Welcome to the very first installment of Hagerty’s newest feature, “On The Clock.” We will be covering the world of time-trial competition here, whether it’s SCCA’s brand-new and white-hot Time Trial series or one of the several other no-fenders-endangered sanctions out there across North America.
If you’ve already run an SCCA Time Trials event, or if you’re signed up for this upcoming weekend’s competition at Pitt Race, you know that drivers are ranked based on their total score across multiple sub-events. Right now the formula is:
(Best time for Saturday Time Attack) + (Best time for Sunday Time Attack) + (Best time for TrackSprint) = TOTAL TIME
The Time Attack portion of that is easy to figure out—it’s just the single best lap time you can throw down on a given day. It doesn’t matter if you only get one great lap across three or four sessions, because you only need one. And yeah… some people are gonna sandbag until they see what you’re made of! That’s all part of the game. Other drivers will try to set the bar so high in the first session that nobody even thinks about approaching it.
Don’t forget the impact of weather and temperature; your wicked-fast lap time set before lunch might be easy meat for other competitors as the mercury drops in the afternoon, or it might rain all day with just one dry session to hit your marks. Not everybody in the SCCA Time Trials community is obsessed with winning; it’s an “Experiential” program where just showing up can be half of the battle, and most of the fun. If you want to stand on the top of the podium, however, you need to master TrackSprint as well.
What is TrackSprint? The best way to describe it is it’s a high-speed autocross that uses part of the racetrack. It might not be the same configuration used during Time Trial — at Pitt Race, for example, the TrackSprint will use the original Turns 3, 4, and 5 that aren’t part of the full course. Each driver gets just three runs to process this new take on the track and set a fast time.
Justin Moore, who picked up a podium at Thunderhill’s SCCA Time Trial event last weekend, explains how it went for him:
“During the time attack on Sunday I was able to improve, as conditions were optimum, and I brought my time down by almost a couple seconds overall. At this point of the weekend I was really amped up for the Sundays TrackSprint... I had the opportunity to climb a spot or two if I could perform well.
“This final sprint was particularly interesting to me because it ran backwards, in a direction that I’d never driven. We needed to learn it and be fast in three laps. Driven in this direction, the course has even fewer visual landmarks—and the curbs are usually in the wrong place. The layout required the driver to be able to adapt their approach without giving up speed. This allowed me to learn the new line and gave me an opportunity to go for it on my third attempt without surprises. I really stuck my neck out in a couple spots on my final attempt and it ended up paying off.”
For competitive autocrossers who are just getting their feet wet in time trials, the TrackSprints are an equalizer, a chance to use their adaptability and first-run-fast-run mindset to their advantage. For experienced time-trialers, the TrackSprint adds challenge and variety to the event.
We will be TrackSprinting ourselves at Pitt Race this weekend, running an MX-5 Cup car in the Tuner 4 class. If you’re local to the area, this is a good time to come up to speed on the program—if not, watch this space for a report on the event and more time trials news to come!