Back in the 1990’s, the Solo Steering Committee started a site fund for the purpose of obtaining a permanent autocross site in the Bay Area. Dubbed ‘the region that knows how’, San Francisco Region was no stranger to pioneering new roads for the future of solo racing. To this day, we are the only region with a large fund to secure our future. Solo has saved $5 of every entry fee in an escrow account that may only be used for the purchase or long term lease of a long term autocross facility. However, as years have passed, the Bay Area population and development have continued to grow at an astounding rate. The price of real estate is astronomical, and Solo had feared that the dream of a permanent site would never become a reality. Until now.
For many years, the Sacramento Chapter has held events at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in Stockton, but SFR Solo has opted out due to a small course area (about 5 acres). However, there is a great deal of unused, graveled parking surrounding the current autocross pad. In early 2015, SFR board member, Blake Tatum contacted the fairgrounds to see if they would be interested in partnering with SFR SCCA to improve their parking lot, and they were elated. So began the last year and a half of planning.
The current Solo site situation: In the mid 2000s, we were fortunate to have four autocross sites within a reasonable distance of the Bay Area. Currently, we only have two. Candlestick Park was very bumpy and unsuitable for modified cars, making it difficult to garner the attendance needed to pay the high rental fees. We stopped running there a few years before the stadium was torn down. We also had Golden Gate Fields; conveniently located but badly decayed. Eventually, the lot was too far gone to be of use.
This left us with the Oakland Coliseum and Marina Municipal Airport. When the Coliseum found itself under new management, we were no longer able to book events there. This hurt our club, as Oakland consistently had the best attendance, allowing us to financially make up for low attendance events at other sites. Marina Airport continues to be our primary site, but is currently on a year to year permit with the FAA who is wary of Motorsport use of the airport. We have no guarantee that Marina will continue to be available in future years.
The best thing for Solo in years was the reintroduction of Crows Landing in Patterson. We have been able to hold National Tour and Pro Solo events, attracting entrants from up and down the west coast. However, Crows Landing is extremely costly to run at and the county is not interested in offering us a long term lease.
The SFR Autocross Park at San Joaquin Fairgrounds offers a unique opportunity for San Francisco Region and SCCA National to come together for a common goal: a guaranteed site for autocross in northern California for the next 40 years.
As seen in Figure A, the current autocross site is roughly 5 acres. In Figure B, you can see how much larger the SFR Autocross Park will be. We will have 15 acres of dedicated autocross surface, offering us limitless course design options. In addition, we will have a dedicated grid and paddock area, also shown. We will put a 6-foot chain link fence around the site for safety and security.
To complete this site, we propose to spend the Solo Site Fund and will also be obtaining a $400,000 loan from SCCA National. In lieu of interest, the Fairgrounds will be provide SCCA National with three rent free weekends per year, for the life of the lease – 40 years. The fairgrounds will also assist SFR in the repayment of the loan.
In return of the investment of the site fund, SFR SCCA will have 14 rent free weekend dates at the Autocross Park per year for 40 years. Other autocross clubs will be able to rent the site from the Fairgrounds for a reasonable rate set by their management. SFR will have no responsibility for managing the site.
This project will have no negative impact on the SF Region. Solo will be using the Site Fund for its intended purpose. Solo requires no spending of money from the Road Racing Program or Thunderhill. It will be paid entirely from the site fund and from the loan from SCCA National. As for Solo, we plan to continue to save $5 of every entry fee to maintain the autocross park at the fairgrounds. When the site needs resealing or repair, we will invest again in exchange for extensions of our lease.
At completion, SFR will be the only region in the nation with a dedicated autocross facility guaranteed to host multiple national level events every year. Considering that we also have our own racetrack with Thunderhill, San Francisco Region proves to still be ‘the region that knows how’ by ensuring the future of motorsports for bay area enthusiasts for decades to come.