Skip Barber
Summit Point

This is where most of my free time and money is currently directed. I'm beginning to learn that racing a car in the SCCA is a long and involved process, even in the supposed "entry classes" such as Showroom Stock & Improved Touring. Check back here for periodic updates. Right now I have a quick FAQ, some pictures of the car, and a quick list of things that still need to be done before I can go racing.

Ask the Opel Man

Q: What's the SCCA?

A: The SCCA is the Sports Car Club of America, a national governing body for professional and amateur auto racing. Since I'm not quitting my day job, I'll be participating in the amateur variety of racing.

Q: What's amateur racing?

A: Racing for fun, rather than profit. You pay your own way and compete against other enthusiasts with 9 to 5 responsibilities. There are a handful of partial sponsorships available, and contingency awards for some of the national races, but by and large whatever you spend comes out of your own pocket. There is, however, one sure fire way to make a small fortune in amateur racing: Start with a large one.

Q: What's ITB?

A: ITB is short for Improved Touring, B class. The improved touring category is divided into four classes: A, B, C, and ...... S. You guessed "D," didn't you? Well, that would have made sense.

Q: So what's Improved Touring, then?

A: A (supposedly) cheap way to go racing. Stock bodied cars, at least 5 years old, with minimal modifications. Cars are placed in the aforementioned A, B, C, and S classes based on performance. My car happens to be in the B class. Note that while cars are separated based on performance, there's no guarantee of parity within any particular class. The current class philosophy, as stated in the rule book, says something to the effect of "We'll give you a place to race, but no guarantee that you'll be competitive."

Q: What kind of modifications are allowed?

A: Modifications fall into two categories, safety and performance. As far as safety goes, seats are typically replaced with racing-type seats, and five or six-point seat belts must be fitted. A roll cage is also required. The interior is usually stripped, and rubber brake lines can be replaced with steel ones. It is also permissible to replace the stock gas tank with a racing-type fuel cell. As for performance modifications, these are pretty limited. Wheel width is limited based on class, and tires must be DOT approved. The stock brake disks/drums must be retained. As far as the engine is concerned, carburetors, exhaust system, and ignition are really about the only things that can be modified. The engine internals, intake manifold, and heads must all be stock. Note that boring of the engine up to .040" is permitted. The suspension is where the greatest leeway is given. Springs, shocks, bushing, and sway bars may all be modified. The body must remain stock, with the exception of a front air dam and any paint or decals you wish to slap on. For each type of car, a minimum weight is specified in the rule book. Them's the basics; if you need a more detailed explanation of the rules I suggest buying an official rule book from the SCCA. They run about $20.

Q: What's an Opel GT?

A: Opel is a German car company owned by GM. They don't currently have an American presence, but the Cadillac Catera and the new Saturn L-series are both re-badged Opels. The Opel GT is a two door sports car imported to the U.S. from 1967-1973 and sold through Buick dealers. It's a front engine, rear-wheel drive layout with a 1.9 liter inline-4 powering a solid rear axle.

Q: Why race an Opel GT?

A: Well, why not? Everyone else is racing BMW 2002s in ITB, why not a change of pace? Seriously, My very first car was an Opel GT, and it seemed like it might be a fun car to race. When an already race-prepared Opel GT appeared in the classified, I jumped at the chance and bought it.

Snap Shots of a Future Champion

Early picture of #33 on trailer

My car as received by the previous owner. Still much work to be done modification-wise, but the body was sound, so this car made a great starting point for a racing build-up.

#33 at the race shop

Soon-to-be #33 in the bay of the race shop, awaiting transformation.

Side view of #33

My very own race car, as received by me in the spring of '98

Rear view of #33

Rear shot of #33. Notice the safety straps on the rear window, and the other maroon Opel GT in the background.

Front view of #33

Front shot of #33. The finish is fading and peeling in spots, but it's in pretty good shape overall.

Interior of #33

An interior shot of #33. Note the electric kill switch mounted by the passenger side window, the removable steering wheel, and the fairly substantial side-impact bars.

Yellow ITB Opel GT with checkered flag

Another ITB Opel GT, taking the checkered flag around for a victory lap. This picture was included in the stack of documents I received when I bought the car, so unfortunately I don't know too much about it. The driver is Bill Davidson, and I believe it to be a track in the midwest somewhere.

#33 on the track at Summit Point

My car pacing some Hondas at Summit Point. This photo was taken during the previous owner's SCCA driving school. Note the rather unfortunate ITS Datsun in the foreground.

Another Opel GT race car

Another Opel GT race car. I spotted this one at Summit Point's Jefferson Circuit during a SOLO event. I didn't get a chance to see it on the track; the team was apparently done for the day when I showed up. The back of the van was full of Wise brand potato chips.

To-Do List

There's still a few things left to be done before I can go racing:
  • Get SCCA Regional License - I qualified for a regional license when I completed Skip Barber's three day racing school. All that's left to do is to get a physical and send in my paperwork (and check). I'm waiting until my car is fully prepared, though, because you need to complete two races to renew your license. The license is only good for a year. So, if I get my license before I'm ready to start racing, the 12 months might go by before I get my races in, and I'll have to start over again.
  • Arrange for Tow Vehicle & Trailer - I have a tow vehicle procured already, I just need to run to U-haul to get a hitch put on it. As for the trailer, there's an ex-racer in my area who's willing to rent out a suitable trailer on weekends. I thought about buying my own trailer, but I figured it would be better to rent for a while first.
  • Buy Remaining Safety Equipment - Personal safety equipment, that is. The car is all set as far as roll cage, fuel cell, kill switch, and fire extinguisher are concerned. I need to buy a helmet, fire-proof suit, and fire-proof gloves and shoes. I'll most likely buy a new racing seat as well, since I'm not really happy with the one currently installed in the car. It's, as they say, "way sketchy."

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