Attack the track: Reimagining SCCA’s Time Trials program

Images by Zachary Rackovan

Attack the track: Reimagining SCCA’s Time Trials program

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

Attack the track: Reimagining SCCA’s Time Trials program

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Above: Michael Neat entered his Scion in Max 3 at the 2018 SCCA Time Trials Nationals and fared well, taking the win.

“Since we put the application online last month, I believe we’re at 665 requests right now,” Jon Krolewicz tells me while clicking away at his keyboard, frantically trying to process as many of the incoming SCCA Time Trials license applications as possible before I distract him with our conversation.

The number of license applications, he says, is on pace to obliterate the Sports Car Club of America’s original expectations, so he’s doing his best to keep his head above water on those applications while also ensuring SCCA’s National Time Trials program maintains its momentum.

Krolewicz is certainly under the gun on this, and my slowing him down is not helping; not only is there the pressure of the inaugural season already being underway, but there’s the added knowledge that this program could be key to SCCA’s long-term future.

But while Time Trials could be a key component in the future of the Club, it’s also been instrumental in the Club’s past. After all, the first SCCA “Time Trials” event was held in July 1945. Since then, the program has undergone numerous iterations but, for the most part, it has been left for the Regions to manage the details. While the Regions are still in control of their own Track Events and Time Trials programs, in 2018, the SCCA National Office decided to pilot a limited program where they would reimagine what SCCA’s Time Trials program could be.

What’s your skill?

Krolewicz, SCCA’s Time Trials manager, is not new to track day programs. While he has road raced both professionally and on the Club level, one of Krolewicz’ earliest forays into the SCCA was working with his Region to organize track days. Now, he’s using all of his experiences to help mold a program that is beneficial to the Region and to the membership as a whole.

A key step, Krolewicz says, is creating SCCA Time Trials licenses, which are free, but help with the placement of drivers come the day of the event.

Big power equals big fun on track, but to win at an SCCA Time Trials event, drivers need skill, too.

“There are three levels of license,” he explains (noting that, technically, there is a fourth). “The three base levels are novice, intermediate, and advanced. Novice is for drivers with either no experience on track or experience on track where there’s limited passing on the straightaways with a point-by. Your Intermediate Time Trials license is for drivers who are comfortable passing anywhere on the track with a point-by. The Advanced Time Trials license covers drivers who are comfortable with some amount of passing without any point-bys.”

Pro Time Trials licenses, the fourth level, are quite unique: “If one of the NATA organizations has somebody come in, runs under an Advanced Time Trials license, and then the organization says this person was good, we can assign them a Pro license,” he explains. “Pro Time Trials license holders would be expected to pass anywhere on the track without a point-by — it’s close to a full competition license.”

So, what is NATA? Hold on — we’ll get to that.

Building a showcase

Prior to the creation of the Time Trials Nationals and Time Trials National Tour, Regions hosted events called Track Events and Time Trials and defined much of the weekend themselves (in fact, they still do). Generally, however, a Track Event is a non-timed way for enthusiasts to get on track without the pressure of the clock, while Time Trials allow competitors to use transponders to log lap times. Some SCCA Regions would divide the drivers by experience level, and some SCCA Regions created their own classing system.

“We’ve actually had a pretty good Regional program for the past few years, but there was no congruency across the country,” Krolewicz explains. “There were different standards for how the Regions grouped drivers. There were different classes. SCCA’s Southeast Division, for example, had 54 classes; the Midwest ran a different set of classes; Texas ran a different set of classes.

“The purpose of the SCCA Time Trials National Tour is a lot like the Tire Rack SCCA Solo Championship Tour or the Hoosier SCCA Super Tour — it’s to have something that the entire country, Regions and Club members alike, can look at and say, OK, I see what this program looks like,” Krolewicz says. “It’s kind of a house-on-the-hill model. This way, Regions, if they want to, can model their events after these Tours.”

But what the Time Trials National Tour is now, for its inaugural year, is not what it looked like a year ago. Back then, the program was finding its feet, and using the assistance of Regions to test the program.

“When we started talking about developing a National-level Time Trials program, a couple of Regions came to us and asked if they could help,” he says. “In particular, the Southeast Division said they had a weekend that had not been performing well as a road race weekend and wanted to know if we’d be interested in turning it into a National Time Trials kind of event.”

Soon, Krolewicz explains, SCCA’s Detroit Region, South Bend Region, and Kentucky Region all wanted to participate. “Even though we started with the idea that the National Time Trials program would be a single event, we ended up with a set of events that were modeled after what we originally envisioned the solitary event to be, and we called those new events ‘primers,’ he says. “Those events ended up being what would eventually become the Time Trials National Tour.”

All in a weekend

Learning as much as they could from the primers, the SCCA National Office hosted the inaugural keystone event, the SCCA Time Trials Nationals, at NCM Motorsports Park in Bowling Green, Ky., on Sept. 28-30, 2018. With more than 120 entrants, the turnout beat all expectations. And, while the Time Trials Nationals is bigger in every respect from the Time Trials National Tours that will take place this year, the weekend schedules are similar in nature.

Many competitors at the inaugural 2018 SCCA Time Trials Nationals noted they would like to return in 2019.

“The Time Trials National Tour dates are two days in length and the Time Trials Nationals is a three-day event, but they all have multiple competition formats in the same weekend,” Krolewicz explains. “We have a TrackSprint format and the TimeAttack format involved in both. TimeAttack is your more traditional track time — you have 20 minutes or so to put your best lap in. Meanwhile, the TrackSprint format is a point-to-point competition on the track. It’s a standing start to a flying finish for a portion of the track that can be run just with timing lights, and it’s one car at a time.”

Returning to the house-on-the-hill analogy, TimeAttack and TrackSprint showcases variety, allowing Regions to pick and choose, or do both. “That’s why we wanted to do that,” Krolewicz admits, adding, “It’s because we know that Regions have different sets of equipment and they have different programs that are in their wheelhouses. By showcasing multiple formats, we can show Regions what’s out there, what they can do, and how it can be done to best fit their needs, as well as the needs of the members.”

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