Friday, September 2, 2011

Going Faster becomes a Passion

On-Track Time Trials

If you enjoy running your car on a set course against the clock and feel like three or four one-minute runs in a day isn’t enough, but don’t relish the thought of putting your shiny MINI at risk by racing against other cars, then the SCCA program of Solo I time trials may be just the thing for you. A similar time-trial program has recently been introduced by the National Auto Sports Association, called the NASA TT (for Time Trials) program.

These events are run on regular race courses throughout North America during the year. They’re like Solo II autocrosses in that you run by yourself against the time clock, and the class winners are determined by the best lap times achieved. However, they’re like track racing in that the course is actually a complete race track, which might be as long as two to three miles. In Solo I and NASA TT, a typical lap time will be in the range of two to three minutes but the cars reach considerably higher speeds during a circuit of the track than are possible on a Solo II parking lot course.

On the downside, time trials are more expensive and involve more risk to you and the car than Solo II, but the experience makes a good stepping-stone to full road racing. In most organizations, you’ll need all the safety equipment required in road racing.

Required safety equipment for SCCA Solo I typically includes a protective roll cage and five-point seat belts for both driver and passenger in the car, and some organizations will require a fuel cell in place of the gas tank. In addition, to race in Solo I you’ll need a flameproof racing suit as well as flameproof shoes and gloves, and an automobile racing helmet. NASA TT safety requirements are somewhat less stringent, but nevertheless emphasize safe car preparation.

Because of the costs of renting road-racing tracks, entry fees are substantially higher than for Solo II, though the cost per minute of racing isn’t that much different; you just get many more minutes at speed in these events. To that you need to add the cost of fuel, an oil change after every second weekend, and a new set of tires every five or so weekends.

But there’s little to replace the adrenaline rush of keeping focused at speeds well over legal highway limits while trying to hit the apex of each corner exactly right so that you can beat your competition by that elusive tenth of a second. It definitely takes track days to a completely new level.

For more information on SCCA Solo I activities, check the national SCCA website and your regional SCCA organization. For more information on NASA TT programs, check