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Is the 2.5 Rule overkill?

By Rocky Entriken

R.Entriken@mcimail.com

Rocky is a freelance journalist who contributes a regular column to the Sports Car Club of America's Sports Car magazine, and is an active motorsports enthusiast participating in Road Racing, Autocross, and Rally events in the Midwest.

 
GCR 12.1.9 Participation Level
    A. A National Championship class shall retain its National
       Championship status as long as the average number of qualifiers
       remains at 3.0 or more per event, in the top five (5) divisions
       per class. This level is to increase by 0.5 per year until
       reaching 5.0.

We still call it the 2.5 Rule, and it has already eliminated Shelby Can-Am, but this year it is really the 3.0 Rule and it'll keep climbing until it is the 5.0 Rule in 2001.

It's a pretty good rule, but I wonder if it does not go too far?

The Comp Board enacted (and the BOD approved) the 2.5 Rule as a self- correcting method to combat the proliferation of classes in Club Racing as well as to weed out weak classes. By themselves, those are worthwhile purposes. The problem arises in the definition of what constitutes a "weak" class.

The SCCA numbers that count are the average class size in the top five of the eight Divisions. This takes into account that some classes are more popular in one part of the country than in another. SWDiv, for example, is the second smallest in terms of race entries, but its FF entry is the second largest. SWDiv had more Ford entries than NEDiv which is the second largest in total race entry. Meanwhile the neighboring MiDiv, which has a total race entry very near SWDiv's, has the smallest FF entry in the country.

So the salient numbers are those of the top-5 divisions for each class as reported in the January issue of SportsCar. Those are the numbers used here for comparison. Thus the FF class size is stated as 12.82 cars per race and is based on counts that include SWDiv and NEDiv but not MiDiv.

If you're driving SRF, which at 18.47 last year was the most popular class in Club Racing, Spec Racer by comparison was weak (it was "only" No. 5 at 12.27). Then again if you're a Production driver, EP at 5.45 is considered strong and HP at 2.94 is in danger of elimination.

The table below shows the number of National classes run by SCCA through the years. From 1954-64 a National Champion was determined by total nationwide points. From 1964 on it was determined by the Runoffs (both happened in '64 itself).

The basic categories are Production, Modified, Formula, SportsRacing, Sedan, Showroom Stock, GT and most recently, Touring. Modifed was renamed SportsRacing in 1966, Sedan became GT (and began assimilating upper Production classes) in 1980.

Year  P  M  F             Total Changes
1954  4  7  2               13  C-F Prod, B-H Mod, F/Libre, F3
1955  5  7  2               14  add GP
1956  5  7  2               14
1957  6  7  1               14  add BP; delete F/Libre
1958  7  8                  15  add HP, HM, IM; delete F3
1959  9  7  1               17  add IP, JP; delete IM; restore F3
1960  7  8  2               17  add F/Junior; delete IP, JP; restore IM
1961  8  8  2               18  add AP
1962  8  6  2               16  delete BM, IM
1963  8  6  3               17  restore F/Libre
1964  8  6  3               17  add FVee, delete F3  **FIRST RUNOFFS**
1965  8  6  3               17  add FB, FC; delete F/Libre, F/Junior
 
      P SR  F  S
1966  8  6  4  4            22  add AS-DS, FA; rename M to SR,
1967  8  6  4  4            22
1968  8  4  4  4            20  add ASR-BSR; delete ESR-HSR
1969  8  4  5  4            21  add FF
1970  8  4  6  4            22  add F/Super Vee
1971  8  4  6  4            22
1972  8  4  6  3            21  delete DS
1973  8  4  6  3            21
1974  8  4  6  3            21
1975  8  4  6  3            21
1976  8  4  6  3            21
 
      P SR  F  S SS
1977  8  4  6  3  3         24  add SSA-SSC
1978  8  4  6  3  3         24
1979  7  3  4  3  3         20  add F/Atlantic, F/Continental; delete
                                               AP, BSR, FA, FB, FC, FSV
      P SR  F GT SS
1980  7  4  4  4  3         22  rename AS-CS to GT1-GT4, add S2000
1981  6  4  4  4  3         21  delete BP
1982  6  4  4  4  3         21
1983  5  4  4  5  4         22  add GT5, SSGT; delete CP
1984  4  4  5  5  4         22  add F440, delete DP
1985  4  4  5  5  4         22  add S/Renault, delete ASR
1986  4  4  5  5  4         22
1987  4  4  5  5  4         22
1988  4  4  5  5  4         22
1989  4  4  5  5  4         22  rename S/Renault to Spec Racer
1990  4  5  5  5  4         23  add Shelby Can-Am
1991  4  5  5  5  4         23
1992  4  5  5  5  4         23
1993  4  6  5  5  4         24  add Spec Racer Ford
1994  4  6  5  5  4         24
 
      P SR  F GT SS  S  T
1995  4  6  5  5  4  1      25  add American Sedan
1996  4  6  5  5  3  1  1   25  add Touring 1; delete SSGT
1997  4  4  5  5  3  1  1   23  delete SCA, Spec Racer; rename F440 to F500

Before the Runoffs were begun, tinkering with the class structure was an annual exercise. The '70s proved a period of uncommon stability, but with the early '80s came another brief period of shuffling before some stability set in once again. Now in the early '90s, we're inventing new categories while obsoleting some other cars that, themselves, were SCCA inventions -- and threatening to whittle our National class structure down to a size not seen in 45 years through application of GCR 12.1.9.

That is a pretty good basis of a rule. But it is not a good rule because simply goes too far.

This year the rule is 3.0. In jeopardy are classes SSA (1.91-car average last year) and HP (2.94 cars).

Next year the rule goes to 3.5. Based on the '96 numbers, Jeopardy attaches to GT2 (3.24 cars), FP (3.45) and the new T1 (3.09).

T1, being new, and perhaps assimilating SSA, may be expected to grow beyond the point of being in danger of elimination, but GT2 and FP -- both in the middle of their category structure -- may not.

Or if they can manage to scootch above 3.5, what of the year 1999 when the magic number rises to 4.0 (and GT5, so recently rescued by a concerted effort of its drivers and now at a 3.62 average, could come under fire again.)

I think that's far enough. End the statutory escalation of this rule at 4.0. That by itself could bring the class count down to 18 classes (assuming T1 escapes, and accepting that SSB and SCC may become T2 and T3 which would not change the count at all).

The bump to 4.5 at the end of the century puts no classes in jeopardy, but when the peak of 5.0 hits as the new millennium begins GT4, GP, CSR and DSR could all be in danger. Thus in that last step we could kill off virtually the entire Production, GT and SportsRacing categories as there would be two GT, one Production and no free-rules SportsRacing classes left.

The problem is, most racers don't want to lose their own class. And then other classes keep popping up. Some work (Spec Racer) and some don't (SCA). Sometimes the Comp Board digs in its heels when some class shows up elsewhere, like FF2000, but the class finds its way in anyway. Most of the cars in what we call F/Continental, originally home to the former Formula Super Vee, are today in fact FF2000s. Formula Mazda, permitted to race as F/Atlantic, and World Sports Racers, seeing action as CSR, may be on the same path.

We knock the numbers down here, and they get bumped up again there. Think about it: only four of the classes that existed in 1954 survive today, but over the past 44 years we have had 59 different National classes.

There have been 10 in Production, nine in Modified, a whopping 13 Formula classes and a dozen Sports Racing, five Sedans, five GTs, four Showroom and one Touring.

If the classes change by evolution, that is a different matter. Showroom Stock may eventually morph into Touring. IT could become the basis of new Production or GT preparation rules. But the 2.5 Rule, when it becomes the 5.0 rule, would not be evolutionary. It would be cataclysmic. Okay, maybe some of the cars in those classes are dinosaurs, but do we really need or want a GCR asteroid to fly in to kill them off?

In categories like Production and GT, there is always the danger that a class killed this year could have been the perfect place to race a new model car invented two years from now. Popularity of a given class is often cyclical.

Meanwhile, does all this manipulation obscure and impede the basic purpose all racers pursue: To Have Fun With Their Cars?

This article copyright 1997 by Rocky Entriken. All Rights Reserved.


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