On the morning of Sept. 25, I closed the house door behind me and walked toward my car. On approach, I gave it one last look over. I had spent the previous day thoroughly going over the car, making sure it was ready. Brakes were bled, fluids checked, car nut and bolted and then packed with every tool and part I thought might be needed. As I fell into the driver’s seat, I ran through my mental checklist one last time. Confident in the collective readiness of both the car and myself, I hit the start button and aimed my 2016 SCCA® Solo® Nationals prepped C Street Mazda MX-5 toward Bowling Green, Kentucky for something completely new. I was headed to the inaugural Tire Rack SCCA Time Trials Nationals.
Time Trials Nationals is a brand-spanking-new event which aims to combine the feel and flow of a Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack with the competition and party atmosphere of Solo Nationals. This meant that it should feel new, yet oddly familiar to anyone who has attended Solo Nationals. Longtime Solo Nationals participant David Knudson agreed, saying, “While the type of competition was completely different, the atmosphere around Time Trials Nationals kind of reminded me of a mini Solo Nationals. I saw competitors coming together to help one another out, we played four square and hung out with our fellow competitors well into the evenings, all things you would see in Lincoln.”
And as it turned out, David and I weren’t the only people there with Solo Nationals experience. As I pulled onto the site Friday morning, it became evident that there were quite a few of us looking to take in this new experience. As I looked around NCM Motorsports Park’s paddock, I saw quite a few familiar cars and faces. From the dark blue FRS of this year’s Solo Spec Coupe National Champion, Adam Benaway, to the unmistakable orange Super Street McLaren MP4-12C of Andy Hollis, the entry list was littered with fellow autocross veterans. And as the results came rolling in, those Solo drivers showed well, earning top honors in over half the Time Trials Nationals classes.
Benaway, driving the same SSC car he piloted to a National Championship in Solo, took home the win in the Sport 6 class, proving he is just as capable on a track as he is at autocross. When I asked him to compare his experiences, competition wise, he said, “I love the challenge that autocross brings, testing the driver’s ability with minimal outside factors. It’s just you, a car, and the course. And while Time Trials differentiates itself with higher speeds, the bigger difference is learning how to manage gaps, and work with traffic to achieve that ultimate lap. That is almost an art in and of itself.”
Another Solo Nationals veteran in attendance was Hollis. And while he does have a ton of experience with autocross, he has recently branched out, spending quite a bit of time at various tracks doing lapping days and other timed events, as well as helping as a coach for the Track Night in America program. I asked him how he felt this event stacked up to those other experiences, and he replied, “When I heard about the SCCA Time Trials Nationals, it sounded like a perfect melding of all the events I have recently been involved with… and it was. Such a great event, cool vibe, and wonderful people.” Hollis not only took the top spot in the Sport 1 class, but also earned a trophy for Fastest Street Legal car at the event.
You can include me as one of the many people that are stoked both by how the event went and what the event is. When Time Trials Nationals was presented at the SCCA National Convention this past January, I was extremely excited by the news. I love autocross, and I will continue to compete there for as long as I am able. However, I have also really enjoyed any opportunity I have had to get on various race tracks. And I, much like Hollis, had a feeling that this event was going to be a great blend of all the things I love about both Solo Nationals and track days, in one super rad package. And it totally was. It is yet another awesome way to have #funwithcars.
A full list of class winners with car make & model, and margin of victory is below:
Sport 1: Andy Hollis, McLaren MP4-12C, 11.1
Sport 2: Doug Francis, Chevrolet Corvette FRC, 11.9
Sport 3: Warren Barnes, Ford Mustang, 15.9
Sport 4: David Melton, 0.2
Sport 5: John Hunter, Mazda MX-5, 6.3
Sport 6: Adam Benaway, Scion FR-S, 3.9
Tuner 1: Chris Ingle, Dodge Viper GTS-R, 34.9
Tuner 2: Ian Stewart, Chevrolet Corvette, 14.3
Tuner 3: Dennis Barrett, Nissan 350Z, 20.7
Tuner 4: Tom O’Gorman, Honda Civic Si, 13.7
Tuner 5: Justin Tilus, Honda Civic Si, 12.7
Max 1: Barry Luterek, Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, 10.4
Max 2: Alex Artayet, Subaru WRX STi, 4.8
Max 3: Michael Neat, Scion FR-S, 7.1
Unlimited 1: Heikki Rinta-Koski, Lotus Seven, 1:47.7
Unlimited 2: JG Pasterjak, Chevrolet Corvette Z06, 8.8