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Thread: (2009) Autocross Format Question

                  
   
  1. #16
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    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)

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biggins View Post
    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! 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!


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


    What traction control?

  3. #18
    Senior Member 1996 328ti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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.
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  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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!


    (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.

  5. #20
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    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
    Last edited by noelleslie; 07-13-2009 at 08:13 PM.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by noelleslie View Post
    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

  7. #22
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    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
    Last edited by noelleslie; 07-13-2009 at 09:18 PM. Reason: spelling

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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 . How about 1 point for every hour spent helping out?

  9. #24
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    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..
    Last edited by irish44j; 07-13-2009 at 09:25 PM.

  10. #25
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    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

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by irish44j View Post
    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!

  12. #27
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    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.
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  13. #28
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    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
    Last edited by Pete; 07-14-2009 at 07:37 AM.
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  14. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by etherpool View Post
    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.
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  15. #30
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    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
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