Take 5: With Jason Frank

The name Jason Frank probably isn't lost on too many folks.  He is an accomplished autocrosser, winning National Championships in FP, AS, STC and a couple in STS. From Corvettes to Civics, Jason can drive them all. And drive them well.  Jason grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and still lives there today working as an architect. His first autocross was in 2002, and he attended his first Tire Rack SCCA® Solo® National Championship the following year.  Jason is our Take 5 subject, as he is one of your course designers for this year’s Championship in Lincoln, Nebraska. 


Q1: Before we get into the course design stuff, let’s learn a little bit more about Jason. I think many of us know you also bowl.  Are you as, shall we say, invested in bowling as you are autocross?


JF: Yeah, that would be totally fair!  You might not know this about me, but I am a pretty competitive person, lol.  Bowling wise, I have attended the National Championship in Vegas 12 times. I have 27 300 games and have bowled 12 800 series over the years. Weird fact: I have an unconventional style. I bowl without using my thumb!   


Q2: You’re competitive, huh?  Never would have guessed. LOL. Ok, so let’s get into the course design questions. How long have you been designing courses, and what is your methodology?


JF: The first course I designed was back in 2009. I usually do one or two locally every year. The first National course I designed was for the Milwaukee Match Tour a few years back.  Methodology wise, I start off kind of knowing the type of elements I want to include, and then start piecing it together. While designing the new course, I go back and look through my old courses, which I have saved, to help make sure my spacing is where I want it. One thing I do that is kind of unique I think is that I actually start at the finish, and then Tetris the elements into the lot using as much of the lot as I can, while working back toward the start. I don’t want to leave a lot of open spaces. 


Q3: What does a quintessential Jason Frank Course look like?


JF: I would say all course designers strive for some sort of balanced course, right?  That is my first objective. But while that is the case, I do aim for a course that leans more toward the technical side. I usually try to have areas that require some patience. A lot of folks that have driven my courses call them my gotchas. But really, they are just areas that require good car placement and patience to maneuver through.


Q4: When you design courses, what are the types of tools you use? Some use paper and pencils, but others use computer programs. You being an architect,I presume you would use a computer. 


JF: Yeah, I design everything in AutoCAD, which is a big drafting program. I start by getting the overall dimension of the site with a measuring wheel. While out there, I look for manhole covers and the like, so you know what you’re working with in terms of obstacles. I then use Google maps to get a satellite image, mark the spots with issues, put it in the program and start designing.


Q5: What advice would have for those wanting to start designing courses for their local regions?


JF: Find someone to mentor you. Look for someone that designs courses you like, and ask if you can help them set it up sometime. Watch their process. As you start designing, do your best to have thick skin. There are a lot of factors that go into whether someone likes a course, and not all of them have to do with the actual course! Someone could have simply had a bad day driving, or you used an element they’re not good at driving, and that can affect how they feel about the course as a whole.