SCCA AMATEUR RACER SHOOTOUT
by Larry Roberts
August 14, 1998
I recently received a fax from the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) announcing that this national organization currently has a world-wide membership of 55,094, the highest number since a peak year of 1989. Being a member myself, I was mildly pleased at by the announcement.
The communique describes the percentage of growth of Pro Racing, the professional arm of the club, and how it is increasing its penetration into the competitive marketing world of big-time racing. But professional events are only the somewhat-thin frosting on the SCCA racing cake and the real backbone of the organization is the ranks of its amateur competitors. A case in point is its annual gathering of amateur road racers who come from all over the country to race each other in the SCCA Valvoline National Runoffs.
Last year the Runoffs were held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at Lexington, Ohio and 564 racers attended, ready to vie for the titles of champion in the 23 various classes. Ideally, they are the top finishers in their respective classes in their own SCCA Divisional championship series. Unfortunately, many of the top contenders who are eligible to compete from the eight divisional championships don't attend the Runoffs for whatever reason and the ranks are therefore filled with drivers and cars that are "good" as well as being able to afford to participate. In 1997, 28 of the Divisional champions in the classes recognized by the SCCA didn't attend the event, but just being invited to participate at Mid-Ohio is a compliment and a validation of the driver's skill and determination.
The 23 designated SCCA Runoff classes are as diverse as the regions that the drivers come from. At the top of the pile there is a 50-mile race for Formula Atlantic cars. Formula Atlantic is also a class in professional racing and the "amateur" drivers at the Runoffs are often on the grids of the professional Kool/Formula Atlantic races put on as warm-up races for the exotic Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) formula cars.
On the other end of the equipment scale are the three Showroom Stock (SS) classes. "Stock" is concept here as much as it's a classification and the cars that race range from the BMW 328 and Volkswagen Corrados that run in SSA, the Mazda Miata that dominates SSB and the Dodge/Plymouth Neon sedan clones that overwhelmed the Showroom Stock Class C race.
There are races for several less sophisticated types of formula cars that are powered by Ford Pinto, air-cooled Volkswagen and tiny Rotax motors as well as events for a variety of envelope-bodied sports-racers. Camaro and Mustang "pony cars" ran in their own 50 miler and vintage but updated British sportsters such as the Austin-Healey Sprite, Elva Courier, MGB and Triumph TR6 run against other roadsters of comparable speed in Production classes.
The popularity of the SCCA Valvoline National Runoffs is attested to by the fact that a total of 20,000 spectators showed up over the three-day event. And this for an event that is, in the main, for amateur cars and drivers.
This coming October will mark the 35th running of the Runoffs. I was on the crew of a Sunbeam Alpine that contested Class F Production in the SCCA Runoffs at the now-defunct Riverside, California track in 1962. Our car and driver failed to finish in the money, but then as now, it was almost as important to just be in the running as it was to win.
The Pro Racing division may be the glamour side of the Sports Car Club of America, but it's the thousands of amateur competitors in Club Racing, Solo I and II as well as its rally program that keeps the organization going.