It’s not always easy to know when history is being made. Although Cameron Argetsinger certainly knew that his first attempt at a postwar American Grand Prix was a big deal, I doubt that he understood just how important it would eventually be to amateur–and professional–motorsport in the United States. Nor did Jerry Kunzman have any idea that his Capri Club trackdays would lead to the NASA that we know (and sometimes love!) today.
This time, however, I’m pretty sure that we are all in the presence of history in the making. Today, at the PRI trade show, the leaders of three major time-trial competitive organizations announced the formation of the North American Time Attack Council, NATA for short. (The C, presumably, is silent.) NATA aligns the SCCA Time Trial program with the GRIDLIFE and Global Time Attack series. In the near future, there will be a single licensing program that will, for example, allow GTA drivers to compete in SCCA Time Trial without extra paperwork.
“It all started,” SCCA Director of Experiential Programs, Heywood Wagner, said, “when we had to work out the matter of a disputed event date at a particular racetrack. Somehow we’d gotten a weekend that was traditionally the property of the other guys. So we worked it out, without any real hassle on either side–and that’s when we began wondering, ‘If we can make this work, what else could we make work?’” A series of discussions with Chris Stewart of GRIDLIFE and Jason Dienhart of Global Time Attack followed, with the formation of NATA as the end result.
“We will be structuring our respective schedules to ensure maximum participation for all three series,” Wagner noted. “You won’t see us booking events head-to-head in a given area and forcing drivers to make a choice.” In addition to the common licensing and the scheduling cooperation, could there be a common rule set in the future? “That’s something we’d definitely want to discuss,” Wagner said.
For now, the three series will combine to form a sort of competitive ladder, with the relatively low-stress SCCA Time Trial Regional events at the entry level and Global Time Attack’s wildly-winged unlimited classes at the top. Competitors will be able to rely on advice and assistance from each sanction as they climb that ladder.
What does this mean to you, the would-be amateur time-trial driver? Quite a bit. You’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of events using a single competition license, although each sanction will remain free to charge its own membership and entry fees. You’ll have a clearly defined set of steps leading you from wide-eyed rookie to Global Time Attack winner. Most importantly, you’ll find yourself at the beating heart of what, in the long run, is likely to replace wheel-to-wheel racing as the destination motorsport for future generations of drivers.
Which is not to say that conventional club racing is dead. Far from it. Speaking personally for a moment, I cannot imagine that I would ever give up the thrill of banging fenders at 140- miles per hour so I can race against the clock–and I’m very far from being the only SCCA or NASA license holder who feels that way. Unfortunately for me and my fellow road-racer dinosaurs, most younger drivers aren’t terribly interested in bashing up their exquisitely-detailed and expensively-prepared trackday rides, many of which also have to perform daily-commute duties. They want to hone their skills behind the wheel, and they want to compete, but they do not want to bump-draft down the front straight of Road America or negotiate a terrifying field full of tumbling spec racers when the green flag waves.
The sharp generational division between the wheel-to-wheel crowd and the time-trialers is starkly apparent in my local NASA region. The drivers’ meeting for the TT classes strongly resembles an open-mic night at a local coffeehouse; an hour later, when the race groups meet, it looks like a 35-year high-school reunion, with no small number of faculty present as well. We can either continue to pretend that this is not the case, or we can adapt and change to address the needs and desires of younger competitors. Simple as that.
For these reasons, and many more, the formation of NATA is a big deal. Look for other, smaller organizations to join up as soon as they’re permitted to do so–and look for all three of the original members to experience significantly greater participation across the board. If time trial is the future of amateur motorsports, then NATA is almost certainly the future of time trial. It’s history in the making, and we are right in the middle of it.