SCCA – Drifting in the Dirt at the SCCA Rallycross Nationals
If the SCCA Solo National Championships in Lincoln take place in the Mid West’s front yard, then the 2013 RallyCross National Championships in Tulsa take place in its backyard—and everyone knows that’s where to play in the dirt and have the most fun. This was the definitely the case, October 4-6 at the Tulsa Raceway in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 8th, since 2005, Rallycross National Championships.
Tulsa Raceway, a fixture in Tulsa for over 40 years, offered nearly 25 acres of grass and dirt for 103 stoked competitors from 21 states. Over two days, 3 different courses challenged even the most seasoned drivers along with many first time Nat’l drivers. All had a blast. That is, you can’t have more fun than sliding sideways with the tail out, casting long rooster-tails of dirt and mud high into the Oklahoma blue sky. Throw in that Subaru and Volkswagen, longtime supporters of RX were paying contingencies of $1250 for 1st place, $750 for 2nd, and $500 for 3rd. Honda pays $500/$300/$100. Go-Pro gave cameras to each champion with Grassroots Magazine and Summit Racing giving cash. That’s a lot of dough to throw around along with all the dirt, since there are 9 classes–three main categories—front wheel drive, rear, and all. SCCA breaks each of those down to stock, prepared and modified.
On arrival at RX Natl’s, if you come from a Solo background, you were greeted with many familiar faces. Almost all RX drivers are also AX drivers, and the event quickly turned into an extension of the camaraderie and sportsmanship of the Solo Natl’s, ‘cept on dirt. With RX’s natural laid-back atmosphere and seemingly the whole gang back, it was easy for the new guys to relax and have more fun.
The “drifting in the dirt” started Friday the 4th. Tulsa offered a beautiful sunny day with temps in the mid 80s and organizers set up a 30-40 second practice course. For $20, you got 5 runs to sharpen your skills or just knock the rust off. Even the practice course claimed a few cars, sending drivers hunting for co-drives.
Later in the afternoon was the mandatory class inspection. Like Solo’s impound, it allows competitors an opportunity to observe each others cars for compliance. If you are more than 10 minutes late you are penalized a DNF on you first run. Yikes! No one was late, though. Afterwards a welcome party was thrown, including pizza, drinks. At the party, all drivers drew their grid positions from a bag. As we would soon learn, your grid spot was critical.
Saturday, the first day of competition, was delayed an hour because of nearly ½” of overnight rain. It was a chilly start too, around 50 degrees and cloudy, with sunny skies and a high of 67 forecasted. Officials decided to modify the course to avoid the worse areas and, after the parade lap, the stock classes were sent out. Drivers had a frustrating and tough time in the slick areas—losing precious time—or worse yet, hitting a cone. Like Solo, cones hit count as a 2 second penalty. Unlike Solo, all cones hit count toward your cumulative time. Additionally, driving on the wrong side of a cone or gate is a 10 second penalty. Due to the anticipated slower times and with the late start, competitors were limited to 2 runs for the 1st session. As the morning went on and once the mud was cast aside, the line dried nicely and the last group of modified cars made good use of it. Times dropped radically. With speed, however, vehicle breakdowns occurred and sent more drivers scrambling for co-drives.
For the Saturday afternoon session, the sun broke through the clouds and coats were shed. A new course was set up, three runs were announced, grid positions were reversed—first to last, last to first. Off went the stock class again to dive into the somewhat muddy track, although not to the extent as the one earlier in the day. It was slow at first, but this time the course firmed up quickly and drivers could really throw their cars into the elements. As a result, drivers could find gobs of time between runs. Places switched so fast it was hard to keep track of who was where. Dirt is a great equalizer and, those early runs in muddy conditions, many expert drivers had fallen behind. Saturday closed with a hearty BBQ dinner, prizes and Town Hall meeting.
Sunday was another cool start. It was sunny, though, as were the attitudes of the competitors. Most were looking for comebacks, others just to hold on, but all clearly motivated and determined. Yet another course—this one, with areas where power could be put down. This would shake up the 9 classes at bit, as 160 H.P. and 300 H.P. cars were in the same class. In this, the final session, drivers were gridded depending on class results from the previous day, with first going first. With slick course conditions expected for the early runs, the first drivers couldn’t help thinking this might end with catastrophic results.
One last time, the stock class forged a path in the damp grass and some areas of mud. With the sun shining brightly and nearly 70 degree temps the times plummeted rapidly. Each run was much faster than the one before and the stock class saw widely different times between their 1st, 2nd even 3rd runs, until the course evened out—traction wise. For the prepared and modified folks who ran afterwards, there wasn’t that same time variation and, with each of the 5 runs, drivers saw a place swapping frenzied free-for-all, with modified laying down stupid fast times on their last runs. At the end of it all, when the dust settled, after 10 runs, 9 champions were crowned at the awards banquet, some determined by only a second! Wow, Mitsubishi Evo’s won all three categories in all-wheel drive.
Looking ahead to the next year, it was revealed at the banquet, that the 2014 RX National Championships will be held at the I-80 Speedway, a dirt track oval, in Greenwood, Nebraska, October 4 and 5. Mark it down now on your calendar. Where is Greenwood? I’ve run there 3 or 4 times. It’s about halfway between Lincoln and Omaha, right off of, well, I-80. It’s not really in a town. This is a rural area and Nebraska RX region has been running there a few years already. Much like Tulsa, it’s essentially the over-flow parking area for the race track. It has better drainage, the quality of the soil is good, not much clay, brome-type grass, but not as big as Tulsa, which will call for somewhat “tighter” elements and will benefit some cars more than others, it seems. One thing it will be for sure—it will be fun!! See you there!