Too Many classes?
There were 28 classes representeed at the runoffs this year, Do we really need that many? Could SCCA do a better job by focusing on fewer classes with larger fields?
When you go to the runoffs you get 15 minutes a day of track time per class and one race for the week, but you have to spend a whole week at the track for that. Why not reduce the classes, reduce the total time down to 4 days and give the drivers more track time?
Some classes should be emliminated because the participation numbers are not there nationally or at the runofffs. Others could be consolidated into a single class because the perfomance of the cars is so close. Consolidation would require adjustment to the class rules so that perfomance would be balanced but that would be worth the effort to reduce the number of classes, increase the class sizes, reduce the cost to racers and staff, and give racers more time on track per $ spent.
Yes, some of the racers will have to spend money to make modifications or find another place to race if their class is eliminated but it makes sense to focus our SCCA resources on creating a better product for the masses and eliminate the niche products that are not showing promise for the future.
I think you could whittle the classes down to 15 or so fairly easily since there is so much over lap in performance. Many classes run lap times within a few seconds of other classes. By using ballast weight, tire size or air intake size to balance performance inexpensively, there could be room for everyone to race their existing cars without heavy modification costs. Each class requires overhead to manage it and, at the runoffs, requires track time dedicated to its practice and race. Reducing the number of classes reduces that overhead and reduces the track time needed at the runoffs.
Classes are like government programs, not too hard to add but near impossible to get rid of.
Basically most races think THEIR class needs to be split 2 or 3 ways (to give them a better chance of winning), and every other class should go away or be combined into 5 or 10 classes (to give them more track time).
Got any specific suggestions for how to combine them that won't piss off more drivers than it pleases? Bonus points if it gets rid of YOUR class.
Back when I flagged for a living having a LOT of classes in the same race group made Blue flagging quite interesting. Like trying to remember the leader of 5 or more classes and flag accordingly. Wound up primarily paying attention to the 3 overall leaders and if I saw a pair in another class having a go check them out. Easiest place to flag was the Runoffs. Only one class on the track. Sweet!
Reading thru the entire thread I noticed a comment about spectators. SCCA needs to attract new blood at all times. Just check out entry lists and worker lists over a period of time. A lot of drivers/workers disappear after about 2 years. Having PAID spectators at events is a way of acquiring new workers and even drivers. I am personally acquainted with a lot of workers who started out watching our events and then decided to get involved. Further, in some instances, regions get a portion of paid spectator fees which certainly helps the racing budget.
Some good points below, my observation is that it costs money and volunteer time to manage so many classes. As a volunteer organization we want to conserve money and time while providing the most value to our members.
Combining classes can simplify things, reduce costs, still allow everyone to participate, and give racers more time on the track per event.
Combining classes could be done in a way that requires minimal modification to the cars to make sure everyone is competitive. There are 3 groups of cars: Open wheel, Spec Racers, and Production. We need about 3 or 4 classes in each group to cover the spectrum of performance. Combining current classes to achieve that would result in 12 classes instead of 28.
NASA seems to be able to do this for production cars and as a result they significantly outdrew the SCCA during a recent weekend here in Texas when both organizations had events within 150 miles of each other. That meant fewer cars at both events and fewer volunteers at both events.
SCCA, who used to be the standard bearer for road racing in the USA, could benefit from simplifying its class structure. The fact that other organizations have emerged with that in mind, and are drawing members away from SCCA, is telling us to do that or we will continue to lose members or participants to the other organizations.
Preface: I am responding without reading any other responses, to keep my opinion 'untainted' (hah!).
I agree with reducing the number of classes, but it isn't easy in any way. If you have 200 drivers with cars entering a race weekend, and 37 classes, guess what, that's 5.4 cars per class on average. Now you take away 2 classes and 70 drivers (SM and SRF) and you're left with 3.7 cars/class. Soooo that's a GOOD race weekend, even in the south we aren't getting 200 drivers at most regional races, we're lucky to get 150.
If you want to truly race, then you should pick your class, then pick your car. I am already debating switching to SM from STU mainly because I want a reliable car in a class that I can actually race guys in. The Touring classes are perfect for this too, but not really at a regional level unless you are in an area that has a lot of Touring cars, like Colorado region. That class is really good because you limit modifications and it's really specific with what can be done to the cars, all but guaranteeing close racing in many cases.
SCCA will never have 15 Spec Miata classes, if you know what I am trying to say, but it can have SM, SRF, and a handful of other really competitive classes. This would also be attractive for people who want to get into club racing and probably make SCCA more attractive, because we are certainly losing younger members to NASA. When the current 'older' generation of SCCA racers are no longer able to race, or don't want to race, there will be an empty space and as a young member (29) I want to continue to have racers to compete against in SCCA. I don't want to have to go to NASA to find real racing, or worse yet lemons.
Lets not got eliminating classes, lets just combine two classes into one. If the Production classes and the Touring classes were combined, that would be wildly interesting to watch. Old compact cars racing against new, larger, 'compact' cars. It would highlight the improvements for the manufacturers. Just an idea.
Hope I didn't stray too much from the point...
Having just returned to Road Racing and joining in December 2017, I was amazed at the number of classes and frankly, I don't know what class my car might be able to get in. I built my car to race it and started before I joined. Somehow, I was thinking, based on my experiences in racing through the years, and admittedly, a lot of that was on motorcycles, I thought there would be an "Open" class for the "run what ya brung" drivers who didn't fit into any other class - but of course with all safety measures installed. I'm concerned my car may be too safe by perhaps having more than 6 points for my roll cage. The flimsy and very torn up front suspension area of my 1966 Mustang could not be aligned and no matter what after market part I put in as a subframe conector (SFC) the front end would not align. I didn't do these repairs myself, but used ASE mechanics at a local body shop. I finally put on a front clip and that will probably get me DQd at tech for any class as I read the GCRs. I also have 351W engine stroked to 408 and I don't know if 427s of the era that were based on the 351W will allow my smaller displacement 408 to enter. I have not been able to identify a local scrutineer who could come to the shop where it is being finalized here in the Portland OR/Vancouver WA area. If anyone is interested, the shop is the wonderful Old Iron Classics, LLC. You can google and get on their facebook page and look through some really great car pics till you get to mine at "1966 Mustang Project".
Now, to "unsteal" this thread... I have been wandering through the over 1000 pages of GCRs, Clarifications, Fast tracks, and Local rules, plus looking at finishes of classes to find similiar Mustangs to mine to research them for fitments and somewhere I ran across a list of fastest lap times by class. The race in question had the fast car turning around 50 seconds and as I looked down through the classes and with some very noticeable variations, most of the classes were won by cars turning laps under 55 seconds.
I realize it is a club and the desire is to have many winners and lots of people taking home implements of an expression of accomplishment at racing. Looking at many, many of the available videos I see a breakaway bunch at the front of two maybe three, but many times it is just one driver. Putting all those "winning" drivers who are turning just a couple of seconds apart into one class or a few classes will make for a much better spectator experience, but I get it that we are not here to attract bleacher fillers.
More importantly, and I am only speaking of my experience as a competitor, I'd rather race hard, finish on the lead lap, be scrapping to pass on just about every corner, know that if everything, absolutely everything went my way I could win but I would instead rather finish 5th or 10th - rather than have a runaway win in a field of seven.
I applied for and received an AMA Pro Motocross license in 1977 when I was 30 years old. I didn't get that license because I thought I had a chance at a National Championship or Factory Ride. I knew I was going to be battling it out with the back markers, but they were the best back markers in the country! I was a good starter and even got a couple of holeshots only to get passed by Bob Hannah and all the rest of the cream of the crop million dollar factory riders. Nonetheless, I had a great time getting passed and learned a lot more than I ever thought I would by playing cat and mouse in every turn for the duration of the two 40 minutes plus one lap motos. I got to practice with national champs who hardly ever show their speed in practice as it is more about the setup and finding the line, so they would spar with riders like me and let us pass them, IF we worked hard enough and went by without a wave by, but earned it. I never won an AMA national or suppport pro race in that year, but by golly, I never finished in last place and am very proud of my best finish of 28th in the open support class and each of my other finishes in the thirties. I did that in that year and at that age just because I knew my military career was not taking me overseas that year and I wanted the best seat in house where I could get lapped by the leader, but only if he could earn the pass! Yeah, I know, get out of the way, blue flagger, but in that environment every rider knew that every other rider had to be beaten to win it, no matter how many times they had to pass me to do it. We came to race all the riders wherever we found them.
In St Louis MO, I entered the National Open class instead of riding the 250 Support class. Kent Howerton, a factory rider came up behind me in the later laps and it would be the first time he lapped me. I either held him off for over a whole lap or he was showing me pity, but I believe that was the best lap I ever ran in all the years I raced MX. He tried a couple of block passes on me but he was just too late at the apex. He finally passed me on the longest straight which had three jumps and his factory power and aluminum frame helped him get position on me going into the 90 degree left and we drag raced down to the 70 degree right with a very short straight to the 14 foot nearly straight up and nearly straight down Anthill jump. He did it right by braking right at the top to be able to roll over the top and gas it all the way down the Anthill and then up the hill to the next turn while I overgassed it and had some dead space air time as I had launched myself nearly straight up which brought a very hard landing while he was already 4 or 5 bike lengths ahead of me. After the moto, he walked the pits to find me and thanked me for giving him the competition and we talked for a few minutes. Now that is what racing is all about! That handshake and conversation is worth more to me than all of the few hundred trophies I had and eventually sold to a trophy shop just so I wouldn't have to carry them around unboxed in move after move.
I fully concur for a number of reasons. For someone new to racing as a spectator, the excessive number of classes is confusing. They have no idea of what a P1 or an FV or an AS is going to look like or how it will perform. They can visualize a class called Spec Miata, but not when you call it SM.
With so many classes, you end up with multiple cars from various classes mixed in together in somewhat similar groups, but it makes for less interest. How do you explain that the 12th place car in a field of 15 is a winner? Or how do you generate interest in a field of five different classes in a group of eight cars? They quickly get spread out, and the racing becomes pretty boring watching one car at a time go by. I also imagine it is not very challenging and thus not exciting even for the drivers.
If you are a driver in a group of ten cars with five different classes, how do you tell how well you are doing against your competition? You end up racing mostly against your prior personal best at a limited number of venues with a core competition group that varies little.
Just look at the interest from both spectators and competitors at the Spec Miata level. It offers a large number of competitors in pretty equal cars that results in tight competion around the entire track. Imagine applying similar prinicipals across other classes.
Time marches on and classes change over time. 25 years ago there was no Spec Miata Class - Miata's were just showing up on the scene as road cars. Once upon a time there was a 'Showroom Stock' catagory - now that has morphed into the Touring catagory. Production of 25 years ago was the home of British & Continental sports cars from the 50s' & 60's and rules virtually prevented anything newer from being constructed for the classes; that has changed and newer vehicles are now eligible for Production classes.
Club Racing is not Professional Racing that is designed and relies on bringing paying customers through the gate. Club Racing is for the enjoyment of the Club Members that participate in it - participation as Driver, Crew, F&C, T&S, Registration and Paddock marshalls; if spectators, beyond participants family and friends, want to attend race meetings more power to them - maybe they can interact with any or all of those participating and change their future status from specator to participant.
Club Racing is not perfect for everyone, it never has been - but everyone keeps trying.