Water Water Everywhere

As Hurricane Elsa ended its run up the east coast Thursday night and through Friday, vast areas of the northeast were under flood watches. Heavy amounts of rain were leaving a trail of damage from New Jersey northbound.

Even still, racers began arriving for the Majors event at Thompson in wet conditions, with many looking at this weekend to provide the final points and starts needed for Runoffs qualifications. Setting up and unloading in the rain is nothing new. Everyone has faced rain conditions at some point. But as the evening continued and Friday arrived, conditions were morphing into the unusual.

Photos by Trish Pelligrino and Stephanie Funk

Saturday Wash Out

Hoping for the best, race officials started Saturday morning with the full intention to run the planned schedule – two 15 minute qualifying sessions, and a 20-minute afternoon race. Group 1 headed out as the first cars on course to find puddles and rivers running across many portions of the track. Turn 3 had inches of standing water and the front straight had at one point 7 various running streams.

As Group 2 made their way on track, things turned. With three wild spins and incidents, the stewards reluctantly concluded track conditions were not safe for racing and called a pause. The rain was not only constant, but getting heavier. Flaggers were called in from the stations and racing was halted with the hopes to resume at lunch.

As the 12:00 restart time approached, so did the downpours. Stewards continued to check the track, and the standing water continued to increase. Qualifying sessions were officially cancelled and the new proposed schedule was to have a single race per group in the afternoon. Some radar reports showed the clouds clearing around 1:00, so a 2:00pm tentative re-start was the new goal.

And 2:00pm came and went, and there was still rain. At this point, the front straight looked like a river. No longer were there individual streams, but everything had coalesced into one giant flow of running water. Here was the view from Josh Underwood in the T&S tower.

Video by Josh Underwood

Can You Remember This Happening Before?

Unfortunately, as the 2:00pm mark inched closer, it became clear that even if/when the rain stopped, the track would not be safe for a while. The standing water in sections was too great. Kathy Barnes had more laps around the track then anyone on Saturday as she did constant course checks to see if water was draining and clearing. Not so much. Part of the issue was the retention pond across the street from the track. This was overflowing and much of the spillage was travelling under the bridge and into the track areas.

So the day was officially cancelled. As word went out, the questions began – has anyone ever been at an SCCA event that was cancelled for rain? Talking to many of the long-time members like Kathy Barnes and Laurie Sheppard, no one could recall a situation like this ever before. SCCA races in the rain! We’ve raced in the snow. We’ve raced in the extreme heat. We’ve had delays for lightening and thunderstorms, but then got back out there and finished the day. This was definitely a first for many of us.

Friday Cancelled, What’s the Plan for Saturday

With Friday officially cancelled, the plan for Saturday needed to be decided. Groups 1 and 2 both had a qualifying session. But what about the other 5 groups? Was there time to do a qualifying and still get in 2 races? The decision was made to scrap all qualifying. The Saturday schedule would give each group 2 races. A 15-minute race in the morning and a 30-minute race in the afternoon. 1 & 2 would use their qualifying session to determine the grid for their morning starts. The other groups would be gridded based on registration time. Grid for the second race was set by finishing position in the morning race.

Heading into the late afternoon, the skies finally cleared and the rain stopped. The track was a mess, water everywhere, but drivers, crew and workers could at least enjoy being out and about and not huddled trying to stay dry. The event party kicked off early at 4:30 and those that remained at the track were able to enjoy a nice meal while socializing.

Saturday Races

With Elsa not wanting to be totally forgotten, she came back for one final downpour during the wee hours overnight. Not enough to change any plans. As racing kicked off on Saturday, drivers were left with two continuously wet areas to deal with throughout most of the day – between Turns 3 and 4 and between Turns 4 and 5.

Even with these less than ideal track conditions, 4 drivers came out and set new track records. Mighty impressive and leaves one wondering how fast those racers would be if the track had been completely dry?

As Saturday wrapped, all groups ended with their two races. The final results are available for those interested. It was definitely a unique and unprecedented Majors event for the New England Region!

Up next is our Racing Against Leukemia (RAL) weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on August 6-8. See you there!

NERRC #4 RESULTS – Thompson Majors