18 January 2009

Soap Box Derby

A good friend sent a meeting invite last month for an upcoming Soap Box Derby race in a nearby* town. Hmnmmph. That's one of those things that we only saw as a 20 second piece on the news or maybe a minute or two on "ABC's Wide World of Sports". Could be interesting. He said the club has extra cars and the SCSon can use one at no extra charge.

Hey, that sounds like fun and maybe give him something to concentrate on to the besides Halo.

The flyer says sign in, tech inspection and weighing is from 7-9 with a drivers meeting a 9:05. We get up before the sun and drive an hour to arrive about 8:25 sign in for both races scheduled, a double elimination and a single elimination, and a pick out a car. Friend helps us with Wheels. And we sit.

About 9:30 someone starts the weighing process. Friend weighs his son in first, then gives us the balance of his weights. All loaded up with SCSon and spare steel, the car is 19 lbs under weight for the class. Eh, close enough. Actually with the wind (10-15 kts on the tail, what he really needs is a sail!)

Drivers meeting starts after 11 and the first cars head down track around 11:30. SCSon loses the first race putting him into the consolation bracket. Next two are wins followed by a loss. Timing & Scoring advised he still had to runoff for 7th/8th place. Hey great! Today is all about track time so more runs are better.

I'll spare the gory details, but as the day ran on, the pace of racing slowed considerably. He never got to run his 7/8th place heat and darkness was winning the race for the single elimination heat.

We sat around waiting 5 or 6 hours for a race that wasn't going to run.
Very frustrating. But being the noobs at this, it seemed rude to point out what races can be run in effort to keep things moving. Still gentle pointers seemed to help, only to be met with "the driver just went to the bathroom" (Which are at the other end of the track), holding up the process even more. I got the feeling the other racers just accepted the long delays waiting to be called rather than pay attention and get the runs in. There was no process to keep track of what races need to be run and what racers are available to run.

What's really frustrating is that the process could run much smoother. There are just a few people trying to do everything, while others are around and available to help. I personally offered at least 3 times to help only to be told "no thanks, we've got it". And given enough time, they do have "it". But time (AKA Daylight) is the limiting resource.

Bottom line, This is probably a good program, but with relatively high barriers to entry** in terms of both time and money. This is the first activity the SCSon has taken seriously and that's a good thing. (He's played class clown at every team sport). Here once on the starting ramps he was all business. Never panicked and hit the brakes early nor forgot hitting the haybales. It would go smoother with better organization and more delegation instead of a few hero's trying to do it all.

I hear there is another race in April. We'll see about making it.

BTW, The normal brake is a rubber pad that scrapes on the ground. Effective enough, but I'd think it'd be more fun if they could arrange aircraft carrier style arresting wires!

* "Nearby" is, of course, a relative term. In this case it means an hour's drive which is the cutover point where we'd normally fly instead of drive. But with no viable nearby airport, a road trip is the only option.

** This is not a quibble about money. They have a fair investment in hardware (scales, ramps, timing equipment etc.) But especially in today's economy, who has a spare kilobuck to build a car and run a couple races?

No comments: