The roots of the Sports Car Club of America® are steeped in endurance racing. While many of the Club’s Road Racing programs focus on sprint racing, the fact is, it was SCCA’s endurance program that spawned a professional racing series. Between that and all of the intrinsic fun that comes with enduro racing, there’s little question as to why SCCA’s Enduro Racing Board has developed an SCCA Team Enduro program structure that includes a robust ruleset for organizers and drivers alike, ensuring that SCCA’s enduro program continues to grow. In fact, it’s that ruleset that will be utilized during Neohio Region’s upcoming Shortest Night of Nelson Ledges enduro at Nelson Ledges Road Course in Garrettsville, OH, during the June 23-25, 2023, weekend.
Battling around the famous two-mile circuit, racers will attempt to survive 14 hours of track time, taking on teams in up to six classes. Being an SCCA Team Enduro event, GCR race car classifications will be jettisoned, allowing lap times to decide the classes. This flexible system enables anyone with a safe race car to enter the event (with a few exceptions, like no tube-frame or formula cars), with drivers who compete in other endurance series encouraged to register.
Tech will take place on Friday, June 23, with racing taking the green at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The checker will fly at 1 a.m. on Sunday.
Register for the Shortest Night of Nelson Ledges enduro by clicking the button below – then keep reading for five tips to success in any enduro.
Thrive to Survive
You’ll need a plan if you want to thrive in an enduro. For that, we spoke to racer and owner of Hankook Motorsports Danny van Dongen to learn some of his top tips. Among other series, van Dongen has competed in the Dubai 24 Hour race and knows a thing or two about keeping a race car under you for the long haul.
Van Dongen and Hankook Motorsports also offer deals on its Hankook RS4 200 UTQG tire that’s popular in the endurance racing world, with the company offering a nice contingency program for those who purchase their tires through endurancetire.com.
Tip 1: One Setup
“Some drivers have really good car control and they want the car loose, but that won’t be comfortable for all drivers to drive,” van Dongen explains of endurance racing, which involves multiple drivers piloting the same race car with little time to tweak the setup on the fly. “Try to set up the car for every driver in the team so the car is easy to drive. One driver might think there’s a little too much understeer or oversteer, but they will all have to adjust to it.”
Tip 2: Monitor, Take Notes, Adjust
As you might expect, van Dongen has extensive knowledge when it comes to tire maintenance. During testing or even pit stops during an enduro, he points out that it’s the crew’s job to closely monitor the tires. “Keep an eye on your pressures and what the car is doing,” he says. “You always need to play with [pressures] a little bit and take notes.”
What else goes in those notes? “We always measure the temperature of the ground,” he adds.
Tire maintenance isn’t the sole responsibility of the crew, though, as drivers can help from within the cockpit. “You always drive to the limit of the tires – if you drive too hard on the tires, then most time you’ll get a little bit of understeer,” van Dongen says, adding that the problem can then be rectified on the fly. “If you take it a little easier in the braking zones, braking a couple feet sooner and take a little less speed with you,” you can get some grip back.
Tip 3: Plan, But Be Aware
Endurance racers, van Dongen explains, need to formulate a plan. “In endurance racing, you want to drive as ‘flat’ as you can, lap time wise,” he says, referring to turning consistent, targeted lap times, adding that the faster you go, the more tire wear your race car will experience. “Especially in endurance racing, it’s not always the fastest driver that wins – it’s strategy. Always try to plan how much wear you want and how much you can push it. That’s where testing comes in.”
Planning is important, but so is being aware of changing conditions. “You have to have your fuel number, tire wear, and know what’s going on with safety cars [and] full-course yellows,” van Dongen explains.
Tip 4: The Race in the Pits
This tip is simple but far from easy: “Fast pitstops,” he emphasizes. “You really need to train to get in and out.”
Tip 5: Easy on the Tires
If you change your tires during a pitstop, the race car will be on cold tires. This, van Dongen points out, is a time to be cautious. “With your out lap, be careful – heat [the tires] up slowly,” he says. “When tires are cold, avoid big curbs, because if you hit a curb, that can crack the sidewall.”
Much like with competition race tires, 200 UTQG street tires benefit from a pre-race heat cycle, notes van Dongen. “With Hankook RS4s, like with slicks, you want to give them a gentle heat cycle [before the race].” Doing this, he says, “the rubber will seal together and then they’re a little bit stronger. It will make the tire more stable [for turning consistent lap times].”
Photo by Jeff Loewe