Region News

2017 - A quick note from Bob Brookfield

I continue to enjoy your communications. It is one way, other than my wife and I being among the volunteers at NJMP, to Robert Brookfieldkeep in touch with my birth state. With all that in mind I would like to submit the following for your use.

Here in the 21st century we have Solo and RallyCross programs. But sixty years ago it was different. Back in 1958 I became a member of the Jersey Sport Car Club. I later helped form the Middlesex County Sport Car Club. Back then we had Time Trials and Gymkhanas. We ran events on shopping center parking lots, Old Bridge Stadium (now gone), Hightstown Speedway (last I was able to check that appeared to be a banked dirt track. The Jersey club also put on events in 1959 and 1960 at the Morris County Fair.

Things (venues) began to change after the Two Guys From Harrison chain got the laws changed and shopping centers would now be open on Sundays. Prior to the change I and my kid brother did a Gymkhana at the Paramus Mall and had a ball. I and a friend also did a Gymkhana in the Ft Dix Motor Pool staged by the Flying Burros club that was enthusiasts from Dix and McGuire AFB. I do not know of any group putting on such events. Sad, because they were a lot of fun.

Back to Trials. They were so called because of the English influence where trials were held in some of the oddest places. I recall seeing a picture of a car competing in England in what looked like a big drainage ditch! We conducted our trials at the stock car tracks and in farm fields. One of our guys flipped his Turner at a trial in a field down in Holmdel. After that he could be seen filing away on a piece of metal to make a new windshield bracket. But the main venue for Trials was the Old Bridge and Hightstown tracks. Old Bridge started out as a half mile oval that was slightly banked in the turns. Interestingly enough, drag races were held there on Friday evenings. Eventually a 1/8 mile oval was added on the front straight and we incorporated that into our Trial course layout. One of the last events I did there was a 3 mile trial before I went off to DC in the Army. Hightstown was an almost flat quarter mile paved oval. This meant that a run may have been 2 or 3 laps.

The classes we had were horsepower based. 0-45hp was basically a Bugeye Sprite class until the Turners came out. Turner had same engine and running gear as the Bugeye but a couple of hundred pounds lighter. Having a Bugeye as I did, I hated the Turners. Next was 46 to 65hp. For the life of me I cannot recall what all ran in that other than a VW Karman Ghia. 66 to 90hp was basically an MGA class. Then there was the 91 to 120hp group. Some Porsches, Healeys. Then there was the over 120hp group. Corvettes and an awsome Daimler SP250. I'm prejudiced there because my mother had one and the late Vic Franco and I won a lot of hardware with it. The last class was Ladies. Same cars in the other classes but Vic Franco had a way of calculating the time of a lady by comparison to the same car in the other classes. My biggest surprise was when my Mom trophied one time in the Daimler. That and the Bugeye remain as two of my favorite sports cars. Get a big lottery hit and I’ll go shopping.

Almost forgot that we also used to do the hillclimbs in Pennsy. And there was also the Ice Racing at Lake Naomi which I believe is close to the Pocono track. I thought about giving that a shot until I saw a car that had rolled. Driver was about to head back to NJ with no windshield. Temps below freezing had to make that an interesting run. Even saw one car get loose and start sliding to where the dam was. Uh uh. Don't wanna do this. We were in that area 10 or more years ago and I doubt that the races are still going on. Too many houses with owners that may not appreciate racing in their 'front yard'. As to the hillclimbs, I did one at Springtown in PA. Some young college kid in a Vette set fastest time of the day. What was his name? Oh yeah, Penske, Roger Penske. Wonder whatever became of him.

All that brings us to the present day. What we called trials are now held at venues that are like the wide open spaces. And the classes! Ye gods and little fishes they have grown in the same way that SCCA racing has grown. I'm old enough to remember going up to Lime Rock from my old home in Metuchen to watch SCCA National races in the late 50s. Nine Production classes, nine Modified classes and Formula 3. Now we have as many as seven classes in one race group. The spectators (if there are any) can see who won overall but have no idea as to which cars otherwise placed 1st in class. When I was a flagger the best races to flag were the Runoffs. Only one class on the track.

I haven't given up on the sport, but I am amazed at how it has changed. We have gone from a small number of classes that made it easy for the spectator who was winning what to races with a kluge of cars. Also, when I was living in NJ one needed a sponsor to join SCCA. Now all it takes is sending the money to Topeka. That is how I became a member in 1986. Since that time I have seen the rules changed to allow, first, 16 year old members to be in hot areas and race. Now it is down to 14 year olds. And some of these kids have been cleaning the clocks of much older (and more experienced) drivers. I'll know it is time to step away completely when a driver or worker has to be burped or have the diddy changed before they can go.

My wife and I are members of North Carolina Region and regularly work at VIR, NJMP and Summit Point. Easiest place for us to see/meet NNJ folk is at NJMP. Come on down. I'll be in Registration. And if you really want to come down (and I hope you do) bring yourself down to VIR. Our Major will be Apr 13-15 with Reg on Thursday 12 APR. If I'm not in Reg I will be at our Hospitality Tent in the paddock. COME ON DOWN!!!

Bob Brookfield