Thursday SCCA Runoffs Pit Notes

Images by Jeff Zurschmeide

Thursday SCCA Runoffs Pit Notes

The Sports Car Club of America National Championship Runoffs is the winner-take-all title fight for SCCA road racing glory. For 2019, this on-track battle Virginia International Raceway from Oct. 11-13. Each day, will explore some background stories from the 56th running of the Runoffs. -Ed.

Father and son race B-Spec together

William and Stewart Black (pictured above) showed up at the Runoffs in nearly identical B-Spec cars, but the father-and-son team’s involvement in SCCA racing goes back much farther.

“We started off when I got licensed back in 1988,” William Black said. “I started with a Spec Racer and Stewart would come to the track with me; he was just a little kid then! We were Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealers at the time, and I started racing a Showroom Stock Olsmobile Calais, and we ran at the Runoffs back in Atlanta.”

The Blacks have always been GM loyalists when it comes to their race cars.

“When VIR was reopened, my son came up and took a driver’s school and got licensed, so we started racing together. We’ve campaigned a Cadillac CTS-V in various configurations. We decided to race in B-Spec when it came out, so we built the Chevy Sonic. We took turns racing that car, and built another one this year. Now here we are at the Runoffs together!”

Of course, the natural question with a father and son in identical cars is, who’s faster?

“I’m afraid Stewart is faster now,” William says. “We’ve tried switching cars and that helped a little bit, but I’m afraid age is creeping up on me.”

Formula Vee gets disc brakes

The Formula Vee class has been mostly unchanged since the early 1960s. The cars are based on a 1200cc Volkswagen Beetle donor car, using the engine, transaxle, front suspension, and four-wheel drum brakes. This year, for the first time, Formula Vees are allowed to use disc brakes. However, not all drivers have been convinced to make the change.

“Originally the discs were slower than the drums,” says three-time FV champion Roger Siebenaler. “I’m still running drums only because I haven’t had time to work out the bugs. I’m letting other people do that work for me. It took them half the season to work out the bugs.”

Michael Varacins’ Formula Vee disc brakes.

For the low-power FV cars, the issue is drag. Disc brakes always generate a little drag between the discs and pads, while drum brakes can be adjusted to rotate freely.

“When the rule change first came out we weren’t crazy about it,” says Alex Scaler of Advantage Motorsports. “We thought it would take away part of what makes Formula Vee what it is. One of the reasons the field is so big is that the cars don’t change year after year. But when the rule came out, we decided that since we were trying to be cutting edge in Formula Vee, we had to try to make a system that would be better than any other. So we took the rules and we put together our system.”

Both Advantage and seven-time FV champ Michael Varacins have produced disc brake conversion kits for FV, and several drivers are running those kits at the Runoffs. FV racer Andrew Abbott was fastest in the first day of qualifying, on disc brakes.

SCCA workers make the Runoffs go

It’s a well-known fact that every SCCA Road Racing event relies on a large community of race enthusiasts who rarely get to drive race cars. Yet these dedicated people show up early and stay late at hundreds of racing events across America throughout each year. They watch the track, inspect the cars, time the laps, and solve the problems that come up.

At this year’s National Championship Runoffs, over 500 workers will turn up throughout the course of the week to make the event possible. Most travel and lodge at their own expense, and some stay for the better part of two weeks to make the event possible. Each of these people is an expert in some part of racing operations.

The largest specialty is Flagging and Communications with over 110 workers. Tech comes in second with more than 70 individuals. Other larger specialties include Timing & Scoring, Race Administration, Paddock, Grid, and Stewards. However, every worker is essential to the smooth running of the event.

If you ever wondered why so many SCCA racing cars carry the words, “Thanks Workers” somewhere visible, now you know.

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