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Sports Car Club of America sponsors autocross at Grand Central Mall

Cars compete during a Southern West Virginia Region of the Sports Car Club of America autocross in Wood County. (Photo Provided)

VIENNA — Grand Central Mall’s back lot will be full of cars and drivers today competing in an autocross sponsored by The Southern West Virginia Region of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).

The first car off the starting line will be at 10 a.m. The action will continue until approximately 4 p.m.

Same day registration is open from 8:15-9:30 a.m. today. The cost is $45 per person if registering on site. The next event is Nov. 16 depending on the weather

Spectators are welcome. The competition area is roped off for safety purposes, but there is plenty of room to find a good seat (bring your own chair). The event will be occurring at the same time as the “Boo and Brew” event at the mall. “Boo and Brew” is sponsored by Armstrong Electric and will feature bands and refreshments from Outback Steakhouse.

Autocross is one of the most popular forms of motorsports. Anyone can participate and it does not require a specific license or certification.

Cars compete during a Southern West Virginia Region of the Sports Car Club of America autocross in Wood County. (Photo Provided)

All that is needed is the desire to have fun with your car and enjoy being around a great group of people. Competitors range from 18 to over 70 years old. Even minors with a driver’s license can compete with parental authorization.

The region encourages new members. Novice coaches Connor Gallagher and Zach Robinson are available all day to assist new participants in learning the ropes.

Almost any type of vehicle can participate, except those with a high center of gravity like most SUV and mini vans. One of the most popular vehicles is the Mazda Miata. Other smaller cars such as the Ford Focus, Subarus, Hondas and Toyotas are well represented.

German cars include BMWs, Porsches and sometimes a Mercedes or two. Larger cars such as Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes compete regularly.

There are even classes for American Muscle Cars such as Chevy Novas and cars as large as Dodge Chargers. Each car is in a class based upon the type of vehicle and modifications that have been made.

Like cars compete against each other in various classes. There are end of season class awards, but for each event the bragging rights go to the (FTD) fastest time of day. Special orange cones are awarded to the fastest front wheel drive, all wheel drive and rear wheel drive vehicle.

At the end of the day, it’s not who has the fastest car, but who is the best driver with the best run. Each driver usually gets six to eight runs during the competition.

The course is designed by the race committee led by Dave Thompson. Over 100 orange cones will be arranged on the lot to form a course. Courses vary in length between 30 seconds and a minute.

The event is timed with electronic lights and the results are tabulated by computer by Len Hochendonner and Mitch Adams, who take care of timing and scoring. There are usually two cars on the course at a time, so there is plenty of action for spectators.

This is a low speed event but the turns are very fast between the pylons. After making 30 or 40 turns even the most season driver’s heart is pounding at the finish.

Additional persons helping with the event include Dave Brunny, safety inspections; Gregg Rome, registration; Cody Barrett, announcing; Mike Salser and Chris Carpenter, course set up, and Les Pritchard, event chairman. There are many more volunteers working to make the event a success.

This summer the region has had eight events at Grand Central Mall and three at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. The region was formed in 1947 and is one of the oldest regions of the Sports Car Club of America in the country.

Past events have been held in Charleston, Elkins and Parkersburg areas. The region is appreciative of Grand Central Mall and WVUP for hosting this year’s events. They have enabled us to bring additional people to the area and provide another activity that adds to the quality of life we enjoy. Information about the region’s activities can be found on Facebook under Southern WV Region SCCA.

The region is hosting the final event of the Great Lakes Division Regional Championship Series. West Virginia drivers from all over the state along with those from the Marietta area will be competing against drivers of the Great Lakes Division from five states.

Several season points championships are on the line, so the action should be very spirited. Through SCCA you can compete locally, within the region, and have an opportunity to go to compete at the Nationals. Autocross is a safe family event that is fun for the participants and provides spectators a lot of action with no cost of admission.

(Editor’s Note: Les Pritchard is event chairman and treasurer of The Southern West Virginia Region of the Sports Car Club of America.)

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