SCCA Suspends 2021 ProSolo Season

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Mar 26, 2021 | SCCA, Pro Solo

Photograph Courtesy SCCA

[Editor's Note: The original story has been updated as of March 29]

Anyone who runs events knows that once problems start compounding, there may be no saving the proceedings without doing a hard reboot. Such was the situation the SCCA faced last weekend, as the ProSolo season officially kicked off in Charlotte, North Carolina, and quickly took a hard right turn, wedging itself in the Suez Canal of ZMax Raceway, unable to be extricated.

ProSolo is the SCCA’s side-by-side, mirror-course autocross format featuring drag race starts, complex timing requirements, and an almost balletic pattern to the crowded grids, as hundreds of cars an hour zoom through the lights. 

All that complexity—exacerbated by unseasonable freezing and wet weather in Charlotte—seems to have finally pushed all that complexity to its breaking point, and cascading timing and course management hardware and software failures force the early shutdown of the event after only approximately half of the competition. 

Furthering that bold step, the SCCA has decided to suspend the program for a thorough review and reworking of systems and practices. Upcoming events in California and New Jersey are being converted into Championship tours, and plans for Pro Solo events past late March remain flexible, although no decisions have been made at this time. The plan appears to be to not only take a look at the particular systems that led to the stoppage of the Charlotte event, but to take the opportunity to examine the program as a whole, and reboot with a fresh approach rather than continue down the path of fixing an issue that is breaking faster than they can solve it. It’s a bold step, but probably the right one. Many existing ProSolo events have been rescheduled into single-course Solo events.

Having been involved in ProSolo events since the 1980s, and having worked at nearly every position at the event, we’d caution people from being overly critical of the move to suspend the events, or leveling the easy fix idea of “Just get a drag tree on eBay and send it!” Drag timing systems are not designed to handle multiple cars on course at once, in multiple classes, with various indexes being applied to their times, and multiple drivers in the same car, or reruns, or cone penalties, or, or or… well, you get the idea. 

The concept of Pro Solo seems simple, but the actual implementation is highly complex, and we believe that this difficult move by the SCCA is a good-faith effort to solve a compounding series of problems while the ship is in dry dock, not wedged in a canal blocking the entire world’s supply of toilet paper and sporks from getting to their destination.

Update from the SCCA, 4/15:

The ProSolo Team wanted to send a brief update to the SCCA community.

We identified the reason for the tree failure in Charlotte and have implemented a design change to eliminate that path to failure.

We are currently planning a validation bench test to verify the Start Tree’s operational performance. (Timing of the lights, the communication to the timing system and the challenge start offsets, etc.) This will be the foundation of a modified restart of the 2021 Tire Rack ProSolo program. This does not include any major changes to the hardware, software and operations. That will take more time and is part of the planning for the 2022 season. Depending on the results of testing we may be in a position to offer Summer Nationals at Bristol Motorspeedway in its traditional format of Pro Solo and Championship Tour.

Thank you to those who are volunteering time and expertise. We have consulted over 12 members and we will continue to avail the generosity our community has offered. Thank you!

Mike Cobb
Heyward Wagner
Howard Duncan
Brian Harmer
Robert Chrismas
Tracy Lewis
Myke Dziengel
Brian Conners

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Comments
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Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/26/21 10:09 a.m.

It's a smart move by the SCCA, but I also do not see it returning in anything like it's current form.

racerdave600
racerdave600 UltraDork
3/26/21 11:03 a.m.

I've ran a few Pro Solos in the past, and although it looked cool, is there a particular reason it has to have the mirror courses?  I always thought two totally separate courses and combine the time, sort of like solo nationals.  It would solve the timer issue and provide a national experience as well.  Or run a single course that may be more difficult.  Who says it has to be drag race style?

Kubotai
Kubotai New Reader
3/26/21 11:16 a.m.

So, maybe it's not polite to ask but who was in charge of the Pro Solo program and can anyone explain a little about what was so messed up that they felt it was time to shut it all down until it could be rebooted?

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
3/26/21 11:16 a.m.

While I imagine that the earliest we'll see the program return is the finale, officially the title is wrong as only the next three events have been canceled/repurposed.

Mirrored courses aren't required and there have been a few non-mirrored course events and there were some single course events on the schedule for this season. Neither of those things solves the timing issues though. And the drag race style start is basically the whole point of the event.

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 PowerDork
3/26/21 1:34 p.m.

Maybe get rid of PAX indexes and it would solve a few of the problems. 

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
3/26/21 1:53 p.m.

How exactly would getting rid of pax fix power surges, server communication issues, or event management failures? Unless you mean that by killing pax you kill prosolo as a whole, which is technically a solution but not one anyone wants.

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/26/21 2:31 p.m.

In reply to dps214 :

It makes the timing equipment requirements exponentially easier. Running heads up you can use a basic drag racing timing system and only have to program in the multiple cars on track portion. The PAX and indexes are what cause an off the shelf programming to not be able to work. Those server issues come from the hodge podge programming and hardware that make up the frankenstein ProSolo timing and scoring system.

(Have worked T&S at two recent National ProSolo's)

ojannen
ojannen Reader
3/26/21 3:14 p.m.

In reply to Kubotai :

The official answer is a power surge/problem killed the electronics in the start lights.  Then, the same power problem killed the backup lights soon after they were plugged in.  Electricity was provided by a generator and something happened that caused the power output to be dirtier than normal.  There were also software problems which made recovery more difficult.

The Pro Solo season normally consists of 3-5 events east of the Mississippi and a similar number on the West coast, mostly in California.  You have to travel to at least 2 events to earn enough points to qualify for the national championships in Nebraska around Labor Day.  Charlotte was the first eastern event with the next one in a few weeks.  There probably isn't enough time to fix and test the hardware at an event pace before the next event.  On the west coast, events are getting canceled due to Covid restrictions. 

The national office took the opportunity to cancel the season long points competition.  Half the events were already canceled and this gives them more time to fix the hardware and software problems.  I assume they are going to turn the Pro Solos that are still scheduled into some sort of Championship or Match Tour.  Maybe it will be back by September for nationals.

dps214
dps214 HalfDork
3/26/21 3:24 p.m.

Points were canceled before the season even started because of covid stuff. Charlotte was canceled, texas and NJ are champ tours, kansas is most likely canceled, everything past that is still undecided.

FMB42
FMB42 Reader
3/26/21 4:29 p.m.

Yep, most likely a covid issue.

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