Editor’s Note: In the story below, Ed Nicholson shares his story of how he, with the help of Joe Tasler and others in the Kansas City Region, became involved in Solo racing with the SCCA and eventually into road racing. If you have a story you’d like to share, or have an idea for a feature story you’d like to read, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My wife and I were watching an old movie the other night, “The Never Ending Story,” in which the premise is that you should hold on to your dreams. This got me to thinking about how I have now been a member for the SCCA for the last three years and participating in club racing for the last two. That in itself is not all that uncommon, but I did wait to start until I was 60 years old and decided to participate in a Skip Barber race school at Road Atlanta. I had so much fun that my next thought was, “How do I do this more often?” That brings me to the Kansas City Region and the beginning of my story.
Back in the mid-seventies I had been exposed to SCCA road racing through my employer at that time and had participated in a handful of Solo events and a couple of economy runs. So my first thought upon deciding to get involved in racing was to check on what events were being offered in the Kansas City area. I found a very active Solo group and convinced my wife she needed a newer Mini with a manual transmission. She did not know at the time that I planned on using the car for my initial step into racing, going to as many Solo events I could make in 2014. I joined the SCCA and affiliated myself with the Kansas City Region.
So, the stage was set and I began my first year running the 13 Solo events the club put on that year between the facilities at Metropolitan Community College Performance Driving Center in Independence, MO and Heartland Park Topeka in Topeka, KS. I met many wonderful people, learned quite a bit about Solo and found, I think most do who come out to more than one event, that this group is not just a collection of gear heads but a community. If you have an issue or need advice about driving the event you can find someone willing to give a hand, and many times it is one of your competitors providing that assistance. Those who come most to mind were Mike Hill and Joe Tasler. Joe will come up again later.
I also took a Crash-Fire-Rescue (CFR) school that year with the intention of working a few races as well as participating in Solo. [Chris I will get out on the corners at some point!] I did work the last race we held at Heartland Park and with any luck will drive there this coming year.
There are a good many ways to learn how to move to club racing. You can just by a car and start learning what you need to know on your own, read through material available on how to get started, or you can seek advice. I started by picking up a copy of “Go Ahead – Take the Wheel: Road Racing on a Budget” by Dave Gran and coming to the KCRSCCA meetings so I could meet some of those already in club racing and get their input.
During one of those meetings, Joe, hope you are paying attention, gave a presentation on moving to road racing. It was a program he was pushing that the club was actively aiding the move, not monetarily but had a couple of cars listed for a good price to assist. One of these cars was a Honda CRX which had been prepared for ITC in 1997. At the time, it was owned by Howard Duncan in Topeka and Howard brought the car over to Joe’s so I could take look at it.
Once I saw that car I knew this as the right starting point for me. I bought the car and Joe was kind enough to take it over the KC Raceware so Charlie Clarke could provide advice on what was needed to get on track. Oh, the car came with a trailer which was great since I did not own one at the time, did I mention that I did not own a tow vehicle at this point? The car had not been raced in a couple of years and the safety equipment needed some attention. Fortunately, it was just after the middle of the year and there were several to get things in shape.
Charlie provided advice on changes which needed to be made to the roll cage and how a good platform could be fabricated for the seat mount, the seat had been bolted directly to the floor. He found a space for the car and I was allowed to come a perform some other tasks to get the car ready while the major fabricating of the roll cage and seat mount was going being done. This turned out to be a great boon since it allowed for getting maintenance items like changing all of the suspension bushings while the updates where going on.
The trailer was also in need of attention as the old wooden ramps that came with it were heavy and needed replacing. With help from Charlie, I was able to fabricate a nice set of ramps from rectangular tubing, learning to do some welding was a side benefit. Installing a box from tractor supply and winch completed the job and made it so I could load and unload the car safely by myself.
Besides the car and trailer, there are things you have to get for the driver prior to the first event. A decision needs to be made on racing suit, helmet, shoes and Nomex socks. I also had to decide whether to buy Nomex underwear or buy a suit which will not require me to have underwear.
It seemed at times that there was no end to what a beginner needs to get on the track!
Well those things above are only items to buy and inventory. You must also get a current physical and full eye test to send in with the money to purchase the novice license.
Once all of this is completed, it’s time to take the test and register for your race school! Even after all of that you need to go through the driver training and go out on track under very watchful eyes so you can get the sign-off to drive your first wheel to wheel event. I had taken a Skip Barber school, but still needed the advice and tutoring of Peter Zekert and Steven Burkett over at Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, MO to get me on the track for my first race.
I know that this may seem like a lot of bother, but it is not all one issue after the other. Working on the car has its own rewards and getting all the prep makes that first turn of the wheel in your first race much less stressful.
I have had a wonderful time driving the CRX over past two years and now I am anticipating getting my new car, ok newer car, out next year in GT Lite. Hope to see some of you out to join me in the future.