Taking SCCA Time Trials to the Max

Taking SCCA Time Trials to the Max

SCCA’s Time Trials program was constructed as a relatively easy way for anyone and everyone to get out on track and make their motorsport dreams a reality. Perry Ellwood, 31, of SCCA’s Central Carolinas Region, is a splendid example of someone who is living out his motorsport desires to the max through the Time Trials program.

A Path to the Track

Ellwood grew up a gearhead in rural North Carolina. His first car was a Ford Focus, to which he made some modifications. That’s kind of a predictable beginning for someone who is a turbocharger engineer at BorgWarner today.

“I was always interested in engineering in high school,” Ellwood recalls. “I actually did my high school senior project on rotary engines. I bought an old, second-gen RX-7 with a blown engine, and I rebuilt the engine as my senior project in high school.”

While in college, Ellwood attended his first autocross just to see what it was all about. During that first visit he was offered a ride-along, and the experience was exhilarating. He was hooked from there, joined SCCA in 2008, and started playing at local autocrosses in the Street Touring Xtreme (STX) class driving a Subaru WRX.

In 2010, Ellwood got his hands on a Mazda RX-8 and used that in STX competition at SCCA National Solo events. He also started exploring track days in 2016 thanks to programs such as SCCA’s Track Night in America Driven by Tire Rack. Those events added some spice to Ellwood’s motorsports lifestyle, and he decided to dive deeper into the discipline.

“In 2017, I signed up for a Global Time Attack event at Road Atlanta,” Ellwood remembered. “I think that was the first time I’d ever been on track with a transponder … and that was like super fun for me. Doing a Time Attack was kind of the perfect combination of autocross where you’re competing and a track day where you’re actually on a track going fast.”

More About Autocross

Choosing Max

SCCA’s Time Trials program is made up of four competition “categories.” The Sport Category is where you’ll find minimally-modified cars often used to get groceries or commute to work when not on track. The Tuner Category is home to cars that are also street-driven, but may have some bolt-on modifications that allow for tuning and adjustments. The Unlimited Category features tube-framed racecars, giant wings, ground effects, stripped interiors and creative works of art not suitable for everyday streets.

Then there’s the Max Category, which has proven a perfect fit for Ellwood since 2018 when he started attending SCCA Time Trials events. That category, consisting of five sub-classes, is for “dream street cars built or bought” and can include engine swaps and builds, suspension geometry changes, and a host of aftermarket items.

“Max gives you a lot of freedom to do engineering things,” Ellwood said. “Any lower category doesn’t give me enough freedom to really get creative … and the upper category is maybe a little bit too extreme for how much money, effort, work I’d have to put into it to build a competitive car. Max really strikes a good balance between having some ability to be creative without being too expensive or out of hand.”

It is the Max 2 (M2) class where Ellwood competes in a yellow Mazda RX-8 he constructed over six months. Work included an engine swap, transmission change, installation of a turbo system and supporting intercooler/radiator system, a new fuel system, and a suspension upgrade. Perhaps better described as “kind of” an RX-8 anymore, the car is certainly his dream machine.

“The yellow RX-8 I race in Time Trials now; it’s got an RX-7 engine, the transmission is a Japanese RX-8 five-speed … it’s got a BorgWarner turbo, and basically everything else in the engine bay I’ve designed and fabricated myself,” Ellwood said. “I had always kind of wanted to have a combination of those two cars; the RX-7 with a lot of power and the RX-8 with a little better handling.”

The combination seems to suit Ellwood well considering he has finished atop the M2 class each of the last three years during the Tire Rack Time Trials Nationals Powered by Hagerty at NCM Motorsports Park.

Max Category Rules

Nothing But Max

According to Ellwood, his car is upwards of 95 percent complete. He may still tinker a bit with aerodynamics, and play a bit with suspension for increased mechanical grip. But beyond that, he’s pleased with his engineering project.

“I’m pretty happy with the car right now. It’s pretty much competitive everywhere it goes, certainly reliable, and pretty good handling. From here it’s just kind of optimizing things and making it a little faster as I need to,” he said.

What Ellwood also plans on not toying with is the Time Trials category where he has been competing for several years.

“Max is where it’s at for me,” Ellwood said. “We’ve got a good group of friends that come out to all these events. It’s always a ton of fun. The competition is always really good and really fun, and there’s nothing much more you can ask for.”


Photo by ABI Photo