Looking Back On 2018

January 1, 2019

One of the unofficial tasks of an RE is to communicate to the membership from time to time on the state of the Region. I’m not particularly good at this sort of thing, so maybe it’s just as well that I started this report on the last day of 2018, and am finishing it on the first day of 2019.

I’m not knowledgeable enough to report on much about the Solo program other than I know we have outstanding members, mostly in Cape Fear, doing a terrific job. Unfortunately, the RE job consumes disproportionate amounts of time with board meetings, conventions, VIR, etc. I rarely have time to race myself and I don’t have a proper car for Solo. We did however find a way to come together for one event in 2018. More on that later.

2018 in Review

In hindsight, 2018 was a mixed bag of positives, ending with some significant lows. As always, the circus began early in January with our Annual Banquet, and then was followed quickly in succession by the National Convention, the SEDIV Convention, and then three races in three months. It all goes by in a blur and before you know it, it’s mid-May. It’s a torrid pace that no other region in SEDIV attempts to do… probably for good reason.

The big item at the National Convention for us was that the Runoffs were coming to VIR in 2019. Everyone knew it, but the Region contingency was asked not to tell anyone. We tried to honor the request, then Topeka released the news shortly after the convention without giving us a heads up. Can’t say that we were particularly happy about that.

There was also a discussion with SCCA Club Racing at the Convention about using Virtual Safety Car at the Runoffs at VIR. We spoke vehemently against it and followed it with a letter outlining why it was a bad idea, since we are the only place that’s used it, without any definitive way to implement it, nor enforce it. Weeks later, Topeka came around to our way of thinking. Until such time as there exists a uniform national rule and a device to communicate with drivers in-car, there will be no VSC at the Runoffs, nor at any of our events.

About two weeks after the National Convention, we made our way to the SEDIV Convention. One of the more significant items to come out of that was something that occurred at the Sunday RE breakfast. Heyward Wagner discussed a possible new-format Time Trial event, possibly to be held at CMP and asked if any regions might be interested in co-sponsoring it. I didn’t have a clue about anything called ‘Time Trial’, but I figured if it was new and Heyward was involved, NCR needed to be in on it, so I raised my hand. For a few weeks it was just NCR and SCR. Atlanta eventually joined in and the event was held Memorial Day weekend with a lot of help from our Solo leadership and a contingent of our own workers. The event turned out to be a huge success and I believe we actually got a check for about $500 as our share of the surplus. NC Region has a long history of being a leader, and we want that to continue. We’ll be back in 2019.

In March we held our usual ‘thumb our noses at Mother Nature’ March Into Spring. Despite the intentionally misleading name, it’s actually held in the winter in the second wettest month of the year in Danville. Although the event almost never breaks even, in 2018, it actually broke even … I think… I hope. We did have a special race group for Spec MX-5 cars, a new semi-pro series partially sponsored by Mazda. They put on a good show and they returned with us again in May.

Less than a month later was our Spring Sprints Super Tour Majors. Folks, hands down, this is our biggest, most financially important event of the year, every year. It pays the bills for so much of our annual expenses, that without it, we’d have a hard time breaking even on everything for the year. The only activity from which we can produce income is racing, and this event provides significantly more funding than all of our other racing events combined. We have averaged over 300 cars (the equivalent of 600+ regional entries) each of the past three years, but 2018 was off slightly as were most Majors on the east coast due to the Runoffs being at Sonoma. Expect that to explode in a significant way in 2019.

In May we raced again with our friends from WDC Region and the event was another success. WDC region has always been one of our closest partners in SCCA, and they are the source for much of our own origins as a Region. Little did we know at the time that SARRC/MARRS would be the last race we would hold in 2018.

Unfortunately, since the summer break, we have had several setbacks, but none has been more devastating nor harder to absorb than the loss of Buddy Matthews. His untimely loss was a shock that we will not recover from for quite a while, if ever. Buddy was involved in so much of the Region’s operations from past RE, Chapter Coordinator, Board member, Chief of Tech, co-founder of and ECR committee member, and the list goes on. He was the force behind our building a scales facility at VIR and that was his primary domain. He always attended Board meetings, and was usually one of the first to get there. It was awkward not seeing him at December’s Board meeting.

He was viewed by some who didn’t know him as a bit abrupt at times in Tech or in the Scales Room. More than once I had to smooth some ruffled feathers of a driver in impound, but I knew that it was just Buddy’s nature to be direct and no-nonsense in that environment. One on one he was soft-spoken and polite, with a sense of humor. He was always thinking ahead and was already planning for the Runoffs. His knowledge base went back decades, including as a driver and car owner. We all knew that eventually he would have to retire from the front lines, but were content to let it be on his terms, and not like this. He will be sincerely missed.

By now, everyone knows that we had to cancel our Goblins GO event, not just once, but twice due to the most inclement weather imaginable. I was at VIR on Thursday night in October when the hurricane deprived VIR of power, and I was there on Friday morning when they pulled the plug due to inevitable rising of the Dan River, which eventually flooded portions of the track. It was the right call. The hurricane flooded Highway 58 into Danville. Parts of Danville and Roxboro were without power for most of the weekend, which would have made travel and lodging for most of our participants uncomfortable if not impossible. Kerrigan Smith, the CEO of VIR, was kind enough to offer us a make-up date in early December, the first weekend that VIR was not already rented. He gave us the most favorable rental terms imaginable and agreed we could cancel up to the weekend before without penalty.  This turned out to be unfortunate in the extreme, because the worst winter storm of the season hit the weekend of our make-up race and we would not have been able to use the facility at all on Sunday. Our heartfelt thanks go to VIR for their understanding and generosity on this occasion.

In the meantime, we used paper ballots to vote for the last time. A record number of respondents voted to update our Bylaws to permit electronic voting, and we held the first-ever electronic vote to elect our officers for 2019. And then it was on to the Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner, in Wilmington this year, to put the cap on 2018 and kick off 2019 with a bang. Many thanks to the Cape Fear Chapter for hosting that event, and to Elizabeth Severt for chairing it for us.

Look for future updates from me on the 2019 season. It will be dynamite, with exciting racing, awesome solos, and perhaps even a time trial event of our own.

— Sam Fouse