Been out playing at the track for a number of weekends in a row, took the new camera with me. Here are some Formula Vees, the middle one of which is having entirely too much fun, in turn 3 at Lime Rock on the 11th of August. The complete set is on flickr here where you can see the rest of what happened with this drver.
I have posted a bunch of pictures I have taken at Lime Rock in the past month on flickr, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/nfgusedautoparts/. these are from the July NNJR SCCA National race and this past weekend's NNJR Regional race.
I found myself chief of tech at an early season SCCA double regional at Lime Rock a week and a half ago.
Early season regionals tend to be really awful for tech. The recent SCCA inspection system (which we are starting to move away from) pushed car inspections towards the beginning of the calendar year, causing long and painful tech lines. This meant that a mid-May race at Lime Rock was usually a truly awful experience for all concerned, lots of cars deserving proper inspection, not enough qualified inspectors, and race group 1 due on the track for their first practice & qualifying session at 10am.
I wasn't looking forward to it at all. The new system (rolling annual tech, good for a full 12 months, not locked down to the first of the year) will make things easier, but we're not really into it yet. Annual inspections will tend to be front loaded in the year for some time to come.
So I got down there, worried, and set up Thursday night. What I heard was that the turnout was light, and this was true. It was a very lightly attended race, and running tech for it was rather easy. Good for me, not good at all for the host region, which took a serious financial beating.
So what happened? From where I sit (which is not in anyone's inner circle these days), it's a combination of two things. The first is holding a Double Regional at Lime Rock sandwiched between the traditional Mother's Day double at Pocono and a Double Regional up at NHIS, on a weekend that is traditionally a Lime Rock National (the National and Regional crowds being somewhat different, only mildly overlapping, groups of racers.) On top of that, substantial increases in track rent have forced entry fees at Lime Rock up a great deal, rendering race weekends there rather unattractive (especially jammed in a 3 weekend stretch of double-double-double.)
I should think that if things don't change, we might see fewer SCCA weekends at Lime Rock in the very near future.
NYR SCCA, one of the SCCA Regions I serve as chief of tech, has acquired a new set of portable scales. Since we got a set that has the serial uplink port for moving data to a computer, I've decided to celebrate by launching the ScaleManager project to produce a really useful scale management application for use in tech at races. Interested parties should follow the link and join in the fun; the software will be open source and freely available under the BSD license.
I have to say, I never imagined that my club would be so cavalier with my email address, but here I am, with a spam from duomarketing.com advertising World Challenge Pilote Shoes, obstensibly from sccapro.com but really from duomarketing. I recently went through the trouble of opting out on the SCCA membership portion of the web site, so there's really no excuse for this crap. pffffttthhhh.
Well, the club racing board has proposed all kinds of new classes for 2007. There are a total of 5 new classes, with slots for 2 more potential classes. 3 of the new classes (and the 2 potential classes) would all be national classes.
First, ITR would be the new tier in IT racing, for cars that are too fast for the current ITS. This would, among other things, finally address the many owners of E30 BMW M3s who have wanted their car listed in ITS, a class for which it is manifestly too fast. The proposed ITR is just about right, and the E30 M3 would be one of the cars there (along with the E36 325 and 328, the Porsche Boxster, and a few others.) ITR, like all other IT classes, would be regional only. This probably doesn't do any damage to race grouping as it can naturally be grouped with other IT classes based on which ones are succeeding/not succeeding at filling a track, or it can be grouped with with the faster Touring cars (similar tires and speeds and all that.)
The other new regional class would be F1000, with 1 liter and smaller motorcycle derived motors. Although Formula Continental conversions are referenced, the rules appear to focus on FF1600/FF2000 style flat bottomed tube frame cars (remember, Formula Continental is not exactly the same as FF2000, although they both carry the FC class letters and race against each other. Classic Continentals run smaller, more agressive motors and are allowed much more agressive aerodynamics.)
One of the National class changes is to remap Touring (again); T1 becomes T2, T2 becomes T3,
and T3 becomes T4. The new T1 (as usual) is for cars that were too fast to list in the previous T1.
Where things get interesting is the appearance of the new "Prepared" classes, 2 for starters and 2 potential. BP and DP would be created right away, and be matched up against World Challenge GT and Touring (respectively). They also would line up nicely with (new) T2 => BP and (new) T4 => DP. AP and CP are reserved for the future, intended to line up with the new T1 and T3 classes.
The large number of new national classes is problematic; there have long been too many national classes. The mechanism for dealing with the "national class runneth over problem" may cause some pain in 2008, when National eligibility for the new classes kicks in. The July Fastrack includes (on page 2) the new rule that the runoffs will have no more than 24 national classes represented, and the classes with the weakest participation will be on the bubble for non-inclusion. In 2008, somebody's going to get left out. This could be the wedge for consolidation; a CSR/DSR mashup has been discussed in the recent past and smaller production cars (GP+HP anyone?) might end up here too.
For some reason, the IRL decision to move to ethanol is back in the news, perhaps because their season is getting fired up. And for some reason, the press is confused about this move, which is essentially a shift from one alcohol fuel to another, and thus not nearly as momentous as a move from gasoline to ethanol would be. But even so, I think this MSNBC commentary is spot on. In fact, about two weeks ago I had a conversation on exactly this subject with fellow Mohud member Bruce Kosakoski.
Alternative vehicles and fuels are coming, folks. Between hybrid cars, ethanol and bio diesel, things are going to be changing. I think the best thing the SCCA could possibly do is set up pilot programs in some of the Divisions with classes specifically oriented towards the vehicles that are likely to be dominant in only a few short years. They could be set up as divisional specific, regional only classes, and the races could be run as restricted regionals in conjunction with selected National races as a form of showcase.
It's far better if we're ahead of the curve than struggling to catch up.
This just in: there are some issues with the required stickers for the SRF program. There is a shortage of some stickers, and other stickers are turning out to not be required (for example, the Ford stickers are not necessary after all.) From what I can tell, the only sticker that an SRF driver needs to worry about is the Goodyear sticker if the driver is going for the Goodyear contingency.
As some may know, the SCCA has started on the path of certification training and testing for various worker specialities. I'm at the NEDiv Roundtable in Reading Pennsylvania this week, and I just took the first test for Tech Inspectors in the sequence. It basically constitutes a test of your ability to find what you need in the General Competition Rules, and while I was a bit skeptical going in, I have to say that the test was ok, I'm fairly happy with it. I will also say that I think it's best taken with a laptop and a pdf of the GCR (which is how I mostly approach looking up rules issues at the track now anyway.)
The yokohamas from last year are gone, SRF is switching to Goodyears. The new goodyear is a hard bias type slick, which should wear well and be consistent. Front and rear tires will be the same size. There are clearance problems in the rear, but the Enterprises Web Site has a template which shows permitted bodywork changes to facilitate moving to the new tire.
I've been a member of the SCCA since 1984. I've been an active road racing tech inspector since 1992.
Back when I started inspecting race cars, the people with National licenses (the top tier) often signed their own "worker logbooks", which list every event they work during the course of the year. Everyone else got their chief of speciality to sign it. We got away from letting the National license holders sign their own, although a few old guard still tended to do that as recently as a few years ago.
The chiefs of speciality always signed their own books; in fact, just before I chiefed tech at an event for the first time (Bridgehampton regional, September of 1995), I remember Gary Grove, the Divisional Administrator of Scrutineering at the time, telling me explicitly that the policy was that chiefs of specialty signed their own books. This has been true since then.
Well, until now. I was informed by the staff in Topeka (who were very polite about it, they don't specify the policy, they just try to enforce it) that from now on, when I chief tech at a race, I have to find the Chief Steward to get him to sign my book.
I inspect race cars for safety and compliance. Some years, hundreds of race cars have been inspected by me and by tech inspectors under my supervision at the race track. They trust me to do this, but they don't trust me to keep my own worker logbook up correctly. And it's not like they can't double check to see if I'm making stuff up; when I chief at a race, my name is on the supplemental instructions (which must be approved in advance by Topeka) and my name goes in the Observer's report which is sent in after the race.
a fair chunk of World Challenge tech work gets done in impound, which can be post-qualifying or post race (generally it's both.) various things get checked at this time. i've already mentioned seals, but actually the list is pretty extensive...
in general the various cars get some sort of stall test. in the stall test, a rubber seal connected to a vacuum guage is used to cover the intake tract of a running engine, which should stall. any odd behaviour on the stall test is reason to look for intake issues.
the cars need to be weighed dry, so each car is observed by a tech inspector while the crew pumps out the fuel tank.
on the scales (which have been leveled using a special platform), the front splitter under the bumper is checked for conformance (there are ground clearance rules and other measurements that control the shape.)
other things can get looked at; for example, at lime rock a couple of cars were tabbed to pull gears out of their transmissions so that ratios could be checked.
one of the things World Challenge racing has is a tire rule. Competitors must start the race on the tires they qualified on. sometimes we have tire rules in club racing too -- Formula Ford used to have one, and one was just instituted for Spec Racer Ford within the couple of weeks.
when there's a tire rule, there is a requirement that tech mark tires. in club, frequently we just
walk through the grid before qualifying with a can of spray paint and a template of some kind. for world challenge, the competitors bring the chosen set of tires to tech, where they are marked with the car number and class (at lime rock, this was being handled by a group led by my old friend George Wolfstirn, who is actually the first tech chief i ever worked for back in the early 90s.)
after the first qualifying session, it is then tech's duty to walk the pregrid for any additional qualifying sessions, and walk the pregrid before the race, checking to make sure the right tires are on the right car. normally the competitors are allowed to change one tire as a freebie; at a place like lime rock that absolutely kills left front tires, this can be pretty important.
tech gets involved in lots of things. some of them are even technical...
pro events differ from club events in some significant ways. one of them is that in club racing, we rarely get to see the inside of anything; everything in club is on a budget. the regions only have so much money and the racers only have so much money, so taking someone's motor or transmission apart isn't something that's done casually. pro is different, the racers are presumed to be able to afford it, so they occasionally get to take their stuff apart and show the insides to tech.
one of the things that scca pro does with world challenge is seal stuff. typically a number of aspects of the motor are sealed -- the cam covers, the oil pan, and the restrictor plate (if there is one.) for cars that have "rewards weights", those get sealed as well (rewards weight in WC is the weight that gets added every time a car places well in a WC race. GT cars usually have weight, Touring category cars are less likely too.)
how do seals work? there are two kinds. there are wire seals, which generally loop through holes drilled in the heads of bolts (two of them, carefully chosen), and there are the newer electronic seals, which cap the head of a well chosen bolt and must be destroyed to be removed. both types of seals have numbers, the wire seals on a plastic tag, and the electronic seals in the form of an RFID tag which is read with a battery powered, hand held reader.
so motors get sealed. why? so that tech knows that they're seeing the same, unchanged motor from event to event. restrictor plates get sealed after being measured, and rewards weight gets sealed after being weighed (of course.)
so between practice sessions, we spend some time wandering around the paddock in search of cars that are known to need to have seals applied and doing inspections on newly presented cars (which will need seals too). after qualifying and the race, one of the things that gets done is checking seal numbers against the seal database.
there are some other technical issues besides seals i'll cover in another post -- the bundle of things that happen post qualifying and post race, and the tire rules.