RACE: VIRginia Int'l Raceway double division preview

SCCA races are held all across the nation by the many Regions in the Sports Car Club of America. The Al Fairer Memorial SARRC/MARRS Challenge is hosted by the North Carolina Region and the Washington, DC Region. This allows racers and workers from...

SCCA races are held all across the nation by the many Regions in the Sports Car Club of America. The Al Fairer Memorial SARRC/MARRS Challenge is hosted by the North Carolina Region and the Washington, DC Region. This allows racers and workers from the Southeast Division and Northeast Division of SCCA to compete at the same weekend and track but for their own Divisional point crowns as well as against drivers from the other Division. The competition is fierce, but the partying is even fiercer.

SCCA is one of the largest participant-based motorsports organizations on the nation, with over 55,000 members who take part in the Club's activities including rallies, autocrosses (which pit cars one at a time against the clock on parking lot courses laid out with traffic cones) and of course, races on race courses.

The SARRC/MARRS Challenge is a "double" weekend pitting racers from the mid-Atlantic and south-Atlantic areas against each other for bragging rights and for championship points in both the MARRS (Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Championship) and SARRC (South Atlantic Road Racing Championship) series. This weekend's race is one of the largest in the nation, with over 375 entries for each day's action at VIR's classic 3.27-mile road course.

MARRS is for racers from the Washington, DC Region and other Regions north of the Mason Dixon line, Other MARRS races are held at Summit Point, WV, Pocono, Penn, Watkins Glen, N.Y. and other tracks in the area.

SARRC is for racers competing on tracks from VIRginia International Raceway all the way south to Moroso Motorsports Park and Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, with Roebling Road (near Savannah,) Road Atlanta, Barber Motorsports Park (near Birmingham, Ala.,) Rockingham, Carolina Motorsports Park and even the road course at Lowe's Motor Speedway, for points leading to the year-end trophies.

SCCA races like the Al Fairer Memorial are strictly amateur events, put on by and for the participants, with no prize money paid at the finish. Some car, tire or other manufacturers will pay contingency money if a winning driver carries the right stickers on the racecar.

Classes and cars range from GT1 for sport sedans and sports cars like Camaros, Corvettes, Mustangs and similar cars. Sometimes, other makes, such as Oldsmobile or even old NASCAR racers can race in GT1. There can be several classes running in one race group, each class competing only with itself. This explains why it is possible to see MGs, Triumphs, Nissans, Mazdas, Ford Pintos and Corvettes all on the track with Alfa Romeos and other sports car makes. Look for the class markings such as GT1 (2, 3, 4, etc.) on the cars to help figure out who's racing in the same class. In large classes, such as the "Spec Miata" class, only one class may run on the track at once. This is likely to occur this weekend, as over 90 Miatas are entered. The first turn for this class's races should be an interesting

Open-wheeled cars range from the tiny Formula 500 with two cylinder, two-stroke snowmobile engines, to Formula Atlantics, with race-only engines and ground effects and wings that increase cornering speeds.

There are other classes for "Showroom Stock" cars with basically no modifications allowed except those for safety. These and the Improved Touring cars all run on DOT-legal street tires.

SCCA races are run regardless of the weather. After all, people on the highway don't stop driving just because it's raining, why should they stop racing? Rain can become a major equalizer, allowing cars with less horsepower to take advantage of that fact and narrower tires, to defeat larger cars with more power, but which have more difficulty controlling that power on a wet track. The truly great drivers of the past were nearly all expert in the rain.

All the corner workers (and other workers, in Timing and Scoring, Tech Inspectors, Registrars, Pit and Grid workers, Paddock marshals and some of the emergency truck personnel are all volunteers who do their jobs simply for the love of the sport. SCCA corner workers have the second-best seats in the house, but also have to man their stations regardless of the weather. The track's PR Director has been a volunteer corner worker since 1974 and has worked nearly all other specialties at least enough to understand their tasks well enough to help if needed. VIR is the track that got him "hooked" on the sport.

Drivers and workers come from all walks of life, from engineers, to physicians; lawyers, professors; mechanics; students; even journalists and plant nursery operators. The end of the day on Saturday is the "Social Gathering" which is open to anyone in the track. This is the time when drivers and volunteers all gather together to laugh about the day's mistakes make new friends and renew old friendships. Some people compare the SCCA to a large (sometimes dysfunctional) family. If someone is standing at the fence, watching the action, holding their infant and something requires an instant response, the baby can be just handed to the nearest warm body, without even looking at who is taking it. When the parent returns, chances are that the child will be cleaner, better fed, possibly better clothed and happier than when Mom or Dad had to leave. It's this attitude that keeps people coming back year after year and decade after decade, just for the fun and fellowship.

There are several more SCCA races scheduled at VIR for the rest of 2007, including a National race the weekend of August 11-12 that awards points toward invitations to the "Runoffs" that decide the Club's national championships. Those races are held at Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas, over the week of October 8-14.

Many famous drivers have competed in SCCA races, including Carroll Shelby, Roger Penske, Michael Andretti, and Dan Gurney. Actor Paul Newman has numerous National wins and a couple of National Championships to his credit. Newman was a good enough driver to race at Le Mans in the famous 24-hour race, finishing second in class.

The heart of SCCA racing is the huge corps of volunteer workers who foot their own bills to show up week after week to let the drivers have fun on the track. Worker specialties range from Registration, whose work starts months before the actual race and continues for weeks after; to Stewards; Timing & Scoring; Race Control; Pit & Grid; Grid Marshal; and Flagging & Communications. Most of these, except for the corner workers of F&C can do at least most of their work indoors. The F&C worker is on the front lines and in the weather from the first session of the day until everything is finished. In spite of this, many flaggers are dedicated enough to keep coming back, not just for a few races, but over a span of decades. Some of them are well into their fourth decade of working corners. "We're the ultimate adrenaline junkies," says one worker interviewed recently. "We have the second-best seat in the house. We see all the drivers and can tell almost immediately when a car is going to spin." Corner flaggers communicate back to Race Control with information about what happens, whether a car has spun, continued, whatever, and whether additional help is needed. Race Control has the ultimate responsibility for keeping the event on schedule and for maintaining order at the entire track.

Race workers make the entire weekend possible, whether they work on the planning and pre-registration or they help drivers who run off the track. If you want to experience racing from the inside, think about volunteering to work a specialty one weekend. Your perspective will never be the same again.

-credit: vir

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Michael Andretti , Dan Gurney , Paul Newman , Roger Penske