GETTING STARTED IN MOTORSPORTS
by Tony Sakkis
January 3, 1997
If season's greetings means more to you than Santa and champagne on New Year's eve, then you're at the right place. In just a few short weeks the real season is going to be ushered in; racing is beginning.
Do you live in Buffalo? Perhaps not. But anywhere in the lower half of the country -- especially west of the Mississippi -- racing folks will be dusting off their General Competition Rules (GCRs) and getting ready to race.
Some of you may have never raced previously. If not, hold on to your helmets and hang on. For the next three weeks this space will be a how-to guide for people interested in speed.
Road racing. Although there are a multitude of car clubs which can get you fast laps on America's best racetracks (call your local road racing facility, or call the SCCA for a suggestion on which track is closest) when it comes to racing on twisty tracks (as opposed to ovals or drag strips, which will be covered in future columns) there is really only one major sanctioning body: the Sports Car Club of America.
The SCCA tends to be arrogant, cliquish and often intolerant. It's because they have the only game in town. But the reason they are and can be arrogant, cliquish and intolerant is that they are very good at what they do. The SCCA has been as successful as it has, not despite its reputation, but because of it. Racing is dangerous. Who better to control the sport than a group of self-centered bureaucrats?
Trying to figure out what class in which to race your car is difficult, so consider racing the cheapest and simplest -- like showroom stock with a five-year-old or newer stock sedan or sports car (again, call the SCCA; or better yet, get a copy of the GCR and figure it out yourself).
To get into the family and race that particular vehicle -- as simple as it is -- you have to have a birth certificate of sorts. That's an SCCA licence. The SCCA Licence allows you to race in SCCA events around your geographical vicinity, and eventually all around the country.
To get a license, you have to go through the SCCA Drivers School (or some other accredited and recognized drivers school). Depending on where you live, the exercise will be slightly different. San Francisco Region, for example, for many years had only one school per year and it was packed to the gills with would-be racers. It took two weekends and was as much fun as an ingrown toe nail. In someplace like the SouthWestern Region -- meaning Texas and Louisiana -- it is considerably easier. They usually have two to three schools per year and usually have only about 30-40 people each outing. In addition, they do the entire thing in one weekend, with classroom on Friday night and the exercise completed by Sunday afternoon. The following weekend you can race in a regional event.
You may just bail on this whole idea and decide not to do anything. Then again you may do this in installments by going through the SCCA's autocross series. Autocrossing is road racing around orange cones. It's safer, less expensive, and simpler to do (you won't have to drive to the track every weekend; just to the local parking lots where autocrosses are held). Either way, your best bet -- again -- is to begin with a call to the SCCA. Happy driving.
Sports Car Club of America, Inc. National Office: 9033 Easter Place, Englewood, CO 80112; or: P.O. Box 3278, Englewood, CO 80155; Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. M-F Mountain Standard Time; Office: (303) 693-2111; FAX: (303) 680-5633; Club Racing: (303) 694-7229.