers who have passed away over the previous year are called out, and a toast is drunk to their memory.
Earlier in the week, SCCA recognizes its outstanding workers from every geographic division in the club. Winners receive a nice goodie – this year it was a bucket full of car care supplies, a free set of BFGoodrich tires, a plaque, a patch, and an SCCA jacket.
This year's winners of the BFGoodrich Tires Worker of the Year awards, by division, are:
Central Division: Dennis Troemel, Scrutineer, Milwaukee Region
Great Lakes Division: Wayne Briggs, Sound, Cincinnati Region
Midwest Division: Monica Shaw, Race Administration, Des Moines Valley Region
Northeast Division: Kyle Colbey, Timing & Scoring, Glen Region
Northern Pacific Division: Sherri Masterson, Registration, Northwest Region
Rocky Mountain Division: Ed Shuler, Flagging & Communication, Colorado Region
Southeast Division: Paul Gauzens, Steward, Atlanta Region
Southern Pacific Division: Joi Robinson, Grid & Pit, Cal Club Region
Southwest Division: Richard Kantrud, Steward, Texas Region
When the general awards are done, the names of all the winners are shuffled together and a grand prize winner is drawn. Some years it's a trip to Le Mans, and this year the prize was an all-expense-paid trip to the 12 hours of Sebring, sponsored by BF Goodrich. Joi Robinson of Cal Club took the grand prize this year.