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Engineering is Alive and Well in Club Racing

by Paul Haney

Nancy James at Laguna

Nancy at exit of T11 at Laguna Seca

In the summer of 1998 I went to two SCCA races, one at Laguna Seca and the other at Sears Point. Racecar Engineering magazine wanted a technical article on U.S. club racing and D Sports Racing seemed the perfect subject. I submitted that article to them and they will publish it eventually. This version has similar text but many more photos. It helps that I know some of the West Coast participants. Most of the people mentioned in this article are subscribers to my newsletter, TV MOTORSPORTS.

Ted and Nancy James are also friends. I met them almost 20 years ago when I bought a Lotus Elan +2 and joined the Golden Gate Lotus Club. At that time Ted and Nancy owned a Lotus Europa and a BDA-engined Lotus 7. When I started submitting race reports to The Wheel, the monthly publication of the San Francisco Region of SCCA, I watched Ted and Nancy race at Sears and Laguna. During that time I also met Lutrell Harms and was impressed with his mechanical, fabrication, and driving skills.

U. S. Club Racing

Club Racing in the U.S. refers to amateur races sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America, a national organization with 50,000 members. The SCCA administers rules covering more than 10,000 participants in 31 regional and 24 national classes including Street Stock, Improved Touring, Production (actually highly modified), open-wheeled, and sports racing categories. The SCCA sanctions regional and national races with the latter counting points toward eligibility for an end-of-season championship meet, referred to as The Runoffs, at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Lutrell Harms at Laguna

Luttrel Harms at exit of T11 at Laguna Seca

D Sports Racing

DSR, one of the sports racing classes, features relatively wide-open rules and allows a good deal of creativity and complexity. The rules do not exclude the use of electronic engine management and data acquisition systems, and this allows enhancements such as active traction control, shift without lift, full fuel and ignition mapping, and logging and analysis of a myriad of sensors. Aerodynamics and suspension design is relatively open. 150 SCCA members compete in DSR nationally and there are probably an additional equal number of participants at the regional level.

The two D Sports Racing racecars presented here represent the two ends of the scale of cost and complexity, but both are capable of similar lap times. Lutrell Harms built, drives, and maintains his car, the blue number 74, for a minimum of cash. On race weekends Lutrell's wife, Terry, becomes his pit crew. Among West Coast racers Lutrell is credited with reviving the class by showing that a simple, fast, fun racecar can be built for around $10,000.

Terry helps Lutrell on pregrid

Terry crews for Lutrell on pregrid

Ted James on the other hand revels in the use of technology and applies it generously to the red number 69. He begins with off-the-shelf components but modifies almost everything continually. Ted has his own engine dynamometer and a damper dyno as well. His wife, Nancy, is the driver. This couple started racing with a Lotus 67 Formula Ford in 1974 and has competed almost continually in various classes since. Nancy currently holds the DSR lap record at seven different tracks.

The Rules

Basically the DSR rules limit the car's overall height, width, and length and mandate DOHC engines of 1000cc maximum displacement or pushrod engines less than 1300cc. Rotary engines and turbochargers are allowed, but the rules require intake restrictor orifices. 2-cycle engines are allowed 850cc displacement. Cars using a motorcycle engine and chain drive have a minimum weight of 900 lbs. including the driver. Designs using automobile-based engines with transaxles must weight in over 1,000 lbs. Tires and wheels are free. Aerodynamically the car must have a flat bottom between the axle lines. Rear diffusers are not permitted. Wings are allowed front and rear.

D Sports Racing
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