Road Racing is a type of automobile racing that was originally conducted on existing roads. As road racing grew in popularity and safety became more of a concern, "natural terrain" road courses were built which followed the ground they were built upon, turning left or right, going up and down hills, etc. The majority of road racing events are held on these dedicated closed courses such as Mid-Ohio, Road America (in Wisconsin), Watkins Glen (in New York), and Laguna Seca (in California). Others are held on road course layouts set in the infield areas of large oval tracks such as those at Daytona or Phoenix. A few events are held each year on temporary circuits on city streets, public parks and airports.
"Club Racing" is the SCCA's amateur road racing program. The events are conducted by volunteers for the benefit of the participants. Rather than monetary awards, the top finishers receive trophies and maybe a little contingency money from a sponsoring manufacturer. There are two levels of competition in SCCA Club Racing: Regional and National. The competition at either level can be just as fierce as the other, but drivers at National races receive points toward an invitation to the SCCA's National Championship "Runoffs".
To compete in SCCA Club Racing, you will need an SCCA Competition License. There are two ways to get this license: 1. participate in two SCCA Drivers Schools where you will be taught by experienced Club Racers or 2. attend a professional driving school, such as Skip Barber or Bob Bondurant, that has been accredited by the SCCA. The professional schools cost more money, but the SCCA schools require you to provide your own race car and safety equipment. You will learn different things about racing depending on which you choose, so there is no really right choice...they are both good approaches. If you have previous wheel-to-wheel racing experience, such as from kart racing or a marque club, some of your SCCA school requirements may be waived.
Within Club Racing, there are many categories and classes of automobile catering to just about any interest or skill level. Cars are generally classed based on performance potential.
The Showroom Stock and Touring classes are nearly stock automobiles with safety modifications competing on high performance street tires. Examples include the Dodge Neon, Honda Civic, Mazda Miata, BMW Z3, Ford Mustang, and Chevy Corvette. Next is Improved Touring (IT) which still runs on street performance tires, but bolt-on suspension and engine upgrades are allowed. You will find VW Rabbits, Honda CRXs, Mazda RX-7s, and Datsun 240Zs competing in the IT classes. Similar to IT is American Sedan which is exclusively for Chevy Camaros, Ford Mustangs, and Pontiac Firebirds.
From there, the classes progress onto "slick" racing tires and much higher levels of modification. The Production classes used to be the province of traditional sports cars such as MGBs, Fiat 124s, Triumph Spitfires, and Austin Healey Sprites. Recently, though, more modern sports cars and sports coupes are starting to make inroads among the older sports cars. SCCA Production cars retain their stock frame or body, known as the "tub", but SCCA Grand Touring (GT) cars are based on a NASCAR-style tubular steel frame with a fiberglass body. You will see everything from Nissan Sentras, to Toyota Celicas, to Mustangs and Camaros populating the GT classes. Those Mustangs and Camaros in SCCA's GT1 class are very close to the same cars you will see in the Trans Am series of professional road racing.
Beyond GT are the Sports Racers, known to road racing purists as "prototype" cars. SCCA Sports Racers are akin to the cars you will see competing at LeMans or at the Daytona 24 Hours. They have tubular frame or monocoque chassis with envelope bodies that cover the wheels. SCCA has several classes for Sports Racers ranging from the Ford Escort-powered SCCA Spec Racer to highly-tuned Mazda rotary powered cars that are some of the fastest cars in SCCA Club Racing.
If open wheel racing is more to your liking, SCCA has classes for you, too. Wanna go really fast? Then take a look at the Formula Atlantic cars with their ground effect aerodynamics and pure racing engines. This class can be a stepping stone to CART, IRL, and Formula 1. A bit slower are the Ford Pinto-powered Formula Continental and Formula Ford classes. If simplicity is your thing, Formula Mazda (Mazda rotary powered), Formula V (Volkswagen Beetle powered), or Formula 500 (snowmobile engine powered) may be just what you are looking for.
There is another side to road racing that is very seldom mentioned, yet often seen. Have you ever watched a race and wondered about those folks in white waving flags? Or how about those people scurrying around in the pits pointing at cars, looking in the cockpits, checking here and there? Have you ever wondered how the lap times are measured and the speeds known?
Welcome to the world of the Race Worker. To some, this purely volunteer effort is the best seat in the house. You get in for free, get to be an actual part of the race, and experience up close and personal the race cars at speed, the drivers, the sights, sounds, and smells that the average racing fan doesn't get the chance to do.
The volunteer race workers are categorized by "Specialties". In the SCCA these Specialties include Flagging and Communications (flagger/cornerworker), Timing and Scoring, Grid, Pit, Starter, Scrutineer (Tech Inspector), Registrar, Steward, and many more.
As with the race drivers, all volunteers are highly trained and have licensing levels that are based on proficiency and experience. The new race worker begins immediately with a Regional license in their chosen Specialty and progress to Divisional and then to National license status. As you gain experience, you may wish to apply to work at many of the professional road races across the country. Virtually every professional road racing sanctioning body in North America, and many from overseas, use the training and experience of the SCCA volunteer to staff their events. Without these workers, these professional events could not be possible. CART, Formula 1, American LeMans Series, NASCAR, Trans Am, and others have all recognized the value of the SCCA worker to their program.
And it's easy to get involved! As an SCCA member, simply show up at the track, register, and join up with your specialty for excellent training and the experience of close friendships. You can choose any speciality you wish and many folks hold licenses in several of them.
The CKR is part of the Great Lakes Division SCCA. Additional information about club racing can be found at the Great Lakes website.