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helix

Novice Taxi

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Hi there, I would like to share my personal experience with Autocross (AX).....

Since the beginning of time, I love driving. And when I get to know there is a such a thing as a sport car club in Winnipeg, it didn't take long for me to come check out the AX group to see what's what.

Fast forward to my 4th event in 3 years, I have decided AX isn't right for me since all I got is DNFs and I don't even know what I missed?! Nothing is more frustrating that sucking at what you love. After ~3 years of staying far away from AX, I decided to come back once again and also joined the level 1 school in 2015, MAN did that change my life LOL. In short, joining the school give me that "ah-ha" moment and yes I can drive now, ha.

What I want to say is this:

1) I wish there were someone who can spot, explain, and guide my first 4 visits (16 attempts?) while I was a newbie,

2) while I did get a ride along with the experienced drivers in 2 occasions, I learn absolutely nothing from it. People who are in competition simply don't have the time to explain how it is done where every 1/1000 second count,

3) as a newbie, getting DNF is the worst since 99% of the time you don't know where you went off course and there is nobody to tell you. Rookie's mentor help to a certain degree but when you are high on adrenaline and your pulse goes +180 bpm, hearing is what you do - listening becomes impossible.

Your input will be essential in making this work and my proposal is this, any novice driver can do a ride along lesson/experience through the track for a set cost. The Novice Taxi is a pay per ride/ready on demand service that aims at providing driving tips, sharing insights, and most importantly - to eliminating newbie's frustration of getting DNFs because of driving off course.

Those who are interested, please show your hands. Without a significant amount of interest, we will be dismissing this idea...

Helix Li

 

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AKAIK I know, this is what the rookie course walk always has been for.

We have the rookie mentor, who's job is to ride along with said rookies to guide and provide tips at each event.

If these aren't working or we are short people for the positions then we should address it.

When do you intend to do this during the day of the event?

 

 

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The taxi would run in the same run group as the Novice class, mainly because all novice drivers should otherwise be working. In an addition to Rookie mentor, rookie course walk helps and the intention of this is to help those who seek extra help. It is not unusual to see a novice driver getting 2 or 2+ DNFs at an event. Personally, 2 DNFs is one too many.

I think it is a combination of traveling at speed, and not being able to look ahead for an inexperienced participant that causes off course DNF.

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Why not just discuss if some of experienced guys are willing to become a mentor for events? Assign one to a rookie.

Clubs in the US do this all the time. 

We are at a critical point with autox. With 20 competitors all the support systems collapse as there are not enough workers to support drivers.

Once over 35 drivers we have enough workers to support our rookie systems. Your idea is great in theory but until attendance numbers grow a bit on a regular basis, you will be short guys to do this. 

I'm of the opinion that the rookie course walk needs to be taken better advantage of and the rookie mentor during events needs to be utilized better. It's hard mentoring 4+ rookies in a heat, and also note that last year we started spreading out rookies between both run groups to ease/assist them learning and learning course work.  

 

 

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I don't think a paid service is the answer.

What I think should be stressed is:

a: The importance of course walks.

b: If you're a rookie, it should be in your best interest to drive the track slowly to ensure that you don't DNF, and recollect the course from your walks.

Over the years I recall seeing so many rookies come out, thinking "I got this", then hit the course hot-dogging it only to DNF every run.

No rookie is ever going to set a record or impress the veterans right off the hop... So take it slow, and you won't need a "taxi", so to speak.

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Helix has a very valid point. All the course walks and all the rookie mentors in the world will NOT persuade a person to come back. That person has to want to come back. If they are attending all on their own it can be an even more frustrating experience. 

We are in a sense trying to "sell" a product and in turn enhance our sport to make it even better so we all benefit. It's not too good of a sales tactic to display your product and after 5 minutes say ... O.K. "now you do it".

We should try to find a better sales routine. It would only benefit us all. Who knows, the next newbie just may be the person who has the contacts needed to move to a better facility.

Perhaps we should ask/offer newbies to do one day of course working before racing. At least that would take the "facility" worries out.

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What about enhancing fun runs a bit? What if we encourage the the rookies to stick around and get some additional tutoring during what would be fun runs? I know it is after the fact for an event but since the adrenaline of the event should be gone and possibly the anxiety to put down a fast time it might be a good time when people will be more receptive to input.

This way there is no pressure for us to get it done super quickly before racing and it doesn't take time away form people doing course walks. 

 

Shawn

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Myself, I think a note was hit that a person has to WANT to come back, like yourself did Helix and do the driving school (which, helped indeed).

I think in all honesty, DNFs are an important thing to get.  Last year I cam out to 2 events and of my 8 runs I got 3 DNFs.  The first DNF I got I had no idea (as well) where it happened.  I did have a Instructor with me for the first two runs of the first event.  The second event Rob came with me 3/4 runs, the 3rd run, where Rob wasn't available is when I got my DNF lol.

I really do think there is a good number of seasoned people willing to come for a ride and help out.  The group is one of the friendliest groups of people I have ever ran into - which by the way is awesome!  

The driving school, (sadly primarily just the morning for me) was indeed very helpful.  It was good to see 2 events prior to the Schools and have a grasp of the basics before moving forward.  For paid ride-alongs, again alot of people are more than happy (I would think) to hop along for free and have some fun and show / talk some tips.  Driving schools is something that I think people are (and do, of course) pay for.  

 

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Helix, the 'novice taxi' thing I mentioned was a free program where veteran drivers that are willing to take people for rides put a 'taxi' magnet on their cars. Then novices are welcome to hop in any taxi that they see. 

Frankly, we do this unofficially now, but most people aren't bold enough to just ask anyone. When I had a car with 2 seats, I tried to make a point to have someone in my passenger seat for my first 2 runs. 

A key part is getting rookies to walk on their own before the official walk. I've seen people come on the guided walk as their one and only course walk - that's not going to end well. A ride-along is too fast to really help people navigate. 

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Helix is right, we have to do more to retain the rookies that show up, they are the future of this sport. We were all rookies at one point.

That last point of Corey's is one thing I have heard before and again this weekend. The ride alongs are too fast with the seasoned drivers and rookies still miss things.

I know we have the rookie trophy now which is great. But having all the rookies run in one group does not leave enough veterans for them to choose from to have ride alongs and really presses a rookie mentor to get in each car at least once. Maybe instead of having a rookie mentor in each work group, we should have 2 working in the group that has all the rookie's. Having a rookie mentor work assignment in a run group with no rookie's doesn't seem logical when we are stretched thin.

Also, have vets be used as taxi's when the rookies are working isn't very helpful either. A protest is in the making have someone run a taxi for 20 runs, then run with their run group, especially if rookie's run first, unless we have someone willing to give up a day of racing, or separate rookies, this taxi idea could be tricky to implement.

There is no magic bullet, why not ask the rookies for their input during the course walk. Something like how best do you learn, ride alongs or with a passenger as mentor? They may even give you something completely different. We are lucky, the people we are trying to sell to are right in front of us, we don't have to find them, they find us. Lets use that to our advantage.

 

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Apology for being assertive here, if growing our AX club is our primary goal, we have to be sure to attract as many newcomers to keep coming back, most of us grew into this hobby, and not born with this hobby, right? The most we can do is to ensure each of the newcomers to find this experience fun, exciting, challenging, and overall a positive social interaction experience. I don't know about you guys but personally, 2 DNFs is one too many for me to have fun. 

Let's not turn this into just a discussion/speculation on what works and what won't work, the only thing that matters is if the novice driver is interested in using this service. My original thought of charging money for a ride along lesson is based on the thinking that it might be another good source of income for the club. I much prefer this to be free of charge, just to give this service a maximum chance of being successful.

 

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Kudos Helix, for starting this topic.  Reading through all the comments I think there is a common thread and we are all on the same page.  We need to encourage first-timers ( prospective members) to participate in the club events and, at the end of the day, ensure they had fun. 

Speaking from my own viewpoint,  I imagine it could be intimidating for someone coming out by themselves for their first event and trying to quickly familiarize themselves with the registration process, class assignment, and work/drive schedule. The rookie course walk is a great learning tool and I can't thank the instructors enough for their thorough explanations and patience with some of our questions. However, lining up at the start on your first run can be nerve-wracking if you've never driven the course.  I was lucky in that I had the opportunity to get all the butterflies sorted out the day before during "test & tune".

Now, if we could only introduce the initiation phase in a similar manner to "test & tune" so that every first-timer feels comfortable and somewhat confident before launching off into their first run of the day. But how do you do that? ... and when?

I like the idea of a "taxi service" or other similar method to get the prospective new club member comfortable with the on-track driving experience.  However, if my first introduction to Autoslalom was a drive-a-long with an experienced (read ridiculously fast) driver, I would've probably screamed "Holy crap! ... what did I get myself into?.  Shortly followed by changing my shorts and driving home with my tail between my legs.  But don't get me wrong - not everyone is a wuss like me, and I'm sure there's a lot of adrenaline-fueled rookies who would simply take this on as a challenge and say "I can do this ... no problem!"

If we want to build our club membership base, then I think we need to capture and hold those individuals who are considering the sport but are somewhat unsure or lacking confidence.  They know it would be fun but they just need a little hand-holding to get through the first event or two.  Who better than a novice who's just been there, done that.  I'm sure we all know a few people who would be interested in taking up the sport but are just a bit tentative and unsure as to what it's all about.  Here's a suggestion - why not introduce/advertise a "rookie day" at one of our upcoming events. Here's how it would work:

  • First time rookies would need to register (no fee) for the event but it would be optional if they wanted to drive their own car or just ride as a passenger to get the experience.
  • Shortly upon arriving, the new rookies would be assembled and given an explanation of the registration, class, run group and grid process.
  • The new rookies would then participate in the rookie course walk.
  • Any interested registered club members would give up their first run and offer it as a "taxi service"
  • The first run would be an introductory look at the course from the passenger seat and  driven at a brisk, but not intimidating pace. Commentary would be provided by the driver as to what he/she is looking for and how they are controlling the vehicle.
  • Subsequent "taxi service" on following runs would be on a voluntary basis and would be run at 10/10ths.
  • New rookies would be mentored during their work schedule.
  • "Rookie Day" would windup up with rookie-only fun runs to give them the experience of driving their own or offered-up cars and accompanied by a club member.

Now, you would have to admit, that after attending "Rookie Day", how could you not want to sign-up for upcoming events?  And I think this would go a long way to minimizing DNF's and a having a bad track day.  Honestly, is there such a thing as a bad track day?

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I think there are many great ideas here and it shows that this club is more than willing to adapt to attract and keep as many people as possible in our hobby. I agree with Brian I came out to the first test and tune of the year and that relatively relaxed atmosphere and the fact there weren't many people made it less intimidating, I also managed to get a ton of runs in rotating between the slalom and course had rob ride with me a couple times and then let him drive my car so I could see how someone with experience drove the course (which really showed the areas I could push a little more) .

 

Looking back I think if it was set up that first time you get paired up with a mentor and maybe spend the event shadowing (walk the course, unpack, prepare car, ride along, and work with them) and theb at the end of the event I really think the idea of rookie only fun runs makes sense too, take away the nerves of "looking like you don't know what your doing" (at that point you probably dont) but youve learned the process from someone who is experienced. Next time out you will be prepared and understand whats required and expected which will take some of the unknown out making it easier to concentrate on learning/improving, and having that mentor will help make new drivers comfortable.

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I might have left out some very important information from my previous posts, here they are...

1) Novice taxi, is not intended to be timed at all and the lap around the track is independent of the 4 runs we get, rookie has the choice of going at a reasonable pace listening to the veteran's thoughts, of course, veteran will have to think out loud giving insights such as (where they look, where they aim, what are the key elements, what is their plan of action, how they execute, ...etc),

2) If Novice class is in the 1st run group, Novice taxi driver is best suited for those who are not competing since some would argue they gained unfair competitive edge, and depending on the number of participants, Novice taxis' runs will have to be capped, thus not to interfere the other run group/fun runs,

3) If Novice class is in the 2nd run group, veteran from the 1st run group can run these taxis during lunch break (helping others = more fun runs), 

4) Alternatively, it would be perfect if we can get our AX school instructors to sign up 1-2 events each season to do the Novice taxi runs (not register in the race),

5) Since I am not competing this year, besides actively trying to help out at the event, this is the one idea I thought of (if allowed) that I can do to serve and promote our club.

 

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To those that knows the AX rules, is that okay to post a video of the track the day prior to the event? Thought it might be helpful to some to see it at mediocre speed, in case this doesn't violate anything, I can put up the video on youtube the night before.

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17 minutes ago, helix said:

To the veterans, is that okay to post a video of the track the day prior to the event? Thought it might be helpful to some to see it at mediocre speed, in case this doesn't violate anything, I can put up the video on youtube the night before.

It gives an unfair advantage to those that have access vs those who don't. 

This does happen at nationals when two heats run simultaneously, one group runs one course, and does the other swapping day two. Those videos do regularly get posted.  

Id discuss with the exec first.   

 

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I agree, I asked about this as a "just in case" :)

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Great discussion! I think we are closing in on something here.

First, let me say thanks to Helix for bringing this up. We sometimes talk about it at the event when we see a bunch of new faces and we all want to help them, but the rookie mentor can't be in every car. This is especially true when you have a group of friends all together back-to-back-to-back. That's ideal from a fun perspective, but not if it means they aren't getting the instruction and mentorship that they need.

During events is the wrong time to do proper planning. Mostly we just react to problems and try to keep the show on the road, and then forget about it in between events (oops!). We should plan for these sorts of things between events, like we're doing now! :clap2:
 

On 2017-6-8 at 8:05 AM, Brian_Earl_Spilner said:

I don't think a paid service is the answer.

What I think should be stressed is:

a: The importance of course walks.

b: If you're a rookie, it should be in your best interest to drive the track slowly to ensure that you don't DNF, and recollect the course from your walks.

Over the years I recall seeing so many rookies come out, thinking "I got this", then hit the course hot-dogging it only to DNF every run.

^ Very true. Maybe we aren't doing a good enough job of stressing the rookie course walk? It should be seen as a way to make sure you don't DNF. Also that's a great point about stressing to drive slowly and stay on course. Driving too fast is probably the #1 reason for DNF, along with not knowing how to look ahead, which is kinda the same thing. Course walks don't translate at speed.

 

On 2017-6-8 at 1:15 PM, Jim Eh. said:

We are in a sense trying to "sell" a product and in turn enhance our sport to make it even better so we all benefit... We should try to find a better sales routine. 

^100% agree. We should think about the organization as a business. Except that we don't make any profit. But the goal is to sell the product and attract new people to the sport, constantly, otherwise it will die off. I think we're all on the same page here.

 

On 2017-6-8 at 2:00 PM, codewhore said:

What about enhancing fun runs a bit? What if we encourage the the rookies to stick around and get some additional tutoring during what would be fun runs? I know it is after the fact for an event but since the adrenaline of the event should be gone and possibly the anxiety to put down a fast time it might be a good time when people will be more receptive to input.

^Great idea! I'll gladly mentor during fun runs. I know Rob has done this many times, as have many of the other instructors. But just here and there. Let's assign someone (or multiple people) to mentor others during fun runs and make sure people know about it. Sometimes we wait for people to ask.

 

On 2017-6-8 at 6:27 PM, Corey said:

A key part is getting rookies to walk on their own before the official walk. I've seen people come on the guided walk as their one and only course walk - that's not going to end well.

^True. So how do we encourage people to do their own course walks when it's their first event? They might not know that they should be doing it, or how to do it, or what to look for.  Can we take a page from the L1 school and do a guided rookie walk and then tell them there's a mandatory solo walk? We'd need to do the guided walk a bit earlier to leave time for this.

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A ridealong at half speed or "taxi" in addition to the course walk is not a bad idea either. Yes, there are hurdles like how to keep it fair for competitors. We can figure these things out. Remember why we want to do this, it's to help newbies.

Nobody is suggesting a top competitive driver gets another 3-4 free runs at the course at full speed. That would be unfair. Duh. As suggested, we could make it a voluntary thing where a veteran who isn't racing would do it, or a racer could simply withdraw any points he/she gets for that event. Voluntary DNS. I don't care about points, I just race for fun, so I'd volunteer to do it at least once or twice this year. If nobody else wants to do that, then maybe we put a veteran in a strange car from a completely different class (e.g. put Corey or Mark or Boettcher in a large sedan) and limit them to only 50% throttle or something. Kinda like the course design test run.

There is also a concern about how and when to do it. I'd say right before the driver's meeting in the morning, or at lunch break. The course should be closed for walking about 10-15 min before start of racing (we don't close the course off right now, but we really should). We could have a car lined up and ready to take the ~3-5 rookies on their guided tour at that time. This is not meant for all novices, who have a bit of experience, just for the pure rookies to avoid complete bewilderment. Shouldn't be more than a few, so it should only take 5-10 min tops.

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