Next year's schedule

Any and all discussions concerning events.
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brucesallen
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Next year's schedule

Post by brucesallen » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:52 am

At Tremblant Troy said he would be asking for feedback regarding distant trips on next year’s schedule. Here is my opinion.
I believe the membership votes with their pocketbooks by choosing which events to register. Very few New Englanders registered and paid to go to Tremblant. Many, like myself got a free ride because they were instructors or officers. In my mind, Canadians, like my student and others out of New England are not the people we should covet because these people are merely consumers of our services and they are not going to help run the club in the future. Likewise, Mosport will be even a bigger loser because of the time and expense for the younger members even though I can afford the cost and time since I am retired. The continued far-away, weekday events seem to me to be tailored to the elite in the club: the instructors and others that get it free and the few wealthy that can afford the time off work and the sizable expense. A very small minority of members vote for them by registering because they must pay. Partnering with other clubs to avoid financial loss still does not provide events that members vote for with their wallets.
I think there are plenty of New England tracks and a strong program here would strengthen the club. Weekend events in New England are attractive to the working stiffs (not including me). Palmer, NHMS, Tamworth, Lime Rock, and Thompson with the addition of the Glen as the only “away” event can make a full schedule.
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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by joncowen » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:48 pm

Bruce, while I agree with the basic premise of what you are saying, I think you may be exaggerating a bit.

I think one unusual track a year isn't too much to ask. I personally feel that the away track (not including WGI) should be changed yearly. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we don't always lose. How much do we really lose by doing this? I don't think we are reducing membership, or upsetting members. Those who go love it. Those who can't, wish they did. If we weren't dreamers, we wouldn't be out there.

I think part of the problem is the border crossing. I think we should do Canada less frequently, and pick different away tracks within the US on some years.

I also think we should do two Thompson, Two NHMS and Two Palmer.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by DanDarcy » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:47 pm

Jon, I don't think it is just a boarder crossing that keeps members away from the far away tracks,its the distance and travel time. We have done Summit Point(both courses), Pocono, the New Jersey tracks plus some others, all with poor results. Things were so bad at one point the COM treasurer at the time, Paul Shearer, took out a second mortgage on his home to keep the club going. We don't want to be in that position again. We can't afford to have to many events like the recent Mt. Tremblant one where we had 5 students and 25 instructors. As Bruce says we should stick to the New England tracks plus Watkins Glen, which has been both a loss and a winner, depending on the year. We need to build a strong club. I would like to see two NHMS, three Palmers (after all it's two tracks), one Watkins Glen, one Thompson,and one Lime Rock. Not doing Lime Rock is depriving the members from driving one of the most iconic tracks in America, we can make it work. There is still other tracks that are close , Tamworth, Canaan, New York Safety Track are among them. I remember one year we did 5 NHMS events, oh how boring was that year.
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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by jeffw » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:01 pm

The club at lime rock has made it nearly impossible for renters to get 2 complete days back to back. Many clubs now have to rent two half-days.

And 2 days rental there is very expensive. I believe well over $40k.
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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by SandyClam » Wed Aug 21, 2019 5:24 pm

I think one of the ways for us to make it more appealing to members to take the time and expense to travel to places like Tremblant, is to make the event more of a destination for families, which many of us have. Basically, us drivers get to do something we love, but there is almost zero incentive for our families to participate at these events. Sure, the wife and kids can hang around the track all day, but I can attest that it gets boring pretty quickly.

The trip up is 3 or 4 days long for those who just go to drive, which might be hard to pull off when we are leaving a wife and kid(s) at home... but it's easy to help coordinate some pre- or post- event activities that can make a couple day longer stay something that could appeal to a larger pool of COM members, and entice the families to come along.

It would take some work (some of which myself and my wife would help coordinate), but I think if we can make the trip more of a destination for those who support us and the pursuit our hobby, it would serve to increase attendance.

The day after this year's trip, three of us (myself, Vidi and Victor) rented carts at the Jim Russell school and had an absolute BLAST running 4x15min sessions! Vidi's two boys also drove carts with us, so it's also something older kids can participate in. The carts we drove were 20.5hp Rotax 2 strokes, with a top speed of 75mph... and saw cornering up to 3G at times.

I'd suggest that we could very likely schedule a post-COM event with a half-dozen to dozen drivers, and run a practice/time trial on the carts. The pricing was about $250 CDN for a small group, so we could probably do it for a package price a bit less. If you think LCMT is enthralling to drive at speed, imagine what 75mph in a real race cart is like! It makes the F1 Boston races (which are a blast) seem like amateur hour.

Additionally, there are some family-friendly (and budget friendly) housing options that we might be able to work on a group rate. For the past 2 years, we've rented a condo at the Cap Tremblant complex, which is right over the hill from the track. Rates are reasonable, but the facility is great for families; there are multiple pools, one with a water slide and lifeguards, it's walk-able to the old Village and the track, and it makes a great base of operations to enjoy the area. Our condo had a patio and grill, cable, hi speed internet, and a full kitchen. That saved us a bunch of $$ on food, as we didn't have to go out to a restaurant every night.

There are also great activities on the mountain (although they aren't exactly cheap), plenty of lakes for swimming and boating, biking and hiking trails, plus golf options out the ying yang. I am sure we could negotiate a group rate on the activity passes, which would make things like the Luge, zip lining, rock wall climbing and gondola rides and beach club a little easier on 'Le Wallet'.

We've also done the Tremblant Heli rides both years; it's not super cheap, but taking a helicopter ride over the peak of the mountain, around the lake and over the track and village was great. Again, I imagine with some planning, we could negotiate some discounts ahead of time, and help coordinate groups to fly.

In years past, the club would organize a dinner or something, adding some social aspect outside of the racing. Many of us seem to do that on our own, but a group dinner out on the mountain after the event could be an appealing thing. No reason for the club to pay, but a little organizing and negotiating could go a long way.

Lastly, I think it's kind of silly for us instructors to get an almost 'free' ride at an event like this if we either don't have a student to instruct. If we have 5 students, do we need 15 instructors paying $40 apiece? I think the concept of pay to play is fair here; if I have no student responsibilities, no coaching and am just driving in group 0, raise my rate. It'd be a bit tougher, logistically, for folks to coordinate since instructors might register early and the students tally isn't known until the last minute, but if we only need 10 instructors and have 20 signed up, each paying a token amount, that's our own fault. I love to drive, and am able to do more events because of the reduced expense afforded by instructing, but on one or two events a year, having to optionally pay more is not a bad way to do it. Especially if it keeps a true gem like Tremblant on our calendar. I know some folks voluntarily paid more (I did not this year but I missed the memo I guess?), but I don't think it's unfair to make it non-voluntary. And let's be honest, I haven't seen anyone working the track out counting the number of times a group 0 car actually goes out for a session, so if we don't have a student or only have 1, we can absolutely rake in the track time at an event like this. It does make up for the loss of seat time at events like Thompson or Palmer, but if we can afford to burn gas at 5 or 6mpg, slap race tires onto our (for the most part) dedicated track cars, paying more than $35 or $40 isn't a hardship.

Lastly, I don't think the idea of a 'code share' with another club is a bad thing. I'd disagree on the implicit expectation that club members need to do anything more than pay, show up and drive. Sure, we are a volunteer based organization, and we need volunteers to survive... but I absolutely don't think it's fair to expect every single participant to strive for the coveted Club President title, or some other Board Member position. In fact, I would say it's better for us as a club to have 'transients' participate, because many of us (myself included) came to COM as a transient and stayed. And much like lice, once you contract COM, it's not easy to let it go. So let's cast our nets wide and far, welcome anyone who wants to participate, and keep tracks like Tremblant and Mosport in our roster.

Anyways, it takes a real commitment for our members to attend a place like Mosport or Tremblant... especially if we aren't single or retired. Putting some effort into broadening the appeal to our SOs and families seems like low-hanging fruit to expand participation.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by frmda8ts » Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:16 am

I think that brucesallen has a point about the Canadian event(s). The expense and logistics of them leave some of us saying no thanks. If these events are largely held as track time for a large oversubscription of instructors, you'd have to question whether it's worth it to the club as a whole. Don't get me wrong, the free track time policy for instructors, and their ability to run in any run group (not just 0) is a nice 'thanks for your help' for them which I support. I'm just saying that renting a track that does not draw enough member entries to fully justify might be doing a bit too much.

As far as the away track, I would say that Watkins Glen fills that role. Trip there is noticeably farther than the New England tracks on this year's schedule (Palmer/Remlap, Thompson, NHMS) for most of the members.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by joncowen » Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:30 am

This may not be a popular opinion among instructors, but I also feel instructors get too good a deal at away tracks. But, I don't think that's why so many instructors show up. I think they show up because they are dedicated to the club and to the sport. I also feel that many of the other participants at the away events are also dedicated. The difference in attendance vs local tracks may be that the locals who are not dedicated don't go to away events. At the local tracks, we get a large number of new people. New people don't go to away events until they become dedicated.

Maybe it could be argued that instructors are getting payback from the super busy days at tracks like Palmer. But I think doubling the instructor fee at tracks where instructors are likely to get only one or even zero students is totally reasonable. What if we initially pay 150, and get 50 back for every student we end up taking on? There has to be a way to make it fair without driving away instructors. I personally feel that we want to attract instructors who are interested in doing it, rather than interested in the free track time.

Is there a vehicle for donations to the club? Perhaps wealthy ex-drivers would be interested in donating to help the club.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by TroyV » Thu Aug 22, 2019 9:03 am

This is a very good dicussion. I do have some specific things to point out, but I would like to wait and see more replies/input from the group.
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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by ED9man » Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:28 am

With away events, we should consider the fairness of having our membership subsidize those events that are not financially feasible on their own. A significant portion of our membership does not attend away events. Is it fair for one event? Two? Would the majority membership be better served with another local event? Obviously this is an expensive hobby, but I think that any reasonable steps we can take to reduce the cost to contend for a class championship will allow us to attract and retain new members, which is important for the long term health of the club. Personally, I think it's hard to make a case for two away events.
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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by brucesallen » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:50 pm

consider that before 1990, COM had 8 two-day events at Bryar Motorsports (Loudon, now NHMS). A one or two hour commute to Loudon meant that no time off work was necessary. We can still find the same local weekend track time at NHMS and Palmer and maybe Club Motorsports..
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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by offcamber09 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:32 pm

Let me start by saying that I paid to run at Tremblant this year since I had no student (for personal reasons). It drives me insane when the "free ride" term is used. Bruce, you of all people should know what a steaming pile of crap that statement is. Students become licensed because of the work of the instructors and others. The licensed members become the backbone and current/future leaders of the club. I agree there is a formula that makes sense when it comes to instructor contributions when they have no student or other duties with the club.

I do not understand the away event argument. If the end of year finances are good and we've given our members the opportunity to attend some world class tracks- kudos to COM. We are not travelling 8 hours to run at Canaan (no offence- it is what it is). Tremblant and Moport are bucket-list type tracks. Our finances are well under control with the current leadership. Are we not offering enough local events? I think the mix is good. But I am old. I am an instructor. I do perform many duties withing the club. I do want to go to a variety of the best tracks in the region.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by Boondocker850 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 1:53 pm

As someone new to the club I think it comes down to the cost of the event and the time. I am fortunate enough to have a very flexible work schedule where I can take days off in the week relatively easy. Having events on the weekends vs weekdays would help. Yes this obviously will cost more for the track to be able to get the prime time weekend, but it may yield more attendance to offset the extra cost. The other thing I see is the overall cost of the event to the participant.

It costs a lot to participate in this hobby. We all do it because we enjoy it and want to keep doing it. The event costs (roughly) are around 600 for the weekend. If you take into account the fuel for travel and on the track, a room to sleep and shower in for probably 3 nights (more so for the away events) and eating out it’s going to probably be around 1000 for the weekend times 10 events a year it gets expensive quick. Yes there are ways to cut the cost but this is just general rough numbers.

All this and there is still the wear and tear items like brakes, tires, fluids. Maybe we could try to get some more official sponsorship like HMS. Maybe we could get a official tire company to offer discounts to members. This could save some serious $$$ in the end. Maybe it may be worth it to inquire on getting someone to pay to advertise at our events and on our web page, possibly look at an award or gift card for a podium during the TT.

As someone new to the tracks I really enjoyed going to different tracks and gaining more experience. LCMT was an absolute blast and I’m excited to be heading the the Glen. I think changing the away tracks up is a good idea (maybe one far, one close). But I still think we should at lest do a destination track where we can involve the family or significant other. I would love to try some other places out next year and mix it up and the closer to me the better. As far the club and the overall cost it is a business and if the cost of the events is more than we are taking in the club probably won’t continue. Being in a position before that required finding that fine line is tuff, there a lot of unknowns, the main one being attendance.

I think getting a lot of ideas on how to raise the attendance at away tracks and also how to keep the hobby some what affordable is needed. If we can get one or two good ideas it will be worth it. As always it takes a lot of work from the BOD and the volunteers to make it happen before and after the event and also on the weekends during the event. as a club we need to work together to get it done. I am more than happy to help out when needed as long as I’m able to.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by SmokinS4 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 5:36 pm

Wow, so much to unpack.

COMs instructor core is one of the most dedicated group of instructors I know. A group that dedicates itself to keep our members safe and set the pace of their development. Instructors also put ourselves at serious risk. We earn our track time and and often sacrifice that privilege as required to support our students and the continued encouragement of this crazy hobby.

There are many “Instructors” in other organizations, who are not qualified to do what we do. You have no idea, it’s really scary. Our group are phenomenal and should be appreciated. My students make this worth it for me, but I don’t understand where the free ride comes from. I am certain this feeling isn’t from any of our student members.

Like Scott, I also registered as a non instructor for Mont Tremblant too and paid $585, because I wanted to go.... with that said, I’m not in favor of keeping Mont Tremblant annually. There’s cost and logistics.

Having two or more BIG trips, makes it hard for most working folk to attend the majority of COM events. Having Canada and Watkins Glen events in the same season puts a stress on the schedule.

I’d recommend against pushing 2 or more long distance events.

I also love variety too, so changing the schedule each year for a new destination is also enticing.

I would suggest not attending mont Tremblant again next year, as we need to make it new again.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by CalypsoBean » Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:27 pm

As a Canadian who's been a member of COM for about a decade now (and who convinced my father to join too), I would love more events at NHMS because it's the closest US track for the two of us. Club Motorsport is also very close, although I understand the safety issues.

I get to run Tremblant any time I want to, but usually with clubs that are far less entertaining than COM. I would love to keep it on the schedule.

Distance keeps me from attending events like Thompson or Lime Rock.

In my opinion, tracks like Mosport are worth the trip. It's a long trek for me too - probably 5-6 hours from Montreal. But then again, that's the same distance I travel to Palmer and WGI.

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Re: Next year's schedule

Post by CalypsoBean » Thu Aug 22, 2019 7:32 pm

I would also like to say that I do more events with COM than any of my Canadian clubs, because COM is head and shoulders one of the best organizations I've been on track with.

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