November 13, 2002
To All Star FM Racers:
First, I need to correct an error that got out in the last bulletin we mailed (the web site is correct). The 2003 date at Road Atlanta is in October for the North American Championship Series, not September. To be as clear as possible, we are repeating the correct 2003 schedule below. Sorry for our mistake.
March 12 – 15
April 5 - 6
June 14 - 15
June 27 - 29
July 25 - 27
August 15 - 17
August 22 - 24
September 5 - 7
October 15 - 18
Regarding the Mexico City venue, hopefully, most of you will see this fabulous facility during the November 17th broadcast of the CART race. We are working with IMSA now, to set up a convoy from the Mexican border (probably at Laredo, Texas) to the Hermanos Rodriguez track and then back after the event. The idea is to consolidate the smaller teams into the bigger rigs and “package” all the paperwork and other formalities, to avoid any delays or inconveniences. We will keep you posted. Also, the website will be continually updated. The track is right next to the Mexico City Airport.
Attached is the 2002 year-end customer survey. Please take the time to fill it out and return it before December 15th, as we make a lot of decisions which affect you based on what the surveys indicate most FM owners want.
The 2003 season will be the last opportunity for the standard Star FM cars to compete in the North American Championship Series. If you have not taken advantage of the opportunity to run any of these big events, we invite you to do so while you can. Even though they may require a bit more effort, most who participate for the first time tell us they learn a lot and get a lot of fun and track time out of it. (And you get to show your friends and sponsors that you got on TV!)
Regarding the “club” cars that want to run the 2003 North American Championship races: Fundamentally, the club-legal cars only need to run the Series spec Goodyear tires, Series spec fuel, and comply with the Series “Supp Regs,” which limit carburetor settings and a few other easy items. You will find Todd Cook is very helpful with this. 2003 will add another potential issue regarding FM motor seals. SCCA has set September, 2003, as the deadline to have the new seals on motors for National races (mostly, for the 2003 Runoffs). Pro cars, running for the North American Championship points, will be required to have the new motor seals by Sebring (March ’03).
Any driver/car combination wishing to do a “one off” North American Championship race, not for Series points, may do so if the car is SCCA legal and meets all other Series specs, other than the motor seal. This will be only permitted once during 2003, per car or driver. Neither the chassis nor driver may repeat this exemption. The intent is to let people run one race without pressing the issue on the new motor seal. However, we will not play games with “musical” cars and drivers trying to circumvent the rules on motor seals. If you need further clarification, consult with Todd Cook. If you plan to run more than one North American Championship race, have the new seals on your motor before your second race. If you want to score points, have the new seals. Warning: Daryl Drummond gets busy. Do not leave it until the last minute.
One person has asked for clarification about the order of delivery on the 2004 Pro cars. The confusion seems related to the price guarantee of $66,500 for deposits in before 1 Dec 02, which is an independent program from the 2003 North American Championship delivery order preference. The first fifteen Pro cars will go to the highest finishing 15 drivers (or teams) that have deposits in before 1 Mar 03. If a driver has a deposit on a Pro car before March 1, 2003, and finishes in the top 15 in the 2003 North American Championship, that driver will get one of the first fifteen cars. If the driver does not have a deposit in before March 1, 2003, but the team he starts the season with does, the team takes the driver’s place and gets one of the first fifteen Pro cars delivered. We will continue this process until, either 15 cars are delivered to 2003 North American Championship participants whose deposits were in before March 1, 2003, or all such qualifying orders are filled. No more than the first 15 cars are “reserved”; however, after that, 2004 Pro cars will be delivered in the order the deposits were received, with those who had deposits in before December 1, 2002, also protected by the introductory price guarantee, no matter where their car is in the delivery order. We hope that clears up any confusion.
There will be a price increase on the new Pro car December 1, 2002. The new price has not yet been determined. We are still working with various suppliers, doing our best to deliver maximum value.
For those planning to compete in the Western Series during 2003, the opening races will be the January Double Nationals at Phoenix. The three TV races, Infineon (Sears Point) and both Mazda Raceway (Laguna) events will also be included. We are waiting for the Club schedule to gel to determine the balance of the program. Ten or eleven races will count for points. With many of the larger, well-established teams concentrating on the North American Championship races, nearly all the 2001 West Championship racers got one set of the free tires and won year-end cash and trophies. Remember, you are only scored against other West Series competitors. If you are seventh on the track, but third among the West Series drivers, you get third place points in the West. You can run more than one series at the same time, if you like. Moses Smith was first in the West and second in the North American Championship during 2002.
As many of you are doing your winter teardown/rebuild now, besides checking the critical rod ends, carefully inspect your wheels. The early (gold) magnesium centers are getting a lot of time on them, and we have seen one that finally completely failed at Road Atlanta. Off roading and clipping berms shorten the useful lives of many parts. A new wheel or wheel center is much cheaper than the crash damage, not to mention driver safety. There are lots of shops that can crack check wheel centers. Some Indy car teams do it after every race.
After my letter of October 18th to the SCCA Board of Directors and subsequent mailing with the last bulletin, Fran-Am filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against SCCA, citing many similar complaints. While we have had no formal reply to our letter, we were told last week that we would eventually get an answer “when they get around to it.” We prefer to work within the club structure and have accepted many adverse decisions in the past, even when they hurt our class and made no sense to us. Sometimes, after a period of time, sometimes years, the club reverses itself and approves our original request, through processes not clearly understood by anyone.
We understand the club makes the rules and, being made up of humans, is seldom error free. Our problem comes when the club makes rules and then applies them unequally, or not at all, depending on how it might affect SCCA Enterprises. In 1998, when FM finally achieved a National Class, “Fastrack” published that the precedent would be officially set for other cars/classes to follow. It took Star Race Cars and our loyal, dedicated customers seven years to get through the process for the Club to grant FM a National Class. The SCCA Board has announced that Enterprises will get two spec cars that did not yet exist directly into two existing National Classes. This decision was published within months of turning down MSR, Fran-Am, and other similar requests.
If any proposed race car is unsafe for competition, we would understand denying it access to race. We also understand the club’s desire to protect those competitors already invested in developing cars for certain classes. But it seems incredible that a club in financial difficulty would turn away entries of race cars that could be placed in classes such that the new cars would be unlikely to upset the order at the front of the grid. This is what MSR was denied when we requested it run in CSR with the FM spec sealed motor, which is down more than 50 horsepower on fully developed CSRs, but reduces running costs by about 80%. CSR is now on probation as a class for lack of entries. The club’s position only makes sense if the club plans to fill the vacuum with its own car while denying other cars access. MSR was even denied “regional only” status.
There are other causes for Star Race Cars to be upset with tactics employed by certain authorities in the club. We do not have the space here, nor is it perhaps appropriate, to air out the details of our experiences over the years. At present, we think the Club is misguided and in trouble. We would like to see an equitable solution reached before it is too late to fix. We think lawsuits are generally counterproductive and a last resort.
Please let us, and the club, know how you feel. We are all invested in SCCA, like it or not. Unofficially, some in the club do not deny being protective of Enterprises. Their attitude is “the Club can arbitrarily deny access to anyone it chooses. Of course, helping Enterprises helps the Club.” We think this is wrong, unfair, and overlooks the fact that, after selling around 800 spec racers, Enterprises is still deeply in debt, which costs us all. We have around 250 FM owners who want to run in club racing. We think equal enforcement of the rules, a stable organization, and good faith dealing are essential. What do you think?
Gary E. Rodrigues
STAR FORMULA MAZDA
2002 YEAR-END SURVEY
1. Do you own or rent/lease the FM you race?
2. Do you race any other kinds of vehicles? If so, what?
3. How many FM races did you run in 2002?
4. Did you run any Star Mazda Series races in 2002? Which ones?
5. Which race did you enjoy most? Why?
6. Which race did you enjoy least? Why?
7. How many FM races do you expect to run in 2003?
8. Do you like the Star Mazda Series format? What would you change about it?
9. If you could change one thing about the FM car, what would it be?
10. Are you satisfied with availability of parts and information for your FM? If not, why not?
11. Are there any FM rules or procedures you would like to see added or changed? Please elaborate.
12. It seems clear that eventually some version of the new “Renesis” rotary motor will be introduced to FM. This adds at least ten years to parts availability for the class.
(a) If the SCCA allows the Mark V gears, the motor can probably run at about 210 HP without significant increased motor/trans maintenance. Would you be in favor of this configuration?
(b) Assuming some transitional equivalency formula were to be worked out, how long should the transition take? (1, 2, 3 years?)
13. If SCCA does not change its arbitrary application of its own rules, would you agree that legal action is justified?
14. Would you support a more “political” solution such as replacing the SCCA Board?
15. Do you think SCCA would be better off divesting itself of Enterprises?
16. Any other comments?