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Competition Development - Program, Feedback & Decisions

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  • Competition Development - Program, Feedback & Decisions

    During the Memorial Day weekend AROSC TT, Enduro and Race at Buttonwillow Raceway, our California Caterham Club (CCC) participants had an opportunity to speak with Woody Harris and Pierre DeMartines about our budding competition goals and how to structure a program. These two individuals were the key players in developing the northern California NASA (National Auto Sport Association) “Se7ens ChallengeTMâ€‌ program, and are committed to help us bring our program up to speed!

    Woody and Pierre are very aware of our CCC members’ enthusiasm, recognizing the fact that we typically bring over ten �Seven’-type cars to the Shelby Club (LASAAC) open track events. We not only have numbers, but also variety, with our CCC cars including a mix of Caterhams, Birkins, Westfields and the beautifully built Locost.

    Personally, I’ve seen our LASAAC open track events gain steadily in popularity over the past few years and, despite any formalized program, our members’ driving skills improve incredibly! The feedback and help for one another within our networking group is phenomenal. What we don’t have today is an organization that: 1) Encourages us to participate in track events little more frequently; 2) Provides a framework enabling us to grow and continue improve our skills, and 3) Provides a format for timed competitive events and possibly wheel-to-wheel racing. This is where Woody and Pierre have volumes of experience to offer us. With their help, I believe we could quickly take our CCC activities to the next level in fun and satisfaction!

    It’s a given, each one of us who owns and enjoys a Seven is driven by different motivations. They range from wanting to drive the coolest car on the Boulevard, to wanting a dual-purpose car for street/track activities, and finally to the commitment and preparation for full-bore wheel-to-wheel racing. Our members at Buttonwillow discussed each one of these desires, and generally agree most of us fall into the middle group. The potential is there, but the roll-cage, engine and suspension mods that are required for full-bore competition are steps that any one of us may or may not choose take in the future.

    Knowing these things, Woody described the NASA program and how the Se7ens Challenge is structured. (Please visit the NASA website for further information) In essence, there are four NASA “High Performance Driving Experienceâ€‌ (HPDE) levels, with instruction and driving/passing privileges appropriate as a driver progresses from first time on track (HPDE-1) through the 4th level. An HPDE-4 driver is eligible to compete in Time Trials and also to move on to racing (with an instructor’s blessing) if so desired. HPDE-1 through 3 are non-competitive, to remove any “speed pressureâ€‌ during those learning and development groups. Finally, NASA also requires something we’ve rarely seen before: mandatory debriefings after each track session. No secrets are kept during these instructor-moderated sessions, and the goal is making sure everyone’s head is screwed on right or adjusted appropriately!

    Class structure for Sevens and other useful event information is available at Se7ens Challenge Rules. Any Seven ever built will fit into one of the following categories: Push Rod, Touring (stock Zetecs & Duratecs) Clubman’s (modified Zetecs & Duratecs), Open (highly tuned – racers), and Motorcycle powered (Blackbirds, Hyabusas, etc.). Cars may be moved up or down in class depending on their total level of preparation and performance potential.

    In theory, it appears that the NASA Se7ens Challenge offers us a proven framework for developing our CCC member’s competitive interests. Furthermore, Woody and Pierre are willing to help our Southern California organization establish the “Challengeâ€‌ in our region. Finally, we discussed the idea of developing our Northern and Southern California series where we would run separate events plus some crossovers (e.g., Buttonwillow or Laguna Seca), with a final points tally combined to determine a California Se7ens Challenge champion!

    At this point, according to Woody, the ball is in our court. We as a club need to decide if our members are serious and ready to proceed with something like the Se7ens Challenge, or whether we need more time and would prefer nothing formalized at this point. Personally, I’ve competed in AROSC TT events for the past five years and am happy to continue with this as long as Seven participation/organization remains spotty. The AROSC events are reasonably priced and they’re a friendly group. On the other hand, the NASA approach appears to be much more structured and training intensive. Considering we will continue to attract new individuals to our very high performance niche, these are probably good things and I heartily support the development.

    Considering you’ve read this far, you are probably interested in proceeding! At this point, we should probably gather specific information about your expectations and level of participation. Please post your answers (and any explanations!) to the following questions on this CCC forum. I will collect the data and post the results.

    1. List your preference from 1- 5 (1 being your highest preference) for the types of events you would regularly participate in: Slalom/Autocross/SoloII, Open Track, Time Trials, Racing, Rallys;

    2. How many events per year would you be willing to dedicate a full (maybe extended) weekend to:

    3. For our Southern California region, list your preference from 1- 5 for the following tracks: Buttonwillow, California Speedway, Las Vegas, Streets of Willow, Willow Springs (big track);

    4. Any other tracks? (e.g., Pahrump, Phoenix);

    5. List your preference from 1- 5 for the following Northern California tracks you would be willing to travel to for an event?
    Buttonwillow, Infineon (Sears Point), Laguna Seca, Thunderhill;



    6. Would you be willing to pay a higher registration fee (~$50) for a “premiumâ€‌ track such as Laguna Seca? Please insert any comments;



    7. Would you prefer an organized series with an established calendar, rules, classes and instruction such as the NASA HPDE/Se7ens Challenge, or would you prefer the freedom of picking and choosing events, much as we have done to present? Please add your comments:



    Thank-you for your interest and support!
    Clark

  • #2
    Clark, thanks for taking the initiative!!

    A. List your preference from 1- 5 (1 being your highest preference) for the types of events you would regularly participate in:

    1 : Time Trials
    2 : Open Track
    3 : Slalom/Autocross/SoloII (have not tried yet but would like to)
    4 : Rallys (actually I like that a lot but maybe that should be a separate question, kind of a low-key Sunday fun event)
    N/R Racing (not planning to do this)


    B. How many events per year would you be willing to dedicate a full (maybe extended) weekend to:
    3-4 track days/Time Trials
    not sure about SoloII, must try first
    1-2 rallys (that probably rather depends on the willingness of somebody to organize the events. If there are more people interested maybe we can rotate with organization)

    C. For our Southern California region, list your preference from 1- 5 for the following tracks: Buttonwillow, California Speedway, Las Vegas, Streets of Willow, Willow Springs (big track);
    1 - Buttonwillow
    2 - Willow Springs Big Track
    3 - Streets
    No idea - Vegas, Speedway

    D. Any other tracks? (e.g., Pahrump, Phoenix);
    No idea, but that is pretty far out. I would consider it if there is mutual interest e.g. with the Se7eneers in Texas to find common ground (but then, they would still be short changed)

    E. List your preference from 1- 5 for the following Northern California tracks you would be willing to travel to for an event?
    Buttonwillow, Infineon (Sears Point), Laguna Seca, Thunderhill;

    Besides Buttonwillow I only know Sears Point which I liked very much (when it is not raining, but what do I know...). Laguna Seca sounds tempting but that is just the reputation.

    F. Would you be willing to pay a higher registration fee (~$50) for a “premiumâ€‌ track such as Laguna Seca?
    Sure, it is just money :wink: The bigger problem is the distance. Once a year I would go north, be it Infineon, Laguna Seca or Thunderhill

    G. Would you prefer an organized series with an established calendar, rules, classes and instruction such as the NASA HPDE/Se7ens Challenge, or would you prefer the freedom of picking and choosing events, much as we have done to present? Please add your comments:
    I prefer the organized series. In suppose I am still free to go when I want but that would give the whole thing more structure and motivation to go when it counts.

    Comment


    • #3
      My answers mirror Gert's, the only exceptions being that I prefer Willow Springs and California Speedway events due to their proximity. I don't have a trailer or even a vehicle that would tow a trailer yet, so I need to drive my seven to the track. I want to be close enough to have AAA get me home if something breaks!
      Stan

      Comment


      • #4
        My preferences defy numerical representation, in my admittedly shallow thought processes. I do Solo II 10-12 times a year and figure to continue or increase that # if the local events are worth attending. But, a track weekend @ WS/BW/etc. will likely take precedence if I can sponge a trailer. Time trials are a logical next step that I want to make/take. Wheel to wheel racing is of interest, but i not compelled to make it the very next step (negatives include personal injury, car damage and cost, starting with a roll cage @ $4-5M). I've never done a rally, but would like to try sometime, if my three children will permit me the time.

        I would like to devote 3-6 weekends per year to events, subject to my real life.

        Track preference might be: BW, S of WS, LV/Pahrump, Fontana, Big WS, and Phoenix.

        BW, LS, I, T-hill, if I can rate tracks that I'never run. What about Reno-Fernley?

        Another $50/100 ain't important in the overall scheme of having fun with the 7ers.

        I have enjoyed the picking & choosing to date; and realize that the rest of my life (the abhorrent non-Caterham portion) will sometimes render a "Schedule of events" not viable. Classes for Asses (like me) is very desirable and a logical next step for me to develop my limited skills. I am hoping to do the AROSC school during the Labor Day weekend. Any one else up for some instruction? Another school with a different organization (NASA?) after that school will likely affect my point of view on just what I would like to do next. I like to crawl before I walk (and don't mistake this for submissiveness Kinky Boys!). Today, time trial seems to be the next logical step.

        Comment


        • #5
          1. For the present: 1 - Open Track 2 - Time Trial 3 - S/A/SII 4 - Racing 5 - no interest. This will change as I do more events and gain experience,

          2. 4 - 6, next year if not this year.

          1 - Willow 2 - California Speedway 3 - St.s of W 4 - Buttonwillow 5 - Vegas - of little interest. I've only driven on one of them, so the order is basically geographically based, as I too am trailer challenged at the moment.

          4. Haven't seen them but Pahrump is highly configurable. Unfortunately it's in the desert - I reckon it's only worth the effort in the Fall of the year. Worse, it's on The Road to Vegas (I15 should be renumbered I666), one of the worst drives in the world for weekend to/from traffic.

          5. 1 - Buttonwillow 2 - Thunderhill 3 - L.S. 4 - Sears Point. That's off the top of my head - I've never even seen TH but it looks like it too can change based on a particular configuration, and maybe the drive there & back is easier.

          6. Maybe, but I'd rather pay more to get more (time).

          7. Both. The concept of a 7s challenge has a lot of appeal (apples to apples), but so does NASA TT and HPDE. In any formal series (of 7s at least), I like the concept of scoring on the basis of your 5 best events, or 3 events, or whatever the number might be (but not too few). That way people can go a lot or a little and still stay in the hunt for the "win".

          As time goes on, I'd like to aspire to do some enduros, but for now (while climbing steeply up the learning curve) I'm most interested in the NASA formats, both HPDE, TT and a 7s thing. W/ the latter, it might be fun to somehow concoct a handicapping system, like that used in sailing, so that the 100hp pushrod car can "correct out" on a 260 hp Cozzy and maybe have a chance to "win". Because there just isn't that many cars to divide them into different classes, yet, imo and I have no idea how anyone would enforce the rules as described on the NASA web site. What, someone's gonna ask to look at my clutch?

          I have no interest in encountering the types of issues (cheating, doping!, etc.) that constantly came up when I was racing bicycles - I was amazed at what men wil do to "win" a $2.00 40 - 45 yr. old age group bike race - it was pathetic.

          At this level and my age, motorsports should be fun. That's the win.
          Chris
          ------------
          A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted

          Comment


          • #6
            Here are a few observations based on my limited experience with NASA since moving to Northern Cal this year.

            The NASA events are very professionally run. More so than the Alfa and Shelby club events. Not a criticism of those clubs - they do a great job, but NASA is a step up in organization and controls, which has colateral benefits, viz:

            The HPDE sessions are a great way to build competence on the track through a progression of increasingly challenging formats. The Alfa Club and Shelby club events run a format equivalent to HPDE Groups 1 and 2 - passing restricted to defined areas, and no passing under brakes. This is safe and you can stay in that group forever if you want. Group 3 is a transitional group. The first sessions begin like group 2, with passing limited to defined straights. In later sessions the instructor will, if he is satisfied that everyone is behaving and driving competently, progressively relax the rules to allow passing in more areas, then full-track passing (but not under brakes) and finally full track passing including passing under brakes... but not in corners. Group 4 is open track -pass wherever you like and watch out! At the end of each session, the group must attend a download session. If you don't attend, you don't get a sticker and you can't run in the next session. The download sessions are straight talking, no bullshit exposes of who f*cked up and why. A very effective way to bring the testosterone level down a notch or two.

            Also, you can carry a passenger in any session. Hitching a ride is a good way to learn from others.

            So, if you have the chance to try the NASA format I would say, definitely give it a go.

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