What’s the most important worker position at an autocross?

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Apr 21, 2024 | SCCA, Autocross, Daytona, Column, Blog | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Photography by David S. Wallens

Even at the national level, autocross events are still run by the participants. If you’re there driving, you’re also doing some work that weekend–maybe shagging cones, overseeing the times or loading up the trailer afterward.

There is no magical group of elves who handle the dirty work. We all get to do that. Many hands make for light work and all that, right?

This past weekend–that would be the Central Florida Region SCCA’s two-day autocross on the Daytona International Speedway kart track–I got to work two of the most important positions.

[Come autocross with GRM at Daytona this weekend]

On day 1, I worked grid. In theory, you’re part of the crew responsible for keeping the event running on time. If the starter is standing around waiting for cars, then we’re all standing around waiting for cars.

It’s a little like being an air traffic controller: You have rows of drivers waiting to fly plus two-driver cars that need to be slotted in. At Daytona, we grid on grass, meaning the cars on slicks are set aside on the pavement, adding a little complexity to the situation.

Two-driver car that’s running hot? Okay, let’s keep you moving so we don’t have a mess on our hands.

A driver who’s new to a manual transmission? That works, let’s limit how much conga lining you have to do.

As a grid worker, you’re also an ambassador, offering encouragement to all drivers while making sure that the novices feel welcome and included: Do they need a novice instructor? Have they had enough water to drink? Made some new friends?

And a last responsibility: Does everyone have their helmets properly buckled?

The second day, I got to work the outside waiver station: check that everyone completed the online waiver and remind them to scan the QR code so the timing computer knew that they were on site. (Paper waivers were available for those who didn’t go the online route.)

While this seems fairly mindless, it’s about being the event greeter: Thank you for coming, let’s get you all set, and have a good event.

You’re here to watch? Okay, let’s make sure you know where you’re heading so you can find your crew inside the vastness that is Daytona International Speedway.

Oh, you’re here for the weekend’s SCCA Club Racing? Okay, you need to go over to that building, and they’ll be happy to help.

Again, all about being the ambassador. Make people want to come back. I think we’ve all been yelled at enough at events. Not fun, right?

At 9:00 that morning, my duties were complete as I could close up shop and join everyone else at the event. I was told to leave the table, chair and signs in a pile just outside the gate.

But there was a bonus waiting: Later that day, I got to drive the truck to retrieve everything.

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Comments
sfisher71
sfisher71 New Reader
8/9/23 2:37 p.m.

Grid was a favorite of mine for all the reasons you mention. I also used to love flagging, because how often in your daily life do you get to jump up in the air and wave a flag at a speeding car? 

But I think my favorite position was tech. It's important for safety, right up there with checking helmet straps, because you're looking at things that could cause damage or injury if things went south. (Battery tie downs, throttle return springs, brake pedal pressure, seatbelts, etc.)

The best thing about tech, though, is I got to crawl all over all (or at least most of) the cars that showed up. Want to see whether I can fit in a 914? (Yes.) Want to get a look over the hood of a Lotus? (Please!)

The high point of my tech experience, though, was when I volunteered for the Portland Historics about 20 years ago. It's always fun to slip into a hot street car at an autocross (especially if it's one you've been chasing all season and now you get to look at it up close), but it's another thing entirely to do that with a Chevron B16 or an Alfa Romeo GTA (a real one, complete with pop-top door handles and riveted rain gutters).

That was also the first time I was at a race track with the magic wristband, the one that says "Go ahead and stand where you like, but if you die, you can't sue us." 

And best of all, you sometimes get to see things like this from the 2022 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion. 

Toyman!
Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/9/23 3:10 p.m.

I was going to say Start. 

At Start, you frequently have to keep up with multiple cars on the course, as well as all of the people on the course. You get to be the conductor that keeps the entire thing in motion without crashing it all together in the middle of the course. You will also get to make the occasional call to the grid to ask them why there are no cars at start. An inexperienced person at Start can lead to disaster, especially if there is a crossover mid-course. 

ChrisTropea
ChrisTropea Associate Editor
8/9/23 3:47 p.m.

I really enjoyed being a corner worker this past weekend at the Daytona event. Sure it was hot, but it was a lot of fun standing with other competitors talking cars and watching the competition from a great vantage point. Luckily not too many cones were hit at our station so we had a relaxing shift, and it was cool seeing everyone get faster through the session.  

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
8/9/23 4:49 p.m.

Earlier this year, I was assigned waivers. As I headed to my station, I thought, Why give this assignment to the guy with 30 years’ experience?

Then it hit me: Duh, idiot, you get to greet everyone and welcome them to the event. 

JoeTR6
JoeTR6 Dork
8/9/23 4:54 p.m.

The grid worker is very important for keeping a heat running smoothly.  But from the standpoint of safety, the start worker needs to really be on top of things.  If they are tired and miss a cone down, sending the next car, things can get ugly fast.  Even if timing says to send the car, start should be aware of the whole course and have final say.  We always made sure the start worker was fresh and had shade.

chaparral
chaparral SuperDork
8/9/23 4:59 p.m.

The most difficult and important role at an autocross is timing-and-scoring, and it's not even close. 

Efficient timing and scoring are the difference between 400 and 900 total runs in a day. 

I'm thinking maybe the most important person is the one who got the contract to use the pavement in the first place.  Just saying.

Obviously every position is important.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
8/9/23 8:08 p.m.
Purple Frog (Forum Supporter) said:

I'm thinking maybe the most important person is the one who got the contract to use the pavement in the first place.  Just saying.

Obviously every position is important.

Yeah, there's always the people that keep the club running, keep the bills paid, and schedule events. Grid is super important, especially somewhere like the Firm where you can't always see the line of cars when going clockwise. Tech, to weed out the cars that shouldn't be running without correcting a problem and out of date helmets, and lets not forget two other crucial positions, the course designer and solo safety stewards.

I have worked nearly every position, including probably the least crucial (announcer). I try to earn the reputation of being someone that will always be willing to do whatever is needed.

As for working waivers, it's always fun seeing everyone arrive, and I was just commenting this weekend that no one is ever mad because they have to be there.  Good observation, David and good writing.

Foxtrot3Zero
Foxtrot3Zero GRM+ Memberand New Reader
8/9/23 9:38 p.m.

We are truly lucky to have Nick as our Event Chair for CFR. This past weekend my son and I ran on Saturday (He is now officially faster than me - the student has become the master). We try to make as many of the Daytona events as possible.

My son got to work the computer in the timing trailer this time. He said it was stressful, but had the perks of being inside with a nice fan blowing on him. I usually default to corner worker because I like to watch the different approaches to the course and chat with folks.  

Most important job is the job you are assigned. They all matter, and we all have to do our part to have a great event.

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
8/9/23 9:55 p.m.

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