Are you tired of hearing about the "greying of motorsports" in general and the geriatric nature of the SCCA in particular? Then feast your eyes on the statistics from the SCCA event I attended on Saturday: More than half of them were born after 1980, which makes them—you guess it—Millennials. Nearly one in four was born after 1990, which makes them younger than Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction. Forty-three percent weren’t even members of the SCCA before signing up for this event. More than half of the attendees who were already SCCA members had joined in the previous five years.
It wasn’t just the drivers who were young. The average model year of the car involved was 2002; that’s pretty old if you like leasing a new ride every 36 months, but compared to the average SCCA race it’s nearly showroom-new. Sixty percent of the cars were built after the turn of this century.
So what is this four-wheeled fountain of motorsports youth? Why, it’s the new SCCA Time Trial program, which held the last of its three "premiere" events last weekend at NCM Motorsports Park. "Wait a minute," you might be saying. "SCCA Time Trials isn’t new. It’s been around forever, and it was called Solo 1." That’s true. For many years, the SCCA offered a time-trial program to the road-racing divisions of their various regions. That program didn’t always stick, because it was extremely time- and effort-intensive. In 2014, it was moved from Road Racing into the care of Heyward Wagner’s "Experiential" division.
Wagner decided to re-imagine Time Trial as the perfect SCCA program for drivers who didn’t have the resources for road racing but who wanted to compete at a higher speed than what Solo 2 autocross (now rebranded just plain "Solo") offered. The competing sports car club NASA, of course, has offered a Time Trial program for a couple decades now, but it sits at the top of their driver-education ladder and it attracts some very dedicated, extremely well-funded efforts.
SCCA Time Trial, by contrast, is aimed at the relative novice. Developed with lessons learned during the SCCA Targa programs of 2017 and 2018, Time Trial offers drivers an extremely stimulating day consisting of three parts. You begin by doing three open-lapping sessions with drivers of your approximate experience level. After a quick lunch, you then do a "Track-X" session. This is basically an autocross laid out on the race track, with substantially higher speeds than what you’d get in a parking-lot event. At the NCM event, the fastest cars were at the one-minute mark for a segment of the West track measuring about 1.5 miles, while the Miatas and whatnot were running about 1:20.
Finally, you’re lined up in order of your Track-X finish for a few 15-minute Time Trial sessions. "The car ahead of you is a little faster," Wagner noted, "so you have an incentive to catch that driver. The car behind you ... has the same incentive."
Car classing is fairly basic and easy to understand. I didn’t compete in the event, but my wife, Danger Girl, brought her ex-Skip-Barber 2014 MX-5 Club, shod with some Dunlop Direzza Star Specs from last year’s AER race effort. As an unmodified car on 200-treadwear tires, she was in the Street class. Above her were the Tuner cars (suspension and basic engine mods), Max (seriously prepped cars) and Unlimited (basically anything goes). There was a lot of attention being paid to a thundering vintage stock car that looked straight out of a Tom Cruise movie.
"The owner bought the roller for under four grand," Wagner told me, "and put a crate motor in it. This was his first shot at driving on track. He’s having a great time." Also drawing a few eyeballs: The slick concrete-colored Mustang GT350, a few '60s-era British sports cars, and a V8-powered first-gen Miata with more wing area than a World Of Outlaws car and enough Hoosier rubber to hang upside down in a tunnel. It turned a 1:28.5 on the NCM West course, which was the fastest time of the event and which would have put it snugly behind the mighty $180,000 Mercedes-AMG GT R in our Performance Car Of The Year testing from 2017.
Danger Girl and her 167-horsepower Miata cooked up a slightly more sedate 1:52.0, enough to guarantee her second place in the Street-5 class and provide her with a nicely engraved trophy pint glass. She reported that spirits were high among the competitors. Some of them availed themselves of the free coaching offered in the morning sessions, and even the outright novices who were in the 2:40 range on NCM West were eager to head out and drive some more.
Which is exactly what Heyward Wagner and the SCCA would like to see. "I envision this as a place for the enthusiast driver who has just enough time for three or four events a year and who is still looking for a motorsports destination," he said. "Maybe you have kids, maybe it’s your job—but you’re not going to be out there 30 or 40 times a year. This is a chance for you to compete at speed in the car you already have, or in the car you want to buy."
There’s just one more Time Trial event this year: The National Championship, which will be held at NCM the weekend of September 28. . Mrs. Baruth and I will be there, and I’m going to take this chance to issue a public challenge: If you think you and your Corvette or Mustang or whatever have what it takes to put the smack down on my Honda Accord, then I encourage you to show up and prove what you've got.
There will be 225 spots, so watch for registration to open and then move fast. How do I know you’ll need to be quick about it? Well, there’s one more statistic that came out of the SCCA survey, in response to this question:
Would you come back and run an event with this format again?
The percentage of people who answered “Yes”? One hundred.