11/3/10 1:31 p.m.

Just a few years ago, the SCCA’s World Challenge series was considered one of the best road racing venues in the country. It provided plenty of close racing while showcasing the latest cars on the market.

The manufacturers eagerly used the series to promote their latest wares, with factory-supported teams coming from Acura, BMW, Mazda, Cadillac, Dodge and others. Grids and the talent pool quickly deepened.

However, that factory support became a double-edged sword. As the manufacturers helped build better and more reliable cars, costs escalated. Although the racing improved, these highly modified, production-based cars eventually cost about $500,000 to build and develop—simply beyond the budgets of many privateer teams and drivers. While the independents started to leave the series, the factory teams bolstered their ranks. Some even campaigned three or four cars.

Then the recession hit. The factory support and sponsorship dollars dried up, and the car counts dwindled. By 2009, paddocks became sparse as big efforts like Team Cadillac and Tri-Point Racing dropped out.

World Challenge Vision, the group that runs the series, went back to the drawing board in an effort to rejuvenate the once-popular road racing program. The result: Things are very different for 2010, and there are some new opportunities for those operating on a budget.

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