If it’s Oscoda, it must be raining…

Autocrossing in Oscoda this weekend. One of our regular event chairs has, for two years now, tried to do a special-format event up here. For two years now, the weather had other ideas. Basically, Larry’s events counted on a fairly intense timing in order to pull everything off in a reasonable amount of time; big weather delays (we run in the rain. Lightning, however shuts things down) throw the timing off and make it mighty tough to make it happen. Last year it was a similar format to a ProSolo, with two mirror-image courses and a “Christmas tree” starting system like at a drag strip, rains flooded out some specialty timing equipment (which is a whole separate rant in and of itself, but see below), which resulted in the event format changing significantly. This year, conventional course, but run 3 in the morning, then 3 in the afternoon in the opposite direction. After that, the top 32 on index would be in an elimination challenge. We got the morning runs in, but during the 1st run in the afternoon, the lightning started making an appearance. We got the run completed for all drivers, but then (another rant) I was asked my opinion (I end up being the weather steward on stuff like this, probably because of the Oklahoma and Skywarn background) and it was shut down, all the course workers off the concrete plain and into vehicles.

We had two more such stoppages, but it was the 3rd that finally prompted Larry to a) end the event and b) punt the challenge. By this time, it was around 7pm and well past the “give it up already, Larry” time…

Okay: equipment. The SCCA National Office, a few years ago, replaced the mostly-reliable ProSolo setup (the timer box itself had was getting obsolete and did not have a computer interface for scoring, but the track hardware was pretty solid) with a brand-new system from a different vendor, who had never done such a thing before. So they did things like make “all weather” photohead boxes with indoor-grade RJ-14 connectors instead of something water-tight and put a heat-sensitive circuit board that controlled the whole thing inside the Christmas Tree just above a AC to DC voltage transformer that generated a whole bunch of heat. It took a bunch of work to by some electronic wizards (who happen to be Detroit Region members) to modify that system into functionality.

So what does Detroit Region do? They spend a whole bunch of money to buy a duplicate of the National Office system. Except that it comes without the mods and thus is subject to exactly the same problems as the National system was 3 or 4 years prior. The only change was that the voltage transformer was removed from the electronics bay of the Tree (as it had only taken one race to abandon the 12VDC yard lights they started out using for the 120VAC “standard” lights that needed no transformer). So the first time it’s used… we get a torrential downpour which floods the non-water-tight photoheads and it stops working altogether… haven’t seen it since. Hope they sent it back for a refund.

Okay, weather. The rule is simple: see lightning and/or hear thunder: shut the event down. Get everyone into some sort of shelter. Monitor the conditions, and when it’s gone, you can restart. But event chairs want to run their event, so they think if the lightning is “over there”, it’s okay. Nope. K had my scanner, which has the weather band, and was explaining to the event chairs that it was past time… but it took one of the safety stewards to ask me before they stopped it. The funny thing about that is when Dave headed toward me (I’d just done my first afternoon run and was still in the car), I saw K behind him with my scanner in her hands, so before Dave could say anything, I made the “cut” motion across my neck followed by the F&C hand signal for “now”. Which Dave, not being F&C, didn’t understand and had to ask K, who explained it.

Had a word with both Larry and Dave about how K knows this stuff almost as well as I do, and if she says “time to stop” for weather, she’s got a damn good reason to do so and they really ought to listen…

And now I have to go to bed. Early morning tomorrow…


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