By Katie Otten Samuels
A Safe Day of Autocross Fun
As with all forms of PCA events, autocross is completely dependent on the trained volunteers working as a team.
Of course, there are the drivers, and when the drivers aren’t, they’re the corner workers. But have you given much thought to the ones at the timing table? These are the scoring and timer workers, AKA the “computer folks”.
Driving is pretty much self-defining. Corner workers do exactly that and alertly, safely stand out on the edge of the course. Should a driver hit a cone, a worker runs out and resets it into position. The corner captain radios in the car number, the corner number, and the number of cones hit. Pretty straightforward, but it’s important for corner workers to follow this radio protocol because the scoring and timing workers are not just listening for corner captain #2, but all the corner captains to call in.
Depending on the length of the course, the scoring and timing workers have just 30 to 60 seconds to total the cones hit, calculate the penalty time, enter the actual run time, the penalty for the car that just ran, and then refocus on the car just crossing the start line. Phew!
Volunteering to work scoring and timing at autocross can sometimes seem unnerving. The success of the event is at the mercy of you accurately entering a different piece of information every 20 seconds. However, with the right team, the job is relatively simple and a lot of fun. If you can use an excel spreadsheet, you can volunteer for one of the three autocross computer jobs: starter, radio worker, and data entry.
The starter confirms the car number on the start line, the radio worker communicates with the corner captains and the computer data entry person does exactly that. The starter is key to a safe course. This person must be able to accurately yell the car numbers to the radio worker, the data entry person, and then make sure the course is safe before yelling “HIT IT!”.
The radio worker’s job is to work the walkie-talkie and total up the cones hit.
If you can work a computer, you can do the data entry.
The first rule of working the timing computer is to block out everything but the radio worker sitting next to you. The radio worker logs the number of the car on the course, communicates with the corner captains, and tallies the cones hit or knocked off-course during each car’s run.
LSRPCA (along with many other groups) uses the Microsoft Windows-based software from AxWare Systems. It is specifically created for autocross data management and does a terrific job of providing extensive data. Take a look at the screen below (click for detailed version) and this results file from a recent event.
The newest update permits entering car numbers before they start, but it’s crucial to assign the correct start trip with the correct car. A good suggestion is to enter less than more of the cars in the ready queue.
As a computer worker, you do a bit of waiting. Your average driver generally runs the course correctly and doesn’t hit cones. Managing “did not finish” drivers who drove off the course then and tallying the cone penalties adds a bit of activity.
If there are cone penalties to add, it’s your job to hit the plus sign next to the car number. If the driver bazonks off-course, “DNF” is the entry you add. And if all hell breaks loose at the computer table, there’s always the coveted “RERUN!”.
If you would like to help behind the scenes at an upcoming autocross, contact our Chairperson, Jim Hedderick.