In his first season of road racing, Garfield learned a key lesson during each SCCA Majors weekend
Julian Garfield just wrapped up his first season of SCCA club racing in Spec Miata. While he’s no stranger to motorsports competition, road racing has some key differences to the autocross competition where he has excelled. Car control is similar, even though the speeds involved are different, but race starts, racecraft and having other cars around him were new territory.
Garfield, the winner of a Mazda Motorsports Solo Advancement Scholarship, raced three SCCA U.S. Majors Tour weekends leading up to his first SCCA National Championship Runoffs. At each event he says he feels he picked up on something new that enabled him to earn a top-20 finish at Indianapolis.
“My first Majors was at Road America, and in my opinion I had a couple of sub-par starts,” Garfield admits. “That was one of the things that kind of clicked in my head – how I should be approaching the start of the race differently. I certainly wasn’t aggressive enough, which I think is understandable given that it was my first Majors event with such a large field and I had been worried about keeping the car safe. But I knew that I had room to be more aggressive.”
Moving on to GingerMan, racing in tight quarters with others was the next step. “Getting used to running in close proximity to other cars was very important at GingerMan,” he says. “I remember getting used to finding my brake point through the windshield of three cars in front of me. Getting used to that was a great thing to develop throughout the weekend.”
After a couple of Majors, he was running closer to the front. Finally in contention for a win, racecraft came into play. “At Grattan, I was in far better position, so setting up passes and thinking about strategy and racecraft at Grattan was very beneficial. Along with that, Grattan is a very demanding track, so being physically and mentally ready to take on the entire race, I found that a little more difficult.”
It all added up to being able to handle the pressure of the Runoffs and put together a very respectable finish in a huge field of cars. Whether he intended to approach it piece by piece or not, he says tackling a different item each weekend made all the difference.
“By the time I got to the Runoffs, I felt I had worked on all these different aspects of road racing and I was confident that I had at least a decent skill set,” Garfield says. “Obviously, there’s always room for improvement, otherwise I could have been top 10 or top five. But picking these different things to work on each weekend when I had a limited amount of time was, I think, the best way to handle it, and I don’t think I would have done anything differently.”