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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/22 11:03 a.m.
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Eric Prill, the SCCA’s vice president of road racing and also a national champion, shared the following letter after the recent event at Virginia International Raceway.

Has SCCA road racing gotten too physical and, if so, how do we put the genie back into the bottle?

Dear SCCA VIRginia In…

Read the rest of the story

Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/2/22 11:48 a.m.

It's a difficult balance from a sanctioning body standpoint. Graduated licenses would be great, but some potential competitors would view it was a money grab or requirement to run a minimum number of events a year in order to be able to move up. And a system for tiers would need to be established and class sizes would shrink. 13s would work with consistency of implementation. You also have consider how other sanctioning bodies are going to counter punch whatever you do in an effort to recruit drivers. There are more options than ever with regards to with whom to run with. It's a complicated matter to address, but one that does need evaluation, then addressing with confidence. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/22 11:57 a.m.

I know that rubbin's racing, but to quote Randy Pobst, Crashing sucks. 

(Editor's note: "Rubbin's racing" is sarcasm.)

BA5
BA5 Reader
5/2/22 12:29 p.m.

I stay out of wheel-to-wheel because I've long gotten a bad vibe from the crowd.

Although in all competitions there's always a few folks who seem to forget that we're all just out there to have fun.

johndej
johndej Dork
5/2/22 12:44 p.m.

Sounds like they're going the right direction by keeping actual numbers from events. Perhaps put in some sort of points system for being involved in a certain number of incidents per events (not per year as I imagine someone could just take a few races off to reset) and penalize appropriately. Everyone has a camera now so shouldn't be hard to verify.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/2/22 12:47 p.m.

Some things to ponder:

How is it  vintage races manage to have far fewer incidents?

[Before anyone chimes in about high speed parading I would suggest you've never vintage raced. Egos & the desire to win abound there as well. Pretty sure Tim isn't building a Mustang to parade around].

Years a go a dear friend asked me how come men act like pigs, to which I answered "because you let them".

Every time a group gets out of hand it's because we let them.

Think I'm exaggerating? Sports Renault (now Spec Racer Ford) was known as Sports Rambo & we all know about Spec Pinata (Note SM was very well behaved at the RunOffs this year).

This is and has been an on and off problem for the SCCA for some time; years ago I was at a regional where Marge Binks was the Chief Steward. The Spec RX7 group were driving like buffoons, she put them on notice. Lo and behold their standards immediately improved. 

Randy Pobst (among others) worked hard to establish passing standards but at the end of the day they need to be enforced.

Rubbing is not racing at the amateur level; that is total BS. For a case in point see the 2021 F500 RunOffs race; two drivers going at it hammer and tongs while showing each other great respect.

How to fix it:

1. You need to be clear about the expectations and that over aggressive driving will not be tolerated  (even at the RunOffs). 

2. Take this out of the drivers hands; there is a culture of not wanting to protest, if there is contact (incidental or otherwise) both parties should be summoned to the stewards. (this is what happens at vintage).

3. Weed out the bad apples. Now that on board cameras are required it's much easier to sort how who did what. Those who repeatedly send it & cause crashes are not only damaging peoples cars, they're damaging your participation numbers. 

Finally:

Yes, some drivers will claim you've wussified the racing and threaten to leave but most of us would welcome the discipline. 

This is what I once told a very talented driver who had a habit of bouncing off people "you are pretty much inch perfect everywhere, well how come you can't be inch perfect when you're next to other cars?"  

rustomatic
rustomatic Reader
5/2/22 1:32 p.m.

This sounds like a case for more demolition derby events, not road racing.  It also sounds like an Atlanta freeway:  constantly unchecked (until the inevitable, spectacular wreck)/unchained aggression.  People need some outlets that do not involve driving, AKA a punching bag in the basement.  Perhaps dating without the Tinder app might add to societal balance as well . . .

drsmooth
drsmooth HalfDork
5/2/22 1:52 p.m.

Rubbin isn't racing, it leads to dissatisfied customers, and it is the sanctioning body's fault. 

Club racers are customers plain and simple. They are paying a fee to the sanctioning body to get on track.

Driving behind the pace car sucks.

Having your race shortened because someone in another group did something stupid sucks.

Having your car damaged because of someone else sucks.

Somebody with a mechanical issue that doesnt pull off to a safe spot, just so they can get a tow back to the pits in a vain attempt to get back into a 20 minute race 5 laps down sucks. 

 

Dissatisfied customers don't tend to come back. There are allot of options to get on track today, and customers will chose the one that is the best bang for their buck. 

Captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
Captdownshift (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
5/2/22 3:25 p.m.

Also, with regards to what is to blame, physics. Vehicles are designed to have far more grip than they used to and they're bigger, including wider chassis, with wider grippier rubber and the vehicles weigh more. So momentum is king as opposed to agility and transition. Thusly, power and straight line speed becomes more important and then you fall into situations due to situational awareness, mechanical failure or mass x speed portions of the equation. 

The amount of potential grip available is so much more than used to be possible, which makes changing direction at speed more difficult, as settings lean towards high speed stability. 

EDT (Forum Supporter)
EDT (Forum Supporter) Reader
5/2/22 3:40 p.m.

I believe safety is a major factor. As the sport grows safer as a whole and a larger percentage of accidents become non-issue s as far as bodily injury, there are fewer repercussions that aren't monetary. I have lived around high levels of kart racing for a while now and have seen the sport get more and more aggressive as metal bumpers transition to bigger and bigger plastic bumpers, wheels become harder to get caught together, helmets and neck braces advance, etc. The kids who advance from karts often carry these aggressive, if I can't get around you clean I'm just going to push you out of my way, mentalities into cars and you can see this issue being discussed by many series. Is it an issue of the series not policing incidents well, younger drivers being immature, or drivers who have never had to worry about crushing their heads after busting through a hay bale and straight into a concrete wall? I'm not going to say that we should make things more dangerous to reintroduce the fear of injury in a wreck, but there must be something done to curb the almost "hit the reset button and try again" method of today. In karts, push back bumpers that penalize a hit of a certain force has done quite a bit to quell the aggression, but in other ways it's just made drivers get creative with how they're going to hit someone. 

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
5/2/22 3:50 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

How is it  vintage races manage to have far fewer incidents?

As far as I know, all the major vintage racing groups have a strict no-contact policy.  It seems like those specific words "strict no-contact policy" and things like the 13/13 rule are constantly reinforced and have a big psychological effect on the drivers.  As soon as you open the door that -some- contact is OK and that enforcement is somewhat arbitrary, now everything is open to interpretation and certain people will see how much they can get away with.

The other big difference with vintage racing is that it's not spec racing.  Most SCCA classes are incredibly competitive with very well matched cars, and the openings to make a pass are usually razor thin.  It doesn't take much of a judgement error to lead to an incident.

That said- yesterday some clown took out my buddy's Morgan and a 356 trying to jump the start at the HSR event.  The green flag wasn't even out and he was already caroming off of cars.  Apparently he took out another car coming back through the field during the race.  By the time they went to find him he was already packed and gone.  So apparently sometimes the rules have nothing to do with it, and it's about the individual.

I'd be curious to look at the data and see where in the pack the incidents usually take place.  My completely subjective opinion is that the frontrunners and backmarkers usually have skill and courage in somewhat equal proportion, and the mid-pack drivers often get that equation out of whack.  As a mid-pack driver myself, it's really hard not to.  You know that to make a pass you're going to take risks you're not always comfortable with.  And when being passed, you don't always recognize when the smarter play is to back out of a corner and wait for the guy to make his next mistake.  

CWArmbrust
CWArmbrust
5/2/22 3:52 p.m.

Eric and others,

 

I too have caused my share of various flags and scattered parts on the track.

I also spent a lot of time on flag stations, in Race Control, and as a Race Chairman.

At the 2020 convention in Las Vegas, a group of us from the NEDiv presented a co-authored paper entitled "Green Flag Racing." In the discussion were some statistical samples of the developing problem you mention here. 
 

This package is still available on the SCCA Website Portal. 
 

We did a joint presentation with three of us, each representing an area of involvement. One from the drivers' perspective, one as an accomplished steward, and one from administration and operations. 
 

There are a lot of moving parts. It will take a broad and committed effort working in cooperation to begin to turn this ship.

W

 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/2/22 4:26 p.m.
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

The other big difference with vintage racing is that it's not spec racing.  Most SCCA classes are incredibly competitive with very well matched cars, and the openings to make a pass are usually razor thin.  It doesn't take much of a judgement error to lead to an incident.

 

My completely subjective opinion is that the frontrunners and backmarkers usually have skill and courage in somewhat equal proportion, and the mid-pack drivers often get that equation out of whack.  

Two vaild points: 

Note fully half of vintage racing is spec racing.   You have classes that are spec (Formula Fords, S2000 & Formula Vee) and then some classes that are pratically spec. B-sedan is mainly 510s & 2002s which are very evenly matched as are the classes running Spridgets.

As for the observation about mid-pack drivers (be it vintage or modern) it's extremely valid. This of course is a generalization but in general the mid-pack drivers are at a point where they have enough talent to get themselves into trouble but not necessarily the talent to get themselves out of trouble. Note there are also some mid-pack drivers who think they can go from 11th to first in the first turn. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/2/22 4:32 p.m.
CWArmbrust said:

There are a lot of moving parts. It will take a broad and committed effort working in cooperation to begin to turn this ship.

I agree but the biggest thing is setting the tone early; you have to make it known that certain behaviours won't be tolerated.  We also need to be consistent about it as well.

My .02

Eric60
Eric60 New Reader
5/2/22 4:41 p.m.

This was an increasing problem in the old Cendiv region in the 90s when I started racing. The combined Showroom Stock and IT race group was particularly bad. One weekend, on grid at Mid Ohio, the Chief Steward announced to all; "If any of you start banging doors, BOTH of you are going to meet me after the race and BOTH of you better bring your checkbooks! The penalties start at $100"

We had a LOT less contact after that little announcement.

Make it very clear that BOTH participants will share blame and penalties for any contact and stick to it!

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
5/2/22 4:50 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

Some things to ponder:

How is it  vintage races manage to have far fewer incidents?

[Before anyone chimes in about high speed parading I would suggest you've never vintage raced. Egos & the desire to win abound there as well. Pretty sure Tim isn't building a Mustang to parade around].

Years a go a dear friend asked me how come men act like pigs, to which I answered "because you let them".

Every time a group gets out of hand it's because we let them.

Think I'm exaggerating? Sports Renault (now Spec Racer Ford) was known as Sports Rambo & we all know about Spec Pinata (Note SM was very well behaved at the RunOffs this year).

This is and has been an on and off problem for the SCCA for some time; years ago I was at a regional where Marge Binks was the Chief Steward. The Spec RX7 group were driving like buffoons, she put them on notice. Lo and behold their standards immediately improved. 

Randy Pobst (among others) worked hard to establish passing standards but at the end of the day they need to be enforced.

Rubbing is not racing at the amateur level; that is total BS. For a case in point see the 2021 F500 RunOffs race; two drivers going at it hammer and tongs while showing each other great respect.

How to fix it:

1. You need to be clear about the expectations and that over aggressive driving will not be tolerated  (even at the RunOffs). 

2. Take this out of the drivers hands; there is a culture of not wanting to protest, if there is contact (incidental or otherwise) both parties should be summoned to the stewards. (this is what happens at vintage).

3. Weed out the bad apples. Now that on board cameras are required it's much easier to sort how who did what. Those who repeatedly send it & cause crashes are not only damaging peoples cars, they're damaging your participation numbers. 

Finally:

Yes, some drivers will claim you've wussified the racing and threaten to leave but most of us would welcome the discipline. 

This is what I once told a very talented driver who had a habit of bouncing off people "you are pretty much inch perfect everywhere, well how come you can't be inch perfect when you're next to other cars?"  

Well said. In vintage racing we are as aggressive as we feel comfortable.   
 The 13/13 rule is always hanging over our head.  It means basically contact puts you on suspension for 13 months. Any contact with anyone in that period and you are banned for 13 months from competing.  Doesn't matter who's fault it is.  Contact is not allowed.  

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
5/2/22 5:01 p.m.
Eric60 said:

This was an increasing problem in the old Cendiv region in the 90s when I started racing. The combined Showroom Stock and IT race group was particularly bad. One weekend, on grid at Mid Ohio, the Chief Steward announced to all; "If any of you start banging doors, BOTH of you are going to meet me after the race and BOTH of you better bring your checkbooks! The penalties start at $100"

We had a LOT less contact after that little announcement.

Make it very clear that BOTH participants will share blame and penalties for any contact and stick to it!

I'm not sure cash penalties will end the problem.  Some of those who race have enough that they pay others to count it.  
     Instead have them suffer ( for minor contact). Loss of starting position.   ie start at the back of the pack the next race weekend. 

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
5/2/22 5:04 p.m.

I went through the stats in the OP about the VIR Super Tour event.  If you assume that none of the 409 drivers had more than one incident:

 

- over half of the drivers had an incident (55%)

- almost 1/4 had a spin (22%)

- 1/6 had metal/metal contact (17%)

- 1/7 took a ride on a tow truck (14%)

- 1/8 had an incident that stopped a session (12%)

 

This seems completely insane to me.  Who would sign up for an amateur race if they knew in advance that these were their odds?

Chuck McAbee
Chuck McAbee New Reader
5/2/22 5:24 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Rubbin's isn't racing - it is crashing in a small way. The worst role models for racing have been Dale Earnhardt Sr., Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and the Hamilton/Verstappen 2021 F1 Season.  All those named leave one thing out of their racecraft - something sung with conviction by Aretha Franklin - R E S P E C T.  In their lust and red mist for victory they all lost RESPECT - respect for themselves as well as the other compeitiors.  With 'Officialdom' accepting the actions of those named as acceptable racing and not penalizing them for their transgressions we have what we have today.

Within SCCA it has evolved into 'I have the funds for repairs - Do YOU? Send it!'  That is not what Club Racing should be at any level - Drivers School to Super Tour events to the Runoffs.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/22 5:35 p.m.

In reply to Chuck McAbee :

Trust me, I know that rubbin's not racing. Just a little sarcasm. 

bmw88rider
bmw88rider UberDork
5/2/22 5:50 p.m.

I've seen it marshaling more and more. I'll never forget one SRF race a couple years ago. There was 7 incident reports I had to fill out for 1 race. SEVEN and that was just my corner.

I know for me, I'd rather go Lemons or Champ than SCCA racing now a days and I've been around SCCA racing for a couple decades now. I already lost one race car when I was younger to someone else's red mist. 

The cost of running is just too high both in time spent and parts costs. 

buzzboy
buzzboy SuperDork
5/2/22 6:01 p.m.

Racing with 24HoL and LDR things seem pretty friendly out there. Lemons aggressively enforces no-contact. Here and there is a rough race and they'll black flag the whole field a ream you for it. Not been to an SCCA race but that doesn't sound fun. I'm out here to race not to crash. 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/2/22 6:04 p.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

The one out of seven drivers needing a tow truck ride is pretty eye-opening. If you have seven race groups, that's an entire group coming in on the hook. 

Don49 (Forum Supporter)
Don49 (Forum Supporter) Dork
5/2/22 6:30 p.m.

I have been racing at the National level with SCCA since 1988. The biggest issue I see is overly aggressive driving and low percentage moves. In the past few years I have been punted off the track by drivers who were qualified slower dive bombing into a turn with no hope of making the corner if I wasn't there to carom off. Enforcement is the key. One of the drivers I'm referencing put another car on its roof at the Runoffs last year making a overly aggressive attempt to pass. Repeat offenders need to be sat down for a period to contemplate the error of their ways.

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/2/22 7:18 p.m.

I'll share two stories:

Back in the Late 80s the motorcycle club I was road racing with was having issues with an increase in the number of offs / crashes and it was increasing there insurance costs.

In response the club came up with a tiered system. Any off course excursion was a trip to black flag. Go off a second time done for the session. Go off a third time done for the day. Avoidance maneuvers were exempt from this; you still were supposed to come in but they didn't count towards your tally. Crashes were similar but a second crash meant you were done for the day; third crash done for the weekend.  I don't remember what the benchmark was but at some point your were banned for the year. This basically cured most of the idiot behavior. 

Many years ago at the big Spec Miata race in support of a pro race weekend the stewards told the field of 70+ drivers that they weren't going to tolerate bumping and banging. Again everyone behaved.

SCCA only needs to look in the mirror; we've allowed this to go on for far to long and it's time to fix it. The fix is simple, stop tolerating it.

 

 

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