A day at the Races
(A beginner's guide to a race meeting)
Starting racing can be quite daunting for the novice. There is a lot to take on board and to take care of. This article describes a typical race meeting from start to finish and explains what happens and when.
Friday morning.Course setup.
Generally the organising branch starts with little more that a field and a lake. It may come as a surprise to know that we organise everything, from loo hire, skips for the rubbish, course marking to paddock layout and the PA system.
For most of our race meetings, the course is erected on the Friday before the Saturday start.
It's fair to say that any help on course setup will be gratefully received and so if you can get to the race site on the morning before racing starts you will be made welcome and put to work.
The first competitors and their families usually start to arrive on the Friday afternoon. They find a space for their craft in the paddock area and find a pitch in the camping area. It's always a good idea to get to the meeting on the Friday so that you can get set up nice and early. By Saturday morning the paddock will be nearly full and there is a lot to do anyway without having to worry about finding a paddock space and a camping pitch.
Course inspection and marshal's briefing.
First thing on Saturday morning the Race Director inspects the course and then briefs the marshals. As a driver you wonít take part in this but if you spot some activity on the course, first thing in the morning, thatís whatís going on.
The first thing for all drivers to do is get their craft and safety equipment scrutineered. For this you will need your log book, craft (obviously), your crash helmet, gloves and life jacket. The scrutineers are generally drivers who've volunteered to inspect craft and make sure they conform to the HCGB's construction requirements. Please bare in mind that these people have their own craft to prepare as well as scrutineer yours so please be ready in plenty of time and make sure they know who and where you are so the process can go smoothly
A new craft will require a more through scrutineering before it can be used. This takes longer than the normal one so it's worth contacting the scrutineers before the meeting so that everything can be done in time.
It's not unusual at the first meeting of the year to allow extra time at the start of the meeting as there may well be a lot of new craft all needing their initial scrutineering.
This is one of the most important parts of the day. All drivers must attend the driver's briefing. This will be held in the paddock on each morning of the race meeting. The Race Director will explain the course layout and any specific points to be aware of.
At the end of the briefing "signing in" sheets are distributed to the drivers and all drivers must "sign in" on the sheet relevant to their chosen formula. Grid positions and lap scoring information is built up from theses signing in sheets so it's vital that you attend the briefing and sign in.
Now that your craft has been scrutineered you should go and pay your race and site fees. For this you will need the craft's log book, signed by the scrutineer, your racing license and some money. In return you will be given a wrist band that shows you have paid your sit fees and a small insurance sticker to stick on the front of your craft to show that you have payed insurance. Without an insurance sticker you will not be allowed to take your craft out of the paddock.
You should also collect an ELS tag for the lap scoring system. This small electronic device fits onto the duct of the craft in a specially made holder. If your craft doesnít have a holder fitted, you can get one of these too and securely mount it to the top of the duct.
At the end of the race meeting you should return your tag but leave the holder fitted to the duct.
At around 10 o'clock on Saturday morning the practice sessions will start. Keep an eye on the large wooden board at the paddock exit. The paddock marshal will indicate which formula is practicing. At each change of formula the paddock marshal will sound a siren and change the number on the board. At the end of a formula's practice session the chequered flag will be shown. You will be expected to prove that your lanyard, engine kill switch, is working before you are allowed onto the course.
At the end of the practice session the paddock will be opened to the general public. From this point until the paddock is closed again you are not allowed to start your craft so make sure you are where you need to be in platy of time.
You are of course allowed to work on your craft if practice has shown up anything that needs to be done but you're not allowed to run you engine(s).
Racing (10, 5, 2, 1, Go...)
Races are organised in two blocks with a paddock open period between blocks.
Keep an eye on the large wooden board at the paddock exit.
The paddock marshal will sound a siren and put up the formula number on the board at the paddock exit along with the number 10, before each race to warn the drivers. This means that there are ten minutes to the start of the race. At this point you should start getting yourself organised. Get your life jacket, body armor on etc. and head out of the paddock. The paddock marshal will test your ELS tag and make sure it's OK before sending you out on to the grid.
As you get to the grid, wait to be "gridded" by the marshals. As you enter, it helps them if you swing the craft a little sideways so that they can clearly see the number on your duct. You will then be directed to your grid position. The marshal will ask you to kill the engine(s) by pulling the lanyard to prove that the engine kill is working. As the grid is a noisy place they will probably indicate this to you be making a signal involving raising an arm.
The next siren will sound five minutes before the start of the race. Things are afoot now so if you're not on the grid by now, get moving.
2 minutes to go.
Two minutes before the start of the race to marshal will hold up a board with a large figure 2 on it. Now is the time to start your engines, put on your lanyard and get ready to race.
If you haven't made it to the grid by now you will not be allowed to take your grid position. You will have to start the race from the back of the grid.
If there is a problem that will delay the start of the race, the marshal holds up a large capital H alongside the the two minute board. If this happens, don't bother to to start the engine. Just sit tight and wait. When the race can continue, the marshal will display the two minute board and things move on from there.
The last minute.
The one minute board means just that, one minute to go. The marshals will have checked that you have the lanyard fitted and that everything is ready to go.
Go.The start lights consist of 3 red lights. These lights come on in sequence until all 3 lights are lit. After a random pause all then go out - GO!
Now just race. In novices itís ten minutes plus one lap. Make sure you know the flags used and what the last lap board looks like (itís a yellow board with a black, diagonal cross on it). You can find that information in the racing driverís handbook which you should have a copy of.
Sunday.Sunday follows a similar format to Saturday but the practice session is shorter and there is no scrutineering for craft that have already been checked..
This is held around half an hour after the last race of the weekend. Stick around and see the trophies handed out. Who knows, you may even be taking one home.
Just as we start with an empty field, so we must leave one behind. Please stick around to help take the course down. Also please pick up any litter you find, whether it's yours or not. It's very important that we leave our sites tidy.
Donít forget to hand in the ELS tag.
So that's it. You've taken part in your first race meeting. Good wasn't it? To be fair, by now you've probably got some work to do. You may have mashed the craft is little or found something that needs your attention. Get these things sorted out in good time so that you can enjoy your next meeting.
Click here for the race program.
Last edited by Jon Pert; 20-Aug-09 at 04:42 PM.