Time Trial vs. Time Attack

Welcome to the Driver’s Corner – a section that will be dedicated to discussing a various issue, or issues that come up in NASA Arizona.  With such a wide variety of drivers ranging from HPDE1 to race group, and even spectators, the hope is for someone to take something away from this section and learn a little bit about what goes on at NASA events.  That being said, it’s time for this month’s installment:  Time Trial vs. Time Attack…


I’ll save you the lecture about which one I think is better, that’s not the point.  The point of this topic is to clear up the mess and confusion that surrounds these two series, as it can be entirely all too confusing for the average non-participant to think about.  NASA Arizona is the only region on the country to have an active Time Attack series, in addition to the Time Trial program.  Without further ado, here are some definitions:

Time Trial (TT): TT is a nationally sanctioned series supported by NASA.  With the only differentiating factor being the name, the structure—the rules, rulebook, classing system, CCRs—is identical to that of the Performance Touring (PT) and Super Touring (ST) system the race group uses.  A PTA car is a TTA (Time Trial, Class A) car.  A TTC car is a PTC car.  A driver wishing to race and run in the time trial program can crossover between the two series without changing a thing.  The PT rules extraordinaire Paul Bloomberg, classes PT cars the same way Jeremy Renshaw classes TT cars.

The TT format on track is simple:  drivers enter the track at timed or spaced intervals, and the purpose is to turn the fastest lap possible.  The fastest single lap from the entire day determines the finishing position within the class (TTB, TTC, TTA, etc).  Think of it as a race group qualifying session.  Formerly dubbed HPDE 4, the Time Trial group averages 30-35 entrants, split up into Big Bore and Small Bore groups that run apart from one another to ensure clean laps.


Speaking of which, clean laps are the name of the game for TT!  Considering a driver has all day to turn one single fast lap, drivers often chart track conditions and weather to determine the fastest possible conditions for their single lap.  Balancing the track conditions, time of day, air temperature and ideal tire temperatures can be tricky, but when combined with lapped traffic, can make for some interesting comments during the download sessions!


Pro:  You get four, 20-minute sessions to turn your best lap

Con:  With all TT drivers on track at the same time, traffic can be an issue

Rules:  Very specific classes; rules are inline with race groups.  Nationally sanctioned and supported by NASA

Time Attack (TA):  The TA series was formed locally and has no national support from NASA, and no national rulebook or guidelines.  All rules, format, driver classing and administration were formed here in Arizona by NASA members.  The TA series mimics the trendy time attack events put on (on a much larger scale) by Super Street Magazine and the Redline Time Attack Series.  A twist to the TA series is the entry fee.  On top of the NASA daily entry fee, all drivers pay $20 cash to get into the TA event.  All the money is put into a pot, and then it is divided up and given back to the winners of each class as prize money.  While it doesn’t exactly pay for a day at the track, it’s often enough for a nice steak dinner or tank of race fuel.

The classing for TA is simple:  power to weight.  There are three classes, each with a range of power to weight limits.  For example, TA class B (aka, TA-B) has a power to weight limit of 9:1 to 13.99:1.  As long as you’re within those guidelines and your tires are DOT approved, anything goes.  The purpose of this is to allow new entrants easily and not have the worry of classing cars using a complex set of rules.  The TA series is more “loose”, and meant to be fun, although some take it rather seriously!


The competition format is simple:  think Indy 500 qualifying day.  The TA entrants are divided up into groups of 3-4 drivers.  The drivers in each group are released onto track, usually about 15-20 seconds apart, thus giving plenty of space for everyone.  The lap out is the warmup, with a green flag waving the first time by the start line.  Each driver gets two hot laps, then a checkered flag.  The limited number of laps and the added pressure of driving on a nearly empty track with people watching, makes for a tough experience that can be a lot of fun.


Pro:  It’s you on an empty track – generally no issues with traffic

Con:  You only have two laps to rip off one good one!

Rules:  Very basic, very open

So there you have it, be confused about Time Trial and Time Attack no more!  If you are interested in either series, talk to your HPDE group leader, or the Time Attack director Jeremy Ward, or Time Trial director Jeremy Renshaw.  Both series are “invite only” (meaning, you have to meet the minimum requirements) and require a specific level of track experience.

Eric Jacobsen

January, 2009

NASA Profiles:  Eric Jacobsen

Vital Stats

Home: Scottsdale, AZ

When he’s not racing: Engineer

Run Group: Time Trial, TTE Class

Car: ’94 Ford Taurus SHO #97

Since it’s admission into the Union on November 2, 1889, the state of South Dakota is responsible for many contributions to the rich history of the United States:  Mount Rushmore, the Sturgis motorcycle rally, putting the Ring-Necked Pheasant on a postage stamp, and of course, NASA Time Trial driver Eric Jacobsen!  Eric moved to Arizona 25 years ago and the state of  South Dakota has been in economic decline ever since.  In Arizona as a regular driver in NASA since 2002, and fresh off a recent TTE track record in his Taurus SHO, it’s only fitting that the spotlight this month would focus on Eric.  Let’s get to know Eric a little better!

There are two kinds of people who attend NASA events:  Those who think whoever drives the orange Ford Taurus is nuts, and those who think whoever drives that orange Ford Taurus is a genius.   As a lifetime obsessor of the Ford Taurus—or should I say, since the SHO model was released in 1989—Eric Jacobsen has piloted this vehicle with pride, and managed to break a few egos and set a handful of track records along the way.  Eric started with his first Taurus SHO in 1995 when he bought a silver model off the showroom floor.  After attending various autocross events for several years, Eric took the jump and joined NASA in May 2002.


After several years of abusing his ’95 SHO on the track, Eric decided it was better to leave that car for stylin’ and profilin’ on the street, and find a suitable replacement for NASA events.  Bondurant’s famous “Ford Clearance Sale” meant Eric had the opportunity to buy a Bondurant version Taurus SHO that was already equipped with safety gear and some racing parts.  Eric’s method for choosing his particular car is pretty interesting.. “There were three of them for sale, all were automatics.  Since I was going to convert it to a manual transmission anyways, I picked the SHO with the most busted up automatic to use as negotiating power on the price.  Luckily one of them had a severe shifting problem. The rest was history!”

Eric’s interest in the SHO goes farther than the track records he holds in TT, the seven years of racing history with the car, and the unusually large knowledge of Taurus in Hollywood facts.  “Taurus enthusiasts are obsessed with RoboCop…. you know, the first motion picture to show the car!”  No Eric, we didn’t know that, but thanks for the information!  Keep in mind that his isn’t an ordinary Taurus either.  The SHO model uses an aluminum block V6 built by Yamaha that was originally created for the GN34 – Ford’s attempt at a Corvette beater that never came to fruition thanks to the declining exotic sports car market of the late 1980s.   The popularity of that engine, which at the time of release was the highest HP/Liter rating of any engine on earth, has spurred SHO clubs in Phoenix where Eric can meet up, mingle, and figure out ways to cram the 3.0L V6 into sand rails, dune buggies, various kit cars and those motorized bar stools you see flying through pit lane.


Random Facts

Favorite Food: Ice cream

First NASA Event: May 2002

Any car, 20 minutes around PIR: Ariel Atom

Give the bird to anyone while on track: Brady  (thanks, Eric)

NASA Forum Name: SHOBoy

Outside of the world of NASA, SHOs and motorsports, Eric works full time as an electrical engineer in the wireless communications field and resides in Scottsdale, AZ.  Since the time trial program’s inception in Arizona in 2004, Eric has been a regular driver, rarely missing a weekend.  As a result, he was season championship runner up in 2006, and has championship titles for 2007 and 2008.   Eric looks to continue his success in the TTE class for 2009, with plans to attend the National Championships at Miller Motorsports Park.

Thanks for getting to know Eric Jacobsen, car number 97, a little better!  Next time you see Eric in the paddock, quiz him by asking  just how many times the Ford Taurus has appeared in a motion picture!  🙂

Written by:  Brady Dohrmann


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