5 things all sports car clubs need to learn

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Apr 14, 2024 | Column, Blog, autoccross | Posted in Columns | From the Oct. 2016 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Whether you’re selling cargo shorts, or putting on a rock concert, or staging an autocross, it’s all about customer service. Treat your customers well and they will come back and your business or club will thrive.

When it comes to customer service, though, lots of sports car clubs have a lot to learn. And If there’s one point you take away from this column, please let it be this: Just because you’ve always done something one way doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do it.

I’m going to provide a few examples of specific things that clubs can do to make their events run smoother, but this is by no means a definitive list. The good news is that there are lots of excellent guides out there by people and organizations with known positive track records. Seek them out. Consume them.

 

Tip 1: Everyone hates drivers meetings. 

You know how long the drivers meeting at the SCCA Solo Nationals takes? Here’s a hint: It’s one of the largest participant motorsports events in the world, with more than a thousand drivers from hundreds of clubs all over the country competing. 

The drivers meeting lasts precisely zero minutes. If that is the standard for the signature event of our scene, there’s no earthly reason that a drivers meeting at a local community college with just 40 entrants needs to last half an hour. It’s a drivers meeting, not open mic night at Unkle YukYuk’s. Give people the info they need, then get the hell on with the day. 

Better yet, print the info they need on a big board that they can read while they wait in the registration line–or on a piece of paper you hand to them when they check in. 

Got novices? Give them the drivers meeting info while an experienced driver walks the course with them. 

Bottom line: If you start your day by wasting people’s time, they won’t come back.

 

Tip 2: Design your courses properly.

Can you send a car out on course every 20 seconds? If the answer is no, you’re screwing it up. Now, admittedly, some sites have realistic limitations on course design, but some clubs also refuse to design efficient courses. 

Courses that cross over themselves, or feature multiple laps, or are otherwise designed in a way that that 20-second intervals are not possible are a sure path to a long and boring day with lots of unhappy competitors. In general, most autocrossers would rather have more runs on a shorter course than fewer runs (and more wait time) on a longer course.

 

Tip 3: Allow for flexibility.

Not everyone can commit to a 7 a.m.-5 p.m. endeavor on a Saturday or Sunday, and in these modern times of microwave ovens and Pokémon Go, there’s no reason they need to. Most clubs register people online these days, so it’s a pretty simple matter to allow for check-in and tech at flexible times throughout the day.

 

Tip 4: Research how other people do it.

If the event chairman of your autocross club has never been to an SCCA National Tour, someone has made a huge mistake. Club funds absolutely can and should be used to send event directors to visit other clubs, attend high-level events, or otherwise train the people in charge of making your events successful in techniques that will actually yield success.

 

Tip 5: Be nice.

Yes, I have to include this one, because I’ve seen the opposite more times than I’d like to admit. Does someone have a problem at your event? Try and solve it. “But they’re being an asswagon,” you say. Fine. Let them, and still try and solve their problem in a courteous and professional way. 

You know what’s worse than someone being an asswagon? Two people being asswagons. Before you know it, you can have an asswagon train heading straight for Jerkville, and no one has a good time there. 

 

Hopefully there’s some help here for some of you. I’m fortunate to be able to run with lots of great clubs in the Southeast, and I’m even more fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience many levels of greatness all over the country and beyond. 

Still, no program is so perfect that it’s above review. In reality, the best programs are the ones where the officials constantly ask, “What can we be doing better?” 

Because remember, autocrossing isn’t the only thing people can choose to do on a weekend. There’s lots of choices, and lots of Pokémon to catch. Give folks a reason to choose you.

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Comments
MattW
MattW New Reader
12/27/16 1:51 p.m.

Interesting stuff. FWIW, I like #1. I've been to plenty of motorcycle trackdays where the riders meeting turns into a shopping network commercials where everybody between the photo org. to the tire vendor does their sales pitch.

It's cute at first but when it turns into a 45 minute informational it gets pretty annoying and makes people 1) Not wanna attend riders meeting. 2) Not actually pay attention at the riders meeting.

Not sure why my post is bold.

iceracer
iceracer PowerDork
12/27/16 2:02 p.m.

Our ice race drivers meeting last less than five minutes. Welcome

Track info

Todays schedule.

Quick talk from chief flagger

An additional short meeting for first timers.

Start practice

NEALSMO
NEALSMO UltraDork
12/27/16 3:05 p.m.

"asswagon"..that's all the input I have

sprcpr
sprcpr New Reader
12/28/16 6:50 p.m.

Having run registration as well as scoring and timing I agree with everything here. I would like to add a couple of points. The club should designate members to act greeters for new people that show up. Look at course design. Is your course clear? I drove several hours one time to another event and spent the day getting lost on the course. They had their own way of laying out a course with very few cones. It was impossible to follow for me and was a horrible experience. On top of that the group was very unfriendly. They were clearly a closed group and didn't want new or outside people. Not a recipe for growth. Think about the best video games. Easy to play, hard to master. I've always thought an event should follow that model.

RonnieFnD
RonnieFnD Reader
11/15/23 1:49 p.m.

I know this is old but it's front page on the website so I would like to reopen a dialog on this if possible. There is so much truth in this article and I agree with most of it.  The points I don't agree with are just my opinions and I could be completely wrong...hence why I would like to see what the tribes thoughts are.  (This is coming from a solo safety steward's point of view) Drivers meeting,  they suck....no way to sugar coat that one but I feel they are needed.  The novice classes are growing with many first timers at every event, as stated above these can be handled on the course walk but unfortunately there are many very seasoned drivers that display the problems you would expect from the novice group so it's like beating your head against the wall but everyone apparently needs to hear the day one stuff.  Clicks....we need to stop doing this, myself included.   We have a great group here in CFR scca and I'm sure all the other groups are equally as awesome (Gulfcoast, Martin, Equipe Rapide <--I know I got that wrong) but we have a tendency to "stick with our own".  I was at the state championship autocross this past weekend and witnessed it first hand.  Some of the group was kinda pissy because I didn't know how they did things,  it's off-putting and makes for a shifty day.  That being said I'm guilty of the same thing, we all need to knock that off.  We all share the same passion,  let's help each other when we don't know what to do and just be friendly.   It was mentioned in the above comment that there should be greeters for the new people...brilliant idea and I'm gonna bring it up with the man in charge  that I would like to do that.  Let's welcome each other instead of doing what I did this past weekend and just stand there looking for cars I recognize so I didn't have to interact with anyone new.  The flexibility idea is great when you can use it.  The events at the Firm are typically a autox in the morning and a track sprint in the afternoon with no obligation to do both so if you don't feel like getting up at 5am to go run you can just run the afternoon session or if you don't wanna give up your whole day you can just come for the am...it's pretty sweet.   I would like to hear what all of you guys think would make for a better day experienced and novice.  

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
11/15/23 2:08 p.m.

Great article. Everyone works in sales, some people just don't know it yet. 

drock25too
drock25too GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
11/15/23 2:30 p.m.

The weekly shows at the local oval track has "Mandatory" drivers meetings every week to "Discuss" what went wrong last week. Guess who's not there, yeah, the guy who caused the problem last week. 

Best drivers meeting I was in went something like, Thank you for coming. Drive safe and don't be a dumb ass. Have a good night. Lets race.

RobMason
RobMason New Reader
11/15/23 4:19 p.m.

In reply to RonnieFnD :

Hey Ronnie - (I am the guy with the MG) - noticed a bit of what you mentioned this past weekend. GCA can be a bit insular and touchy since they are usually a small group trying to hold on to their one location. Also the person that ran most everything from registration to timing and pretty much everything other than course design passed away very unexpectedly a few months ago. They had to start everything from scratch since they had to change the way they do everything (for a variety of reasons). Think they are still getting their heads wrapped around it all.

As for how States ran, it was comparable or better than a couple of groups that have hosted. CFL, Martin, are all pretty much the same people - we cross pollinate - Jax is pretty close, with ER and GCA being a bit of the outliers. Hopefully with their new systems GCA will integrate a bit more people wise, but they are pretty isolated down there compared to most of our locations. Luckily, I'm in Tampa and 1 1/2 - 2 hours from everything.

I learned a lot about hosting novices a couple weeks ago at the Moultrie National Tour event. Was a fantastic way to handle newcomers. Thinking about how to add something like it for CFL and maybe Martin. Would take a couple dedicated people to handle it for each group. Best thing to do to is be active and willing to volunteer with each of our local groups, or an outside group when you travel. I was shoveling dirt at 8am Friday morning at Moultrie, almost made me regret asking if they needed help wink

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
11/15/23 5:07 p.m.

Not covered:  equally enforce the rules for everyone. Just because someone has been with the club for decades doesn't give him a pass for running a blatantly cheater vehicle in a class and setting class records with it.

That's the thing I remember most from my brief participation in Solo 1. Not the memory I hoped to make.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
11/15/23 5:13 p.m.

Driver's meetings:  it's been a long time since I went autocrossing, but I remember those meetings always seemed way longer than they needed to be.  30-45 minutes of talking and I had gone to enough of them that I could just about recite them from memory.  On average maybe 2 minutes' worth of new stuff.

Track day driver's meetings are often the same.  I've been to dozens of these, I don't need the flags presented to me again.  Tell me the important stuff that changes between events -- what track entrance are we using, what track configuration, anything unusual about the surface (repairs, etc).  There are some orgs that get this and run different drivers' meetings for different groups with much more abbreviated ones for the folks who've been there many times before.

Since getting my race license though, the amount of time in drivers' meetings has gone way down.  NASA race group meetings are usually 10 minutes and SCCA doesn't have drivers' meetings at all.

 

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