Julian Garfield: Gaining Experience

Mazda Solo Advancement Scholarship winner has tackled his first SCCA Majors race, and it was a big one

Julian Garfield appears to be one who never shies away from a challenge. That’s evidenced by not only stepping into Spec Miata with his Mazda Solo Advancement Scholarship, but also by racing in the well-attended and highly competitive June Sprints at the daunting Road America for his first SCCA U.S. Majors Tour race. 

“Overall, it was a good first Majors weekend. I think the biggest thing I’m encountering, and will be encountering throughout the season, is that every track we go to is brand new to me,” Garfield says. “Generally, all the other competitors in the Majors will have seen [the track] at least once, if not several times over. So coming in and trying to learn the tracks as quickly as possible and find out all the secrets is going to be tough. I think it’s going to be a little tougher than I originally expected. We had a class of 58 [at the June Sprints] and I took 25th and 23rd, respectively, in Saturday and Sunday’s races. Given the scenario and the seat time I’ve had so far, I’m pretty content with that.”

Garfield says he learned a lot about drafting at Road America, especially the importance of having a drafting partner. It took some time for him to get comfortable running in such close proximity at high speeds, but he also thinks it will be valuable experience for the Runoffs. 

“I wasn’t as close to the front of the pack and some of the national drivers as I was at Blackhawk Farms,” he says. “A large part of that is because I think the way Road America is laid out, every little mistake you make is exaggerated by the super long straightaways. So while my pace to the front was further off than I was at Blackhawk Farms, I think overall I’m still getting more comfortable in the car. 

“Going from Blackhawk Farms, where I had 15 in my class in a multi-class group of 30 cars, to 58 Spec Miatas in our own group, my race craft definitely improved,” Garfield notes. “I had some great battles – Saturday I spent the whole day in a four-car battle essentially the entire time.”

One area he knows he needs improvement on is starts, but he also realizes that is something that will only come with practice. 

Garfield has two more U.S. Majors Tour weekends, one at GingerMan and the other Grattan, to work on his starts before the Runoffs – but that will also be two more tracks that are new to him that he has to learn. Fortunately, his years of autocross help in that regard.

“Solo is three [or] four runs on a course you’ve never seen before and never see again – to be able to quickly adapt to the track and get the most out of each and every corner is very important,” he says, before also noting that in road racing it’s as if all his competitors already have a few hundred runs on the course. “But overall, I definitely think I wouldn’t be getting up to pace as quickly as I am if it wasn’t for Solo.”

Garfield is continuing to compete in autocross on a national level, and also just wrapped up Formula SAE competition for the University of Kansas at Lincoln Airpark in Nebraska, the site of the SCCA Solo National Championships. 

Garfield’s next race will be the SCCA Northern Conference Majors at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Mich., on July 8-9.