As 2020 is upon us, I thought I might revisit my most recent (and too infrequent) RE Report, and write an updated one with where we are as of now.
First of all, we may be in the best financial position we have ever been in. When I joined the Board almost 7 years ago, I was told the Region’s goal was to have one year of VIR track rent in the bank. I’m happy to report that we are pretty much there, despite losing our October event each of the past two years, along with ‘investing’ (losses) in a new Time Trials program, as well as a Runoffs Test Day weekend that came up short. Going into 2020, even though our Spring Sprints won’t be as big as in 2019, we get Goblins Go back, so we’ll have a fourth racing event at VIR again for the first time since 2017. With that, I expect we will be just as successful as in 2019.
Our race dates at VIR for 2020 are set, and we know the base rental rate. However, we don’t yet have the actual contract in hand, so we don’t know if there will be any other changes to the add-on fees for various items. What we do know is that the base rate is going up about 3% over 2019, which is a smaller increase than last year.
However, SCCA is adjusting fees upward also. A new $20 Appearance fund assessment is being added to all Super Tour/Majors events. The insurance fee will also increase slightly for the Spring Sprints, but the other fees, including the Super Tour fee ($70), will stay the same. With all of that added up, in 2020 the first $149.25 of every driver’s entry fees for the Spring Sprints will go straight to Topeka, not to NCR. For 2019, that number was $125.75 – a significant increase.
For regional events, the sanction fees and insurance will increase by $7 total per car per weekend. In addition to the increase in the insurance fees, beginning in 2020, SCCA will impose a new $1,000 deductible for all damage claim filings. Until now, we’ve been able to file track damage claims back to SCCA and get close to 100% reimbursement, and those have been significant. We will now have to absorb the first $1,000.
With these increases, it’s no surprise that race entry fees will not be going down for 2020 events at VIR (nor anywhere else for that matter), but we will strive to keep the impact on our entry fees to the minimum.
I’d like to give a quick reminder about what racing at VIR means to us as a region. With the exception of Solo, which is self-sufficient, our few days of racing at VIR are the only means by which the Region can raise any surplus to pay for everything else we do that doesn’t pay for itself – for the entire year. Just breaking even at races won’t keep the region alive. I have been a region (and previous Board member) long enough to remember when NCR essentially went broke and had to cancel all racing. We are first and always a racing region. Without it we cannot survive and grow.
So what is on the horizon for 2020? Here’s a rundown of some of the highlights:
- March 14-15: We are joining forces with South Carolina Region at our March Into Spring event at VIR. SCR lost its March race date at CMP, so we’ve reached out to them. SCR has allowed us to joint venture at their Time Trial at CMP each of the last two years, and we may be working with them more in the future. There were many regions that helped NCR survive when we didn’t have a track. Sometimes you pay back by paying forward.
- April 10-12: The Spring Sprints (first so-named in 1958) will again be our feature three-day Super Tour event. Although we expect the field to be more ‘normal’ this year, we think it will still be a biggie on the national schedule. A lot of new drivers at the Runoffs may want another shot at VIR. Since the track (with help from SCCA) has installed paved paths in the infield, and with a smaller field, we shouldn’t need a dedicated load-in this year nor endure a repeat of 2019’s mud sling.
- May 9-10: SARRC/MARRS Challenge. As always, we’ll be working with Washington DC Region. We continue to explore new ways to grow our relationship, and have agreed to allow them to run their Sprint Bracket Road Racing (SBRR) entrants within one of our traditional run groups. SBRR is an effort to bring new drivers into SCCA, without the hassle of having to fit into one of the existing GCR classes. In addition, we have been chosen by Mazda as one of only 6 venues on the East Coast to feature their new Spec MX-5 Challenge Series for the NC generation of cars.
- August 15-16: NCR Time Trial. We are returning to the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR) in Garysburg, NC for our own Time Trials event. We ran there twice in 2019 and we hope the snowball keeps growing in 2020. We learn and make improvements each time, introducing new twists. Although it can’t yet pay for itself, we are committed to making Time Trial a successful program in NCR. If you haven’t yet, you should come play. Just about any car will qualify and the best analogy I can make is that it’s a good cross between Solo and Racing, and a good stepping stone between the two. It’s also a logical complement to Cape Fear’s already hugely successful Solo program which will be running a full series of events again at Cherry Point in 2020.
- October 10-11: Goblins Go returns – a tradition in NCR since 1962. This means the return of Prod Fest and the V8RRS Championship along with the usual full range of SARRC and endurance races. This fall classic has been one of our most successful events over the years and we look forward to getting it back after a two-year absence.
Speaking of endurance racing, ECR, APC, and Tarheel Cup all get a makeover for 2020. First, both ECR and APC will adopt a 65-minute race format in order to allow two drivers to each get a 30-minute stint behind the wheel plus the 5-minute pit stop. Tarheel Cup will drop the ‘Pro’ name as it doesn’t pay prize money anymore and will simply become known as TCS. It will continue with a 45-minute format and be targeted at drivers for whom a single SARRC race per day just isn’t enough and would like more seat time. All three series will also add more eligible classes, so be sure to check on MSR when these events come on line to see if your class is included.
Elsewhere in 2020, we hope to outfit the Speed Suite with a bath, a small kitchen, and a storage loft. With our very own pace car, possibly a bigger Hospitality trailer, and all of our worker support assets, we’ve already grown to fill it. I don’t know how we used to stuff everything into little rental garages, but the Speed Suite may be the best investment we’ve ever made. We have a permanent home at VIR that will have lasting value for many years.
NCR is also establishing a new scholarship fund, suggested by, and under the leadership of member John Lindquist. The program will promote awareness among young people about motorsports in general and SCCA in particular, through a modest (at first) scholarship fund for entering college freshmen. More on that will be coming in the near future, but as a 501(c)4 non-profit, giving back to the community is part of what a region’s charter is supposed to be about, and this will be another way we can fulfill that obligation.
So there it is and I’m now at the end of my last RE Report as my term ends this weekend and I decided some time ago (with my wife’s encouragement) to not seek a third term. Anna Crissman will slide over from Asst. RE into the RE chair, and I will move over to ‘Past RE’, which is an official position in NCR. Anna has been Asst. RE and Comp Board Director since I asked her to fill that vacancy three years ago. She has been an integral part of our success ever since and has reinforced my confidence in her many times over. I believe we have the best person for the job and I intend to help her.
As for me, I will still be an active voting member of the Board, a driver, and a volunteer, so you’ll still see me at NCR events, but it’s time to let others pick it up from here. I’m proud to say, as I enter my 44th year as a member, that with younger people assuming some of the leadership, nobody can accuse NC Region of being run by a bunch of old guys.
Small steps, always forward…
Sam Fouse, RE