I never liked Volvos.
The older ones bring to mind either a plodding, smoky vehicle, or a hastily turbocharged vector for cute stickers, ponderously yawing into oversteer with some haircut behind the wheel. I’m aware there’s more to the spectrum of ownership than that, but besides the airborne wagons of BTCC and the odd rally car, none of it appealed to me.
Here, however, was quite an offer. Continue Reading →
“You know, they do some ice racing around here when it freezes up.”
“Oh yeah? Competitive?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Within days of this conversation, I’m driving someone else’s Honda onto a fairly large oval plowed into a frozen pond by the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club, as an unknown quantity, to evaluate whether or not I’m a hazard.
I can’t say I understood the full extent of the commitment made when I passed, and agreed to come back and race the following year, but I’d learn.
The Sports Car Club of America has been around since 1944, sponsoring amateur and professional racing in several diverse formats for thousands of racers during its existence. However, despite its long and storied history, the SCCA has another nickname—the Secret Car Club of America. The club hasn’t always done the best job of promoting itself and growing its membership over the years, resulting in an inevitable graying of the club’s membership.
As other motorsports organizations came into being in the last ten to fifteen years (24 Hours of Lemons, ChumpCar, American Endurance Racing, GoodGuys), the SCCA suddenly faced a significant amount of disruptive competition for new customers. In response, they hired Heyward Wagner (the man holding the Benjamin in the above photo with me and Friend of RG, Rebecca Turrell—sorry for that pic, Heyward) to be the Director of Experiential Programs—in other words, his job was to think up new events to attract and retain new members.
Among Wagner’s ideas is the wildly successful Track Night in America, now in its fourth season of existence, and Targa, a sort of mini One Lap that encompassed multiple motorsports disciplines (autocross, time trial, road rally, and trackcross) into one competition. And now, the SCCA is preparing to launch its latest venture, Time Trials Nationals, this September. Time Trials Nationals will take place at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, KY, and will consist of both a flag-to-flag timed session and a TrackCross, which is a point-to-point autocross-style time trial that involves only a certain section of the track.
I sat down with Wagner this week to talk about what it will look like.
Some of you mentioned that you’d like to hear about more track stuff—so here’s more track stuff! Please welcome our newest Guest Writer, Steve Ulfelder!—Bark
Hot diggity, I thought as the alarm rattled me from Fangio dreams, the day is finally here! All the heel-toe practice, all the years watching racing on TV and wondering if I had what it took to push my car and myself to the limit, all the research about venues and sanctioning groups—the payoff was finally here in the form of My First Track Day!
<needle-scratching-record sound effect>
Nah. This is not that My First Track Day story (for which, I assume, you are grateful). I came at my own first track day the same way I approach most things in life: ass-backwards.
I spent a decade autocrossing, then 12 years in SCCA Club Racing. Though mediocre in both disciplines, I eventually became a solid racer. I was the guy at the front of the middle of the pack, unlikely to win but less likely to do anything stupid.
Mediocrity be damned: I was out there, doing it. All told, I must have run nearly 150 SCCA races.
How’d I manage to do this without ever trying a track day?
I spent a significant amount of time this week editing video and piecing together a write-up of my experiences at the Ford ST Octane Academy over the weekend for TTAC. I did all this despite knowing that it would probably receive less than ten comments and be read by virtually nobody.
What I’ve learned in my three years of writing for The Truth About Cars is that automotive blog readers mostly care about the following things, in order:
0. Shiny pictures of new cars
1. Talking about how you should never actually buy one of those shiny new cars
2. Talking about how financing new cars is only for idiots
3-999. Anything and everything other than how they can drive their own cars or rent racecars and drive on actual racetracks
1000. Driving cars on racetracks
I think I might know why that is.