X-car rules...are we snobs or scared?

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X-car rules...are we snobs or scared?

Postby David J Marguglio on Thu Jul 22, 2004 2:50 pm

Go to any SCCA event and ask a driver for their perception of the Porsche Club and you will likely hear: snobs, elitists, or worse. Generally, those comments are said with tongue in cheek and likely stem from the fact that we do not allow non-P cars to come play with us. For years I have defended the Club from the onslaught this good-natured teasing by explaining that it is a matter of numbers, “We have so many that if we allowed other cars in we would have to turn away Porsches or cut our valuable track time.” Who could argue with that logic? But what if wasn’t just about the numbers? Are we actually snobs?

My friend Brad is a dyed in the wool SCCA guy. A few years ago, fter a very thoughtful due diligence, he determined that a Caterham R500 was the best street-legal autocross car. So he paid over $50k for one and turned it into an autocross beast. For the edification of the unenlightened: Caterham took over the production of the Lotus 7 at Lotus’ request back in the 1960’s and has continued to develop and elevate Colin Chapman’s ingenious design.

In Britain, and indeed most of the world, the Caterham is considered the pinnacle of the driver’s car. It currently holds the World record for the 0-100-0 mph test and has, from time to time, held the fastest production car time around the Nurburgring. Last year, a Caterham finished 11th (out of about 200 entries) at the 24 hours of Nurburgring; it finished ahead of almost all of the Porsches entered. Only two race-prepared GT3’s managed to beat the 190 HP Caterham. The Caterham is certified by the FIA to race but apparently the FIA and PCASD differ. Anyway, back to Brad.

Since he purchased his car, Brad has participated in more than 20 SCCA autocrosses on a regional and national level. He has finished first in class (Super Unlimited) ten times against the likes of a Ferrari Challenge car which always gives him a good run. He also has participated half a dozen big track events with the Alfa Club at Buttonwillow, Willow Springs and Fontana and with the Shelby Club at Streets of Willow. He has done so safely and sanely and has never had an incident.

In December when PCA was hosting an X-car autocross, I designated Brad as my affiliate member and invited him to come join us. In truth, it wasn’t for the betterment of club relations, I just wanted some more track time in his car. However, at the last moment, his car was not permitted to run because he had cracked a rear carbon fiber fender on a cone the previous weekend. “All wheels must be fully covered,” I was told was the reason his car was “disallowed”.

Last week, I thought that the upcoming DE might be a good chance for me to try again; after all we rarely fill a DE and I assumed we would allow other cars to help defray the cost. I mentioned it to Brad and he was all smiles, “Are you guys are finally going allow me to run?” I cleared it with Dan Chambers and then told Brad he was all set.

Today Dan called me today to explain that he had been catching a lot of flak about this “unknown car” and “unknown driver”. It was suggested to Dan that this “kit car” was not track worthy and that this driver's “equivalent” track time did not count. Despite all of my aforementioned justification, Brad and his car are not allowed to play in our reindeer games. Once again I was explaining to Brad that his car was disallowed.

How can this be? Any cursory research on the car would substantiate it as a worthy track car (ask Tom Tweed); further questions would answered by a tech inspection. As for the driver, I have co-driven enough events with Brad to be able to vouch for his experience. As an instructor, I volunteered to ride with Brad the first session for a "check out". All to no avail.

Though frustrated, I am posting this for public consumption not to stir up trouble, but to spark debate. It is not my intention to slight any the club chairs; in fact, I would like to specifically thank Dan Chambers for all of the time and consideration that put into this issue. What I want to know is if this is what the club wants; is this the consensus of the members? If this is consistent with the rules governing our club, or should they be revised or reinterpreted to avoid turning away track worthy cars and drivers in the future? In a nutshell, how do we wish to be preceived?
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Re: X-car rules...are we snobs or scared?

Postby MikeD on Thu Jul 22, 2004 3:30 pm

David J Marguglio wrote:It currently holds the World record for the 0-100-0 mph test...


I thought that record was held by the McLaren LM. But my info could be dated.

I cannot speak for anyone else, but I presonally have no problem with allowing non-club members to join in our events as long as we are not turning away club members to do so. I also do not have a problem letting club members drive non-p-cars at club events. You're a member of the club, run-what-ya-brung.

When I get annoyed is when club members are turned away because some spots are already sold to non-club members (i.e. POC at Laguna next month).

That's where I stand Dave, but I may not be in the majority.
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Record for Mike

Postby David J Marguglio on Thu Jul 22, 2004 3:45 pm

Nope. Here you go Mike:

Published in Autocar Magazine 27 th April 2004

A British built sportscar has smashed the production car world record for sprinting to 100mph and back again, leaving Ferrari's and Porsche's trailing in its wake along a 2-mile runway at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground, Leicestershire

The lightweight Caterham Seven R500 evolution, set a new world record time of 10.73 seconds during Autocar Magazine's annual 0-100mph-0 test.

The two-seater Seven raced to 60mph from a standing start in 3.21secs, having hit the 30mph mark in just 1.45secs. With 100mph reached in an incredible 6.92secs, the Caterham stopped a mere 3.6secs later.

The Surrey built model out paced cars worth 10 times its £42,000 price tag with the £425,000 Ferrari Enzo securing a time of 10.98 seconds. Even the quickest of all the big road bikes, a Suzuki GSX-R1000, which hits 100mph in 5.03secs, could only complete the Autocar test in 10.89secs

Having lost its 0-100-0mph record to the American Mosler MT900S, a road going version of a GT race car, last November, (previous holders of the title include the £500,000 McLaren F1 road car) Caterham smashed its 2003 time by almost half a second, and its 2002 record of 11.44 secs by seven tenths of a second.
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X cars

Postby jack miller on Thu Jul 22, 2004 4:01 pm

I'll stay out of the "tech" issues. I know what the Caterhams look like, but that's about it. I'd like to drive one; that's for sure.

In principal, I think we should adopt as open a policy as space and safety permit at our events. We should err on the side of leniency toward space and, just slightly, on the side of strictness for safety. I have not heard anything from any chair or member that would lead me to think anyone disagrees.

If you haven't already, I would suggest you contact tech directly to find out why the Caterham R500 can't participate. If tech will allow it, please encourage him to come to Spring Mt. That thing would be a terror there.
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Why not?

Postby Kim Crosser on Thu Jul 22, 2004 5:42 pm

Suggestion - define the ground rules in writing for allowing X-cars, so there is no confusion and/or arbitrary rejection of someone bringing a car to the event. Perhaps something like the following?

1. A PCA member may run in X class in any event in a vehicle other than a Porsche. The member cannot run a second vehicle in the same event, and the X-class vehicle must meet all Zone 8 techical and safety requirements for the event. Event staff shall not reject a member's X-class vehicle for reasons other than identifiable technical or safety compliance issues.

2. A non-PCA member who is a guest of a PCA member at a driving event may be allowed run in X class at the discretion of the event chair. The vehicle is subject to all Zone 8 technical and safety requirements and the driver must meet the Zone 8 Entrant requirements for the specific event (demonstrated experience, skills, etc.). To ensure maximum track time for PCA members, non-member X class entrants will generally NOT be permitted at events with high driving attendance (e.g., Autocross events with more than 90 [?] PCA member entrants, DE events with more than 60 [?] PCA member entrants, or TT events with more than 60 [?] PCA member entrants).

3. A maximum of three [?] non-PCA members may participate in a competition event, on a first-come, first-served basis, subject to compliance with Zone 8 Competition Rules. If an event has a low number of PCA member participants, additional non-PCA member entrants may be permitted at the discretion of the event chair.



I don't mind running against X cars, as long as I am not losing track time. Most AX events are pretty crowded already, so (except perhaps for the December X car event), I can't see allowing non-member X cars there.

I understand that the DE/TT events typically have much lower attendance and are being subsidized by the club, so to the extent that an X car would help defray the costs and not significantly impact track time or add effort to the event staff, that seems like a good thing.

I also think the Tech team should weigh in on this topic - do X cars pose a particular problem in ensuring safety? Is there a significant risk of missing a safety problem when tech'ing an X car? If allowing 2-3 X cars at an event causes the Tech team undue extra work over tech'ing our Porsches, that may be reason enough to discourage them.

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I for one would love to see different cars

Postby gulf911 on Thu Jul 22, 2004 7:55 pm

I am still trying to comprehend the decision of not letting him run??? Is there some huge difference that SCCA lets him run around cones in a parking lot and we don't? Sorry to Tom for bringing him in but doesn't Tom have a similar vehicle? Granted he is a pca member, but there is very light attendance at a DE compared to an AX. This guy sounds like a very seasoned driver, LET HIM RUN!! :roll: Besides... I have time to pass at least one more car.... :lol:
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Postby martinreinhardt on Thu Jul 22, 2004 8:32 pm

I think it is fine to let them run, as long as they are a PCA member. They should be allowed to bring their X car since they can't be driving the Porsche and the X car on the same event.

Brad gave me a ride in his very very cool super seven and I think we should let him run :lol:
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Postby kary on Thu Jul 22, 2004 9:46 pm

When I was auto-x chair voer a two year period we reached some significant attendance records in those years. Partly because the Boxster's and 996's were so available and many were willing to come out and see what their cars would do. During that time there were many discussions around X class cars. I may be unaware of a policy change, but at that time it was up to the chari people to decide following some basic rules:

1. They should be a PCA member (not a guest)
2. The attendance at the event was low enough as to not turn anyone members away or take track time away from members.
3. The X car passed technical inspction and adhered to the PCA rules (i.e. the should not be an open wheel car)

I think we need to be careful about following the rules of what cars are allowed to be running according to our laws since our insurance depends upon following those policies. The other two criteria mentioned are concrete and easily evaluated.

That said, if Brad is:
1. A PCA member,
2. The turn out is low (around 100?)
3. The car adheres to PCA regulations and tech

then he should be allowed to run. Seems simple, did I miss something?
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Postby Tim Comeau on Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:19 pm

Dave, that is a great avatar!

Don't worry about what the SCCA thinks about us........We know we're good people. Besides, those knuckleheads still haven't figured out how to run a proper AX. :P They still only give you 3 runs during the whole day! I wouldn't get out of bed for only 3 laps! :P Sheeesh!
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Postby MikeD on Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:34 pm

Tim Comeau wrote:I wouldn't get out of bed for only 3 laps! :P Sheeesh!


Didn't you spend two entire days down at the Q for 3 laps in the Mazda thingy? :shock:

Doh! :lol:
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Postby Tim Comeau on Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:10 am

Oh, sure! Throw facts at me! :lol:
It was actually 3 days, Mike, if you count my going down there on Thurs? to watch them throwing the course.
That wasn't just an AX. That was national exposure and a chance to win a car. I thought I might actually have a chance of getting something to show for my driving efforts. Oh well................
Maybe next time............... :D
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Re: I for one would love to see different cars

Postby ttweed on Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:21 am

gulf911 wrote:I am still trying to comprehend the decision of not letting him run??? Is there some huge difference that SCCA lets him run around cones in a parking lot and we don't? Sorry to Tom for bringing him in but doesn't Tom have a similar vehicle?
Dan- While I know Brad and have run with him in SCCA events, and can affirm that he is a safe and competent driver with whom I would gladly share the track, it was David M. who is trying to get him accepted for the DE event at the Q on Sunday, not me.

While my yellow car is similar to Brad's Caterham, it is a clone of the Lotus Super 7 design and is American built (in Texas). Caterham in England is the official Lotus 7 builder and the only one recognized by the SCCA for road racing. However, for Solo2 (autox), SCCA recognizes and allows a large number of the Lotus clones built by many different companies, including mine (WCM Ultralite.)

I was hoping to run my Lotus 7 clone at the parking lot DE this weekend as well, to do some much needed testing, but if the "powers-that-be" have decided that no X-cars can run, then so be it. I will give my money to another group/club and run with them instead. There are plenty of organizations running track days and DEs that will accept these cars. It would be nice to run it with PCA at the Q, but it's not the end of the world if I am excluded.

I think you would have a hard time passing me if I did, though. The car has been only a tick or two behind Steve's 914 when it is running well, and I have improved it since then.

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Re: Why not?

Postby jack miller on Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:38 am

I understand that the DE/TT events typically have much lower attendance and are being subsidized by the club, so to the extent that an X car would help defray the costs and not significantly impact track time or add effort to the event staff, that seems like a good thing.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Just a minor point of clarification for people who believe everything they read. TT/DEs aren't being subsidized by the club. Leaving out the Fontana DE, the season is profitable and will look real good, esp. after the awesome Spring Mt. and Streets of Willow events you'll all be attending, right? The only event where significant $ was lost was the Fontana DE and that was a quid pro quo for POC being at the Festival and should be viewed as part of the profitable Festival of Speed. As I'm sure you know, the TT crew was able to buy the transponder system due to last year's attendance.

Kim, we miss you at our events. Come on out of the parking lot. The tracks are much safer...no trees. :lol:
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Postby jack miller on Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:46 am

kary wrote:
I think we need to be careful about following the rules of what cars are allowed to be running according to our laws since our insurance depends upon following those policies. The other two criteria mentioned are concrete and easily evaluated.


Kary, I was told by the board that non-members were fine at TTs, etc. I checked because I, too, was concerned about insurance, esp. since I never made membership an issue. I bet AXs are the same.
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Re: X cars

Postby ttweed on Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:47 am

jack miller wrote:I'll stay out of the "tech" issues. I know what the Caterhams look like, but that's about it.
Jack- As a tech worker and Lotus 7 owner, I can tell you that under a strict interpretation of current Zone 8 rules for TT and DE, the only way a Caterham or other Lotus 7 clone would be allowed to pass tech is if it had a full SCCA or NASA spec roll cage installed. Neither my car nor Brad's has this. On that basis, they could be excluded for safety reasons under the current rule set.

This is not to say that I think they should be excluded- personally, I think applying the Zone 8 TT/DE rules to a parking lot DE at the Q is overkill. The speeds and inherent risks at Qualcomm are no where near as great as at a big track, IMHO. I would like to see us develop a set of Regional DE rules for these parking lot DEs that are not as strict as the Zone 8 rules so that cars like my Lotus 7, and even stock Porsches which are not prepared to the extent necessary for Time Trials or road racing could run. This would allow a more progressive step up from Autox to parking lot DE to big track DE to Time Trials.

My understanding is that the Zone 8 DE rules were developed for the very first DE held in Zone 8, which was the CFoS event at Fontana. They were made very strict (even tighter than TT rules at the time) in consideration of the very high-speed venue at Fontana. It is simply not necessary to have a car prepared nearly to road racing (wheel to wheel) specs to run a parking lot DE, in my opinion, but that is what we currently have.

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