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Thread: (2009) Autocross Format Question

                  
   
  1. #1
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    (2009) Autocross Format Question

    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

  2. #2
    Senior Member irish44j's Avatar
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    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....

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    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?


    What traction control?

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    Member mscire2's Avatar
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    We have annual meetings that are open to everyone to come and voice there opinions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mscire2 View Post
    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.


    What traction control?

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    Quote Originally Posted by irish44j View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bullmand View Post
    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.


    What traction control?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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.

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    Member mscire2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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.

  11. #11
    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!

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    Senior Member etherpool's Avatar
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    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!!

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    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."...


    What traction control?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by etherpool View Post
    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.


    What traction control?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbauer View Post
    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! 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.

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