Growing out of Track Night in America, the first Time Trials Nationals attracted first-timers and crossovers from other competition programs
With SCCA Track Night in America gaining popularity and reaching maturity, SCCA was able to launch a national Time Trials program, which combines the relaxed attitude of Track Night with the added element of competition. Track Night in America is a casual on-track driving experience; Time Trials, meanwhile, aims to take it to the next level.
“I think of Track Night as kind of a day camp experience – it’s light, it’s easy, it’s fun,” says Heyward Wagner, Director of Marketing and Experiential Programs for the Sports Car Club of America. “Time Trials is more the sleep-away camp product. We have an opportunity to have a welcome party on Friday night. There’s time to walk the track. At NCM [the 2018 Time Trials Nationals] we did a karting challenge and we had the opportunity to have a professional photographer take a beauty shot on track at sunset. We had those types of additional elements that increase and enhance the on-track experience and also give people more of an opportunity to interact.”
SCCA ran several events with local regions in 2018 to gear up for the Time Trials Nationals at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park. Then in September 2018, SCCA hosted the first Time Trials Nationals with 127 competitors taking part. While that number may not have been quite what Wagner and others wanted, it was a good start, and manageable.
“We were really fortunate that we had some SCCA regions early in the year that allowed us to run some primer events, so we came into the [Time Trials Nationals] at a much higher level. We had designed our way around some problems before we got there and that was really wonderful to have that experience,” he says.
The competitors responded favorably. Asked in post-event surveys about overall experience and whether they would recommend the Time Trials Nationals to a friend, 98 percent responded in the affirmative.
Like Track Night, Time Trials is based around street-worthy cars, although it does include an unlimited category where just about anything goes. In many ways it is similar to autocross – a preparation level that meets your desires, but with minimal modifications required to compete and participate. The required safety equipment for drivers is a Snell-rated helmet and closed-toe shoes. Most cars don’t need any safety modifications, the exception being some convertibles. Three of the four categories require street tires; there, tires with a treadwear rating of 200 or above are mandated.
But while some of this sounds similar to autocross, the idea is not to pull competitors from the SCCA’s autocross program. While approximately 30 percent of participants at the Time Trials Nationals listed their primary interest in SCCA as autocross, another third of the entrants identified their primary interest as track events.
“This is really about building a product that appeals to somebody who has not yet found their home in motorsports,” Wagner explains. “To me, that’s somebody that does a couple of track days a year, a couple of autocross events … they have a car, found an interest, but nothing has yet really hooked them. The goal is to grow the overall participation in motorsports.”
As might be expected, many of the participants at the inaugural Time Trials Nationals were Mazda owners. That population was dominated by the different generation of MX-5s, but also included RX-7s and RX-8s. John Hunter won the S5 category in a 2016 Miata. “We are excited about the opportunities for the ND; it’s going to be a really strong Time Trials car,” notes Wagner. “[Multi-time autocross national champion] Andy Hollis has an ND2 that he is prepping specifically for Time Trials.”
Hollis and others competing with Mazda products have the opportunity to join Mazda’s Team Support Program, which means discounts on stock and competition parts, support from Mazda Motorsports’ knowledgeable staff and even discounts on new Mazda road cars.
That help from Mazda will come in handy as the program grows. For 2019, the event becomes the Tire Rack SCCA Time Trials National Tour, a series of eight events that will conclude with the Time Trials Nationals – once again to be held at NCM Motorsports Park. Other tracks on the tour include Pitt Race, High Plains Raceway in Colorado, Carolina Motorsports Park, Portland International Raceway, GingerMan Raceway in Michigan, Heartland Motorsports Park in Kansas, Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California, and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut.
“The focus is going to tracks that are program appropriate – lots of runoff area so you have opportunity to make mistakes without messing up your car. The ability to do on-site camping comfortably and easily so that people can come for the weekend and stay and enjoy the socials. It’s also important for these tracks to have multiple configurations – the goal is for it to be a highly dynamic on-track experience and you’re not running the exact same configuration the exact same way,” says Wagner.
But not only is SCCA’s Time Trials program growing, SCCA is also working to strengthen track day programs throughout the industry. GRIDLIFE, along with SCCA and Global Time Attack, formed the North American Time Attack Council (NATA), a leadership committee dedicated to the development, evolution, and success of time-based, competitive motorsport events such as Time Attack and Time Trials. The goal of the Council is the progression of motorsports through the consultation and collaboration of its members in the planning and execution of programs and events. NATA and its member organizations seek to represent the interests of all drivers, from beginner to professional competitor, in order to ensure access, inclusivity, consistency and a high quality driver experience.
“SCCA is thrilled to formally align with GRIDLIFE and Global Time Attack,” commented Wagner when the announcement was made at the 2018 Performance Racing Industry trade show in early December. “Each represent the best of what the sport can be and the shared commitment to progression and development is inspiring. The NATA not only creates strength between the three, but as the SCCA program is in its infancy, this is an amazing opportunity to learn from the best in the industry.”
The 2019 Time Trials National Tour schedule was just released. Look for updates and interesting Time Trials car builds on MazdaMotorsports.com. For more information, check out SCCA’s new Time Trials Web site at timetrials.scca.com.
2019 Tire Rack Time Trials National Tour Schedule
Date: Track; City
April 13-14: Thunderhill Raceway; Willows, Calif.
April 27-28: Pittsburgh International Race Complex; Wampum, Penn.
May 25-26: Carolina Motorsports Park; Kershaw, S.C.
June 8-9: Portland International Raceway; Portland, Ore.
June 15-16: High Plains Raceway; Deer Trail, Colo.
June 22-23: Heartland Motorsports Park; Topeka, Kan.
July 5-6: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park; Thompson, Conn.
July 27-28: GingerMan Raceway; South Haven, Mich.
Sept. 27-29: NCM Motorsports Park; Bowling Green, Ky. (Tire Rack Time Trials Nationals)