NASA Vice President Jeremy Croiset proposed the new Team Racing Endurance Challenge to NASA management last year, and the new racing series made its public debut in mid-July. The “prototype” TREC race was held last September at Sonoma Raceway.
NASA regions across the country will stage a few TREC races this year, and then begin building momentum with more events in 2020. The new series is designed to introduce more people to motorsports by giving them a place to race in a safe and controlled environment, without the need for a full-on competition license.
We caught up with Croiset to ask him a few questions about TREC, how he envisions it coming together, and what he hopes it will accomplish for NASA and the motorsports industry.
Q: What was the impetus for the new TREC racing program? How did this come about?
A: We wanted to come up with an alternative way to get folks involved in NASA that was fun, safe and, most importantly, a very low barrier to entry. The TREC series was designed to be the easiest way to get your friends to the track with you to participate.
Q: So, no competition licenses, really?
A: Correct. We have created a required TREC license to pilot the fastest TREC-class cars, but the other three TREC classes require only a driver license. I should stress that we highly recommend anyone interested in TREC competition attend at least one NASA HPDE weekend, but we also recognize that there are potentially thousands of well-qualified TREC competitors out there eligible to join us beginning immediately. We would encourage anyone with zero NASA experience to reach out to their local Regional Director to get started with the TREC series.
Q: Will there be dyno testing at TREC races?
A: Negative. One of the cornerstones of the TREC series is fun, and that includes no technical compliance required. While we still require all competition vehicles to meet our minimum safety requirements, our unique format makes for virtuallly no classing requirements. That means more time spent on track and less time in impound.
Q: How many TREC races will be held this year? What about 2020?
A: In 2019 we expect to see roughly five to six TREC event across the country. In 2020, our NASA regions are targeting 15 to 20 events nationwide.
Q: The tires are required to be 180 treadwear as marked by the manufacturer. How will NASA tech inspectors ensure every car complies?
A: Every car will be checked prior to the start of TREC competition. Additionally, every team will have the opportunity to inspect their fellow competitors’ vehicles.
Q: How will tech officials be sure they don’t change to slicks during a pit stop?
A: These rules unlike anything else in the NASA’s offerings is written in such a way that the rules dissuade this type of behavior. Any team that would attempt to do something like this, which would drastically decrease their lap times, would find themselves likely being moved up to the next fastest class because of the massive jump in the team’s performance.
It should be noted that experience has taught us that nearly all teams with a properly set-up car will not require midrace tire changes because of the 180 treadwear rule.
Q: How will NASA enforce safety rules to drivers who haven’t studied the CCR closely?
A: We expect, like all other NASA participants, that TREC series competitors will familiarize themselves with the competition section of the NASA CCR’s.
Each TREC team vehicle will be inspected by NASA officials for safety and upon passing will be issued a NASA competition vehicle log book along with an annual tech sticker. This will allow them to receive an annual tech, once per year, which will be good for all NASA events.
Q: What format will the majority of the races take? Day into night? Long day races? Saturday-Sunday format?
A: While the format is left to the individual regions to decide, we anticipate that the majority of the events will be long day races. We don’t anticipate any night racing because of the required cost of lighting.
Q: What do you think TREC will do for NASA and for the motorsports industry as a whole?
A: I think the TREC series will bring a much-needed, professionally run endurance option to the motorsports community. It also will provide a completely new option for getting started racing with NASA.
Q: What makes the TREC series unique?
A: This new series is unique in the motorsports community, providing competitors with a nationally run, easy-to-get-started-in series focused solely on fun and safe competition.