We've said a lot about how great the Tire Rack Time Trials National Tour Presented by Hagerty is, so instead, we’re letting others help with their own words! We caught up with SCCA autocrosser extraordinaire John Hunter after he left High Plains to find out what he thought of the event:
I can call myself fortunate to have participated in various motorsports venues, and in just about every program the SCCA offers, at one time or another. I've autocrossed for almost 20 years and feel blessed to say I have earned a National Championship along the way. I've done track days and time attacks, both as a participant and an instructor. I've even been involved, from instructing to planning and operating, with programs like the Starting Line School and Track Night in America presented by Tire Rack for the SCCA. I'm also currently the editor for SCCA's SoloMatters newsletter, which by default makes me one of the head cheerleaders for SCCA's largest program.
So, sure, you can take my endorsement here with a grain of salt. But, to be fair, people that know me will tell you that I'm also capable of giving an objective opinion (at the very least, I would have just declined this piece if I didn't believe it!). But what I'm saying is that I've seen this Time Trials program evolve. I've seen the countless hours, not to mention the blood, sweat, and tears, that went into getting it from the drawing table to the National Tour that is traipsing across the country as we speak. They say you're not supposed to know how the sausage is made but, in this case, I know they used all the best ingredients and practices to come up with this program. And in this instance, the whole is even better than the sum of the parts!
When I found myself with a free weekend (trust me, that doesn’t happen often!), and an ND Mazda MX-5 that was on the wrong side of the garage door when a golf ball-sized hail storm blew in, I knew "Dimples" and I were headed to High Plains Raceway for the Tire Rack Time Trials National Tour presented by Hagerty. On the trip there, I got the call from my insurance company and learned that Dimples was, indeed, going to be totaled. And while you might think that would give me the green light to brake a tiny bit later, and maybe push just a little bit harder, it had the opposite effect. Knowing that the car needed to be back in one piece to get the insurance money out of it, meant that I needed to leave some on the table. And that is the great thing about SCCA’s Time Trials. You push as hard as you are comfortable with and are always encouraged to make sure you drive within your means.
There's nothing more fun than stretching your car out and pushing it to the limit on a race track. I've always wanted to go road racing but, to be honest, I haven't felt the calling to take on the commitment it requires. I admire it; I'd love to jump in a car and race; but I don't envy the late nights in the garage, the trailer maintenance, the tear-down and rebuilds. Those are all great things, but it just doesn't fit into my life balance and other hobbies.
I love autocross, and always will. It is my primary passion. It scratches my competitive itch, and I'll continue to run local and national programs every chance I get. The ever-changing course layouts, and the “get it done in 3 runs” aspect has always appealed to me. I just love the challenge.
Time Trials, however, combines all of the positives for me. I drive my car to the track. The maintenance for Time Trials is the same as what I do for autocross - check the tires, check and change brake pads, change the oil, etc. I can (and probably will) make modifications to whatever car I get to replace “Dimples”, but it's not a requirement for having fun. And, I still get to compete - which is an aspect that I love, though it won't wreck my month if I get beat.
When I boil it down, it feels like an autocross event to me, just at a different venue. With the parties and the paddock and the beer exchange (if you've got a local beer and we're going to be at the same event, hit me up - I'm always looking for a good trade!). I've never met a stranger, and I find the different backgrounds of participants fascinating.
Who do I think SCCA Time Trials is for? It's for autocrossers who want to get on track. It's for road racers who want to drive more and wrench less. It's for Track Night enthusiasts who want to push a little bit harder, or maybe just see what kind of times they are running. And it's for the person who has been on the sidelines watching but doesn't know how to get on track. Basically, it's for everyone. And that, honestly, is my favorite part of Time Trials.
Photo by ABI Photo
Words by John Hunter