The gates open at 7:30, and the people who run the show get there and start setting up cones and tables and the like. we've been on the road for about 15 minues to a half hour by this time to get there by about 8:00 or 8:30. Much later than that and you won't haev enough time to walk the course enough and prep the car and sign in and all that fun stuff. Walking the course is way important, it's the only way to really learn it before doing it for real.
When you get there you find a nice parking spot off the track and get registered. This involves a liability form and giving them $20, and getting a number and a class for your car.
After that you prep the car. This means removing everything that isn't bolted down, including the spare tire, jack, floormats, etc. Hubcaps and wheel covers should come off if they're not bolted on.
Most cars with street tires want to pump them up to 50 or 55 pounds so they don't flex too much in cornering. I have a second set of wheels that have sticky race tires on them, so I don't have to do that.
You then open the hood and leave the registration form under the windshiled wiper, someone will come by and do a tech inspection of the car to make sure it's safe.
Then walk the course. This is important. The course is different for each event, so *nobody* has driven it before. Most new drivers find that getting lost while driving it is their bigest problem. I usually walk the course at least 3 or 4 times if I can. It's important to walk it at least once all by yourself so you're not distracted by your friends gabbing. It's also useful to walk it with someone who's experienced to get some hints.
Driver's meeting is next. they go over the club rules, the run order, and perhaps some administrivia.
All the drivers are divided in to two groups, heat 1 and heat 2. When one heat is driving, the other heat is working. Immediately after the Driver's meeting the heat 1 drivers go and get in their cars and get them into grid (lined up and ready to go) the heat 2 drivers get a work assignment from a bigwhig who keeps track of such things. There are several kinds of work assignments, including peple who keep grid running smoothly, corner workers (watch for knocked over cones and report them to timing/scoring) timing and scoring, and a couple other random things. You have to do your work assignment or they won't let you drive.
When the course and workers are ready, the starter will bring the first car up to the start gate. When the starter waves the flag the driver is free to go. The actual timing start line is about 15 feet beyond the start gate, so the clock doesn't start until *the driver* is ready, and the car actually crosses the timing lights. The driver then drives the course through to the finish line, which is marked by another set of timing lights. The time for the car is determinded by the time between the start and finish timing lights, plus any penalties. It's a 2 second penalty for knocking over a cone, and a 20 second penalty for going off course. (the wrong side of a cone, missing a gate entirely, etc.) Any cones that were knocked over are reported to timing by the corner workers and set back in their boxes for the next driver.
In most cases the starter won't send a car until the previous car has crossed the finish line, but sometimes the course is layed out such that you safely get two cars on at once. There is never any chance of two cars coming within 20 seconds of each other.
There are certified instructors to ride along with you if you want pointers, they can be very useful. Sometimes "pointers" means helping you find the course, sometimes it means showing you where to apex a corner for the highest exit speed. They're all quite psyched about the sport, and delighted to help anybody. I've never found any of the instructors to be condensing or arrogant.
After each driver has had 3 runs the heat 1 drivers go to get a worker assignment, and the heat 2 driver get their cars into grid, and the it all hapens again.
Corner workers are expected to watch the course for potential dangers, set up knocked over/moved cones, report penalties to timing, and basically pay attention to what's going on. Each corner team has a radio, a fire extinguisher, and a red flag to stop cars if something is wrong. Depending on the drivers in the other heat, working a corner can be really easy, or a lot of running after cones.
Grid workers basically make sure that all drivers get their runs, and that they happen in an order that makes sense, so timing can keep track of everything. Herding drivers is a lot like herding cows, they want to go to the right place, but they have no idea where that is and unless told otherwise they'll just fill any available space in line.
Timing and scoring is a lot of record keeping.
After all drivers have had 3 runs each there's a lunch break. The afternoon is a repeat of the morning.
When all the official timed runs have happened there is usually a bunch of time set aside for "fun runs", or "dollar runs", which basically means you can drive more if you want for $1 per run. For these you can drive another car if the owner will let you, you can get a ride from an approved ride-giver (this is a total hoot!).
Then we all go home and have sushi. This usually happens about 4:00 or 4:30.