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Autocross gets denied in Suffolk

The city has denied a sports car club’s request to have autocross events at the Suffolk Executive Airport, but the club doesn’t intend to let that get them down.

The Tidewater Sports Car Club currently has almost 1,500 signatures on a petition to allow for autocross at the airport. The club formed the petition on Change.org after being denied approval for the events.

Autocross is a timed competition where drivers navigate defined courses, and it is considered a motorsport.

“Autocross is a very low-risk entry-level form of motor sport which emphasizes driver skill and car handling abilities,” Anthony Mester, president of TSSC, wrote in an email. “We’re confident that bringing autocross to Suffolk would be beneficial and have a noticeable economic impact on the nearby businesses and provide a safe and legal outlet to keep racing off the street.”

According to an email from City Manager Patrick Roberts to Ron Buchsen, a member of the TSSC, the organization had applied for a permit to have autocross at the airport in early 2018, but Roberts denied the permit. The city later reconsidered the permit and chose to deny it once again.

According to the email, the reason for denial was because of the disruption it would cause and the potential injury or deterioration to the airport.

The current operations at the airport allow for training of public safety personnel, but the area they use, runway 15/33, receives little to no maintenance. The lack of maintenance means a higher risk of injury if autocross were to happen there, and having the events there could further damage the abandoned runway, according to the email.

The second reason to deny the permit, according to Roberts’ email, is that if they were to have it on well-maintained runways, it would cause a disruption to the operations of the airport.

The benefits for the city must outweigh the deterioration to the airport for the city to approve the permit.

“I realize the Suffolk Executive Airport appears to present a unique and accommodating space for special events and non-aviation uses,” Roberts wrote in the email. “The details and impacts of any proposed non-aviation uses of this facility must be scrutinized on a case by case basis and can only be approved when the benefits to the community at large outweigh any prevailing concerns.”

Members of the TSSC strongly disagree with the city’s position, and they believe that having autocross events there would be beneficial for the city.

“Autocross at the airport is beneficial to both Suffolk and the Tidewater Sports Car Club. It is one of the best locations in the area and would not only provide a financial gain for the city via usage fees, but also in the form of food and gas sales at local businesses (and the taxes associated with them),” Mester said. “It would also be a place where driver clinics, such as the Tire Rack Street Survival School for teens, could be held. Our current site is not really large enough to effectively hold a street survival school.”

Mester also argues that having autocross in the area would help bring better drivers to the area.

“Autocross in itself breeds safer day-to-day drivers on the street and dedicated schools multiply that effect which benefits everyone,” Mester said.