Mike Collins Suggests How to Streamline Road Racing Options

This is the second of a three-part series. In this post, Mike Collins, an active SCCA member and volunteer, suggests how the SCCA can streamline road racing options.

In my previous article, I suggested three ways the SCCA could improve participation and reverse the decline in its membership:

  • Understand who its members/potential members are and what they need from the organization.
  • Streamline road racing options and eliminate internal competition.
  • Create synergy with its other events so drivers can find a path to grow within the sport.

In this post, I will focus on the second recommendation: the SCCA must streamline road racing options and eliminate internal competition. I’ll talk about the third suggestion in my next article.

Create a Clear Path to Advance

The SCCA hosts three tiers of racing (Regional, Majors and Super Tour events), a rotating national championship, and over 45 classes of cars, with at least 25 of those eligible for the runoffs. There are also divisional series that seem to be a series of already existing regional races. This makes it very complicated and confusing for drivers to choose when and where to race.

At the very least, the SCCA should provide very clear participation guidelines for each tier, the national championship and the runoffs. Members should be able to easily select what racing tier they prefer based on their goals for the season.

New members have a very difficult time identifying and evaluating their racing options. Currently, they must seek guidance from long-time members. As I mentioned previously, however, the SCCA is rapidly losing its most tenured members. This is unacceptable.

I also mentioned that the SCCA needs to attract young members to grow and remain viable. When young members join the SCCA, they need to be able to clearly and quickly identify the most appealing path for their racing career. Currently, however, young racers are unable to do that.

Eliminate Internal Competition

The existing tiers of racing just compete for an already stressed customer who already has too many options on how and where to race. Majors races at second tier tracks are not drawing in new customers; they are straining already taxed regions.

On the other hand, Super Tour races at premier tracks seem to be drawing strong crowds that are willing to travel. In addition, you can get an invitation to the national championship runoffs by participating in any combination of events, so long as you meet a minimum participation requirement.

Define Identity

The SCCA needs to change. It lacks an identity and continues to flounder, competing with itself for what’s left of its shrinking market share. This is due to its basic, fundamental desire to provide as many racing opportunities as possible to its existing, but waning, membership. Because, if anything, the SCCA is the Special Car Club of America.

2014 Laguna Seca, SCCA National Championship Runoffs

Mike Collins Suggests Three Ways SCCA Can Revive Participation

An active SCCA member and volunteer, Mike Collins suggests three ways SCCA can revive participation and reverse the decline in membership. This is the first of a series of three posts, each of which will delve into one of the suggestions listed below.

The SCCA has a tremendous opportunity to improve the racing experience, revive participation, and, ultimately, reverse the decline in membership. It can dramatically regain the market share it’s been losing to competitors and become the racing club it’s always believed itself to be. The SCCA needs to focus on its members; improve the racing experience; and, create synergies with other events.

Right now, the club is lost and needs to find its way to survive. Through efforts to retain and grow membership and participation in races, the organization has felt it must offer as many racing options and opportunities as possible. In doing so, the SCCA has created a confusing array of racing levels and series that do not provide clear participation, competition, and success guidelines for road racing enthusiasts.

Three Ways SCCA Can Revive Participation

The SCCA will see fast improvement if it:

  • Understands who its members/potential members are and what they need from the organization.
  • Streamlines the maze of road racing options to eliminate internal competition.
  • Creates synergy with its other events so drivers can find a path to grow within the sport.

In this post, I will focus on the first recommendation: the SCCA needs to identify and understand its members and their needs. I’ll dig into the details of the other two suggestions in my next two articles.

Identify Members and Understand Their Needs

The SCCA is a membership-based organization that needs to adopt a customer-centric approach to grow. It needs to use its data to understand how to create engagement, offer a best-in-class racing experience, and generate new, loyal members who would not dream of racing with any other club.

The only way the SCCA can grow is to attract younger members. If the SCCA can attract younger members, it will ensure the long-term viability of the club. To do so, however, the SCCA must be willing to understand and embrace what future racers seek in their racing experiences.

Develop Top-Notch Customer Experience

The SCCA needs to offer members the experience and the service that they want and expect from this type of organization. Most of its problems stem from the fact that it doesn’t truly understand its members. It’s adopted the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach, which worked for a while but only addresses the needs of a small segment of the racing audience.

Currently, the SCCA is neither the place you see major automobile manufactures campaigning their latest wares, nor is it where you see grassroots, budget-friendly, modern cars. It’s where you see an increasingly eclectic group of not-quite-modern cars, a lot of vintage cars but no path to pro-racing for those who are interested. The only exception may be a few of the Mazda programs, such as the 12th annual Mazda Road to 24 Shootout.

Strong Competition Threatens the Future of the Club

The SCCA loses market share to vintage race groups like Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) every year. SVRA uses SCCA car classification rules and genuinely does exactly what the SCCA does, only better. The SCCA loses cars to SVRA every year because it has not created true opportunities for vintage racing. It loses its most tenured members and their institutional knowledge because it refuses to change the rules and add this much-needed class of racing to its roster.

SVRA Is Growing Fast

SVRA has grown from an obscure vintage group to one of the country’s largest vintage sanctioning bodies (by size and gross revenue). It delivers a better product at a better price because it knows its audience and it caters to them.

SVRA has no-contact policies, and means it. It provides a lot of track time. It has featured run groups for Trans Am and Vintage Trans Am that attract attention. SVRA is already making headway in the Spec Miata community with the addition of the Mazda Miata Heritage Cup for the early NA-bodied cars. It won’t be long before it gets the entire SM community involved.

Time to Stop Talking and Start Acting

The SCCA can stop claiming to be the best and instead adopt the best practices of its competitors. Those organizations took what they learned from us, improved it, and now provide the SCCA’s services better than the SCCA itself.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins Relaunches SCCA Blog; Red Tape Is Back!

Hey everyone! For #ThrowbackThursday, tell the world: “Mike Collins relaunches SCCA blog, Red Tape!” For my first official post, I thought I’d repost an article that I wrote for GoRacingTV in June 2012. Reflecting on this six years later, some things are better…. some things not so much. The club is starting to move in the right direction with the addition of its newest president and revitalized marketing efforts; however, we still have a long way to go to be viable in the future. Club racing events are essentially vintage cars and without manufacturer involvement, bringing in new cars is becoming harder and harder every year.

Reprint from June 2012, www.goracingtv.com  

Welcome to the first of what I hope to be many blog entries for my Red Tape series. I chose Red Tape as the title for my column as I find that the more you race and the more competitive you become, the more Red Tape you need to deal with. Sports Car racing is no longer for the racer; it’s for the organizers’ benefit.  The type of Red Tape you encounter depends on where you race. I race with several sanctioning bodies on a pretty regular basis and volunteer my time with some of them in an attempt to make things better.  Some may think I complain a lot, and I do; but I also offer solutions and my time and talents to help fix them.  I do hate those that complain but don’t actively want to help find a resolution for their specific problem; they just want someone else to fix it.

Two Problems of the SCCA

Today I am going to pick on the SCCA — don’t worry, I have lots to say about NASA and EMRA as well; I will save that for a future column — as this is the sanctioning body in which I am the most active, and I think it has the most to gain or lose in the next few years.  Any decisions the SCCA makes now are going to have a huge impact on the future of amateur motorsports.  The SCCA has two fundamental problems: empire-building, which is also the catalyst for the second problem, process for the sake of process (PSP). These problems are going to be the downfall of the club.

Empire-Building

Empire-building is the fine art of creating useless infrastructure to empower a position, specialty or person.  You see this frequently in the SCCA. Someone gets assigned a task which could be easily completed by one person; however, since this is the SCCA (Social Car Club of America), the individual immediately decides they need an assistant since it gets lonely actually doing what they were tasked to do.  As soon as they get an assistant, they promote themselves to be a director or some other manufactured title to usurp power that they never had to begin with.  But, who really cares?  This is how great empires get built, right?  Now we have a director who theoretically knows what they are doing, an assistant who is there to tell the director they are doing a great job, and, of course, now we need even more people to do the work.  So now we head down the path of creating PSP.

PSP

All great empires have to have rules.  PSP is sacred ground in the SCCA.  I will share an example from just a couple of years ago that is still an ongoing battle.  If you read the rules (thanks, Neil!), you would have known that when you get your annual tech you get a sticker put on your helmet and that it is supposed to be checked while it is on your head on the grid, not in the tech shed.  I could never understand why event after event, drivers would blindly continue to bring their helmet to tech as part of getting an event tech sticker, so I stopped bringing my helmet to tech.  I pissed off a lot of people; tech threatened me; and I refused event tech stickers.  I was following the rules; they were not.  I protested several (many) tech officials until the practice stopped for a short time.  BUT evil empires find new ways to create PSP.  So even though the GCR has not changed and the helmet sticker is still supposed to be checked on the grid, now it has become common practice to find it printed in the supplemental regulations to bring your helmet to tech.  Yet the rulebook only allows the supps to outline specification for an event not change the rules. The club frequently overlooks this, along with other unnecessary or contradictory processes, since it empowers the empires.

Suggestions for Changes

Change the Model

The model the SCCA uses to run its events needs to change.  With time and tenure, the club is full of executives, chiefs, captains, marshals, and directors.  What we lack are the folks to actually get the job done.   The experience in the club is something that is about to be lost; the emperors have failed to develop colonies of followers, and, when this generation passes, there will be no more volunteers.  We have to streamline the rules, eradicate PSP, dissolve the empires and look for a better way to get the job done.

Use the Talent

Take advantage of the talent that exists in the club and look at news ways to run events.  It’s no secret that many SCCA regions and divisions are paying workers now [I don’t call them volunteers, because when you are being compensated you are now a worker].  Let’s look at what works and what doesn’t and make it better for the entire club.  We need to stop ignoring what we all know is going on.  With the behind the scenes arrangements made to staff events, the Empire building is getting worse not better.

Final Thoughts

The SCCA was started by gentleman racers, who had disposable income and raced, what were at the time, luxury sports cars.  Business-minded people managed the club.  It continued to grow and became nationally recognized as an industry benchmark using best practices and sound business acumen.  Now the biggest of all empires runs the club: a board of directors that won a popularity contest with few, if any, selected for their ability.  They fail to empower those  who do have the ability to make sound decisions and advance the club.  The SCCA continues to lose market share and members as the product put forth by the club continues to decline.  Until such a time the Club decides to look at itself and decide it needs an extreme makeover, things will continue down the current path. So enjoy it while it lasts.

Mike Collins