Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

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mdlfCRXs
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Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby mdlfCRXs » Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:47 am

The Montana Challenge series wrapped up last weekend, 7/16-17 with a great weekend of racing. We often say it was great, but this event really was. We owe a big Thank You to Jason Fruh for taking on event EC, and Jonathan Mudge for setting National event worthy courses that received rave reviews from everyone I talked to. These guys both not only got the event ready to go, they both stepped up to take on a number of other tasks since we only had 8 members participate in the weekend. Everything got done well thanks to Jason and Jonathan. Michael K. kept the timing system going despite some hamfisted goon trying to crash the system while attempting to help with timing duties. Dave K. helped tie up loose ends.

These guys all worked through manpower shortages, people leaving early, and equipment glitches. Thank you to these guys for getting it all handled so smoothly.

For our 8 entrants, 6 placed in the top 10, not bad! Nice work everyone. Results are posted in the results section. It was great to see Brad K. return with his new Birkin for a shakedown event. All went well and I suspect we will see him on Hoosiers very soon, then look out!

Turnout was down across the board this year, all of the clubs are struggling with attendance at events and no one seems to be able to put a finger on the reason why. It may be a collection of obligations, available money, etc. I had a very good discussion with the officers for Great Falls and Missoula about turnout and about future ideas and co-operation between the clubs, things seem very good looking forward. Both are frustrated at their club members lack of participation but felt mostly it was due to other obligations. A few stayed away because they wanted to run the full course only and felt the short course could not be fun. Boy were they wrong.

In an experiment to see if we could raise entry numbers several of our club members supported floating the idea of running a full course if we could get 40 participants. It didnt work, we ended up with about 34 racers total. I am actually glad, because the courses Mudge set were some of the best we have run at Helena. Open, fast, fun, challenging, and tons of flow. The best part was the course was set wide to allow an infinite choice of lines, very cool. I know a couple of people stayed for Sunday when they hadnt planned to because of the fun they were having.

Final Challenge results will be posted soon and the Big Sky Region has some nice useable hardware for the winners. Awards will be presented at Top Gun, we hope to see you all there.

Next event is Cardinal 7/31.
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby pronghorn67 » Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:49 pm

James -
Thanks for the thoughts, happy to do it, but from what I saw it was a team effort! Nice job on the timing - cake work when no hiccups, but stressful when you are trying to catch up and engines are heating up - that one definitely puts a guy on the hot seat! I do think the cord from power to the transformer has a break somewhere in it, or possibly the transformer is kaput - but thats just a guess from rough diagnostics in battlefield conditions.

I have enjoyed driving the last couple of years and trying to learn a new skill - I have learned even more from signing up for race day duties this summer, it takes a lot to put one of these things on, a guy always learns a lot when jumping into the admin side of things - from homeowners associations, to booster clubs, and onto autocross clubs! Will stay involved for sure in the coming seasons!

JF

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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby Jmudge » Tue Jul 19, 2016 7:17 pm

Thanks to everyone that came out! I must say I find designing and setting courses very rewarding when people enjoy them. People that didn't show up because of the short course really missed out. See you guys in a couple weeks at Cardinal.
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby nathan@406racing » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:00 am

Disclaimer - I haven't been involved in racing SCCA autocross for the past couple years, so my observations & opinions are strictly made from the outside looking in. Feel free to dismiss them as mindless drivel.

For myself and lot of people it comes down to simple math. I have a certain amount of free-time and a certain amount of free-time money. I want the best return / most fun from that money & time expended.

A local Great Falls event at Expo Park has average run times around 60 seconds and kills 8 hours. It costs around $40 for the day and I usually get 8 or more runs. The total cost is 8 hours and $40 and I get 8 minutes of racing time in return. That breaks down to 1 minute of adrenalive-pumping fun per hour invested and $5 per run cost.

Unless you live in Helena, a Helena event costs people a lot more money and a lot more time. There's people that spend a lot more and there are people that spend a lot less, but an average Helena weekend for me was $300. A lot of it depends on hotel vs tent, drive car vs trailer, restaurant vs brown bag, etc. I obviously didn't race the 3rd MT Challenge, but if I had: The total cost would have been approximately 48 hours away from home and $300 and I would've received approximately 18 minutes of racing time in return. That breaks down to 22 seconds of racing fun per hour invested and $16 per run cost.

A casual racer can usually scrounge up $40 and 8 hours, often times on a last minute impulse. A large portion of people see no problem blowing $40 and part of a day and this competes with the cost of going to the movies, going out to dinner, going fishing, dirtbike / atv riding / hiking in the mountains, etc. Spending $300 and 2 days tends to jump out of the "impulse" buy for the majority of people and usually takes planning / budgeting. Multiply that by 4 just to attend the MT Challenge series and Top Gun and you've got a $1200 expense and 4 out of your 12-16 summer weekends gone.

For it to make sense to the casual racer, the Helena trip has to offer something more to justify the large increase in cost & time. If the average run time is the same and the average speeds are the same for a local Great Falls Expo event and a Helena event, what is the draw for making the trip to Helena?

For some it's friendships developed with other racers, but that isn't a draw for the majority of casual racers.

For others it's been the increased time on course afforded by the larger Helena facility, but that isn't a draw if the course distance / times / speeds aren't greater than what someone can get locally.

For some in the past it's been the limited number of Helena events (averaged 4 weekends per year a few years ago). Now there are approximately 15 days of SCCA racing available in Helena per year? And that doesn't include the non-SCCA track day weekends that also occur in Helena now. In the past, Helena dates were considered special. You could tell the local racers that if they had fun at the local event, they'd have an even bigger blast at a Helena event. There were fewer events and higher numbers per event. Most casual racers I know are only willing to travel for 1-4 weekends in a year for this type of hobby. That worked well when there were only 4 weekend events per year because it channeled those people in to a set of events and the number of racers per event was greater. You now have almost double the number of race days in Helena. Those same casual racers are still only willing to commit to 1-4 weekends in a year to travel to Helena, but now they have a wide range of choices on which dates they choose to go. The end result is much smaller numbers of racers per event. The smaller numbers might appeal to a subset of people, but for anyone showing up for increased competition it's not seen as favorable.

For others it's been increased competitor numbers and / or caliber of racer. Number of competitors depends on race location and I haven't kept track of other regions, but Great Falls has had 7 local race days this year and averaged 43 racers per day. Three of the race days saw 60, 52, and 52 drivers (with the other 4 obviously being less). I suppose caliber of racer might be argued by some, but the numbers aren't hugely different from a local GF race to a Helena race.

For others in the past, the idea of the MT Challenge has held some draw. My "opinion" on this is that few people care about trying to win their class. My "opinion" is that there are just way too many classes for the number of racers that an event averages. Looking at MT Challenge 1 this year, there were approximately 50 racers and 30 different classes. How can you get any type of friendly rivalry / competition going if the majority of classes have 1 or 2 drivers? For most people, I don't think it means much to get a trophy for your class because you were the only one that showed up for 3 weekends.

I'm not trying to put down anyone or their region. I'm also not trying to elevate anyone or their region. I've used GF as an example in much of the above as that's where I live and what I'm familiar with.

Most of the above opinions / observations are also centered around the casual racer. I know that much of it doesn't pertain to the hardcore dedicated racers that will be at every race no matter what. Unfortunately, the hardcore dedicated racers account for a very small minority. I haven't looked through the results, but I doubt more than a handful of people have made every Helena race in any given year over the past few years.

For Helena races to thrive and draw people from around the state, they need to offer something more than they can get locally. Increased course time, distance, and / or speed? Increased competition numbers / caliber? Fewer Helena race dates? Fewer classes so if you win your class it actually means something?

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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby mdlfCRXs » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:17 am

Thanks for your input Nathan.
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby TuckerMadison » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:57 pm

I wasnt able to attend because my timing belt broke, and I havent been working that many hours due to a summer class I was taking (I PASSED WITH AN A SOMEHOW).

I really agree with some of what Nathan has to say, I started going up to all the Helena events when I was 17, I was also working 35+ hours a week in high school to afford it and my car. I have lost a bunch of time, money and friends just so I could go up and autocross. That being said, when my car is running I can almost always make it up to Helena and stay there on a budget, not to mention still come home and pay rent! I dont make very much money, but I still dont have very many monthly payments to take care of (Kendra being the main source of money loss in my life :wink: ).

Where Nathan hit it on the head was with competition. People like competing against similar cars to get fast times. For someone just entering the sport, overall PAX time means nothing to them, I would almost propose a few localized classes for beginners, and for more advanced people. We all know that if two newbies show up, 1 in a new STI and 1 in a new Miata, there times will most likely be very similar, so why not group them together and make some more trophies for every event for them? Possibly money? Just something to hold peoples attention more and get them to have some fun.

A few other ideas I have had is having a 3 run club for everyone who cares about PAX (first 3 runs are the only ones that count), driver of the day, most improved driver, best looking car, etc. . .
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby Mel Kuipers » Wed Jul 20, 2016 3:36 pm

thanks Nathan and Tucker for the input....you have very thought out perspectives that need to be addressed....a few years ago there was a push for more Helena events....now with more, the field is diluted by fewer drivers....nothing is all good or all bad, and any action has an opposite reaction (yeah, I can do basic physics, just not the quantum kind)...so the conversation will result in changes, and we work towards the future that is coming....btw, the top priority for SCCA Solo is to offer 1. the best experience possible and 2. to have it experienced by the most drivers....makes sense until you do the math and realize achieving either of those perfectly, will decrease the other...lets hear from other drivers about their Helena experience and preferences
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby DaveMk1 » Fri Jul 22, 2016 9:49 am

I have nothing really new to offer but I thought I'd add my voice to the choir and say that I think that Helena events in general, the MT-C included, suffer from low attendance due to the following -

- the three clubs now offer more local events that in years past and it can mean that many have spent their money, time, tires, and family time allowance and have little left for traveling to Helena so many times a season.

- combine the above with the fact that aside from the MT-C events we have Top Gun, Coneheads, and an additional 4 days of racing hosted by Bozeman and one can race so many weekends now that it's bound to water down the participation of each individual event.

- The MT-C has it's own unique issue and that is that by the time you boil it down to how many drivers were eligible by doing 5 of the 6 days of the series there just weren't that many. With so many classes, and not so many drivers, we end up with the vast majority of the 'winners' being in a class with only one driver. At that point we are awarding participation (not a bad thing) and not one driver besting a number of others within their class. In fact it looks like this years challenge ended up with 15 classes but only 3 of those classes were contested due to their being more than one driver who did 5 of 6 days - meaning that 12 awards will be given out to a class that had only one driver. There were about 5 additional classes what would have been given an award if the driver had done one of the days of the final event in the series. So it clearly wasn't an important thing to those drivers if they didn't want to come, make a run, and pick up tier trophy. The numbers tell the story.....the drivers of Montana don't care for a 3 club series or they don't like the way it's been organized in the past.




Now that I've pointed out what I think a few of the issues are I'm embarrassed to say I don't think I have much in the way of answers. I do wonder how people would feel about not handing out individual class awards for the MT-C but instead determine winners based on categories (like street, street prepared, Mod....etc) like we do at our local in-town Bozeman events. For those of you that don't know we take all the drivers in any given category (say street prepared) and then see who did best in pax among that group. So ASP, BSP, CSP....etc all compete against each other and it's based on their pax results. I think it works very well for us here as most everyone will have someone to race against on any given day. That said some drivers may like that they are the only one in their class and if they had to race against other drivers in their category could damp their enthusiasm. I mean who really wants to line up, even virtually, in street prepared against Rob Johnson? So this could be a downside.

I personally didn't attend the two first events in the series although I would have loved to have been at each one. I've been told that some thought I was boycotting the events which could not be further from the truth. I missed the first event because I broke from front sway bar into 2 pieces the week before at a local event and couldn't get a replacement in time. I missed the second because a few days before the race I had to have my wisdom teeth removed and I couldn't eat or sleep let alone drive. So no - I was not dissing anyone by not coming. I hope you understand.

That's all I got. This is a tough not to crack and I think the 3 clubs will need to work together closely to make things better. If I can help in any way count me in.

dave
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby TuckerMadison » Tue Jul 26, 2016 7:21 am

I think Dave hit it on the head... If we gave out trophies based on PAX times, I for one would be much more interested in actually winning. No office, but I have never been one to appreciate a participation trophy and thats pretty much all I have won showing up to the challenge events and Top Gun (sometimes I would have 1 or 2 competitors that had very little Helena experience).

Honestly, even though everyone else gets upset when you guys dont run the sweeper, the events always run smoother. I love running the sweeper- and maybe there is a way we can incorporate it with a short track some time, but running the entire loop makes people work outside in the heat for 4+ hours a day. That takes away a lot of the fun. I think less track and more runs would bring more people out. That and a focus on competition.
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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby dgoetz » Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:22 am

I had no idea it was that bad. Cancelled my last couple of runs Sunaday because I felt I couldn’t improve and now I know why. A bunch of us looked at it with wheel off and no one seen that!!!!!! We sure should of. I bet it has been moving since last year since the bottom control arm bolt fell out. Getting 2 new and improved ones. Cars gotta work better than ever when replaced. Hope to have it ready for Top Gun but going to be close.

[url][URL=http://s644.photobucket.com/user/degoetz/media/001a_zpsqmip0njt.jpg.html]Image[/url][/url]
[url][URL=http://s644.photobucket.com/user/degoetz/media/002a_zpspc5oyi7n.jpg.html]Image[/url][/url]

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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby old man in billings » Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:08 pm

i have done the autocross thing since 1994. i watched you bozeman guys go from a small group who use to travel here to attaining your own region. be proud of what you have accomplished. now my two things or so. PAX--- only applies to national event caliber drivers and cars!!! which you folks are lucky to race with three or four.. want to be humbled go to a national!!! i have been there twice, to learn yes i am slow. but over the course of 4 days i got to check out over a thousand cars and talk to some of the fastest people out their. most are really good people. want to talk to an ass, try striking up a conversation with someone in pro solo. the difference, they race for money. want to trophy for pax? to me that means you are either really really good, or your in a stock class that with pax would make you look better on paper. lets face it a 60 dont beat a 45. im not picking on any one person just the pax thing in general im not trying to offend anyone!! trophies, i think we had more fun when you got a dash plack (cant spell) saying you attended the event. trophies are like money they turn some normal people into monsters. it starts the hes in the wrong class or that cars not legal because stuff. and can i do this to cheat if i think it follows the rules. if you need a trophy to feel good about an autocross youre in the wrong place. speed--- rules use to suggest 65 for the fastest production cars which meant someone was going 45 and a few others 80. i can tell you that 35 in a non handling slug is just as fun as warp speed in an a-mod. i have driven both, finished with legs twitching and a smile on my face in both. most of the people who want more speed end up at a dragstrip 10 seconds at a time or going 70 in a 35 zone somewhere downtown. go run with the porsche club in lewistown or head on up to roadracing. helena--- great venue although there are a lot of events there. be thankful you have it and for its size. going from small lots to a huge one is overwhelming, to me at least and that banked sweeper eats my lunch every time. wish i was close enough to try it more often. that leads to cost---- tire prices have doubled in the last 10 years as has gas and or diesel. it costs us about 250 for top gun. with every thing if we sleep at the track. if you need race gas thats another 100. we dont do much traveling anymore but im saving my money for tires and once again say maybe next year. autocross is like this--- you love it or you dont. i always try to pick a car thats a half to two seconds faster than me and see if i can improve my driving and car to catch them. it puts things in a better perspective than im first or last in a class. i tell the grandkids in sports and motorcycles IF YOU AINT HAVING ANY FUN THEN WHY DO IT!!!!! you guys keep up the good work and maybe ill see you again in a big black car. thanks for listening. jim arnett

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Re: Montana Challenge #3- The aftermath

Postby DaveMk1 » Wed Aug 17, 2016 9:23 am

Hey Jim -

Thanks so much for chiming in. It's good to get your perspective.

I agree that things have changed a good bit over the years and think that most of these changes have been for the better with a few going the other way.

Many in our club take the racing very seriously and I don't see that as a bad thing because the club is still very open and welcoming to those who don't care about classing or pax and just want to show up and have fun. I would say that most of our drivers fall into this category and the cool thing is that if these "just for fun" drivers want to take it to the next level there are many top shelf drivers in the club that will bend over backward to help them make that step.

I hope you will consider coming to Bozeman at the end of this month for a day or two of fun, local, and low key racing. We'd love to have you and any other Billings drivers who want to make the trip come and join us. There is camping available very close to the venues and lots of good food in the area. Also keep in mind that we'll be having a two day event in Helena the first weekend of October. Our club typically runs a "two pad" course for this event and we run a course on the two large pads in Helena without using the road at all. This makes for a much more traditional autocross course and very low risk in case things get too sideways. As always camping will be available for free.

Thanks again for posting - I hope we see you and your big black car at one of our events soon.

dave
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