Tim Wise Doubles Up

Touring 4 MX-5 racer took advantage of a new rule to get double the track time at the 2017 SCCA Runoffs

Racing is all about spotting potential advantages and using them to your benefit. When it came to the 2017 SCCA Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past September, a circuit few had run at, the difficulty most racers faced was learning the track in the limited amount of time offered during the qualifying week. But while Tim Wise knew he had no real shot in Touring 3 at the Runoffs with his T4 NC MX-5, he utilized a new SCCA classification procedure to maximize track time at Indy in order to increase his chances of success in Touring 4.

“The [SCCA] Touring Committee as of March 1 allowed any Touring car to run up one class without any changes,” Wise explains. “The way I looked at it, if I’m towing 2,500 miles to go to Indy…Indy is a very rare place to get hot lap time. But also, with the Runoffs being one session a day per class, I saw T3 as another opportunity to develop my driving to focus on making it better for the T4 sessions that really mattered.

“We treated the T3 sessions as test sessions for T4, trying to stay out of the way of the T3 competitors. Once I saw on the schedule that B-Spec was going to be in there, I felt that I was probably not going to be that intrusive with a T4 car in T3, and felt that two sessions a day would be more valuable than one,” he adds.

Making the task of qualifying easier, most of the races that Wise attended in SCCA’s Western Conference run T3 and T4 in separate groups. On one occasion, the Super Tour at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, he did have to split it up, running one class one day and the other the next. But Wise, who hails from Santa Cruz, Calif., was able to run four races most weekends leading up to the Runoffs.

Wise ended up doing decently well in T3, finishing 14th in the race. But in T4, he qualified 22nd and moved up to 16th in the large, competitive field. Running and doing well at the Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was important to Wise because he spent many years working for IndyCar teams in data acquisition, and had spent a lot of time at the Speedway during the month of May in the ’90s.

“The Speedway is important to me personally because I spent – well…we had the old phrase ‘60 days of May’ at Indianapolis for the 500. I spent many years at the Speedway in my 20s,” he says.

Wise was in on the early days of data acquisition. “In the beginning it was just setting up systems and getting them operating and trying to make heads or tails of the data,” he says. “As the technology matured in the early to mid ’90s, most of my job was writing software to use the data most effectively and develop telemetry systems.”

While he now works as a software engineering manager for Google, he hasn’t forgotten about those days, and produced an interesting hack to get some of the data produced by the car into the AiM data acquisition system.

“AiM ships an ECU driver file with their system to get the basic parameters out of the data system, but there were several other data parameters that I felt would be really valuable,” he explains. As a result, he can now get tire pressures and temperatures, and even heart rate, data. That data is even sent to off via SMS text message in a kind of low-budget telemetry. MazdaMotorsports.com will take a look at how he did that in the near future.

While Wise enjoyed his dalliance with T3 and the results it brought him, he doubts he’ll repeat it. For one thing, the 2018 Runoffs are in his backyard at Sonoma Raceway, where his MX-5 normally resides and he gets plenty of track time. And although the SCCA Club Racing Board has now added a spec line in T3 for the NC MX-5 that he finds appealing, getting to the minimum weight would be a challenge. For now, he’s going to stick with T4, spending 2018 hitting some bucket list tracks in the eastern half of the country – his car was already there after the Runoffs, so he sent it home with an East Coast team – before returning to the West Coast for the Runoffs at Sonoma.