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bullmand
07-13-2009, 05:35 PM
I want to preface this post by saying that I very much appreciate all the hard work and long days that go into running our chapter autocross events. I've had a lot of fun participating in these events for the last seven years and intend to keep participating. Having said that, I would like to start a discussion about the format change to our autocrosses that was apparently made before this season started.
In the past the events always consisted of three heats run over the course of the day with each heat split in half to provide course workers. This always seemed to work well and provided a fair balance between actual seat time and course work.
Both events that I've been able to attend this year have consisted of two heats, again split in half to provide workers. In my opinion this format seems to present more problems than it solves. I can only assume that the change was made in an effort to make the day shorter for the autocross committee volunteers who are running the thing. If that was not the reason, please correct me. If it was, it doesn't seem to be working out that way for them.
So, why do I bring this up? I would like to suggest/request that we return to the three heat format. I enjoy autocrossing and I enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow club members and even some of the visitors, but seven hours at the event for four minutes of seat time is too much.
Below is my list of reasons why I prefer the three heat format. Please do not take this as negative criticism. My goal here is not to hurt anyone's feelings or trivialize the amount of work the committee puts into these events. I'm only interested in starting a dialogue and keeping our autocross events as fun and as efficient as we can make them.

The number of participants referenced here are based on the results for Event #4 of July 11th with 113 showing. I'm going to use 110 since I know there were at least three cars that were shared.

1. Parking - with a total of 110 cars paddock parking could be an issue depending on the venue. This problem is less pressing in the three heat format as it's unlikely that all the participants from all three heats would ever be there at the same time while this is the case with two heats.
2. Grid - 55 cars in a heat means there will be 28 or 27 cars on grid at a time. This was nearly unmanageable at the Summit Point course despite the valiant efforts made by Woody and Bogdan. A heat of 37 cars (110 split over three heats) would yield 18 or 19 and would be much easier to manage. Also, if you happen to be last on grid, you could be there for around 2 hours. See the math below.
3. Coursework time - assuming an average of one minute for one run and four runs per car, the time spent working the course comes out to just shy of two hours for 28 cars. If there are timing issues or other delays this could easily reach the 2.5 hour mark. Not the end of the world and I realize the volunteers are out there all day but if we have the option of 1.75 with 19 cars I'll take that.
4. Tech/Registration/Course Walk - clearly there is one less of each required if you only have two heats but it doesn't seem to add much time to the length of the day.

If you've made it this far you have my thanks. I hope that we can have a constructive exchange about this and keep it positive. If no one else prefers the three heat format then we can just drive on and make the most of it.
Thanks for your time,
David Bullman

irish44j
07-13-2009, 06:10 PM
Not agreeing or disagreeing, but just a note that pretty much all autocross clubs run AM and PM sessions only....NASA, DC SCCA, Philly SCCA, Autocrossers Inc., CDC, etc....

The part I think you're not factoring in enough is that if you run in three heats, that's an extra hour or more at least.... for a third course walk, drivers meeting, people getting checked in, tech inspection, gridding cars, etc....

gbauer
07-13-2009, 06:28 PM
Thanks Irish for pointing that out.


For the record, there have only been two sessions at every event I've ever been to. Perhaps you confused the sessions with the heats? There are 4 sessions and 2 heats.

On another note: we volunteers could use the help. If you think you can help make the events run more smoothly, perhaps you can volunteer as I will be stepping out with my newborn kid coming around August 15th?

mscire2
07-13-2009, 06:38 PM
We have annual meetings that are open to everyone to come and voice there opinions.

gbauer
07-13-2009, 06:41 PM
We have annual meetings that are open to everyone to come and voice there opinions.
my opinion is that you need to paint your center caps the same color as your rims and put them on.:)

bullmand
07-13-2009, 06:48 PM
Not agreeing or disagreeing, but just a note that pretty much all autocross clubs run AM and PM sessions only....NASA, DC SCCA, Philly SCCA, Autocrossers Inc., CDC, etc....

The part I think you're not factoring in enough is that if you run in three heats, that's an extra hour or more at least.... for a third course walk, drivers meeting, people getting checked in, tech inspection, gridding cars, etc....

Until this year, this club has run three heats unless my memory is totally shot. You could sign up for 1st, 2nd or 3rd heat which would then be split for working/driving. Is that not what others remember?

I did factor in the third course walk, tech, etc. I mentioned it specifically. I also know that I've never been at one of our events as late as we were there this past Saturday even when I stayed for fun runs.

gbauer
07-13-2009, 06:51 PM
Until this year, this club has run three heats unless my memory is totally shot. You could sign up for 1st, 2nd or 3rd heat which would then be split for working/driving. Is that not what others remember?

I did factor in the third course walk, tech, etc. I mentioned it specifically. I also know that I've never been at one of our events as late as we were there this past Saturday even when I stayed for fun runs.
The events are much larger now than they were in the past. Jonathan has done a great job with his team of worker bees to make autocross into a marque event for the club instead of just a side-show.

bullmand
07-13-2009, 06:52 PM
Thanks Irish for pointing that out.


For the record, there have only been two sessions at every event I've ever been to. Perhaps you confused the sessions with the heats? There are 4 sessions and 2 heats.

On another note: we volunteers could use the help. If you think you can help make the events run more smoothly, perhaps you can volunteer as I will be stepping out with my newborn kid coming around August 15th?

I don't think I'm remembering the heat/session count wrong, but maybe so. I swear there were three heats with six sessions. I specifically remember in past years registering for 2nd heat or sometimes 3rd. Since this is the only organization I've ever autocrossed with I can't be confusing it with another group.

I may volunteer in the future, but my schedule doesn't allow me to make every event. This was only my second this year and I won't be able to make the next one. I don't know about the remaining events for the year yet.

mscire2
07-13-2009, 06:59 PM
my opinion is that you do not need to paint your center caps the same color as your rims and put them on.:)

Edited for truth

bullmand
07-13-2009, 06:59 PM
The events are much larger now than they were in the past. Jonathan has done a great job with his team of worker bees to make autocross into a marque event for the club instead of just a side-show.

I'm not disputing the hard work that's gone into all of the events. The events are clearly bigger and that's a definite result of Jonathan and the other current volunteers' effort. I saw the flyers for this event at Hyperfest. In my opinion having more participants supports my point that three heats would be more efficient. What happens if we get up to 150 or 200 cars? Is a 50 car grid even possible at the venues we have available?

Also, I don't think it's fair to call the efforts of the previous years' volunteers a "side-show". The pre-event advertising may not have been as robust, but they were still out there running the events all day and that's more than I've done.

bogdan
07-13-2009, 07:13 PM
We did make the change to two separate run groups instead of three.

The reasons for this are:
a. registration
b. worker management.
c. downtime

a. regstration
It is easier on the staff to only have two large groups instead of three, or people trickling in throughout the day. Time management is key for registration staff, and with the committee already stretched thin, it has to be so people don't get missed.

b. worker management
It's impossibly difficult to get all the workers together for two heats, much less three. The key here is that the events have become bigger in the number of participants. That leads to the inevitable stragglers throwing a "wrench," in the works. With only two rough times for people to remember, it makes it dramatically easier on me to distribute workers around the course. Still, there are people who show late to work assignments...but, it does cut down on "some," of the confusion.

c. downtime Drivers meetings, and course walks consume an immense amount of time. Again, it's easier to have people try to remember two target times instead of three, and getting lax. This is by no means a perfect system, but, a format worth considering for at least one season. If we had more time on lot rental for the event, it would be easier to have a three heat format for a larger number of participants.

Like all things this season, all will be up for review at the end of the season in a autocross meeting. We're just looking to try something different.

Evolution does not just come from sitting idle and watching the world go by.

We do appreciate the constructive input, and are always welcoming of suggestions. After all, these events are put on for the club members! :)

etherpool
07-13-2009, 07:19 PM
I think that there were several issues at this event that are out of the norm so it's just one of those days. Under the circumstances I think the organizers did a nice job of completing the day. So props to all!!

We did run three heats in the past. And the days did seem longer. I think that there is some tweaking going on with the formula and I'm all for it. I dug the grid setup this weekend. AI does that and it really runs smooth. However, better event organization requires more help. I've never seen less than 15 people working AI's events (not including course workers) and that does make a difference. I know I'm going to try and pitch in a little more but as with all of us time is an issue. I normally only see 7 to 10 people working NCC events and they are doing a little of everything. Sometimes it looks like a damn long day for those guys (and gals!!).

Summit Point just seems like a rough place to run an event for some reason. I've run with NCC and CDC there and there has been some issue at all 5 events I've attended there. Bad karma or something. Either way, I definitely have the most fun at NCC events. And it's the cheapest!! I give high praise to the organizers for doing so much with so little!!

gbauer
07-13-2009, 07:19 PM
well said but but I prefer Sara Palin's phrase of "only a dead fish swims with the current" in lieu of "Evolution does not just come from sitting idle and watching the world go by."...

gbauer
07-13-2009, 07:21 PM
I think that there were several issues at this event that are out of the norm so it's just one of those days. Under the circumstances I think the organizers did a nice job of completing the day. So props to all!!

We did run three heats in the past. And the days did seem longer. I think that there is some tweaking going on with the formula and I'm all for it. I dug the grid setup this weekend. AI does that and it really runs smooth. However, better event organization requires more help. I've never seen less than 15 people working AI's events (not including course workers) and that does make a difference. I know I'm going to try and pitch in a little more but as with all of us time is an issue. I normally only see 7 to 10 people working NCC events and they are doing a little of everything. Sometimes it looks like a damn long day for those guys (and gals!!).

Summit Point just seems like a rough place to run an event for some reason. I've run with NCC and CDC there and there has been some issue at all 5 events I've attended there. Bad karma or something. Either way, I definitely have the most fun at NCC events. And it's the cheapest!! I give high praise to the organizers for doing so much with so little!!
Perhaps we should charge more and give a small payment to workers? would that get us up to the 10-15 people we really need to run these things?


....not that I want to do that.

Biggins
07-13-2009, 07:28 PM
The events are much larger now than they were in the past. Jonathan has done a great job with his team of worker bees to make autocross into a marque event for the club instead of just a side-show.
I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't appreciate the comment about past events being a "side-show" with the effort Team.BAR, Team WTF and many others including myself have put into the program the past six years! :mad: We all may not be around to all the events like we used, but I know we all still care about the program. That is all I'll say on that topic.

The club has done a three session split-heat day since at least 2003-04 when I began autocrossing with NCC. This is the first season for the two session split-heat. I do agree with David on most all of his points and I prefer the three session for participants, but I do feel the two session split-heat is easier logistically, and it is what other clubs use. Unfortunately, we're still getting used to the two session, and it's tough to get started on-time and stay on schedule with so few volunteers in the wee morning hours.

Please remember these are constructive observations. We need input from participants who have done our events for years and from the noobs. What we learn from each event can be used in the future. I still haven't made up my mind on what has seemed to work better (two vs. three sessions) because there are different pros and cons to each. At the moment, I prefer the three session split-heat days that we've done, but I know we had some really long days if these went wrong/got off-schedule early in the day. However, I know the two session split-heat can work very well if we have just a few more morning volunteers.

KatieT
07-13-2009, 07:31 PM
I did come out to the events last year and don't particularly remember three heats but it does tend to blur together. I went back and looked at the numbers and the percentage of drivers in the third heat was small compared to the first two, giving the possibility for not enough course workers at some point. Looking at total participation for the points events (43, 81, 93, 62, and 82) you can see how our participation has gone up as well (111, 92, 117, and 113).

I don't drive so I go along with whatever is decided each year in the meeting. I believe that I would see the benefits of three heats, with fewer cars in each heat but I also can see the benefit of two. At Summit Point I know that there have been times that we haven't had enough course workers for the course with 25 people out there. That would have been taken down to 18 or 19 if there were three heats.

I want to point some things out and please take this lightly and feel free to criticize, as I don't drive I just observe.

1. Parking - No matter what you will still have overlap. It's getting to the point where if we were to split into three heats, it would be the same number in two of the current ones as the entire event last year. I think we just need to find the right solution for each venue and that takes some trial and error.
2. Grid - I can't help much here except to say that this was the first time that we did grid on the course. Every other time it's been at Summit Point we have done the grid on the road to the paddock which made everyone stay in cars and creep forward slowly. Not to mention they couldn't see the course while waiting.
3. Course work time - The only issue I have with the calculation of time spent is that there is often more than one car on the course at a time. I know much of the day on Saturday we had three, if not four cars on course at one time. With a 20 second interval it would take two minutes for four cars to go through, not four minutes. Timing issues could make it longer but so can random thunderstorms.

Like I said before, I just observe so some of my observations could be way off base. I kind of like the two heats because I think it makes for slightly more even heats, although more people still tend to come out in the afternoon. I hope that this helps you guys some.

~Katie

(I also think that there were four new posts while I was writing this so forgive me if it's already been mentioned...ok seven new posts)

gbauer
07-13-2009, 07:35 PM
I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't appreciate the comment about past events being a "side-show" with the effort Team.BAR, Team WTF and many others including myself have put into the program the past six years! :mad: We all may not be around to all the events like we used, but I know we all still care about the program. That is all I'll say on that topic.

The club has done a three session split-heat day since at least 2003-04 when I began autocrossing with NCC. This is the first season for the two session split-heat. I do agree with David on most all of his points and I prefer the three session for participants, but I do feel the two session split-heat is easier logistically, and it is what other clubs use. Unfortunately, we're still getting used to the two session, and it's tough to get started on-time and stay on schedule with so few volunteers in the wee morning hours.

Please remember these are constructive observations. We need input from participants who have done our events for years and from the noobs. What we learn from each event can be used in the future. I still haven't made up my mind on what has seemed to work better (two vs. three sessions) because there are different pros and cons to each. At the moment, I prefer the three session split-heat days that we've done, but I know we had some really long days if these went wrong/got off-schedule early in the day. However, I know the two session split-heat can work very well if we have just a few more morning volunteers.
You misunderstand! All I meant was that the events are larger now attracting more and more outside participants to the club! You're still special in my book, biggins. You will always have a special place in the pit of my stomach sorta near my heart! :tongue:


(sorry if I offended. it wasn't meant that way!)

1996 328ti
07-13-2009, 07:53 PM
Perhaps we should charge more and give a small payment to workers? would that get us up to the 10-15 people we really need to run these things?


....not that I want to do that.If I recall, it's a volunteer organization.

Biggins
07-13-2009, 08:04 PM
You misunderstand! All I meant was that the events are larger now attracting more and more outside participants to the club! You're still special in my book, biggins. You will always have a special place in the pit of my stomach sorta near my heart! :tongue:


(sorry if I offended. it wasn't meant that way!)
Gotcha.

Depending on the event last year (and maybe the past 2 years), it could have been a two session split-heat event. They were all scheduled to be three session events, but if the registrar determined the pre-reg numbers were a little low, he'd make them a two session event instead of three. This happened at least a couple times last year.

Everyone seems to be echoing the pros and cons of each format.

noelleslie
07-13-2009, 08:11 PM
Original Poster:

I have done just about every autocross club within 100 miles with the exception of the Cumberland autocross series.

While I clearly understand your concerns, I must be frank and insist that I think the current system works well at NCC. The problem we had last Saturday seemed to be the parking situation at Summit Point, not the number of vehicles. At the Sykesville location we didn't have the same problem. I was at Summit Point for the Potomoc Porsche event three weeks prior and they did about the same, but had only little over half the cars.

It seemed to me the efficiency was further reduced from the parking/grid crisis as a result of the weather and the larger than normal amount of newcomers. New members are (of course) great, but can complicate things with regard to grid, course working, etc. until they get up to speed. If I can steal an analogy from my profession: it would be like having an efficient airport operation with the exception of a new ground controller who (while he learns the ropes) takes a bit longer to get the airplanes to the runway for takeoff. Small inefficiencies, e.g. newer members + weather, can take large tolls on an otherwise great operation in moving cars through the course. I sat for about 7 minutes while we resolved an issue of two #208 cars for example.

I feel we do a MUCH BETTER job than a group like the Capital Driving Club, for example, that does operate a four heat program which literally takes all day to complete. They actually offer less runs if you choose to stay for the morning only because they realize how cumbersome the four heat program they have is. I was bringing books to their events... each time a little longer than the previous. When I finished the Bible.. Old and New Testaments at an event I had to call it quits with them. OK that IS an exaggeration, but not much :)

If you are still unhappy with the NCC program, I would suggest putting together a highly detailed program proposal and submitting it directly to Jonathan or Bogdan for their review and consideration.

I know these guys and girls and how much time and effort they put into these events. Most of it is unrealized by the general membership. If there were a better way, they would likely have done it that way already.. They want to get done too so Jonathan can knock over all the cones at the fun run session ;) For that reason, you would need to be highly specific in your proposal.. I guarantee there will be no simple fixes or they would have been done already.

All in all, perhaps it will be your contribution as a member that allows us to have more efficient events. I think constructive criticism is appreciated, but please never fail to acknowledge the contribution and sacrifices the members of the autocross committee make on a daily basis; they are truly the heart of our sport.

Fraternally,

Noel Leslie

bullmand
07-13-2009, 09:00 PM
Original Poster:

All in all, perhaps it will be your contribution as a member that allows us to have more efficient events. I think constructive criticism is appreciated, but please never fail to acknowledge the contribution and sacrifices the members of the autocross committee make on a daily basis; they are truly the heart of our sport.

Fraternally,

Noel Leslie

Noel,
Firstly, thanks for using your name. I'm not on the forum enough to associate people with their screen names. Secondly, I tried to make it clear that I was in no way criticizing or trivializing the effort that goes into running these events. If that did not come through, I apologize but I think my intent was apparent. There clearly is not perfect solution. I was merely voicing my "druthers".
After looking at the attendance numbers some more I will admit that I didn't realize the events had gotten so large so quickly. That fact alone will lead to longer days for everyone, but I stand by my opinion that three heats, especially if the numbers continue to grow, may be preferable. That was my only issue and would be the entirety of any suggestions I might have for the future.
I understand Chris's concern with lack of volunteers to get things set up and I'll see if I can be more involved in that in the future. I also understand Bogdan's issues with herding workers and running drivers' meeting, etc., but I would submit that having that down time might be beneficial to the folks working timing, etc., especially as we continue to grow the events. Two straight hours of keeping the timing system up and running and furiously scribbling the back up numbers has to be pretty grueling.
Again, I only brought this up to voice my opinion and provide food for thought.
Thanks,
David

noelleslie
07-13-2009, 09:14 PM
If I attend the next event, I will DEFINITELY be helping set up.

Makes a huge difference when people familiar with the club help out. It's like having a teacher to student ratio of 12:1 rather than 60:1.

Otherwise, people try their best, but don't exactly know what they are supposed to do. Volunteers are the oil/WD-40/Crisco/ whatever, that help oil the machine.

Regarding the screen name... I was gonna pick something better, but when registering for the site botched the screen name chooser. Otherwise I would be something like Craig's "GetMo" or something besides my name. I did update my profile pic though so you know whose car to kick at the next event :)http://nlink720.zoints.com/image/85759-3584493808_6083d0c689_o

agreatham
07-13-2009, 09:17 PM
Perhaps we should charge more and give a small payment to workers? would that get us up to the 10-15 people we really need to run these things?


....not that I want to do that.

I don't think we need to pay them. There were a lot of people who were standing around after each event the other day who I'm sure would've helped if asked. I introduced myself to Katie and Jonathan and asked if I could help. All I did was help empty the cooler, put the loaner helmets in a bag and put away a couple of tables. Not much in the grand scheme of things but if I was willing to do it, I'm sure that other people would too.

Or we could pay people with autocross points :wink:. How about 1 point for every hour spent helping out?

irish44j
07-13-2009, 09:21 PM
obviously the weather and timing problems caused alot of delays at event #4...nothing much you can do about either of those things...

I thought the gridding/staging worked ok. I've been to SCCA, AI, CDC and other events that were both better and worse.

Actually my only real complaint is that between heats people really lollygagged around. I've been to 200+ car events where the gap between heats in a session is no more than 10 minutes, whereas it seemed like I stood out on the course for like 15 minutes AFTER jogging out there to my position at the start of the 1st afternoon heat. Mostly because of people casually strolling down to their cars to get a drink, or casually strolling out to their course position. In most other clubs its stressed alot more to hurry the hell up and get to work, stop lollygagging it. But on the other hand, I go to NCC events because I like the laid-back atmosphere (especially compared to SCCA events at FedEx), so I guess the lollygagging is to be expected :)

One small suggestion to help out first-timers (and veteran) course workers:

- put some little stand-up signs showing the course worker stations. Just a paper sign on a stake or something at each location. This helps in 2 ways: people know where to go to work, and people radioing in about cone hits, off course, radio checks etc can say "station 2" "station 5" and so on..

irish44j
07-13-2009, 09:27 PM
also make it clear to people that if they run 1st heat and then leave without working 2nd heat, they cannot attend the next event. It was ridiculous that after us 3rd heat workers stood out there FOREVER in the heat and rain and lightning with timing gear issues, then alot of the 4th heat workers just took off and went home. Most stations during 4th heat only had 1 worker at each station!

good thing us 4th-heaters were good drivers :)

agreatham
07-13-2009, 09:58 PM
also make it clear to people that if they run 1st heat and then leave without working 2nd heat, they cannot attend the next event. It was ridiculous that after us 3rd heat workers stood out there FOREVER in the heat and rain and lightning with timing gear issues, then alot of the 4th heat workers just took off and went home. Most stations during 4th heat only had 1 worker at each station!

good thing us 4th-heaters were good drivers :)

Second that. I saw a bunch of cars leaving after their heat without doing the coursework. And after us fourth-heaters got drenched and risked death from lightning!

Nick325xiT 5spd
07-13-2009, 10:18 PM
One of the big things to remember is that the "noob friendliness" of the NCC events makes them much harder to organize. When you have so many less experienced people, or people seeking a laid back atmosphere, it is a LOT harder to coordinate the event. From what I hear, the NCC events are pretty well organized these days, all things considered. The only issue with them from my perspective is that the only good venue aside from FEDEX is gone.

Pete
07-14-2009, 07:33 AM
We did run a 3 heat session with regards to the past seasons. And to set the record straight, the past volunteers from team BAR and WTF hosted almost equal attendee count's. As I recall, there where an average of 90-120 cars at past events. Especially, at the larger lots like Aberdeen (when we had use of that lot). I'd also like to highlight, the NCC Autocross program has always been a marquee event and a source of new members to the club as it has served as a draw for new participants. Especially when we participated in the Council of Metro Capital Sports Car Clubs an number of years ago. Those events exposed us to other clubs and many non club members found our format and relaxed atmosphere fun and would frequently run with our club.

As to the issue of the 3 heats versus 2 heats, there are advantages to a 2 heat system. The idea is to reduce the amount of multiple functions that our small pool of volunteers must do throughout the day. Bear in mind that with last Saturday's event, there where several issues that compounded the long day. The rain delayed us for about an hour with the heavy lightning and the correcting of our water logged timing gear. Could there have been better organization in heat 2 with regards to grid? Absolutely. What we needed initially was probably a grid director to help guide the cars through a bit more efficiently. As I recall, the later part of heat 2 we had some people doing that and it ran a bit better.

SP also does not lend itself well to grid as the single entrance to get on the circuit so there are specific challenges that the lot presents. In other event locations this is much less of an issue and things seem to run pretty well.

Advantages of a 3 heat system are the smaller heats/run groups can move much quicker (provided that there are no timing issues). This also pertains to gridding ease as there are less cars in a run group so gridding with less cars is easier. Also, it is more convenient for the participant to show up for his/her heat, work and leave, which is nice since they don't have to stay for in essence half a day or more. I personally, think that for a novice a 3 heat system is more advantageous as it allows the novice up to 3 opportunities to walk the course and more time to watch drivers run prior to his/her runs. Finally, the 3 heat system lends itself to a more relaxed atmosphere as it allows participants to not have to work a quarter of the day, thus giving them more time to hang out, watch cars and shoot the stuff with friends (a pillar of what our events have been based off of). Another point of differentiation from the other clubs that run events.

Some disadvantages as mentioned before are that the volunteers must run an extra session of registration and tech which can be draining on the volunteer. Also, you have the added time for course walk.

Many of these issues for 2 or 3 heat formats can be overcome with more volunteers and cross training so that volunteers are not forced to wear all of these hats or do a single job all day (which I believe is unfair to the volunteer).

At the end of the day, my mind is not made up as to which format is better as this is the first season we have run it this way and there are bound to be some teething issues. I do think that this kind of discussion is beneficial and can only help the club and the committee improve the program. One such solution maybe, that we run a 3 heat format at certain venues that don't lend themselves to efficient grid and event flow.

My 2 cents

Pete Lem
Former NCC Autocross Chairman

woodym3
07-14-2009, 07:57 AM
I dug the grid setup this weekend.

Actually the grid setup only worked for the first two heats, . . .er, morning sessions. The goals were to avoid the long creeping line on the road from the paddock to Start. When it is working right the competing cars are parked in a specific spot in numerical order and only leave that spot when no more than 4 of the preceeding cars are lined up for the Start. This enables the drivers to:
1. Get out of their cars and watch their competitors.
2. Turn off their engines until reporting to the start line.
3. Keep drinks, chair, umbrella, whatever at their own grid spot.

Unfortunately I failed to consider the need for a grid worker who understood the concept. So I worked the grid the first session and Joe Brannon took over for the second session. I think it went well. The first afternoon session became chaos. Some grid slots were taken by cars that were to run in the 4th session. Everyone was afraid of losing their turn in running and left their grid spot to get in line for Start. The long line of cars meant those completing their runs couldn't get to any place to park, much less their designated spot. Once the rain came and covered the marked grid spots with an inch of muddy water, we had no choice but to form lines of creeping cars, a la Bowie Stadium. Yeah, it is a work in progress.

jls8177
07-14-2009, 09:36 AM
OK. I've been here 3-4 years now and here is my .02.

My biggest frustration with everything that has been said so far is that I have never received an email, pm, phone call or anything else asking me to help out with anything at an autocross. Chris asked me to help with tech on Saturday as I was walking to pay and register. I think people in general will help if they are asked. Simply make a list of where you need people and exactly what they need to do and ASK for volunteers. If someone is assigned a job ask them not to leave unless someone else takes over and understands the job. It works at church, other club events and even in the army. I would be more than happy to help get a list of jobs and how to do those jobs together. Just ask me to help.

Another suggestion is to have a timeline and stick to it. If you have 2 sessions and the 2nd session is starting late 95% of the time, move the start time back 30 minutes so you don't piss people off that get there an hour before they are supposed to start (ask me how I know). If the idea behind this is because people show up late, then there needs to be consequences to those showing up late (put them in the last heat driving and tell them they need to help teardown afterwards).

I know the volunteers need breaks, but if you announce on the PA that the drivers meeting is at 1pm, start the drivers meeting at 1pm no 1:20pm. With enough volunteers you can take a break while there are cars on the course. If we are doing 2 heats with so many workers, one of the jobs can be to pencil in times as a back up or helping with grid. You don't need a full time volunteer pulling their hair out all day on these simple tasks.

Someone needs to stand with a list of drivers and check them off as they go to work the course/grid/timing/tech. Having people leave after they drive the 1st heat is unacceptable. Sometimes there is a threat at the drivers meeting to not allow you to return, but no follow through or way to track those that leave. Empty threats don't do anybody any good. By tracking everyone, you know who is leaving.

I have many more ideas but I'm long-winded already. I would be happy to coordinate some of this. Someone please call me if you are interested.

Jason Stephens
443-306-3540

vI6ious
07-14-2009, 10:05 AM
if there are a large number of cars like 80 session 1, and 80 session 2 how about something like 4 heats session 1 and 4 heats session 2

Only having one heat(20 cars) on the paddock/course at a time. When heat 1 drives heat 3 and 4 work the course. When heat 2 drives heats 4 and 1 work the course. When heat 3 drives heats 1 and 2 work the course. When heat 4 drives heats 2 and 3 work the course.

When heat 1 is running, have heat 2 cars lined up just off the entrance to the TSP along the road. When heat 2 is running, have heat 3 lined up just off the entrance and so on. Those roads are wide enough people will still be able to drive by the staged cars waiting for the next heat.

Make it so after people run their 4th run they exit the course, park and get ready for their work assignments immediately.

Basically in this example I'm referring to 20 cars running, 20 cars staging and 40 cars working the course for every heat.

I think the time lost in staging the cars between heats, would be made up in the speed with which workers would be ready to populate and work the course.

To make it work it would need to be covered thouroghly in the drivers meeting and get everyone aligned with what's going on.

just a thought on how to deal with large volumes of vehicles I would only expect to increase with time...

irish44j
07-14-2009, 07:33 PM
Actually the grid setup only worked for the first two heats, . . .er, morning sessions. The goals were to avoid the long creeping line on the road from the paddock to Start. When it is working right the competing cars are parked in a specific spot in numerical order and only leave that spot when no more than 4 of the preceeding cars are lined up for the Start. This enables the drivers to:
1. Get out of their cars and watch their competitors.
2. Turn off their engines until reporting to the start line.
3. Keep drinks, chair, umbrella, whatever at their own grid spot.

Unfortunately I failed to consider the need for a grid worker who understood the concept. So I worked the grid the first session and Joe Brannon took over for the second session. I think it went well. The first afternoon session became chaos. Some grid slots were taken by cars that were to run in the 4th session. Everyone was afraid of losing their turn in running and left their grid spot to get in line for Start. The long line of cars meant those completing their runs couldn't get to any place to park, much less their designated spot. Once the rain came and covered the marked grid spots with an inch of muddy water, we had no choice but to form lines of creeping cars, a la Bowie Stadium. Yeah, it is a work in progress.

the other part that made it a bit more difficult than other auto-x events was the need to back into the spots, and if you didn't do it quick, someone was sitting behind you. At most events you "go around" and drive into the spots forward, and then exit out the other side. Can't really do this at Summit though, unless it was setup with grid spots nose-to-tail along the center of the wraparound road, so cars enter from the left and exit to the right for their run...

That said, in the PM session 2nd heat, the only grid workers I saw were at the start area....

jbrannon7
07-15-2009, 07:28 PM
also make it clear to people that if they run 1st heat and then leave without working 2nd heat, they cannot attend the next event. It was ridiculous that after us 3rd heat workers stood out there FOREVER in the heat and rain and lightning with timing gear issues, then alot of the 4th heat workers just took off and went home. Most stations during 4th heat only had 1 worker at each station!

good thing us 4th-heaters were good drivers :)

This is something managed well by SCCA. The person assigning worker positions has a roster of all the participants. If you don't check in to work then your times are deleted.

Joe

etherpool
07-15-2009, 09:50 PM
This is something managed well by SCCA. The person assigning worker positions has a roster of all the participants. If you don't check in to work then your times are deleted.

Joe

The concept is good but will require some fine tuning. There is a fine balance there to maintain order yet keep things fun and loose. One of the things about the SCCA events and even AI to a degree is the overall seriousness of the event. Last time I checked my wallet, I paid to do this so it should be fun!!:biggrin:

irish44j
07-15-2009, 10:42 PM
The concept is good but will require some fine tuning. There is a fine balance there to maintain order yet keep things fun and loose. One of the things about the SCCA events and even AI to a degree is the overall seriousness of the event. Last time I checked my wallet, I paid to do this so it should be fun!!:biggrin:

True, but no matter how "casual" an autocross is, you end up screwing everyone else if you leave without working. And everyone else paid for it too, and do their work assignements. I watched 7 or 8 cars at least that drove in the first afternoon heat load up and drive away before the 2nd afternoon heat even started. That's total b.s. nobody WANTS to work the course, but for an event to work well and be safe, everyone NEEDS to work the course.

Making this a solid requirement doesn't take any of the "fun" or "looseness" out of the event. It's about the most basic tenet of autocross events. There are some things that need to be serious at an event (safety and coursework being the most important two). These don't take away from having a good time.

Pete
07-20-2009, 10:16 AM
This usually isn't a problem. Once in a while, some people will not show up to work their portion of the event. If we find that becomes an issue, the person/people is given a talking to. If it happens on more than 1 occasion, the person is not welcome at our events in the future.

Usually, all that needs to be done is remind people at drivers meetings to work.

ventsyv
07-21-2009, 05:52 PM
My first autoX event was #3 in Sykesville. That was my first autoX event ever, but I still think there are number of things that could be improved.

1. Get people to read the drivers' orientation online when they register and bring a signed paper stating they read/understand it. I don't see a need to waist 30min with it on the actual event.

2. Lets try to run things on time. If the heat is to start at 12, start at 12 not 1. I came 11.30 because I expected we'll start driving at 12. They were just starting the second run of the first heat!

3. As I was waiting there for close to 2 hours for the PM session to start, I could have helped with something. If someone would have asked me...

4. Need more signs / people talking to newcomers, telling them what to do, keep everything moving. The course walk through took probably 30 min. I think 15 minutes are to be given if you walked it you walked it if you did not ... well too bad ... As someone else already said there seemed to be a lot of people just wondering around.

If the organizers interact with the participants more it will be a better experience for everyone.
Overall, I spent 4 hours there for 4 min of driving .... That's a bit too much.

I signed up for next event already. I'll be in the AM so if you guys need help ...

RedMS3
07-21-2009, 07:42 PM
My first autoX event was #3 in Sykesville. That was my first autoX event ever, but I still think there are number of things that could be improved.

1. Get people to read the drivers' orientation online when they register and bring a signed paper stating they read/understand it. I don't see a need to waist 30min with it on the actual event.

People are still allowed to walk up the day of the autocross and register, so I'm not sure how that would work out. I know it's discouraged, but it's still allowed.


2. Lets try to run things on time. If the heat is to start at 12, start at 12 not 1. I came 11.30 because I expected we'll start driving at 12. They were just starting the second run of the first heat!If you look at the schedule, cars are never scheduled to run at 12PM for the second session. It is not until 1:30PM when the first car is scheduled to run from the first of the afternoon heats.


3. As I was waiting there for close to 2 hours for the PM session to start, I could have helped with something. If someone would have asked me...You can always ask the organizers what you can do. That's why I took initiative and I'm showing up before the AM session of the next event so that I can help out, even though I'm running the PM session.


4. Need more signs / people talking to newcomers, telling them what to do, keep everything moving. The course walk through took probably 30 min. I think 15 minutes are to be given if you walked it you walked it if you did not ... well too bad ... As someone else already said there seemed to be a lot of people just wondering around.I don't think 15 minutes is enough time at a course like Summit Point. From the schedule, there is 45 minutes of time allotted for walking the course.


If the organizers interact with the participants more it will be a better experience for everyone.
Overall, I spent 4 hours there for 4 min of driving .... That's a bit too much.I think the minimum amount of time you need to set aside for autocross is about four hours. The schedule shows that it takes about 3.5 hours to get through a session. From what I've seen at the 3 autocross events that I've attended, it takes a great deal of time to get things to go smoothly when there are a lot of cars.

woodym3
07-22-2009, 08:56 AM
I think part of the problem with the Washington Circuit is the size of the facility. Our PA system doesn't reach those people in the paddock, and being at a lower level, people in the paddock can't see what's going on either. Having registration in the paddock would help, but I believe our system of one computer for registration AND timing/scoring prevents that from happening.

Bob
07-22-2009, 10:11 AM
My first autoX event was #3 in Sykesville. That was my first autoX event ever, but I still think there are number of things that could be improved.

1. Get people to read the drivers' orientation online when they register and bring a signed paper stating they read/understand it. I don't see a need to waist 30min with it on the actual event.

2. Lets try to run things on time. If the heat is to start at 12, start at 12 not 1. I came 11.30 because I expected we'll start driving at 12. They were just starting the second run of the first heat!

3. As I was waiting there for close to 2 hours for the PM session to start, I could have helped with something. If someone would have asked me...

4. Need more signs / people talking to newcomers, telling them what to do, keep everything moving. The course walk through took probably 30 min. I think 15 minutes are to be given if you walked it you walked it if you did not ... well too bad ... As someone else already said there seemed to be a lot of people just wondering around.

If the organizers interact with the participants more it will be a better experience for everyone.
Overall, I spent 4 hours there for 4 min of driving .... That's a bit too much.

I signed up for next event already. I'll be in the AM so if you guys need help ...

4hrs. for 4 minutes is actually excellent time management for local ax activity, I've seen 6 to 8 hrs. on the blacktop for those same 4 min. behind the wheel, with no a/c! Bob.

ventsyv
07-22-2009, 10:47 AM
People are still allowed to walk up the day of the autocross and register, so I'm not sure how that would work out. I know it's discouraged, but it's still allowed.

Just require prior registration I guess.



If you look at the schedule, cars are never scheduled to run at 12PM for the second session. It is not until 1:30PM when the first car is scheduled to run from the first of the afternoon heats.

Maybe not but that's still an hour delay :confused: .



I don't think 15 minutes is enough time at a course like Summit Point. From the schedule, there is 45 minutes of time allotted for walking the course.

For Sykesville it is.



I think the minimum amount of time you need to set aside for autocross is about four hours. The schedule shows that it takes about 3.5 hours to get through a session. From what I've seen at the 3 autocross events that I've attended, it takes a great deal of time to get things to go smoothly when there are a lot of cars.

Maybe so. Still, I think there is place for improvement.

By the way, is there a restriction on the number of drivers that can sign up for each even or does everyone who shows up gets to drive ?

ventsyv
07-22-2009, 10:53 AM
Another thing that can be done is to accept payments online and require tag # with registration. That way the signing up can be removed, cars/drivers will be check against the registration list during inspection.
Obviously if 2 people are driving the same car they need to register twice.

Car54
07-22-2009, 11:00 AM
Just throwing it out there, but would people come to an autox that gave you 4 runs, always ran like clockwork, kept you busy the whole time with no waiting around? Heck yeah you say?

Would people do it if it cost $60 per event, how about $100 per event? What is the threshold for cost that deters people from coming? If the club could afford to pay people to work the events and didn't have to rely on charity, maybe some of the things in this thread could happen. Remember, it's not the action of the suggestions, it's the planning of the action of the suggestion that is the time/resource consuming part. The day of is easy compared to the many hours and days planning an event, much less adding new features and suggestions.

So how much would people pay for the perfectly executed autox? How much would people pay not to have to work the course? How much would they pay so that the club could set a limit to entrants? And could the cost go up at the last minute if the event could not be filled? How about a cancellation fee for no-shows?

/rant

Zcruizer
07-22-2009, 11:28 AM
I haven't driven in any event outside the ncc and don't plan to. The clubs event is fun and, except for my personal competitive nature, laid back. It needs to stay that way. When logistics become too detailed and demanding the event will become a different creature. If 4 hours for for minutes is a problem, maybe this isn't the right activity for someone. As far as money to participate, this is what it is. The club should pull in what it costs to put on the event. Some events will make money and others will lose money. When it doesn't stay balanced over the year, then it could be discussed.

I'm James and I approve this message. :biggrin:

jls8177
07-22-2009, 07:33 PM
People that are getting offended need to step back and read the first post. I think we all agree that a lot of time and effort goes into planning these events and that time and effort is appreciated by everyone who participates. This is meant to be a discussion and I think that some really good ideas and valid points have been brought up.

So for the organizers, just say thank you to the suggestions and let's get to work. Don't waste your time defending yourself when we all have agreed that your hard work is appreciated.

Jason

Scany
07-23-2009, 10:20 AM
Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is known and sometimes not. I think this thread is great to get some discussion around our events and how they are run. I also don't think we that run it get offended, but rather feel the need to explain why things are the way they are. Because they are that way for a reason. Maybe not always a perfectly good reason, which then may have room for improvement. The "critics" needs to do their argument and the "defendants" needs to do their. Only then will a good solution be able to be built :) With only one side it's bound to just have change, not necessarily improvement.

ventsyv
07-24-2009, 07:38 AM
Just throwing my ideas out there not trying to offend anyone. No need to get defensive.
My point is that it currently takes 2h of organizing for 2h of driving (2 runs for each heat). That's according to the schedule but could be even more if things are delayed. The logistics part can be reduced significantly if it is done before hand. Registration, payments for the event and driver orientation can all be handled online thus leaving only the course walk-through and the inspection for the day of the event.

KatieT
07-24-2009, 07:50 AM
Just throwing my ideas out there not trying to offend anyone. No need to get defensive.
My point is that it currently takes 2h of organizing for 2h of driving (2 runs for each heat). That's according to the schedule but could be even more if things are delayed. The logistics part can be reduced significantly if it is done before hand. Registration, payments for the event and driver orientation can all be handled online thus leaving only the course walk-through and the inspection for the day of the event.

I think that it takes much more than 2 hours of organizing for 2 hours of driving, but that's just my opinion. Registration is done before hand but we still need people to check in - otherwise we don't know who is there to split the heat in half. Payment could be online but there would still be people that want to pay cash the day of so we'd still have to give that option. I'd love to say that driver orientation can be done online but I think that it would still need to be done in a driver's meeting. There are just some things that people need to be reminded of (course etiquette, how the grid will work, bringing back loaner helmets, etc. I'd love it if we could cut down on some of the things that take up time but I'm not sure how (and yes, I realize that's what this thread is about). I think more people asking how they can help would be very much appreciated and patience as sometimes there is down time where you just have to wait (when timing is having issues for example - sometimes leaves or bugs will set the lights off and we have to reset it). In the morning once the course is set we ask that people chalk the course as they walk it. In the afternoon we ask that people stack cones so we can gather them up. I do like the idea of more signs so people know what's going on and that's something that we can work on. I think that the guys organizing this are doing a great job - I see lots of the hours put in before an event and it's getting more efficient as the year goes on. My .02...

~Katie

Car54
07-24-2009, 09:04 AM
Just throwing my ideas out there not trying to offend anyone. No need to get defensive.
My point is that it currently takes 2h of organizing for 2h of driving (2 runs for each heat). That's according to the schedule but could be even more if things are delayed. The logistics part can be reduced significantly if it is done before hand. Registration, payments for the event and driver orientation can all be handled online thus leaving only the course walk-through and the inspection for the day of the event.

Please stop exclaiming that people are getting defensive as you can't honestly expect there to not be counterpoints.

The logistics you refer to must be handled by people in the evenings, weekends, around their real jobs, on a daily or so basis to perform. Many people are able to give up a day a month to dedicate to the autocross, so that the event can even happen. This forces things to take place the day of because frankly there aren't 15 or even 3 (it's mostly Jonathan) people handling the logistics between events. This is why SO MUCH has to take place the day of, because we have people show up that day to help. So while it's great that people are standing around asking to do something, it's not anticipated, expected, or even required and it can be hard to deal with because you already had roles for the people you have counted on for the whole season/years.

See how it all relates back to volunteers, committed volunteers? And you sit up in the grandstands and can't figure out why people would get defensive when you seem to have all the answers. I wish I could donate more time to the events, but I have other things in life going on....just like everyone else (I think, except for Jonathan ;) ). Maybe when you do more than 1 or 2 events you'll have a better basis and average of experience, until then just sit back, relax, and work on your driving.

jls8177
07-25-2009, 06:39 PM
Craig,

No offense, but this is exactly what I'm talking about. I haven't just done 2-3 events, I've been here for three years and offered to help in the past. Actually, I won a season in my class if that means anything.

I'm actually offering to help before the event if you read my original post. All that I have received as far as a direct response, is a PM with some attitude about how difficult the job really is and inquiring how I would like to help. I STATED HOW I WOULD HELP and even backed up some of my ideas with simple solutions. But up to this point I have nobody contacting me to try and carry out my, or anyone other, ideas and make them a reality. Simple ideas to help with volunteers, that I'm willing to handle. Worker assignments, that I'm willing to tackle. Also collecting money from pre-registrants at the canopy when they drive up to avoid the cluster**** at the timing tent for an hour while everyone scratches their head and tries to register. All it takes is a printout!

Anyhow, your reaction is exactly what I'm talking about. People wasting energy being offended and upset when even that 10 minutes it took you to write that, you could have had one more volunteer.

Someone contact me if you want my help.

Jason
jls8177@<hidden>
443-306-3540
text, email, phone, PM, reply......anything!

ventsyv
07-26-2009, 01:13 AM
I'm a computer programmer. If people want, I can implement an online payment system so payments can be handled beforehand. If you don't want to require people to pre-pay online, you can charge $5 more for "at the spot" to encourage people to pay upfront.

hoyabmw
07-27-2009, 05:11 PM
I think part of the problem with the Washington Circuit is the size of the facility. Our PA system doesn't reach those people in the paddock, and being at a lower level, people in the paddock can't see what's going on either. Having registration in the paddock would help,

What happened to the FM transmitter that we started looking for 2 years ago? That will reach to a distant grid no matter what. No PA will reach far enough for everyone to hear on any site we run at.


but I believe our system of one computer for registration AND timing/scoring prevents that from happening.

When and why did this happen? There are (well, were) 2 computers that can be networked and run registration on one. We did this for the past 5+ years with very little problem (ok, I don't know about last year, but for the previous years while I and then Pete were chair, it worked)

As for session splits:

SCCA DC runs 2 sessions with 3 heats each, worker changes are on the fly, and everyone grids at the same time. This requires a facility big enough to handle the traffic, grid and paddock/parking for 300 cars at once, of which FedEx is the only location in the area.

AI runs a similar setup, but only 1 session of 3 heats, and at FedEx grids everyone at once, but at Waldorf they have to shuffle cars into a single grid just like we do, leaving a little downtime. This means everyone is there from 8:00 til 3:00 on average.

Both of those groups have to completely support themselves from the autocross revenues--the events have to be large enough to cover the cost of lot rental, insurance, SCCA mandated charges, and equipment/ancillary costs, all of which are much higher than NCC's costs. Their costs are higher, but not that much. They don't receive the subsidies NCC receives, and as such they have to run more people, which means more efficiency. It can seem daunting to newcomers, but they are preparing people for the insanity of a National series (and the local events are far more professional, polished, and newbie friendly than any national SCCA event)

Last year's numbers were way down for all autox clubs due to the economy and fuel prices, so comparing last year to this year is a little misleading. NCC was easily doing 100-120 regularly 3 years ago.

KatieT
07-27-2009, 05:34 PM
There are (well, were) 2 computers that can be networked and run registration on one. We did this for the past 5+ years with very little problem (ok, I don't know about last year, but for the previous years while I and then Pete were chair, it worked)I believe that there were too many issues with the software last year and getting the two computers to talk to each other so we switched to one computer. All that it means is that we are either doing timing or registering people - just not both. I don't think it's such a bad idea either because at least at Summit point, people have to walk across the grid to get to registration. IMO we haven't had enough people volunteering this year to warrant trying to run two cmoputers - heck...I "learned" timing last event and was then left alone running it because all of the other volunteers that are always there were somewhere else with the approaching storm. If a few people want to start learning the timing system I'm sure the help would be welcome - but it would mean being there at the rest of the events for this year.

~Katie

Luda
07-28-2009, 01:26 PM
We did go to one Computer to help reduce computer issues during the event. and it seems to have worked, now we have the occasional timing hiccups, but as far as the computer side goes its been running fairly smoothly this year.

And in response to the Volunteering, its great that people want to help out, but there is only so much that can be done, some things just take time, and it cant be helped. but If you want to help just approach one of the committee members or volunteers around timing and they will direct you to where you can help. We apreciate all the help, and without volunteers the events wouldnt happen.

In regards to pre registration, online pre pay is something to look into, and i think its a great idea and would love to implement it for next season, but the logistics behind it need to be looked into before we do it. And it would allow us to charge more for walk ups to help encourage pre pays. But the idea of eliminating walk ups i dont think is going to fly, we get a decent amount of people who bring there buddies along, or people who werent expecting to go and then found out short notice they could, thus register on the spot, so i think walk ups will be aroundfor a while longer.

We have the FM transmitter, unfortunatly its not in working order at the moment, so it doesnt do us any good.

1996 328ti
07-28-2009, 06:16 PM
In regards to pre registration, online pre pay is something to look into, and i think its a great idea and would love to implement it for next season, but the logistics behind it need to be looked into before we do it.Many chapters use motorsportreg.com and I believe you can export it right into axware if you are still using it.