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SCCA Road Racing is in Trouble!

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#41
Martinracing98

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We need to move towards two areas... super tours ( or whatever you want to call them)and don't dilute them.. and everything else should just be 'racing", call it whatever you like

 

I agree. Do not expand super tour. It is elite, almost semi-pro. Participate in 33%, 50% or something and you get to participate in the runoffs. 

 

For the regular races, perform well enough in those and you also qualify for runoffs.



#42
Tom Hampton

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Dear nasa and scca,

Get on the same fudging tire. Until then...ill race with someone else or not at all.

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#43
Tom Hampton

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Ps... I did not type fudging.

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#44
Tom Hampton

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Dear Jim..

Fix you'd fudging filter! I cussed God damn it! I want it known!
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#45
Steve Scheifler

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Mr. Drago and others are correct, the Super Tour is the third attempt at a higher level of competition. It’s not meant for everyone, so for once stick to the concept and kill it at places that don’t draw enough entrants. Make changes as needed to improve it for the series regulars, not to entice the more casual racer. If that means all 3-day events, or dropping classes to reduce run groups and get more done in two days, fine. It either works or it doesn’t as a largely separate series. That won’t fix what’s wrong overall or save the club, but drawing that bold line allows someone else to focus on making the rest work.

Of course “the rest” is the hard part. Much of what’s being mentioned above would be on my wish list too, but my list and priority is a little different than yours, while yours is different from the next, and I doubt whether all of it combined stops the bleeding. It’s extremely unfair to say that the SCCA doesn’t have an appetite for change. A lot of people who have been around awhile would say there’s been too much change (and they too would be wrong). I’m not particularly impressed with some of the stuff they’ve done to attract new participants, but they certainly have tried, and I don’t have the stats on the degree to which it’s working. Do any of you who are so critical? There may be some merit in the old adage about it being easier and cheaper to keep an existing customer than to cultivate a new one, but when you find your base aging out it’s probably a good idea to start actively courting replacements.

Contrary to popular BS, acknowledging or identifying the problem isn’t half the battle, particularly when you are at the mercy of the whims of others. Put simply, there is not a solution to every problem. Countless once dominant companies through history have faded to oblivion despite heroic efforts to turn them around. Some things can’t be fixed, only replaced.

I go back more than 40 years with the SCCA and can’t recall a time when low car counts wasn’t a topic of concern in this part of the country. Given the variety of on-track options these days the real surprise for me is that things aren’t worse for the club. Of course competition generally cuts both ways, stealing away some business but at the same time increasing the overall market so a smaller share is still a bigger number. Unfortunately I’m not sure it can be fixed and still be largely what we know today. Sprint racing is psychologically different from all those other options and I think that may be a bigger factor than most people realize, and it’s one that can’t be remedied. But if I were to offer a bullet list of things that might help keep those who ARE attracted to this form of racing, it would look something like this:

Increase track time per event. For a racer on a tight budget there is such a thing as too much track time because tires in particular are so expensive and in many classes fuel isn’t cheap. But things have moved way too far the other direction. Suck it up and do what’s necessary to reduce the number of run groups so there is a meaningful practice session EACH day and still have adequate time for qualifying and racing. This really is the #1 biggest issue on my list. How in the world does someone justify going to an event at a track they’ve never run with no test day available and not even a single test session?? We skipped more than one event for that reason. Note to organizers: If you can’t do better than that, just throw the red flag and do something else.

Companies tend to get fat around the middle, and from my experience big “non-profits” are particularly so inclined. I’d like to see more transparency around club finances. But my recommendation is, do what it takes to reduce HQ expenses and pass the savings down to the regional level (non-HST) events in the form of lower entry fees. For a lot of people with big tire budgets and/or doing arrive & drive, entry fees aren’t the make-or-break factor. But entry fees are very significant for many, many competitors and need to be lower for most non-HST events. Cut to the bone for this in an effort to increase participation by cost sensitive folks and those wanting to get started.

The regional championships may seem ridiculous for classes with just a few cars but the fact is that a significant number of people do enjoy them. Their money is as good as any so give them a reason to show up. Any minor cost involved can often be covered with local sponsorship. Yes, that usually requires some effort.

Draw a clear bold line between Hoosier Super Tour and everything else. Keep HST as envisioned, a premium product with no obligation to spread them around to tracks or regions with low attendance, or cater to the casual racer. They aren’t for everyone, don’t ruin them trying to be. Make your money here with national sponsors, higher fees, whatever works, but never at the expense of the rest of the club.

All the little things already mentioned like easier reg and tech. Not game changing but overdue.

SM and SRF are largely what have kept things going, but we aren’t necessarily representative of what everyone else wants or needs. That’s important to keep in mind.

Common SM tire between NASA and SCCA? Sure, but it’s as unlikely as it is logical. Not going to happen soon, too much money and too many commitments.

Finally, keep looking for ways to attract new people. Have brainstorming sessions at the National, regional and local levels. Don’t rely on the one grand idea to swell the ranks, be open to simpler and less expensive efforts that might land a few new prospects. Recruit local ambassadors that can help people trying to get started. Give away a competition driver’s school entry as a door prize at track day events, maybe work with a local rental shop to supply the car. Organize free setup clinics. Try using social media to organize a gathering to watch some of the spectacular in-car video that we’ve come to take for granted, and have your ambassadors there to mix with the curious newbies. Come up with better ideas than any of these, I’m sure they are out there. At least some (more) of you need to be more actively involved than just writing a check, racing and bitching here. Not everyone, but more, or you will probably continue to be dissatisfied.
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#46
John Nesbitt

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A couple of thoughts on the ideas expressed above.

 

1.  Cost  -  Track rentals are a local, not a national, marketplace.  The fact that SCCA is a national body cuts no ice with the track owner.  His market is within a day’s tow.

 

Related to cost is business risk.  Topeka and the Regions are separate business entities.  This will not change.  The only event that Topeka stages (and for which it takes the business risk) is the Runoffs.

 

Individual Regions stage every other event, including Super Tour.  They take the business risk.

 

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Regions that can afford a serious financial loss.  Many Regions have essentially zero reserve.  They cannot afford to cut price when virtually all of their event cost is fixed (rental, track services like EV etc.).

 

 

2.  Market and Marketing  –  Keep in mind that SCCA faces some demographic headwinds: income distribution, two working parents, rising costs for education and medical care, and decline of car culture (tracking decline of manual transmissions?).  These are entirely out of the Club’s control.

 

That said, the Club continues to apply a 70s mentality to the problem, with multiples tiers of racing, splintered organization, and a persistent attitude that we are still the top banana.

 

Mike Cobb appears to be trying mightily.  However, it is extremely difficult to change the culture of a long-established voluntary organization.

 

 

3.  Classes and Groups  -  If we were starting with a clean sheet, we would not have the proliferation of classes (e.g. FC, FE, FM all are essentially the same).  The problem in merging classes is that some/many of the affected drivers simply leave (e.g. G Prod).

 

In truth, the only place where number of classes matters is the Runoffs.  There is a mechanism for determining which classes get invites.  The political question is how many races, and whether to stage multi-class races.

 

For all other events, the critical measure is run groups.  Group composition will always depend on local car demographics.  The GCR will let you combine into a small number of run groups, which translates directly into individual track time.

 

Maintaining a run group for a small number of cars is a waste of the most valuable resource – track time.

 

 

4.  GCR complexity, Tech, and Administrative Inefficiency  -  I am not sure that the GCR needs totally to be rewritten.  Yes, it is thick and unwieldy.  However, most of it is spec lines.  When I raced, I focused on the FF section, and ignored the rest.

 

Tech is a problem.  The overall decline in Tech reflects the growing complexity (i.e. ‘electronification’) of cars.  Tech is overmatched.  I am not sure that there is a good answer.  I do note that sealed-engine classes have the fewest controversies.

 

I agree that the at-track process is cumbersome.  The Club has been talking about automation since I joined, but virtually nothing has come of it.  We have to conclude that SCCA lacks the skills and resources for this.  MSR may be the way forward on a fully integrated event package.

 

 

5.  Volunteers  -  Like it or lump it, SCCA is largely a volunteer organization.  Events are over-staffed or under-staffed, and there is little we can do because, unless we are paying people, there is little we can do to compel them.  There are (surprisingly few) bad apples.  It is staggeringly difficult to weed them out because they are ‘members’.


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#47
Steve Scheifler

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Races are all run by the region but they are sanctioned (and given a sanction number) by the club, and that comes at a hefty fee. I don’t know the going rate by event type, perhaps someone will chime in, but that’s the primary part I’m talking about where they can reduce their own operating costs and pass the savings along to the regions. I don’t think anyone suggested that the regions bear more of the cost or risk, indeed just the opposite.

Too many classes impacts a LOT more than the Runoffs. Race organizers need enough run groups to accommodate all entrants while maintaining reasonable closing speeds and performance differentials. This is particularly important at the lowest levels where novices share the track with experienced veterans. Even if you get away with awkward groupings in terms of safety, racers don’t appreciate the constant disruptions from being or catching backmarkers. Then there’s the simple fact that most people would like a few others to race with in-class. Your open wheel example is a good one. There needs to be some initial pain, pissed off racers and some defections for the long-term health. But if there isn’t really any competition in your class it’s just another track day and I frequently hear people say they aren’t attending a race because of that. (We can spend time blaming people who buy a car that fits in a class with low participation, but that gets us nowhere.)
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#48
Peter Olivola

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Races are all run by the region but they are sanctioned (and given a sanction number) by the club, and that comes at a hefty fee. I don’t know the going rate by event type, perhaps someone will chime in, but that’s the primary part I’m talking about where they can reduce their own operating costs and pass the savings along to the regions. I don’t think anyone suggested that the regions bear more of the cost or risk, indeed just the opposite.

 

The attached form has the sanction/insurance cost information for everything except Majors/Super Tour.  If you Region sanctions a Majors/Super Tour you should be able to get that information from the Registrar/RE/Treasurer.

Attached Files



#49
John Nesbitt

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Races are all run by the region but they are sanctioned (and given a sanction number) by the club, and that comes at a hefty fee. I don’t know the going rate by event type, perhaps someone will chime in, but that’s the primary part I’m talking about where they can reduce their own operating costs and pass the savings along to the regions. I don’t think anyone suggested that the regions bear more of the cost or risk, indeed just the opposite.

...

 

 

Sanctioning costs are no longer separately billed.  There is a single per-entry charge covering sanction, insurance, and volunteer support.  For example, for a Regional, that charge is $49.25.

 

I believe that a very hefty portion of that is for insurance.  (For example, according to the 2017 audit report, the Club spent over $1 million for insurance.)

 

The National Office bills directly to the Region for Majors/super Tour.  I do not know the numbers.



#50
Steve Scheifler

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Interesting, thanks!

If that’s the total outlay to Topeka for a regional then there obviously isn’t nearly that much to save per participant. I suppose that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t make the goal of significantly cutting costs look hopeful. All the more important to increase value from the other end.
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#51
John Nesbitt

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...

Too many classes impacts a LOT more than the Runoffs. Race organizers need enough run groups to accommodate all entrants while maintaining reasonable closing speeds and performance differentials. This is particularly important at the lowest levels where novices share the track with experienced veterans. Even if you get away with awkward groupings in terms of safety, racers don’t appreciate the constant disruptions from being or catching backmarkers. Then there’s the simple fact that most people would like a few others to race with in-class. Your open wheel example is a good one. There needs to be some initial pain, pissed off racers and some defections for the long-term health. But if there isn’t really any competition in your class it’s just another track day and I frequently hear people say they aren’t attending a race because of that. (We can spend time blaming people who buy a car that fits in a class with low participation, but that gets us nowhere.)

 

There are a couple of baseline features of SCCA Road Racing.

 

First, car demographics are incredibly diverse.  The composition and population of classes vary enormously as you go around the country.  A set of classes/run groups (especially regional classes) that works at track A will not work at track B.

 

Second, with the happy exception of SM and SRF/SRF3, mixed-class racing is a fact of life.  Even amalgamating, we still end up with multi-class groups with the same high end and the same low end.

 

To continue my FF example, open wheel/sports racer encompasses everything from FV to FA/P1.  We could shrink the number of classes by combining F5/F6/FF and FC/FE/FM.  The CRB is already folding FB into FA.  However, we still have a performance span from FV to FA/P1.

 

Eliminate the classes at the ends of the performance spectrum?  No Region can afford to turn away even a few entries.

 

My sense is that we should treat Runoffs-eligible classes as a separate thing.  They are somewhat self-leveling, a market-based solution, if you like.  If a class gets enough entries, it receives a Runoffs race.  If not, then not.

 

Regional racing is where new players typically enter.  Given the diversity across the country, I doubt that there is a general solution to the problem.  There is more likely a set of point solutions, depending on local circumstances.

 

A couple of examples.  I am a WDCR member, but you have similar experiments elsewhere.

 

Bracket Racing (sprint, not enduro).  This has a couple of selling points.  First, cars do not have to comply with any class’s rules.  They just have to meet IT safety standards.  So, older/slower cars are perfectly competitive in some performance band.  If you break out of your current band, you move to the next one.  Tech is much easier – purely safety, no compliance.

 

Clearly, this is not for Runoffs-bound drivers, but could be interesting for lower-key club racing.

 

I live in Ottawa now.  In Ontario, almost all club racing is bracket racing, except for sponsored series (like F1600).  It works perfectly well – instead of class champions, they have group champions.

 

 

Optional Regional Classes.  These are the essence of local solutions.  WDCR has SSM, SFR has SMT, SJR has Sports Renault.  DC Region’s SSM is a monster hit, by far the biggest run group at Summit.  It works because of engine sealing, so you do not need a built engine.  However, it depends on a single dyno, so cannot be replicated nationally.  Other Regions could do similar.  SFR has its own sealed SSM.

 

Local solutions, based on local demographics and preferences.



#52
Peter Olivola

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To make John's geographic diversity point another way, when I did stats prior to the creation of the Majors program there were only four classes, SM, SRF, EP & FV that were in the nationals participation top ten in all SCCA divisions for the previous five years.

 

It would be interesting to look at that again.



#53
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Was looking at SCCA road race entries for year 2018 versus 2008. Are there Hoosier Super Tour entries additional to Majors and Regional entries? 


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#54
John Nesbitt

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Was looking at SCCA road race entries for year 2018 versus 2008. Are there Hoosier Super Tour entries additional to Majors and Regional entries? 

 

 

Just a guess:  Super Tours are also Majors, so likely counted among Majors entries.



#55
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If in fact Hoosier Super Tour races entries are included within Majors entry numbers we should be really concerned because using combined Majors and Regional entry numbers the SCCA has lost 7,757 entry's over the last 5 years. Total 2014 entry's 23,047, total 2018 entry's 15,290. Downward trend since 2014. Please correct me if in error. I was very sadden at the Farm race last weekend, a Majors with 121 entry's. 


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#56
John Nesbitt

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A drop of that size would not be explained by uncounted Super Tour entries.  7757 fewer entries over 5 years suggests different counting methodology.

 

Where are the numbers published?  I took a quick search on scca.com.  On the Super Tour page, the annual class participation numbers are for all Majors events, including Super Tour:

 

2018 - 5247    Total Majors, including Super Tour and non-Super Tour Majors

2017 - 6553    Bump for Indy?

2016 - 4704

2015 - 4599

2014 - 4628

2013 - 3621

 

The change is not explained by Super Tour/Majors.  If anything that number is up slightly from 2014 to 2018.



#57
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Total agreement with the Majors numbers shown. When those numbers from 2014 are added to the to the non Majors events the change in entries is 7,757 lost total entries or looking at non majors only events from 2013 through 2018 the loss in entries 9,023 entries. Those Majors and Super Tour entries likely came from non Majors entries. Point being we have a real issue and should be very concerned when we loose this many entries. 


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#58
John Nesbitt

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There are approx. 100 Regionals per year. A drop in entries of 7700 implies an average drop of 75 for every Regional.

#59
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That's for 6 years, 2013 through 2018.  Or averaging 7700/6 years = 1,283/100 events = 13 entry drop per event per year. Small number when looking at 1 event, but accumulative over 6 years, it's a huge loss and we should be very concerned.


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#60
Steve Scheifler

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There are approx. 100 Regionals per year. A drop in entries of 7700 implies an average drop of 75 for every Regional.


Which would put some in this region into negative numbers. So yep, that’s about right. :(
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