RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Sports Racers are back

RACE: Valvoline Runoffs: Sports Racers are back

SCCA's Sports Racing classes are back in a big way. Racers and race teams have ignored these unique racing cars over the past several years, but a new interest, fueled by new car designs and a mix of new and old entrants, has taken over the...

SCCA's Sports Racing classes are back in a big way. Racers and race teams have ignored these unique racing cars over the past several years, but a new interest, fueled by new car designs and a mix of new and old entrants, has taken over the classes that were once shunned. With one exception, SCCA's popular entry-level Spec Racer Ford class (nee Sports Renault), entries in the Sports Racer classes had dropped to the point that their continued existence was threatened.

"Boom Boom" White.
Photo by Richard Sloop.

The Sports Racer classes had their root in the Modified classes of SCCA's earliest days. At one point, there were five classes ASR, BSR, CSR, DSR and Sports 2000. The first four listed classes had minimal rules, just that the car (nominally) had to accommodate two people, had to have enveloping bodywork (covering the wheels and chassis), and had a maximum horsepower to weight figure to meet. Separating the classes was the permissible power/weight ratio for each. Sports 2000 was a more restrictive class created in the late 70s as a full-bodywork version of the popular Formula Ford class. BSR was eliminated just after the S2000's were introduced due to a lack of interest, and the ASR class dropped by the wayside a few years later.

Sports 2000 had a great surge of popularity throughout the 1980s and into the 90s, thanks to a popular professional racing series for the cars that supplied a lot of good used chassis for club racers to use. The CSR and DSR classes had moderate success, but were never the most popular of SCCA classes. Those cars were mostly homebuilt specials - extremely fast at times, but quite often unreliable.

The three classes hit bottom a few years ago, with total entries at the national championship Runoffs falling to an all-time low of 36 cars over the three classes in 1999, 18 in DSR, 10 in CSR and only eight in Sports 2000. Since that year, DSR entry numbers have made a steady climb after hitting bottom a year earlier at 16 cars. S2000 entries stayed down for a couple of more years and CSR entries are still low enough for the class to be considered endangered.

This year, the resurgence in the DSR and S2000 classes is obvious. Twenty-two Sports 2000 cars are here at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for their National Championship race on Friday morning, and a whopping 32-car field could take the green when the DSR race starts Saturday afternoon. Only CSR has been immune to the increased interest, with a constant 9-10 car field each year since 1998.

The big boost in the DSR ranks is mostly due to the introduction of several factory chassis to the class. It started in 2000 with the introduction of the Radical chassis from England, and several new makes have turned up since. While the traditional homebuilt Sports Racer still exists in DSR and can still be competitive, the new factory-built cars have filled the fields and brought more fan interest to the class.

Why hasn't CSR gotten the benefit from the same factors? Most often cited is the much greater cost to compete in the faster, higher horsepower class. Jeff Miller, a previous National Champion in the Sports Racers, who fields a car in each class - a DSR Wynnfurst Kohler for his son Jason, and a CSR Wynnfurst Kohler for himself - says that a competitive CSR car will cost $80-150 thousand dollars to buy or build. By comparison, racing in DSR sounds reasonable at under $40,000 for a front-running car. The new factory-built cars from Radical, Stohr and others are available for $30-35,000.

Sports 2000 has not had new chassis, with the four-year-old design from Carbir the newest model, but there are hundreds of legal and potentially competitive cars still existing from the class' years of success at the pro and club levels. If only a fraction of those cars return, the class will see an even greater increase than the near doubling of entries this year.

After two of three rounds of qualifying for the 2002 Valvoline Runoffs, top qualifiers in the Sports Racing classes are:

C Sports Racing (9 cars):
Ben Beasley, Leroy, OH, NEOhio Region, Beasley B-7 - 1:24.633
Jacek Mucha, Laval, Quebec, Canada, Florida Region, Ralt JMS - 1:24.941
Jeff Miller, Plymouth, WI, Milwaukee Region, Wynnfurst - 1:27.660

D Sports Racing (30 cars):
Mark Jaremko, Spokane, WA, Northwest Region, Stohr 03D - 1:27.259
Michael Ruepert, Hubertus, WI, Milwaukee Region, Lola AMW - 1:27.953
Al Beasley Jr., Windham, OH, NEOhio Region, Beasley T5 - 1:28.273

Sports 2000 (22 cars):
John Fergus, Powell, OH, Ohio Valley Region, Carbir CS-2 - 1:30.136
Mark Mercer III, Aurora, CO, Colorado Region, Lola 90/91 - 1:30.937
David Ferguson, Sunnyvale, CA, San Francisco Region, Swift DB-5 - 1:30.962

Spec Racer Ford (29 cars):
Richard Spicer, Laurel, MD, Washington DC Region, SRF - 1:40.681
John Black, Olympic Valley, CA, San Francisco Region, SRF - 1:41.321
Lee Fleming, Lake Forest, CA, California Sports Car Club, SRF - 1:41.469

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Series SCCA