The SCCA National Championship Runoffs will come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017, the organization announced today. It confirms a report which broke last week from Motorsport.com.
The full release from IMS is linked below:
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Sports Car Club of America announced today that the IMS road course will be the site of the 2017 SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with race days Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
The event is unprecedented for both the Club and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pitting the amateur National Championship event on the 14 turn, 2.439-mile road course that hosts the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
“Many Indianapolis 500 veterans have their racing roots in SCCA competition, so hosting the SCCA national championships at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a natural fit,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “The Runoffs will provide drivers who have dreamed of competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway an opportunity to do so and will hopefully motivate some participants to continue on the path to compete in the Indianapolis 500 someday. It is going to be a tremendous event showcasing the talent and passion that makes SCCA racing so exciting.”
Indianapolis history and SCCA history are intrinsically linked. Countless SCCA graduates have competed in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” with Mark Donohue and Bobby Rahal earning both a Runoffs title and an Indy 500 win in their careers. Indy 500 winner Buddy Rice also competed in the Runoffs; current competitor Graham Rahal is the youngest Runoffs champion, and still has a chance to add his name to the Borg-Warner Trophy.
“In 2013, we announced that the Runoffs would go on an annual rotation, moving around the country with the goal of hitting bucket list tracks,” Eric Prill, SCCA Vice President/COO said. “We’ve done that, having gone from Road America to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to Daytona International Speedway, and will be at Mid-Ohio in 2016. But the visit to Indianapolis in 2017, a track that no other SafeRacer Club Racer will have a chance to compete on prior to the Runoffs, is truly unique and a dream come true for many of our racers.”
“As a racer, I know that the American dream of being a racecar driver starts with the Indianapolis 500,” Lisa Noble, SCCA President & CEO and Formula Vee racer, said. “IMS is an integral part of our history as we are a part of theirs. Many of the Speedway’s crew, workers, drivers and Indy 500 winners have their roots in the SCCA. Drivers such as Bobby and Graham Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Mark Donohue, Buddy Rice, Michael Andretti and Lyn St. James are just a few that raced in the SCCA Runoffs before reaching the Indy 500.
“I’m very moved by this significant moment in SCCA history as I am by the Speedway every time I enter the gate. Each of our Champions will have an incredibly special honor – to be crowned on the most hallowed ground in American motorsports. Racers will tell stories for decades about this first Runoffs at Indy. It will become legendary, and I cannot wait for our members to experience that in 2017.”
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs has crowned Club Racing National Champions in a winner-take-all, single race format since 1964. Through 27 separate races over three days, the 2015 edition recently crowned champions in 27 classes in the pinnacle event of amateur racing.
Founded in 1944, Sports Car Club of America, Inc. is a 67,500-member motorsports organization that incorporates all facets of autocross, rally and road racing at both amateur and professional levels. It annually sanctions more than 2,000 events through its 115 regions and professional subsidiary. Landmark events and series for the Club include the SafeRacer SCCA Club Racing program, which includes the U.S. Majors Tour; the Club Racing National Championship Runoffs® and The Tire Rack® SCCA Solo National Championships and ProSolo Championship at Lincoln, Neb.; the annual SCCA National Convention and Hall of Fame Induction; and experiential programs including the Tire Rack Starting Line School and Track Night in America driven by Tire Rack. For more information, please visit www.scca.com.
The general manager of Pfaff Motorsports received 370 text messages about the No. 9 Porsche being driven to the GTD Pro victory by Mathieu Jaminet over the No. 2 KCMG Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor (who helped Pfaff win the 2021 GTD title).
“I’ve never had my phone blow up like ever,” Bortolotti told NBC Sports. “I was like, ‘What the (expletive)? This is better than the actual race! It was awesome.”
His phone blew up again last week at Daytona International Speedway – but for an altogether different reason.
The Pfaff Motorsports truck driver proudly had sent a photo to the team’s group text chat, showing that the No. 9 was parked directly beside the gleaming haulers for the new Porsche Penske Motorsports.
As the defending series champions in GTD Pro, Pfaff was situated beside the nine cars in the ballyhooed new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category with the next-best spot in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship garage.
It’s indicative of Pfaff’s impressive growth curve over less than a decade in IMSA, building in stature from plaid-clad Canadian underdog to GT powerhouse while continuing to punch above its weight against the biggest factory teams in sports-car racing.
“Everyone is like, ‘That’s awesome, we’re on the front side of the garage!’ ” Bortolotti said. “That’s really cool for my guys. I never even thought that it mattered. I just was like, ‘Oh shit, there’s going to be a lot of traffic and people around because we’re beside Penske.’ They’re looking at it as, ‘This is really cool and something I’ve always wanted.’ You really don’t know what motivates people, and they probably didn’t know they wanted that until they had it.”
Bortolotti has been leading Pfaff Motorsports, which is based in a 20,000-square-foot shop 20 minutes north of Toronto, since its inception in 2015.
Chris Pfaff (the team’s CEO and president) entered sports car racing as a sponsor promoting the Pfaff Automotive dealership network in Canada. He founded Pfaff Motorsports after discovering many of the Pfaff Automotive employees worked in racing on the side (and often competing against the Pfaff-sponsored car).
Within five years, the team realized its goal of reaching IMSA’s national series in 2019. Within the next three years, it had two championships (in GTD and GTD Pro the past two years) and the 2022 Rolex 24 victory.
“It all starts with a vision to know what you’re striving for or else, racing becomes a fast waste of money if you aren’t chasing something,” Bortolotti said.
It’s been a memorable run for a team that has only seven full-time employees and celebrates its gritty spirit as a Porsche customer team beating factory-backed operations with budgets that could be up to 50 percent larger. On the Pfaff Motorsports website, all of its team members are featured with mug shots and titles – as well as “Turbo Ted,” the shop dog.
Bortolotti is proud that the team has been kept mostly intact over the past eight years with technical director Andrew Marangoni (who started as an engineer) and car chief Corey Whiteman among the stalwarts in another example of quality over quantity.
“I’d rather have seven extremely talented people,” Bortolotti said. “I’d put my seven up against anyone … give me seven in those equal jobs in other teams, I bet mine are better. I think that confidence I have in them, and they need confidence in themselves but can’t be cocky. There’s a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. I’m glad that most of my guys are confident in their abilities and not here to become celebrities. They’re just here to win races.”
With an influx of cash and staffing this year in GTP (which added Porsche and BMW), Bortolotti fretted that some of his team would be peeled off by the premier prototype division, but its tight-knit culture held firm against recruitment from the factory programs.
“One gentleman was approached hard by two manufacturers and told them ‘I go racing because I enjoy it here,’ ” Bortolotti said. “He’s worked for those programs, in Formula One and elsewhere. He said, ‘Look, I wake up every day and enjoy doing stuff with (Pfaff). It’s not worth another however many thousands to (leave Pfaff).’ That was nice to hear we’re building something great.
“I’m very adamant there aren’t a lot of egos within our team. I feel that’s a huge detriment in racing.”
Pfaff’s lowest moment came just before its biggest successes.
The COVID-19 pandemic was doubly hard for the team, which faced the specter of economic hardship layoffs mixed with quarantine restrictions that lasted through June 2021 and made travel extremely difficult across the border.
But Pfaff soldiered through and added Vanthoor (who was left without a ride Porsche shuttering its GTLM team) to pair with Zacharie Robichon for the 2021 championship season.
“The worst year of my life was 2020,” Bortolotti said. “I never knew if we were going to get back here. A lot of people had to make a lot of sacrifices. Everyone took it with a smile on their face. Leaders of companies are really judged on how they handle those situations.
“As much as it hurt not racing in 2020, it was the way we handled it and came back, which allowed us to continue building what we had started in ’19 and ’20. If you look at ’21, you see a huge ramp up of our results after Watkins Glen (in late June). We finally got to go back to testing and learning and getting back in the swing of things.”
After winning the 2022 Rolex 24 and the GTD Pro championship with Pfaff, its trio of Jaminet, Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr moved on to Porsche Penske Motorsport in GTP. It’s another sign of Pfaff’s appeal to world-class drivers.
“They want our car,” Bortolotti said. “I feel this pressure that these guys are finding me on Instagram and DM’ing to request us. That’s kind of cool. You have the seat that everyone is wanting.”
He believes the team’s success of as a customer team that can beat factory-backed operations is a preview of the future in GT professional racing.
“They’re spending how many of millions to compete, and we’re paying them to do it,” Bortolotti said. “So from a business standpoint, it’s quite attractive for them to be in this situation.
“I think the days of a full factory effort, as financial changes happen in a global economy, are numbered. The way we’ve done it with commercial support and raising money and partnering with a factory where they put some in, we put some in. I think that’s truly the way forward in pro level GT racing because there is something to sell. There is no reason for one manufacturer to have to pay for it all themselves. It doesn’t really make sense at the end of the day if one person is spending $5M to go racing.”
The team will have a factory-level talent with the return of Vanthoor as its endurance driver in a lineup that also includes Patrick Pilet (a 2015 GTLM champion and 2014 Rolex 24 winner) and Klaus Bachler. In addition to new drivers, the team also has a new car in the Porsche 911 GT3 R (992).
There was no bitterness over a reunion between the team and Vanthoor, who was lobbying Bortolotti to return just months after his heartbreaking defeat in last year’s Rolex 24.
Daytona is the only long-distance race missing from the CV for Vanthoor, who has won the 24-hour races at Le Mans, Spa and Nurburgring. The Belgian driver told NBC Sports he “cried like a baby” on the cooldown lap and then needed 10 minutes alone to regain composure.
But he then sent congratulations to his former and future team.
“With Mathieu and Pfaff, that was the first thing I did was congratulate them and give them a handshake because they are very good friends,” Vanthoor said. “And we were there trying to win and they fair and square won. There’s nothing to be angry about; I have a ton of respect for them. And that was it.
“There were no hard feelings. I was very happy for Pfaff to win it.”
Bortolotti said Vanthoor requested a spreadsheet with mugshots of all the Pfaff team members so he could greet everyone by name upon his return.
“After (the 2022 Rolex 24), I gave him a big hug, and I was heartbroken for him because I knew how bad he wanted it, how hard he tried and how great a fight he put up,” Bortolotti said. “I’m excited to have him back. He’s a great guy. We want redemption for him as a team as much as he wants redemption for the finish last year.
“It’s almost been a cool way to motivate our guys to try to do it again because we got it last year, let’s get it for Larry this year. We’re extremely motivated to get him his Rolex this year because we get ours last year.”