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World's Worst Weather Behind the Scenes Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything

THEN . . .

Racing arrangements were simple, and the management good. S. M. Butler and A. R. Pardington, of the A. A. A. racing board, started and stopped the cars, alternating at the top and bottom on successive days. Timing was in the expert hands of the Chronograph* Club, of Boston, and telephone communication was arranged between the start and finish, and the intermediate “two mile”, “halfway” and “six mile” stations. Cars were usually sent away at half hour intervals and at agreed times all those which had made the ascent were sent back to the start. To signal the official start on the arrival of each car at the top, smoke rockets were to be used, but those on the ground turned out to be of the ordinary Fourth of July variety and did not push the clouds away so as to be seen from below. Charles J. Glidden, the world’s touring record holder, however, established a signal service of his own invention, and so the need of visible signals was not felt. With C. W. Barron, of Boston, as aide, he took control of the telephone in the Summit House, about 50 feet above the finish line, and with a megaphone and a good pair of lungs bridged the distance between the timer’s stand and the ‘phone connected with the starting point.

Reprinted from The Automobile Weekly Saturday, July 16, 1904

*Chronograph: an instrument for measuring and recording exact time intervals.

NOW . . .

The New England Region of SCCA is responsible for the timing and scoring, down to five one hundredths of a second, for the Audi - Mt. Washington Hillclimb. A crew of 10-12 people work the overall timing operation headed by Bob Lyle.

Each morning, a synchronized start of two dozen or so stopwatches takes place. One of these stopwatches stays at the bottom with the starter. Crew at the midpoint have stopwatches for the midway split, and 8 crew have more stopwatches in the timing van at the finish. One crew member works the private timing and scoring communications line in order for times to be relayed back to the base to be posted.

Good enough? Well, the starter must release each new racer at exactly one or two minute intervals so that the finish timers can give precise times. With four to five cars racing at any given time, timing is everything. When the starter’s stopwatch hits one minute, the next car to race must start - not count down to start, but start.

During practice runs, it is not unheard of that one racer catches up to the racer in front of him. The only remedy to this is to allow the second racer to re-run his race. If a car starts the race, but for some reason does not finish (DNF), the timers need to be on their toes in order to keep all other times correct.

On race day the racers take two runs. The faster of the two runs is the official time for that racer. Sixty to seventy percent of the racers do go faster on their second run.

Who are these timing and scoring workers? Two of these people are Chiefs of Timing and Scoring with the New England Region of SCCA. Bob Lyle, has nine years of experience as Chief of Timing and Scoring for the Audi - Mt. Washington Hillclimb. Seeing as next year will be his 10th anniversary as Chief of Timing and Scoring here, Bob has plans to approach the timing of the race from a different vantage point - behind the wheel of his Dodge Turbo Colt as a competitor! He runs his car in Vermont regularly.

Denise Patten has been an Assistant of Timing and Scoring, and for the past two years has been Chief of Timing and Scoring for the Road Racing Division of NERSCCA. She has been involved in road racing for some years. She met her husband, Dave Patten, at a race track. Together they attend the Audi - Mt. Washington Hillclimb as well as races at New Hampshire International Speedway and Lime Rock Park in Connecticut - she as Chief of Timing and Scoring, and he as a racer. A family affair that keeps them quite busy.

The timing of the Audi - Mt. Washington Hillclimb is important, but a very behind the scenes job. These twelve crew members work diligently to quickly provide the spectators at the base with updated times of the competitors. After all, timing is everything when you race to beat the clock!