SCCA Classes

To the uninitiated, the vast array of SCCA classes looks like so much alphabet soup. Just when you start to make some sense of things, you discover something else that only serves to confuse matters further. This essay is written from a historical perspective, and may help to make things just a little clearer.

In the Beginning - Production and Modified

Once upon a time, the SCCA had two categories: Sports Cars over 2 liters, and Sports Cars under 2 liters (it was originally a sports car club, after all.)  Eventually, it was recognized that there needed to be classes for cars that were close to stock and classes for cars that had diverged from stock configuration, so we got Production and Modified. Over time, the "Production" basis of Modified disappeared, and Modified became the class for purpose built closed fendered racing machines; Production cars also grew away from stock but remained based on something that was once a street car.  The Production category still exists today, with plastic fenders and hoods, vestigial windshields, radical cams and pistons but tightly controlled carbs, and substantial strengthening of the structure by the roll cage (the basic firewall/inner fender or frame/floor/rocker assembly remains intact.) In Production, the old British sports cars still rule, although the recent admission of Miatas has started to change things, and just within the past year they started letting (shudder!) tin tops into the Production classes, in the form of BMW 2002s and Datsun 510s and Toyota MR2s and the like. In E production, you find things like 2002s, 2 Liter Alfa Spiders, Lotus Super Sevens, MGBs, and Jensen Healeys. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in HP you'll find 948cc Austin Healey Sprites.  The old A, B, C, and D production classes are gone, but in their prime you found AC Cobras in AP and Corvettes in BP.

From Modified Sports Cars to Sports Racers

Modified followed a very different evolutionary path. Modifieds quickly grew away from their basis in street machines; conceptually they ended up with a lot in common with FIA definitions of Sports cars, with only one seat needed but room for a second seat required, and so forth. Eventually the category was renamed Sports Racer, with four tiers: ASR, BSR, CSR, and DSR. ASR and BSR went away due to lack of participation -- BSR is completely dead, while ASR is still permitted at Regional races only, where you could theoretically see old F5000 cars and second generation Can-Am cars (I never have.) CSR and DSR exist as tinkerer's classes; roughly speaking (very roughly), CSR is a 1600 cc class and DSR is a 1300 cc class, although there are a number of permitted engine formulas with associated minimum weights. Supercharging is permitted with an appropriate equalization penalty. There are even competitive cars in DSR which are almost entirely homebuilt (albeit, very well designed cars built by people who are also professional engineers in their "real life".)

"Spec" Sports Racers

There are three "spec" sports racer classes; Spec Racer, Spec Racer Ford, and Shelby Can-Am. Spec Racer introducted the concept; a sturdy tube framed car with a Renault power plant, it was originally supported by Renault and so called Sports Renault, but was renamed Spec Racer when Renault bailed out of the US market. Spec Racers may only use approved parts from SCCA Enterprises in Denver; the engines are sealed. Suspension adjustments are permitted. It is very much a driver's class.

The shortage of Renault engine parts led to a controversial evolution in the Spec Racer concept: the SCCA is in the process of converting Spec Racers to Spec Racer Fords, substituting a 1.9L Ford Escort based powerplant as prepared by Roush Racing. The plan was for Spec Racer (Renault) to vanish on January 1, 1997, with all Renault powered cars converted to Ford power plants. 1996 was the last year that you could see the original Renault powered cars at the Runoffs.

Finally, another Spec effort was developed a few years back; it has not worked out as planned, and the concept will almost certainly be revised in the near future. The Shelby Can-Am class was introduced as a bigger, faster spec racer concept. Not many were sold, and the company that made them went bust. The SCCA has a minimum participant level and classes which fall below it go on probation -- the SCA spent 1996 on probation. SCA failed to make its requirements, and is now relagated to regional only status. In all probability, SCA will appear in the C Sports Racer Class in 1998.

There is one other sports racer class, named Sports 2000; I'll come back to it in due course. Now, let's talk about sedan racing a little, and then formula cars in the SCCA.

Tin Tops and Tube Frames

Initially the SCCA, being a "Sports Car Club", was fairly hostile to the notion of sedan racing. By the 60s, things had changed, and sedan classes derived from the FIA touring car rules were in existence. Shelby Mustangs might run in B Sedan while open Corvettes ran in B Production. Then, in the mid 70s, they had what probably seemed like a good idea at the time. They decided that everything in Sedan and Production ought to be tube frame.

The concern was that with Unit body construction becoming the norm, the cost of repairs might become a serious problem. Major race prep shops argued that tube frame would be cheaper. They were right -- sort of. Tube frame has proven to be cheaper, if you're a major race prep shop. If you were a weekend driver with a day job that wasn't related to racing, then tube frame construction roughly doubled the cost of a season.

The tube frame revolution was never completed, but it did have a major effect, which is still visible today. The Sedan classes disappeared, folded into the new GT-1 through GT-5 classes, with Mustangs, Camaros, and Corvettes in GT-1 and Minis and the like in GT-5. GT cars do not have to be fully tube framed, but the top GT-1 cars generally are; in GT-3 to GT-5, semi-tube frame construction which retains most of the original unit body is much more common. Engines can be fairly radical, with unusual pistons and cams. Injection and carbs are fairly restrictive (long experience in the SCCA has shown that well chosen restrictions on induction systems are the best way to even out the competition. Fuel injection has only recently been legalized for GT and Production, and the Competition Board is treading warily because everyone is still unsure how to equalize competition with this technology.)

Getting back to the tube frame revolution, the other part of the change over was that Production was to be folded into GT as well. AP through DP did go away. Protests from the Production car owners mounted, and the process halted in the early 80s, leaving EP through HP more or less intact. No new cars were allowed for many years, and Production car fields gradually dwindled, until recently, when a flock of new cars (including a bunch of sedan models) were classed for Production. New cars are now gradually appearing, and perhaps someday Production car fields will fill back up.

Cutting Costs

With the "tube framization" of Sedan and Production, it became difficult to find a place to race cars with a production basis cheaply. Showroom stock was introduced; the idea was to run cars right off the dealer floor, with minimal modifications. It was a big success. Like most big successes, the seeds of potential failure were planted right from the start. The simple fact is that the concept is impossible to fully police. Yes, the car must be a car that the factory could have delivered. This doesn't keep you from visiting the factory with a precise scale, and looking for the lightest four pistons that weigh almost exactly the same, and a similiar set of piston rods. It doesn't keep you from calling Eibach up on the phone and asking for a matched set of stock springs for your SSB Miata. It doesn't keep you from "borrowing" 200 Neon shocks, dropping in on Roger Penske's shock plant in Reading PA, and running all the Neon shocks through the shock dyno looking for the good ones (every single one of the things described has actually been done at one time or another.)

Inevitably costs went up, and the simple fact is that a nationally competitive, legal "Showroom stock" motor costs at least twice as much as a real stock motor.

Then, another factor arose: the current models of Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs. These cars were obviously too fast for bolt in 6 point roll cages that were mandated for SS. The Competition Board opted not to list the latest models of the big American muscle cars for SSGT. As a result, 1996 is the first year in a long time where SSGT has not been contested at the National Level (cars "age" out of Showroom Stock, and the last cars legal to compete Nationally in SSGT "aged" out on January 1, 1996.)

This happened at the same time as other concerns about the SS concept became serious. A year ago, the SCCA Competition board floated the concept of Touring classes, which allowed more modifications than SS, in an effort to rationalize the concept (T cars may also be required to carry ballast for competition equalization, something that was not the case in SS).  In addition, Touring cars were permitted fully welded 8 point cages (since then, the decision was made to permit the welded 8 point cages in Showroom Stock as well.) The new Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs were all moved to the new Touring 1 (T1) class, and a few SSA cars (the BMW M3 and the Honda Prelude) were moved up to T1 as well. This is the first year of national competition in any form of Touring; it's been interesting to watch. (I should point out that T1 in club racing is in no way related to T1 in SCCA Pro Racing's World Challenge series.)

So we have T1 (formerly SSGT), SSA, SSB, and SSC for Showroom Stock.  You will see Miatas and Neons in SSB and SSC, with some other makes and models thrown in for spice, and some faster cars in SSA.  What will be quickest in SSA this year is open to question; the BMW M3 that dominated SSA in 1995 was moved to T1 for 1996.

The SCCA also has a category whose prep level is between the "Showroom Stock" and the GT/Production classes; it is not a  National category, and so won't be competing at the Runoffs, but it is one of the most popular categories in the SCCA. It is called "Improved Touring", or IT.

How to Improve Touring

IT cars are allowed "bolt on" suspension upgrades (shocks, springs, sway bars), gutted interiors, fully welded 8 point roll cages, and mildly developed engines. They are cheaper to run than a top Showroom Stock effort (engine rebuilds are perhaps 1/2 the cost), and the cars are generally based on production shells from between 1968 and about 5 years ago. Rabbits and Golfs are popular, because shells are common and the cars are inexpensive to build in IT trim. BMW 2002s are quick in both ITA and ITB (the injected Tii model in ITA, the carb model in ITB); Mazda RX-7s with 13B motors and Datsun 240Zs are fast in ITS; and the old 1600cc Rabbits are now legal in ITC and quite fast there. There are models of Honda Civic that are quick in A, B, and C. Alfa Romeos (Spiders and GTVs) are fast in ITB; so are some versions of the 1970s vintage Volvo 140 series of sedans.

Heavy Iron Returns

IT was so popular, they decided they needed a class like IT for big bore American cars, and so American Sedan was born. Unlike IT, American Sedan is a National class. AS cars are 5.0L Camaros, Firebirds, and Mustangs with 8 point welded roll cages, spec carbs, spec intake manifolds, limits on camshaft lift and compression ratio, and a specified inner diameter for the exhaust header tubing. American Sedan race cars are often compared to the original Trans Am cars of the 60s, as those cars weren't all that different from what runs in AS today.

It's Easy, If You Have the Formula

For a long time the SCCA ignored Formula car racing. In the 60s, the Club picked up Formula car racing; the big thing was Formula Junior, although various different classes ran. When Formula Junior hit the end of the road, FA, FB, and FC were created; FA for 3.5L F-1 cars and a couple of other variants, FC for old Formula Juniors, and FB for Formula Juniors with uprated engines. In addition, we got FVee and FFord 1600, two very successful spinoffs of Formula Junior. FA became F5000 became defunct (not defunct, so much, as converted into second generation Can-Am, which became defunct, and if the cars show up, they are allowed to run at Regionals in ASR.) FB became Formula Atlantic; Atlantics have gone through some engine changes, and now you see the injected Toyotas in the Pro series, and you will see Toyotas with injection or carbs in club events, and Cosworth BDAs in club racing with the conservative types. Old water cooled Super Vees might show up in Atlantic, but probably not at Nationals.

Atlantics are 1600cc, with ground effects tunnels and wings. they have variously been space frame or aluminum monocoque over the years, with increasing amounts of carbon fiber more recently. Atlantics are easily converted into CSRs with the addition of full fendered body work, and it happens to older cars from time to time.

FC became Formula Continental, so at least their class letters stayed the same. The mix of cars has changed markedly, though. Originally, FB and FC had the same chassis rules with different engine rules. These older FC cars cars are still legal, but you never see them at SCCA events anymore. What you might see is the occasional air cooled Super Vee, and what you will see is the FF2000. Whereas FC is 1100cc with big wings and tunnels, FF2000 is a space frame FF1600 style chassis with a flat bottom, smaller wings, and a restricted motor based on the NE series 2.0L Ford Pinto engine. The present rules structure gives a slight advantage to the FF2000, enough advantage that the traditional FC has largely disappeared from competition.

The FF1600 (Formula Ford) itself is, of course, the classic spin off of the failed Formula Junior concept. An FF1600 has a flat bottomed chassis, no wings, and a restricted motor based on a 1600cc Ford Kent engine. As far as noted race engineer Carroll Smith is concerned, this is as cheap as you can get and still have a "real" race car (F440 and FVee do not have fully adjustable 4 link suspensions on all 4 corners of the car, and so do not pass muster in Smith's world.) There was revolution in 1985, when Swift introduced the DB-1 and changed the FF1600 universe. Swift DB-1s still tend to dominate at the Runoffs 11 years later. Designer David Bruns (the DB in DB-1) got it right the first time.

FVee is another spinoff of Formula Junior; with a VW Beatle front suspension, lots of Beatle pieces in the rear suspension, Beatle wheels, and Beatle width racing slicks, there are basic limits on the car. The engine is a 1200cc Beatle motor. For all the basic "Beatleness" of the car, they're pretty fast, relatively inexpensive, and fun to drive. It's a popular class.

F440 might be thought of as what snowmobile racers do during the summer. These tiny cars are propelled by snowmobile motors; originally 440cc plants like the Kawasaki, they are now moving over to 500cc motors such as the AMW and the Rotax. The cars are typically around 800 lbs, so 500cc is more than enough to generate some serious speed. The class was renamed F500 for 1997 as more and more drivers move to the new motors, but there are still a few Kawasakis kicking about. Early 440s pretty much used the driver's kidney's as suspension; more recent models have achieved a greater measure of sophistication. 500s handle better than Vees, but develop less power. 500s are generally slightly quicker, and Vees and 500s usually share race groups (except at the Runoffs, where every class gets a race group.)

Now we come back to Sports Racers: there is a class I put off talking about until after we examined Formula cars. Sports 2000 is a special case; it amounts to FF2000 chassis and engine rules, but with a requirement for second seat room, full fendered body work, and no wings.

In conclusion

I hope that this has made it clearer, and not more confusing. To really know what the classes are, I think you have to spend some time dealing with the cars.

Of course, we're always looking for new volunteers to work tech. See you at the Race Track!

Runoffs News and Results / Richard Welty / Krusty Motorsports /