In April 2018, SCCA® Middle Georgia Region held its final autocross at Henderson Stadium – shortly thereafter, stadium renovations resulted in the loss of the site. Around the same time, the Region also suffered leadership changes when the Regional Executive (RE) moved from the area. And that’s where things stood for a while. Hope could have been lost for this Region, but thanks to the hard work of a handful of determined Club members, Middle Georgia Region is back on course.
Come 2021, Ray Brake stepped into the position of RE – a position he’d held five years earlier – and began the process of trying to get the Region’s autocross program restarted.
“We had a small RallyCross program partnered with the Atlanta Region, but it was low attended and I really wanted to get the autocross program back on track,” Brake said. “I developed proposals for schools, fairgrounds, airports, and a couple of local businesses, but was pretty unsuccessful even getting a meeting. I did manage to have a couple of meetings that went pretty well with the first contact person, but once it was elevated through the leadership at those places, it was quickly dismissed.”
When the SCCA Foundation developed the quarterly Region Development Grant in 2022, Brake saw an opportunity and applied for a grant to purchase a new timing system.
“Up until this point we had an old Race America System, and for years all we had been doing with it was the timing for the Magnolia Soapbox Derby in Macon,” Brake explained. “We needed to upgrade and start using Pronto like most of the rest of the autocross world.”
The Region was approved for the grant to purchase the new timing system, but without an autocross site, Brake was considering returning the funds. But then, success.
“This year I took a flier and e-mailed Mayor Lester Miller of Macon Bibb County to see if I could get some traction,” Brake said. “In the last few years, the old Macon Mall was given to the county by the owners as it was basically falling apart. The county has been working hard to make it an event center and are building a new amphitheater and pickle ball courts, and they have a pretty large parking lot, albeit broken into sections, but it was certainly something that was worth looking into. To my surprise I got an e-mail back the next day from the mayor and we scheduled a meeting.”
Brake brought his mall parking lot proposal to the mayor, and the mayor was on board, but he didn’t want to use the mall specifically as the city had further plans for it. Instead, Mayor Miller suggested Henderson Stadium.
When Middle Georgia Region had previously used Henderson Stadium’s parking lot for events, the property was managed by the Bibb County School System – now, the city/county owned the stadium, and while there had been some changes to the parking lot, it was still a viable option.
“In my proposal, I tried to leverage us as good community partners,” Brake explained. “I asked the city to let us hold an event in October as a practice event to get our team retrained on putting on events and to make sure the city was good with the result after the event was over – then we would do a charity event in December for the local charity ‘Kids Yule Love’ for the holiday season.”
This offer sealed the deal, and Mayor Miller put Brake in touch with the parks and recreation department to reserve the stadium.
“We purchased the new timing system and Pronto software –shout out to Darrin DiSimo at Pronto for his help,” Brake said. “We cleaned out the trailer and did some shopping to get replacements for all the things we no longer had – fire extinguishers, helmets, laptop, etc., and put the event on [Motorsport Reg].”
Brake is currently the only Solo Safety Steward (SSS) in Middle George Region, but he has a few other members who are now taking the new online SSS class, with them shadowing Brake during the first event.
Just five years ago with the loss of its autocross site and Region leadership, hope could have been lost for Middle Georgia Region, but with determination from its members, a little help from others, and some good luck, the Region is well on its way once more.
Photos by Dennis Henderson and Ray Brake