A Story of 4 Clubs
I belong to several clubs and no surprise to anyone, they’re all car and motorsports-related. Each has its own distinct activities, members and its own feel (or vibe if you’re from the ’70s like me).
The primary activity of the club I’ve belonged to the longest is pretty much exclusively autocross. The participants range from the casual, in-it-for-the-fun-and-camaraderie folks to the fully-dedicated, all-in for the season championship chase and hell-bent to make the top 20 drivers at every event. However serious they are about the racing, everyone is more than willing to help out a fellow competitor with advice or mechanical help when needed, even to the point of sharing their car. And everyone helps operate the event; completing a work assignment is mandatory (skip out on your assignment and you’re disqualified from the event, and risk not being invited back). While there are a few small friendship groups who socialize together away from events, for the most part club members enter, show up, take their runs on course, work their assignments and go home. For the most part Autocrossers aren’t interested in participating in other forms of motorsport. A few run an occasional track day event on a full-size track, a couple volunteer at road races, a couple more enter Optima Ultimate Street Car Challenge events and at least one is a regular in the annual One Lap of America event, but those folks are in the minority. Autocross people are nothing if not dedicated to their sport.
Road racing is the activity of choice for another of the clubs I spend time with, and in itself this club has 2 distinct and separate groups; the race car owners/drivers/crew members on the one hand on the other the volunteers who organize, staff and operate the event. Strangely, there is very little interaction between the two groups. I’m on the volunteer side so I can only speak about the driver side based on what I’ve observed, and that is that except for friendships formed by drivers within their own racing class, consisting mainly of immediate post-race banter in Impound, there isn’t a lot of interaction between them. Volunteers on the other hand hang together at the end of the day, in large part because the club feeds and umm, hydrates them, promoting more social interaction. Drivers tend to either retire to their paddock accommodations or hotel.
The third club I belong to is the most diverse, and that’s the track day club. For years the activity of choice has been non-timed, non-competitive track driving, with the vast majority of drivers using their daily driver street cars to satisfy their go-fast jones in a safe and legal setting. Recently we’ve begun adding timed competitions (Track Trials) for those who want to take the next step in track activities. Like road racing, track day participants are largely separated into entrants and volunteers. Unlike road racing and autocross, track day volunteers are nearly all involved in autocross, road racing, or both as well as track days. The atmosphere at a track day event is decidedly less intense than either autocross or road racing, no matter at what level you are involved.
Finally, there is what I consider the social club. Still revolving around a love for cars and motoring the activities have nothing to do with competition or race track venues and everything to do with social get-togethers based on “fun with cars”. This group draws its members from all the others. Activities include countryside touring events leading to interesting destinations (which somehow seems to generally be a winery or brewery), car museum visits, car shows, etc.
I’m sure you’ve realized by now that all 4 clubs I’m talking about are the Chicago Region SCCA. The fact that the vast majority of participants in each of the activities is married exclusively to their chosen motorsport activity (I can count on one hand with fingers to spare the number of people I know who are active in all 3) is not a criticism. As the IT folks would say, “It’s a feature, not a bug”. Unlike most groups, being an SCCA member means you have choices, and whether your interest is in a single activity or more multi-faceted, the Chicago Region SCCA is here for you. Personally, I believe most of our members are missing out on some great experiences by not expanding beyond their chosen single activity, but hey, that’s just me. I like to spread it around as it were, and there’s a tradeoff for that. It’s unlikely I’ll ever win another class championship or finish in the Top 20 at an autocross event, or set the fast time at a Track Trials. For that you need the single-minded determination and dedication that no longer interests me. I just want to go fast and have fun in a variety of ways. And for that the SCCA fits the bill perfectly, just as it does for those who want to win the Solo Nationals, Time Trial Nationals or the Runoffs.