Time Certain Scheduling
Jack Durbin - Motorsport News International
Detroit, MI - "Time Certain Scheduling" was quietly introduced by Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) at the season opener at Homestead. A "time certain schedule" means that if a practice or qualifying activity is scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 10:45 a.m.; it does begin at 10:00 a.m. and end at 10:45 a.m., no matter how much time the cars run under the green flag. This was meant to be a fan, team and worker friendly program. Fans would know the time for on-track activities autograph sessions, etc.; teams would know when the next practice or qualifying session would begin. And the workers would known their day would end at a specific time.
At Homestead, "time certain" scheduling worked very well but there were only two series racing, Champ Cars and Indy Lights, both owned by CART. The true test would come at road or street events where several sanctioning bodies for support series may be involved. Although CART is committed to "time certain", the question was whether or not the other series would work with CART to keep everything running smoothly. "Time certain" worked flawlessly at Long Beach, even though El Nino did its best to disrupt the proceedings. But all involved agreed that if "time certain" could work at Detroit it could truly be called a success. The Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle has the largest number of support races of any street course on the CART circuit. In addition to Indy Lights and Champ cars, the Detroit GP weekend included Barber Dodge and Trans Am races, as well as two Dodge Neon charity races.
Traditionally the Detroit Grand Prix is regarded as one of the toughest weekends on the circuit for the workers and crews. Sessions on track begin at 8:00 a.m. and until this year often ended after 8 p.m. Only die-hard fans stayed until the end of each day's activities.
Enter "time certain scheduling", and this weekend became a relatively pleasant experience for all involved. On Friday, everything went by the schedule, beginning with Barber Dodge practice at 8:00 a.m. and ending with Trans-Am qualifying, which lasted until 6:00 p.m.. The weather was the only downside to the day: it was cold with rain and some hail.
The only exception to "time certain" scheduling on road and street courses is that each of the split-field Champ car qualifying sessions on Friday and Saturday must have at least 20 minutes of green. This put the schedule slightly behind on Saturday. Even so, and with a late starting Trans-Am race, the day ended before 7:00 p.m.
The fans were happy because on-track activities and pit walks, etc. were predictable. Their favorite drivers were at autograph sessions when they were supposed to be and were able to stay for the entire time. The crews knew how long they had to prepare the cars for the next practice or qualifying. They knew when they had to be ready to grid their cars, and so on. And for the hundred or so white-clad corner workers who support this event? Well, in past years the line was, "I survived the Detroit Grand Prix!" This year the line was "The Detroit Grand Prix - what a great weekend!"