AutoX: Hawkeye Downs Iowa Region SCCA 2014-7-13

If you’ve been following you’ll notice there has been a lot of racing lately. Hawkeye Downs is the closest location to our new digs, it’s always fun to do events close by. Going to numerous events and locations is crucial for a few reasons, including variation and exposure. Variation gives you the opportunity to experience different surfaces, course designers, and competition. Exposure means you get a chance to meet new people and they get to meet you, if you’ve got sponsors or contingencies the more exposure the better! Exposure also means the people running the show remember your face/car, this is important if you’re looking to do more activities within the region/club.

AutoX plays an important role in the amateur racing world, it’s a great place for people to get inexpensive exposure to safe competition. It’s also great for experienced drivers to hone and fine tune a separate set of skills that they rarely get to use. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, get out there and go autoxing. Find your region, find your local clubs and go racing.

Lets talk about the Hawkeye Downs event hosted by the Iowa Region SCCA and watch some videos.

On Sunday July 13th 2014 the Iowa Region SCCA hosted an AutoX at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids. This is a very cool facility to do an autox at and the rumors about a larger turnout were true. There was a good diversity of drivers, we had the trailer’d E Mod cars, a couple ASP STIs and EVOs, multiple Turbo Ford hot hatches, 2 or 3 muscle cars with LSX swaps in them, even a R33 Skyline GTS with a sticky throttle (it had to be sticky, or he had a vacuum leak, nothing else could explain the constant revving of his engine while coasting up to tech).

As per usual Brian and I showed up nice and early for the event. We unloaded and prepped the cars. We ate our PB&J sandwiches, registered and tech’d our cars. Tech is always fun for me, it breaks the ice with people I don’t personally know yet and lets us chat about things for a brief few minutes. Having my trunk monkey Apu in the car always brings questions haha. Tech checked my battery, wheels, lugs and made sure nothing looked out of sorts and signed off on the tech sheet. After tech Brian and I set out to walk the course, but first we applied some sunscreen. Iowa may be further north but the Sun doesn’t care, especially in July. Quick rules for autox and sunscreen, actually there are only two rules.
1.) apply
2.) re-apply.

The course walk was fun, we were using both the inner and outer rings of the Hawkeye Downs track. The outer track has some decent banking and the course designers took advantage of that. I really enjoy doing autox events on go kart tracks or larger road courses. This event was no different. After the start you head up the banking and quickly come back down, walking the course this part looked easy (it wasn’t). Going towards the back straight the designers had a really cool obstacle that was like a slalom but not. It confused a lot of people, due to the confusion they offset the gates a little to make it more clear what needed to be done (you’ll see it in the video). Going through the rest of the course was pretty good, it felt like it was going to be fast. The blind hairpin going onto the short circle looked really fun and a rare event at an autox. Take a look at the video and tell us what you think, fun course? too complex? too easy?


Runs 1-3 in the morning felt ok, but I knew there was a lot left on the table. There were some issues with grid and the delays between runs (will go into that later), but after my work was complete I wasn’t itching to do 2 more runs. Then I saw the standings and knew I had to step back in the car and try to get closer to a few of the fast guys. There was a B Stock EVO IX racing while I was working and he was flying!! He looked flawless, after comparing times I knew I could get close. I just needed to focus (oh and re-apply sunscreen and drink more water).

Going into the first run of the afternoon (run 4) I decided to go for it, well it worked the time was fast but I clipped a cone in the “slalom thingy” section. The 5th and final run of the day I knew I needed to get it together and focus, find that time on course. It worked, and it was clean, not as fast as the 4th run but it was clean!! I’ll take it! I shaved nearly 1.2 seconds off my fastest morning time, safe to say I left time on course in the AM.

After we finished running we packed up the cars, talked a little shop with fellow friends and competitors then headed home. It was a long, long day of AutoX and to be honest I was exhausted.

Normally, AutoXs run to about 2-3pm. This event was longer unfortunately. Due to the run configuration and work assignments it meant there was no break and we were out working FOREVER. haha. I’m not complaining, when asked to work I work. I’m simply pointing out that this exposed an area for improvement. I plan on getting more involved with the club to help where I can. Some of the issues with the day were from the configuration of Hawkeye Downs, some with chair’s the choice of only doing 2 heats and others simply due to the weather being hot.

Hawkeye Downs doesn’t have a lot of room to stage/grid cars unfortunately the grid area was also taken up by some trailers which forced an odd 3 row layout with an overflow back down a narrow pathway. Previous events at Hawkeye Downs created some issue with cross traffic. To the Iowa Region’s credit there didn’t seem to be an issue with cross traffic this event so that problem was addressed. It did expose another issue, the overflow. With 88 cars we had enough drivers to do 3 or maybe even 4 run heats. This would’ve cut down the number of cars in grid by as much as 50% and allowed for lesser time between drivers.

Idea 1.
4 heats, 2 work groups.
A runs C,D work
B runs C,D work
C runs A,B work
D runs A,B work
Repeat for afternoon.

This allows for a full set of 35 workers if need be. A variation on this would be to have C and A work the morning and B and D work the afternoon.

Idea 2
3 heats, 3 work groups
A runs C works
B runs A works
C runs B works
Repeat in the afternoon.

This allows for complete coverage of about 25 workers per heat, and everyone gets 2 breaks during the day. Yes it means 3 worker changes but the change overs should be quick since the next run group was resting and the work group should’ve filtered up to get work assignments after they finished their last run.

Neither of these ideas would’ve fixed the long day, but they would’ve given us a chance to relax.

The only other thing that confuses me about the two Iowa Regions I’ve ran with are their stubbornness to maintain numerical order in grid/staging. I’m going to have to dig deeper into this and find out if it’s a software constraint in timing or something else.

All in all, I loved the Hawkeye Downs event. Sure it had hiccups, but nothing runs perfectly. I enjoy running with the Iowa Region SCCA because it appears they want to make it work better, they notice problems post event and they aim to correct them the next time around. I look forward to getting more exposure within the Iowa Region, Great River Region and soon the Des Moines Valley Region. I want to say thank you to all the volunteers that make these things run as smoothly as possible.

No photos this time around, still hunting for some.
I’ll add some more videos from earlier runs.

Time to prepare for the next event.

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