Shawn Meze is the Spec E30 National Director, SoCal Super Touring Director and race director for the SoCal Region. Involved in motorsports since 1994, Meze has been a member of NASA since 2005, and has been the SoCal TTE Champion, placed second in PTE and third in TTE at the NASA Championships in 2006. He competes in the Western Endurance Racing Championship and sprint races whenever possible in a variety of cars, and also has participated in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill twice. In addition to being race director at four NASA Championships events, Meze has done nearly every job at the track, from grid worker to driving instructor to pace car driver.
Q: You’re slated to be the chief race director for the Western States Championships at Buttonwillow. What will your responsibilities be for that event?
A: My responsibilities will be to make decisions needed to keep the racing going on track. I’ll monitor the racing action and address any issues that come up on track, as they happen. If all goes well, I won’t be doing much work, honestly. However, if there are a lot of broken cars and problems on the track, it can get fairly busy in the tower, trying to issue instructions that will best serve the event with our main focus being to ensure driver safety and keeping the event on schedule. We have a great team in the tower that works extremely well together, and we take great pride in not being noticed for the work that we do. I’m proud to be a part of this team and I love my job!
Q: How does it differ from directing a regional event?
A: First, it’s obviously a much larger event in that a regular SoCal event will have two to three race groups that I would handle. Immediately after a race is completed, I report to impound and deal with any body-contact forms, protests as well as assist with awards and sometimes I’ll even take the podium pictures, whatever it takes to get the job done, so I’m very busy at regional events. At the Championships event, we will have probably six race groups and two Time Trial groups! It’s impossible for one person to do all the work required for so many race groups. Much of the workload of doing incident investigations is done by the individual race group directors who will handle that aspect of the event for me. Since this is a Championships event, NASA always wants the results to be made final before anyone even leaves the track. If there are any disqualifications, a racer can appeal the decision and it will then come up to me for a full review of the incident and all evidence where I then make a final ruling.
Q: Moving to Spec E30, what’s new with that class? Are there any changes coming in the future?
A: Part of what makes Spec E30 so great is a simple rules set. Mostly with the rules, there are no big changes that are made, but rather clarifications of certain rules. This will likely be what most people will see for the 2017 season with one big exception. Since you asked first, I’ll let you break the big story, which is that convertibles will be returning to SE30 for the 2017 season!
Q: Really, what made you change your mind about convertibles?
A: A few factors have made me rethink the decision to exclude them from competition. One real truth is the E30 chassis is becoming more difficult to find for those who wish to build a new car. Another factor is that, other than the one single convertible that was built and completed before they were excluded, there are at least three other cars that compete in other regions, but with the current rules, they wouldn’t be allowed to compete at a Championships event. The third reason is that people who are looking to build a new or replacement car are finding convertible chassis cheaply, and they are somewhat plentiful. Keeping the series alive for as long as we possibly can is another reason to allow it. So, those out there looking to build a new car, stay tuned for the rules to come out sometime before the end of the year in which there will be a section dedicated to convertibles!
Q: How many Spec E30 racers does NASA have nationwide?
A: Nationwide, I’d say we have close to 300 cars out there. Sadly, many don’t race for many reasons, but the east and west coasts have 15 to 35 cars showing up at events regularly.
Q: What regions have the most, and what are they doing that other regions are not?
A: Namely, the Southeast region and NorCal regions have some of the largest fields. I think a big factor is the bucket list tracks that they attend regularly. For the East Coast, there are more tracks available in nearby regions, which is appealing.
Then you get into the aspect that only Spec E30 seems to bring to the table. Spec E30 is more than a bunch of guys showing up to the track, unloading, qualifying, racing and then going home. No. Spec E30 is a community of guys and gals who are true racers, who love racing, who love competition no matter if they are racing for the win, or racing for 19th! They help one another, on and off the track. They want to beat you at your best on the track, not because you don’t know how to set up a car, or drive a particular track. They love the camaraderie of celebrating a great battle on track and having a beer and BBQ afterward. It’s a great racing community and I’m proud to be a small part of it!
Q: What challenges does the class face in the future?
A: The E30 chassis is a great performing car. Most are production dates 1987-1990. They’re pretty old chassis and most have been raced for seven to 10 years. That’s not exactly what the manufacturer intended for these commuter cars! We’re finding that the cars are bending in places, which is what I’ve been working on, to figure out how to reinforce the cars in their weak places that will allow them to live and continue to race as long as possible, while keeping things affordable for everyone. While it’s a great and exciting racing series, the challenge for me is to help it live as long as possible because, let’s face it, E30s are awesome!