As I write this, I am riding on a Swiss train passing by Porsche’s lovely Black Forest home in Stuttgart, Germany thinking about two things; one, why can’t Americans have a usable and viable train transportation system; and two, what will 2013 bring to our beloved motor-sports world?
As an SCCAPRO racer and program director for Lanier Technical College’s Motor-sports Vehicle Technology Program, I am in a unique position to be able to observe the trends happening in Motor-sports, especially in Road Racing. With the up and coming merger/ acquisition of IMSA, owned by Don Panoz and Grand-Am, owned by NASCAR’s France family, there is quite a bit of angst in the air coming from team owners, factory racing programs, team managers, drivers, and technicians. Everyone is worried about what the future holds, and unfortunately, I do not know the answer to that question either, but I can tell you about the trends that I am seeing come to fruition for 2013.
With the intended full merger in 2014, most teams are eagerly awaiting a concise and consistent rulebook before they invest further in their racecars. What does this mean? It means that in 2013 many teams are downgrading their schedules and their racing, by either moving to lower classes of racing and/or attending fewer professional races. Does that mean Road Racing is over for 2013, not likely! Many teams will still be racing, but I expect to see fewer of the factory racing programs in particular, and more of the arrive and drive teams which rent out seats in there racecars to pay the bills.
On the other hand, club racing events like NASA, SCCA, ChumpCar, etc., seem to be on the rise again. And the newest and biggest trend in Road Racing seems to be track days that do not include any racing at all! These events held by clubs like Track Daze and Chin Motor-sports are sprouting up every weekend at tracks all over the country and people are actually showing up. It seems that the low stress and fun atmosphere present at these events is contagious, I have attended a few of these events myself, and I can understand why.
At these events it is common for people to give free track rides to others, share in a conversion with a racing professional/hero, experience their own personal cars in a high performance setting on historic racetracks without all of the drama and stress associated with racing, and above all, everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the company of other “car people”.
In the end, what will 2013 bring to Road Racing? In many ways this will be a rebuilding year as teams make the plans and changes necessary for racing in 2014. There will be some thinning of teams, as only essential personnel will stay on full-time. As for the few paid professional drivers out there, the same will be true as even fewer paid rides will be available. So, I would suggest that instead of stressing out about this situation, return to our grassroots and attend a few of these track day events, whether as a spectator, volunteer or driving coach and talk to the people there and enjoy yourself. You never know who you might meet, and you never know far they may take you! Happy New Year! And whatever you do, go to the track!