How Much Did That Day Just Cost You?
For you, the $250 – $350 entry fee just represents one of the associated costs. It gets a bit depressing when you really start figuring out what the event just cost. This time you were lucky because it does not appear that anything broke that would necessitate buying more replacement parts. You start adding the costs up in your head…There were tires, gas for the racecar and tow vehicle, brake pads were worn down a bit. Eeek! You begin to wonder how can racing costs be reduced?
For people like myself who simply can’t afford to (or for others who simply don’t want to) spend tons of money on racing, you become forced into finding ways to reduce the costs. Did you buy your gas at the track? During a time when 93 octane gas could be purchased for $3.80 at a gas station, it won’t be unusual to see the track charge $7.50 or more per gallon for the same grade. Buy your gas at a local gas station and bring it with you. The one-time cost of a 5-gallon fuel jug (or maybe two) is well worth the investment. Do you send the racecar to a garage when it needs to be repaired? If you do, this adds up extremely fast. Learn how to work on the car yourself, and you will save a significant amount of money. Did you pay for a hotel? Why not camp at the track? I’ll admit that I am a wimp and need a large tent, air mattress, and a fan. Just because you are camping does not mean that you can’t do it with comfort. Take a close look at what you spend, and be creative with methods to cut your racing expenditures. More information about the costs associated with racing will be discussed throughout this resource.
With entry fees ranging between $250 and $350, clubs must be making a significant amount of money from hosting events, right? At one of the recent SCCA two-day events, the entry fee was $280, which included a practice and qualifying session on Friday, then a race on Saturday. The event seemed to be on par with any other typical weekend for that track with 250 entrants. I whipped out my calculator and did some number crunching. For that one weekend alone, they took in $70,000 from entry fees. So why do they charge so much for the entry fee? I thought SCCA was supposed to be a non-profit club?
I spoke with a few clubs that host racing events regarding their costs. What I learned absolutely shocked me! The following information represents a portion of the costs for an SCCA region to host a two-day event in 2008, at the same track I referenced in the scenario above. While this track is a bit on the expensive side, it will give you an appreciation for where your entry fee goes.
If you are like me, you are quickly adding up the above costs. The total for these listed expenses not including various equipment is $60,410. Again, these are just some of the expenses. There are many other smaller ticket items that add up quickly. (The costs will also vary depending upon the track and club.)
After reviewing these costs, you will notice that a figure for employees’ salaries is not included, which for most businesses is very costly. Why is this? With SCCA and most other racing clubs, all flaggers, stewards, registration workers, and timing and scoring workers are all volunteers. To staff an event at SCCA’s standards, it often takes nearly 100 volunteers for each race weekend. Yeah, that number seems high until you start adding all of the areas that volunteers are needed. For example, the club uses 3 or 4 workers per corner / flag station, 10 to 15 stewards, grid workers, fire and rescue workers, emergency medical staff, technical inspectors, pace car drivers, registration workers, and the list continues. Smaller clubs may not require this many volunteers, but still the number of people needed to host a successful event is not trivial. This is yet another reason why volunteers are so important to club racing’s success. Can you imagine how much it would cost if all of these workers were paid?
* At the end of the day, SCCA normally hosts a worker appreciation party. Workers, drivers and their crew are all invited to attend for food, beer, and soda. It is a great time to meet the volunteers and swap racing stories with fellow drivers. Especially because people are volunteering their time, this is a small token of appreciation for the workers. Oh, the $4,000 budget for food and $950 for two kegs of beer are not misprints. When I was told the price for the two kegs of beer, I needed to ask several times “do you mean $95?” Here lies the problem. It is not possible for the club to bring their own food and drinks unless the party is done off the track premises. Since the parties are held on the track premises, food and drink must be purchased from the track, and are sold at consumer restaurant prices. Again, the club needs to keep their volunteers happy, therefore this party really is necessary. Without volunteers, the event either wouldn’t happen or the entrance fee would be substantially higher.
With many racing clubs, participants don’t need to sign-up early and pay in advance. It is often possible for entrants to sign-up for an event and, on the day of the event, decide not to attend and receive their entry fee back. This equates to risk for the club. If it is a rainy day, the attendance is typically lower as compared to a nice, sunny day. The club uses historical data to estimate how many entries are anticipated, then calculates the necessary entry fee. What happens if the region is wrong? Hopefully they’re not. Clubs do try to put some money aside from profitable events for a rainy day, no pun intended. It is also necessary for the club to budget for the competition licensing schools, where most clubs typically lose money. Think about the 60 students at a school and how much would be necessary to charge students to break-even. At the same time, without conducting licensing schools, no new drivers would be able to join the club.
As I previously mentioned, this pricing is only to provide you with an idea of what it costs clubs to host an event; each club, region, and track will have different costs. Often times smaller clubs have lower costs, but they also may have less desirable weekends or not as much staffing for the event.
It’s More than Just Racing!
I have been to a few fairly significant events in terms of club racing. What I find interesting are the things I remember most fondly about the events. It is the camaraderie between racers, family and friends. Going into these events, I thought my memories would revolve around the driving aspect, but I was wrong. Believe me, I am totally into driving cars at the edge and becoming the best driver I can be, but you can’t underestimate the other aspects of racing. Each race my wife Melissa and I attend, the more great people we meet. Through racing, I have developed several close friendships. The time you spend off the track is just as important and rewarding as the time spent on the track. Let’s just say that racing is much more than I ever anticipated there would be.