How to Enter Your Pro SCCA Road Racing Debut a Week Before the Race

If you know Brianne Corn, you know that nothing ever goes quite as planned or happens on time. Let me recap this last year:

  • The day we left for Pikes Peak, we were all still building the STI’s aero bits at Vorshlag before loading it onto the trailer for the 14 hour drive.
  • For the SCCA Rallycross National Championships last fall, we decided with less than three weeks time to build a ’96 Brighton with a 2010 WRX motor and drivetrain pulled  from her rolled Rally Mexico car. Due to several nutty ECU problems, and other developmental problems we weren’t able to race it in time (But it did drive!). She went on to use a borrowed car to dominate the class by 16.8 seconds.
  • During this spring’s SCCA and Texas Rallysport National Challenge, the same car (now a developed and ass-kicking race car) happened to find the only pipe in the tall grass while being unloaded from the trailer after dark… on the night before the race. The pipe was kicked up by the skid plate and sent through the radiator and bumper beam. With help from her brother, we straightened the frame with a pickup truck and a trailer ramp that night. Thankfully a fellow competitor also gave us his radiator for race day. Brianne went on to dominate the rallycross while simultaneously dominating B-Mod in the SCCA Autocross event on the other side of town. Wins were outright in both events, and she earned Top Time of the Day (TTD).

She has an uncanny ability to make the best of a bum situation and come with winning results. 

So, it was really no surprise that a week before her debut pro SCCA race in the Touring Car class, Brianne got a call from her team owner that the car wasn’t going to make the race. Cams and pistons for the custom MX-5 motor arrived 4-6 weeks late. There wasn’t enough time to develop the car to be competitive and then tow it from Connecticut to Texas.


“Well, dammit.”

The bad news hit the World Challenge community, and even with efforts by the series itself to hunt down a ride there was no option left to run Touring Car. 

Through some good graces by James Wilson, who was going to be racing in Touring Class B (B-Spec), Brianne was offered his mildly prepped B-Spec Mazda2. But as cars go this one wasn’t ready to race. No tires, no telemetry computer, and no radio communications.

The Wednesday before The V8 Supercars/SCCA World Challenge race, a flurry of calls and emails went out into the racing world. Before long, World Challenge was able to provide all the required data-logging and safety electronics for the car, and tires were being tracked down.

We installed most of the required cameras and telemetry computers in her brother’s driveway with copious amounts of ducktape and zipties, as the equipment was on loan. There were still a few other items on the list including a B-Spec reflash, but the tuner was out of town, and the tires were still a mystery.

Through some automotive racing magic, however, Thursday night saw everything lined up. Brianne was going racing. 

I was already planning to be at the track regardless of the B-Spec situation. Hooniverse had me covering the V8SC race. I arrived late (read: after 8 am), and walked up to Brianne’s car as she was gridding up for qualifying. Micah Dolin, from Oregon, flew down to act as crew chief and race trainer, and was running through some essential things to remember for road racing: Flag signals, hand signals to drivers for various on-track craziness, passing etiquette, etc. While an accomplished Rally America and Pikes Peak racer, this was a debut road race for Brianne. It’s an entirely different animal with a lot of new data points to keep in mind.

I gave her a fist bump through the roll cage, and the B-Spec cars all buzzed off to grid. 

Qualifying went alright. It was a big learning experience with the car, and the short course. Brianne placed 14th out of 21 cars. Because the car was basically a street car with a cage and B-Spec suspension, it was hilariously overweight for the class, over 150 pounds. Air conditioning, radio, power windows, and air bags (driver’s steering wheel airbag was removed) were still intact. There was also some hidden traction control elements interfering with the brake bias making braking an inconsistent affair. Plus the lack of a reflash had the car was down on power, short of its rev limit, and still saw the throttle-cut when Brianne was left-foot braking. It was kind of like fighting the Pikes Peak STI’s goofy ABS problems all over again. Quite simply, these systems are the bane of a racer’s existence. 

Knowing all of this, the goal was for a top-ten finish. It was an exploratory race in a car owned by someone else and it was fighting in the wrong class. Therefore it wasn’t very reasonable to run the car overly aggressive in traffic.

Everyone else on the team spent the rest of the day running around, checking out the V8 Supercars and SCCA GT/GTS cars. Brianne used this chance to spot other cars through different sections to watch their line. One way to be fast is to watch other fast people. 

Come Saturday, it was the first of two races for the day. The format was two twenty minute sessions, with grid at 8:30 am for the first, a short break, and then the second.

While waiting in the grid, Brianne was running the A/C waiting to pull on track for the warmup lap. Out of nowhere, a grid worker started to look strangely at her car, and then in a mild panic dropped to the ground and started looking suspiciously around. He popped back up and yelled to Brianne “You have a leak!” Brianne laughed, “No, it’s just AC!” Condensation on the AC components had started to drip onto the grid. These “issues” don’t normally exist in real racecars. 

Things ran pretty cleanly, and by the end of the day Brianne had pulled to 12th place. The car was holding up fine and, while it lost time under acceleration, Brianne was able to carry enough corner speed to pull ahead in traffic. She started to pick up aggression and was able to make up for the Mazda2’s deficits. 

Photo: Brandon LaJoie

Sunday’s main event had arrived. It was a nice forty minute stint. This heat was definitely dramatic: The #78 Fiat 500 rolled over for a second time after his team mate lost control and P.I.T.T. maneuvered him, getting the little 500 sideways enough until the sticky Pirellis did what they do: throw the 500 onto its roof. The #99 Mazda 2 was also very aggressive, giving everyone a taste of his door, including Brianne.

The forty minute stint is where she needed to get comfortable. She was starting to carry enormous corner speed through the tight sections and started to get comfortable with the Mazda 2, flying up on two wheels through the “National Circuit” shortcut (rally driver method). The finish was an epic last second pass, scooting the little Mazda 2 along:

[youtube width=”720″ height=”405″][/youtube]

The result? Tenth (by inches). Mission accomplished.

All things considered, the race went well. More than anything it was a great warm up race for the faster Touring Car class that she’ll be racing in at Lime Rock with the Hale Motorsport’s MX-5 this July. There’s also some rumblings of a Global Rally Cross car, but that’s another story.

Photos: Brianne Corn, Kevin Corn, Brandon LaJoie, Phillip Thomas

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4 responses to “How to Enter Your Pro SCCA Road Racing Debut a Week Before the Race”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    "But as cars go this one wasn’t ready to race. No tires, no telemetry computer, and no radio communications."
    It's great that you got everything pulled together and all, but by those ridiculously high standards our car has never been ready to race, even while racing.

    1. phillipthomas25 Avatar

      Those are what are required for SCCA road racing.

  2. vwminispeedster Avatar

    Greg and I saw the Mazda2 in the paddock and I dismissed it as "the car she must have driven to the track before getting in her real racecar" since we didn't get to see the Touring Class B cars run because we enjoyed too much (is that such a thing) dead animal and local adult beverages the night before. I suspect we'll see more great things from Brianne if race teams have half a brain in their head.

    1. phillipthomas25 Avatar

      She'll be in the Touring Class of World Challenge, and if things go well, she should run a crazed CRZ in Global Rally Cross against Foust and the gang.