With winter settling in across much of the US, Track Night In America has come to a close for 2015. Track Night succeeded in their goal of providing an easy, affordable way for people to try driving on a race track.
SCCA released some interesting numbers about this year’s Track Night participation. They had nearly 4,200 entries, and around 2,800 individual drivers. It seems a lot of people liked what they saw and came back for more. More than 40% of them signed up for the Novice run group. Most of these Novices are people who had driven on a track before, and had the opportunity to do it because of Track Night. That, alone, is a success in my book. At two of the three events I attended at Thompson Speedway, the Intermediate and Advanced run groups were merged to allow two Novice run groups for the large number of Novices attending. The Thompson Speedway events themselves were also expanded – four were planned originally, then three more were added due to Track Night’s popularity in southern New England.
More than 50 different makes of vehicles took part, including Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Lotus, McLaren, Maserati, MG, Tesla, Lamborghini and Austin-Healey. I know I’ve never seen a wider variety of cars on the track except for 24 Hours of LeMons. The most popular cars for Track Night were Mazdas and BMWs, each claiming 13% of all entries. Though a friend of mine brought his Mazdaspeed3, I have no doubt that the vast majority of those Mazdas were Miatas, which tend to descend upon any track event in swarms. BMW CCA has had a strong HPDE program for many years, so I’m not surprised to see them well represented. Ford, with 11% of the cars, has not only the Mustang but also the ST versions of the Focus and Fiesta – all of which passed me at some point. Chevy also represented 11%, mainly Corvettes and a few Camaros from what I saw. Porsches represented 7%, not surprising given their purpose and that PCA also runs a HPDE program. They tied with Subaru and Honda, who each build sports cars (BRZ, S2000) and regular cars with sporting aspirations (WRX and STi, Civic Si and Integra). VW and Scion round out the list with 2% each, and considering how many FR-Ss I saw, I doubt those numbers came from xB owners.
Although Track Night was extremely popular, the SCCA is keeping quiet about whether they intend to do it again in 2016. “The SCCA is always looking for ways to share with others our passion for having fun with cars, and Track Night in America is a prized piece of the puzzle that accomplishes this mission,” said Lisa Noble, SCCA President and CEO. “We’ll sit down over the next few weeks for a careful review of this year’s activities to better understand what we’ve learned, how we can do better, and how we can help build our Regions’ membership and programs through growing this new base of enthusiasts.” It sounds to me like the SCCA is open to continuing Track Night in America, but they want to look at the big picture and see how it fits in, or not, before committing to it.
I sincerely hope they do. Track Night is what got me coming to track events again. I’d planned to hit a few autocrosses this year, but track time, despite the higher cost of entry, is a much more cost effective bang for the buck. I’d like to keep doing it. If I can schedule it properly, it would also be a great opportunity for me to unleash a press car on the track and show you what it can do.
RFD Behind the Scenes: I received our Mustang EcoBoost press car just hours before a local Track Night event. I seriously considered taking it there before taking it to a rally. But if anything went pear-shaped with the delivery of my first press car, I’d miss the event. I was also a bit leery of taking my first drive in an unfamiliar pony car on a race track, partly due to Jalopnik’s experience with a Camaro. Plus I already had limited time to install the ham radio and everything else I needed for the rally. So I skipped it. I wish I hadn’t needed to.
I’d also like to see even more people who want to try their car out on the track have this opportunity to do so. Track Night in America is the most accessible way to get on track that I’ve seen. It’s affordable. You can drive any car you want as long as it’s safe. Many clubs require extensive safety equipment for convertibles or ban them entirely, but I saw many Miatas and Boxsters taking advantage of Track Night permitting them. The staff and instructors at each event I attended were nice, organized, and helpful, with a shared goal of getting us out on the track to have a good time. If Track Night comes back in 2016, I’ll be there.