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Said Jim Schenck, Director of R and D at Factory Five, "NCCAR was perfect for us because of its location, both in terms of privacy (since we were testing prior to people seeing the finished car) and because we were able to test in the winter which we can't do anywhere around here."

 

North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (“NCCAR”)

by Ziva Allen

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nccarcThe North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (“NCCAR”) is a non-profit facility offering a road course for public use!  Why non-profit?  North Carolina ranks among the top 10 in automotive industry employment according to the Harvard Business School Cluster Mapping Project.  Because the automotive industry has a very strong presence in North Carolina, it only makes sense that the state would be interested in providing incentives to the industry.  Therefore in 2005, the state decided to begin investing in projects designed to build and develop automotive related businesses and the industry within the state.  So in 2008, the state enacted House Bill 2656 to appropriate funds to the Department of Commerce to be allocated to NCCAR on a quarterly basis for its construction and ongoing operation. 

As a part of the state’s initiative, NCCAR formed a 501(c)(3) corporation so as to develop and operate annccarguardhut320x179c independent testing and development center to be used by mostly foreign automotive manufacturers, tire suppliers, researchers as well as other industry related affiliations.  NCCAR opened in 2009 and their client activity has included, among other things, motorsport driver training, vehicle operator training for law enforcement and security personnel, and university research and community college training.  According to Sam True, NCCAR Operations Manager, “We have worked with tire manufacturers who were doing product comparisons as well as utility vehicle manufacturers who certify suspension systems, tires, aftermarket components, and safety of these as applied to their vehicles and our chassis alignment equipment has been used to test baseline and after test conditions.  We have done dealer training for European exotics, media days for some U.S. markets, as well as development testing for some reproduction manufacturers.”

 

Factory Five Racing, a company out of Wareham, Massachusetts, that designs car kits, has used NCCAR to test their vehicles.  Said Jim Schenck, Director of Research and Design at Factory Five, "NCCAR was perfect for us because of its location, both in terms of privacy (since we were testing prior to people seeing the finished car) and because we were able to test in the winter which we can't do anywhere around here.  The track worked well for testing because it had plenty of run-off and the entire course was visible from where we were paddocked which was important safety wise.  For testing purposes the layout is good because of the long steady state corners that a lot of race tracks don't have as well as some high speed transitions and a decent mix of high and low speed corners.  Also they let us run in either direction which effectively doubled the types of turns available to us. The track management was also very helpful to us and the facility overall was impressive and really somewhat underutilized.  It is definitely a facility we will use again in the future."  See our article on Factory Five Racing and our interview with Jim Schenck in our upcoming May issue.

 

The track was designed by Alistair McQueen, a long time Lotus test driver from Scotland.  True describes the track as having featurs that are “somewhat unique.  Our big loop [penned the “peanut”] is 700 feet in diameter and 270 degrees.  A bike rider can drag knee for nearly 11 seconds.  The straight is 1/2 mile.  There are 11 turns, most constant radius.  We have begun drifting this year and turn 2, 3, 4, and 5 are perfect for this sport.  Our grip is amazing, but the drift cars are getting remarkably low tire wear.”  Keeping safety in mind, in areas where the course comes close together, metal safety barriers have been erected.  This track is considered wide at 40 feet with NC-DOT spec asphalt.  To provide additional challenge to its repeat customers, NCCAR runs its track either Clockwise or Counter Clockwise.

nccarservicescTrue has been with NCCAR since its inception in 2009 and has been its Operations Manager since 2012.  True is involved in every aspect of the facility’s operations and says, “With a plate this full, I couldn't accomplish it all without the help of my family and a few good friends.” When asked how he would categorize drivers who frequent NCCAR, True notes that “drivers and motorcycle riders are as varied as snowflakes.  They are from all backgrounds but when they get to the paddock, they become like long lost friends.  If you break down, someone will come up with a way to get you going.  Our garages are well supplied with tools and we have seen some amazing resurrections.”

 

On its two mile road course, NCCAR hosts track days for car clubs, such as Corvette, Mercedes, BMW, and Porsche, as well as some vintage groups such as an Alpha Romeo Club.  It also hosts motorcycle track days with Team ProMotion, Motorcycle Xcitement, and Nesba.  But in addition to driving the track via a car club, individuals can arrive at the track Mondays through Fridays and drive it for $125 per hour.  According to True, “individuals may use the track, but they must be able to demonstrate driving proficiency prior to entering the course.  A pedigree if you will.  Individuals who participate in SCCA, NASA, and other amateur series who want to test their cars can use it for the $125/hour rate plus a little for insurance cost, and yes, that is weekday use only.  Their racing license serves as their pedigree.  I observe all aspects of use and if I see unsafe activity, I end the test.”  True goes on to say, “Proof of experience in a track environment is a minimum.  The cars must have seatbelts, and the drivers must use them and wear an approved helmet. The cars get a tech inspection by me.”  True has noticed that the automotive industry’s interest in NCCAR has increased over the past couple of years as the industry has gotten back on its feet.  But he also believes that this increase is partly due to simple awareness of the track’s existence through social media, word-of-mouth and so on.  NCCAR is known in the track day community to have friendly, flexible customer service and we all know this is a plus while enjoying our track day weekend!

 

NCCAR is conveniently located just east of I-95 and is within easy driving distance of scores of things to do to round out your track day weekend.  Among well-known points of interest such as the Smoky Mountains and the Biltmore Estates, North Carolina being the birthplace of NASCAR, houses the NASCAR Hall of Fame, which is located in Charlotte.  In honor of Women’s History Month, from March 8 to June 8 (with the exclusion of 3/26), the Hall of Fame will be showcasing a travelling exhibit called “Women in the Winner’s Circle” and will cover six decades of women in racing.  The exhibit was developed by The Henry Ford Museum and the Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

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