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 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.
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.
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.