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An Outsider No More: Thoughts on TORC at ERX

stephenrjking

Well-Known Member
Last year I posted an "Outsider's View" of a trip to Crandon with my kids as a new fan of short course racing. Now, a full year of following the sport (and attending Crandon once more) I visited ERX yesterday with my kids. I thought I'd post some thoughts on the track, the series, and the work MSI is doing.

Apologies for length. I was given some feedback that suggested that some people are interested in my thoughts.

The Good

-Whomever is responsible for getting the facility ready for guests did a great job. I understand some of the sod was laid fresh on Friday, but everything looked great. Staff was plentiful and helpful, and they did a good job making lemons with the distant parking by operating a frequent shuttle (it was a hayride, actually really cool!) to bring us closer in. When the round was announced, I looked at the website and was underwhelmed by the site and the facility; the track I attended today impressive.

-The track itself has a lot of potential. I love big elevation changes, and despite a small-ish number of turns there is some real variety as the vehicles take their laps. The high-banked turn is a great idea (didn't really work out to much in practice, but hopefully they can engineer it to draw trucks up a bit) and I was particularly impressed with the finish jump, which Chad Hord occasionally used to attempt to reach orbit.

-The turnout. The track isn't set up for 30,000 fans and appeared to only draw a few thousand, but the spectator hill was well-packed and there were fans everywhere. It did not have the empty feeling of, say, Texas--or of the Big Ten Hockey Tournament in St. Paul, which one daughter and I attended with a few dozen other people this past spring. There were definitely some crossover fans from Crandon, but I met a few for whom this was their first race. Very promising!

-The screen was visible from every part of the viewing area, didn't block anything, and worked the entire time.

-Accessibility and immersion. Maybe my favorite thing about the sport. The pits are open, you can see the trucks getting worked on, and if you are patient you get to see the trucks drive to staging right past where you stand. It's awesome.

I thought it was incredible at Crandon last year that my kids got to high-five the podium guys. Yesterday after the Pro-4 race we chatted with Keegan Kincaid as he was prepping his backup truck and got a picture with him and the kids. Then, we were invited into Travis Dinsmore's pit and invited to talk and ask questions. My kids got to sit. In. His. Truck.

By coincidence, on our way to our car I ran into an employee of MSI and we chatted for a bit. So, having rubbed shoulders with two Pro drivers and a guy in series management, I can't really claim to be a total outsider (thus the title).

I also had some questions that a track administrator (Heidi, I think) answered promptly by email this week. And signage was good.

-Value. Not as cheap as Crandon (I had to pay for the kids, for example, though parking was free and $55 for three is not backbreaking) but we got a great afternoon of fun. And for kids, the half-hour races broken up by time checking out the promotional booths is good. Any track that has good stuff to do between races is going to be a fun trip for my family.

The Bad

-The view itself left something to be desired. I was excited about the idea of a general admission hill, but the hill just isn't that high, and there is nowhere that you can see more than half of the track. The best spot to watch was probably the paved space next to the southernmost grandstand, right next to the fallaway, where you could see the entire run down to the hairpin as well as the two central turns and the screen. There was no seating here, but there were a lot of people standing.

The view from the spectator mound was incomplete. I could see the K turn and the front stretch into the sharp righthander, and then the tops of the cars going into the banked turn, and then again flying through the finish straight. They weren't visible for half of the lap, and unfortunately the split backstretch where a lot of the action was is completely out of view from every spectator area. There might be some small things they could do to help this, like lowering the track after the tabletop to expose more of the banked turn and hill up to the finish, or add a new section near the K turn in view of the fans to make more of the lap visible, but some of this is just the geography. Still, not as easy to watch as I would like from Short Course.

FWIW the backside of the hill attracted a dozen or so spectators and if they placed a screen and speakers there (speakers at least would be a good idea, I couldn't hear anything in the pit area) it could be a legitimate secondary spectator area.

-I had no problem with this, since I've been in pits before, but to get to the track one must walk through the pits, and a new fan or one unfamiliar with attending in person may not be prepared for live trucks driving past them. A "Warning: Live Pit Area, watch for working race vehicles" on display at the entrance might help.

Worth noting that everyone actually driving in the pits did so with patience and safety and I never had reason to be concerned.

-The schedule. The printed map/schedule brochure I received at the entrance had one schedule, printed before the UTV race was added. The website had a different schedule, after two UTV races were scheduled. The event actually followed a third, mystery schedule after the UTV races were consolidated, a schedule that resembled neither written schedule I had access to. I actually missed the beginning of the Pro Light race due to this, though as a consequence I got a chance to watch the first three laps from the fallaway, a good spot.

-The music was loud and often walked on the track announcer when he was discussing things like laps to go, problems with a truck, or race updates. It also walked on a couple of postrace interviews. I'm told this was an error rather than a deliberate choice.

The Ugly

-Two trucks in racing condition and three trucks running at all at the end of Pro-2: Woof. Kincaid's crash was really unfortunate, because the KK-CJ match races have been the best thing in the entire sport over the past year. Once that happened it was basically over.

I understand MSI is making a concerted effort to build relationships with drivers, to which I say: Great! They are, of course, the lifeblood of the sport.

Conclusion:

I hope this event is successful this year and grows. I understand the Carlson family has invested quite a bit to make this happen. Yesterday honestly wasn't a great day for me to spend a whole day (2.5 hour drive to and from Duluth) out at a race, but I wanted to support the series and the track and have a good time with my kids.

And it was worth it. My girls were bubbling with excitement on the way home. The races themselves were less pleasing to the eyes than the two trips to Crandon last year, but it's still a wonderful sport. And our experience overall, immersed in the fans and then the pits, was excellent. We are attached.

Hope to go back next year.
 

offroadracer

Well-Known Member
Thanks for sharing. Now lets hope the right people read this feed back. I've been going to off-road race's my entire life and have seen several things that could be done differently but who am I.
Lets start by saying great job MSI, TORC and MORR. I wasn't able to attend Elk River so I turned to the Live broadcast. I have to say it has improved 200%.
One thing you mentioned was the music. I have to agree. When I was at Joliet the music played in the back ground while the race's ran. To me this distracting and irritating. I'd rather hear the announcer and the engines. The music can be played but maybe just between race's. Just something to consider.
I think I'm just gonna stop there. All in all great job guys!
 

dbq61537

Well-Known Member
Take it from me, the MSI marketing staff does keep track, of talk about their events. Most sports organizations do...many of the changes made during the season and being made for next year, came about...because of the things said on this page and via social media.


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dnf736

Well-Known Member
-The turnout... appeared to only draw a few thousand
It probably didn't help that Round 8 of the AMA Motocross Nationals Series was at Spring Creek last weekend.
 

offroadracer

Well-Known Member
Couple other things that I think is really cool this year is the text notifications the racers get and the toast at the end of the weekend.


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PDANK Racing

Well-Known Member
I was impressed with the spectator turnout for a 1st time event, they did a great job on pre race promotion. Event was well staffed, and the staff was coordinated. Track layout was good, and the different soil was a challenge. The drainage system built in the track worked great after the rain, track wasn't sloppy at all.

I agree that the hill was too short for good spectating. Standing in the spotter tower, I was able to see quite a bit more. The music during the races needs to stop. It would be okay to use prerace, as a way to signal when cars are entering track, but not during driver intros. I'll assume part of the improvements next year will be more room around the track to allow broken cars to pull (or be towed) off. The track designer really messed up on this and it caused huge delays in the schedule.

Biggest pet peeves was no track grooming between some of the sportsman's classes, and running sportsman after the pros. I almost got my light buggy stuck on parade lap because the ruts were f'ing deep. Seemed like a number of cars broke because of hitting deep ruts. With soil like this, they at least need to groom the corners between every race.

I personally feel that pro's should always end the show. I could list out several reasons why, but honestly, if the promoter can't figure out why, they're in the wrong business.
 

mike337

Well-Known Member
The lack of grooming on a track that easily gets torn up makes it a little different/better for the spectators. It's off-road, we don't care about your cars, lol. Know what I mean? I think it gave this track it's own character.
Getting hurts cars off the track was slow and got very old, I agree. I'm not a fan of full course cautions unless it's a red flag situation.
 
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