After a couple posts in the last few months regarding Autocross and advice, I have put this together for new and experience enthusiastes to read.
Autocross is often referred to as Solo II. For all intent and purposes, I will keep it simple and call it Autocross.
Simply put, Autocross is timed motorsport that typically occurs in a parking lot or abandoned airport. Competitors must pilot there cars around a pre-designed course marked my small rubber pylons. Autocross is a very safe form of racing as it tends to keep speeds relatively low. It is a fun and challenging form of motorsports that requires the driver’s skill in three different ways: acceleration, maneuverability, and deceleration.
Finding an event:
Autocross events occur quite frequently all around North America. My club hosts 9 local events at the largest parking lot in the city (an NHL arena). They are scheduled from June to mid-October.
Internet forums are a great place to find an event. They have led you to my post hasn’t it? There are people constantly posting in events forums (on local car forums) or in the regional sections of larger forums like this one.
Another way to find an event is to look it up on google. That is how I found the Motorsports Club of Ottawa, and read through their site to find the Autocross Schedule.
Things to bring to an event:
-comfortable shoes that can be tied up
-a helmet (although helmets can usually be rented)
-clothing that is not overly baggy
-a car if you wish to drive
-an air compressor (optional)
-a tire pressure gauge (optional)
-a roll of masking tape (used to put numbers on your car/windows)(optional)
-a polite and positive attitude (mandatory..hah)
Cost to Autocross:
Like everything in life, there is a cost associated with Autocross. The club I belong to charges $30 for members and $40 . Spectators are giving free admission, although they must sign an insurance waiver. Also, spectators are aloud to ride a long for free!
Helmet rental is an additional $5.
Most events have a set timing schedule. A schedule may be similar to the following;
7:30am – Set-up Crew Arrives
8:00am – Registration Opens
8:30am – Course Walks begin
9:30am – Novice Course Walk
9:45am – Driver’s meeting
10:00am – First car off
~12:30 – Lunch Break (will typically wait until the highest numbered car has gone)
~1:00 – First car off after lunch
~5:00 – End of Competition
~6:30 – Dinner and awards
Bringing your own car:
I’m sure if you are reading my little write-up, you have some kind of interest in racing. Owning a quick little sporty car like ours, you ache to legally let it loose. Autocross is the perfect opportunity for this.
Most autocross clubs/associations do not permit any loose objects inside or on a car when competing. This includes coins, old receipts and all. I spent a good couple hours cleaning my Redline before my first event. I had a couple old receipts stuck under my seats, and coins in my cup holders. Once you start twisting around and moving, these objects can go flying. I typically leave me car open to the elements all day, and a gust of wind could snag a piece of paper and send it flying across the track. This can be a HUGE distraction for a racer. Another bonus to a clean car, is there are always professional photographers at events taking pictures. They usually give out lower quality resolution pictures for free (ideal for web), but charge like $15 bucks for the original, or like $25 for a large print. They mostly do it for the love of taking pictures, I just like seeing my car in action.
Fill your tires up with air before you go. I usually fill mine up to about 40psi all around. You want a lot of air in your tires for two reasons; it is easier to release compressed air, than it is to pump air into it and the firmer your tires, the less chance of your sidewalls rolling and you riding on your rim.
Bring some shoe polish, bar of white soap, whatever, something white that rubs off easily. Mark your tires on the edges and down the sidewall with a good 1” thick strip in a couple spots on each tire. After your first or second run, you will be able to see how far over your tires are rolling-over, if it is taking a lot of the stuff off, use that pump, or borrow one to fill the tires up some more.
It is a good idea to have a car that is in good working condition, i.e. no rusted parts that could fall off, no leaks of anything. Leaks are dangerous and could cause an accident. If you know your car is leaking someone, do not take it to an event to race. Check your belt (s) for cracking or wear. Excessive high rpm’s may be too much for it(they) to handle.
This is where the organizers inspect your car for safety and modifications. The SCCA has their own classing system, which I am not very familiar with. You can find information here SCCA
I will inform you of how our club classes vehicles based on their own system.MCO This is to guide you in the right direction, not a guide to tell you what class your car is actually in. Our club divides cars up into 5 different classes (a-e). Each car is given a ‘stock point’ value, based on the cars HP, weight and handling characteristics. Each class has a certain point range. For example Class-A is 100-74, Class-B is 74-67, Class-C is 67-60, Class-D is 60-52 and Class-E is anything below 52 points. Modifications add whole number points to a cars stock point base.
Brief example taken from MCO website; (I couldn't copy the table into this post, so I 'attempted' to re-create it with "..." )
......................................Stock....Lig htly Modified..... Moderately Modified....Heavily Modified
Wheel, Tires, and Brakes.........0...............2.................. ........4................6........
Suspension...........................0............ ....2.........................4................6.. ......
Engine and Drive train.............0................1.............. ...........2................4........
Weight Reduction and Bodywork..0............1.......................... 2................4.
1993 Honda Civic Si: Base Percentage is 55.5 with the following modifications
• 16x7 wheels with Azenis—2points
• Drop Springs, base Konis, sway bars—4 points
• Header, intake, exhaust—1points
Total points = 7 points added on to the base of 55.5 gives you 62.5 and will be classed in Class C
1990 Mazda Miata: Base Percentage is 62.2 with the following modifications
• 15x8 Lightweight wheels with Hoosiers, large brake kit—6 points
• Coilovers, swaybars—4 points
• Header, intake, exhaust – 1 point
Total points = 11 points added on to the base of 61.7 gives you 72.7 and will be classed in Class B
Organizers will often take into consideration a driver’s experience. If you are just starting out, tell them, they may knock you a class down, just so you don’t get completely blown out of the water, a confidence thing for your first year.
1. Show up early and walk the course. Look for lines, plan your route ahead of time.
2. Take the novice course walk, even if you have already gone to a couple events before. They always give great advice, and it allows you to get a walk in with someone else’s opinion.
3. Do not speed, rev engine, or do burnouts in areas with people around. No one likes show offs, and you could hurt someone. Drive up slowly to the line, idle your way up to the start box, and go.
4. Don’t be afraid to spin your tires a bit when you take off, it helps warm them up a bit. Here we have a 4’ space to get going before our time starts.
5. On your first couple runs, do not try to drive too fast. Instead, put your focus on learning your car and the course. Don’t be afraid to really use your brakes. Don’t be afraid to hit a pylon, especially early in the day. They don’t mark your car up, usually just bounce off.
6. There should never be any coasting. It is either on the gas or on the brakes.
7. If you don’t have an lsd, I mean if you are driving any powerful car, even with an lsd, learn to feather the gas. Spinning tires hurts your time. Learn to ease into it, for us non-LSD drivers, wait until you are almost perfectly straight before opening her right up.
8. Remember, sliding tires means no traction, means losing time. Do not attempt to drift. You make think its cool and fun, but is in fact much slower than taking the corner on the brink of your tires’ traction.
9. Ask to go for a ride in an experienced person’s car, do not pay attention to anything except how they drive, do not even look out the windows. Watch their hands, their feet, and their eyes.
10. Ask an experienced driver to come for a ride with you, if they are a nice person, they will give you pointers and help you improve your driving skills.
11. IF you happen to loose control (which is bound to happen when pushing a car, I mean tires to their limits) find an open patch of asphalt and keep your eyes fixed on that spot. It is some old psychological thing that the car will go where your eyes tell it to go. In other words, do not look at the curb or light standard or whatever sort of hazard may there be.
12. Try to always look ahead. As you are going through one gate, your eyes should be fixed on the next gate, as you plan your way through it. Try not to look at things close to your car, chances are if you are going to hit it, you already have.
13. Never forget your marshalling duty. Our club records it all, and if you skip your duty, your fastest time of the day is removed from your times. It is also just a good gesture, helps keep things going.
14. When out on course for marshalling duty, pay close attention to the cars going by. If you are new, it is a given that these guys are more experienced than you are. You will be able to see their lines, and watch their maneuvers. Pay even greater attention to cars that resemble your car, in our case SRT-4’s, Cobalts, Integras, Civics, any small FWD car for that matter. Pay attention to where they are good, and where they mess up. Try to learn from that. (Thank you Nukem for this one)
15. Focus on your driving, not what is going on around you inside the car. I guarantee it, you will hit the signal lights, or turn the wipers on. Just let them go, and turn them off when you are done. These are distractions and are not worth fixing until it is over.
16. When marshalling, there are usually two people at each stations. It is ok to chat when no cars are near, but as a car approaches, it is of upmost importance. It could loose control and possible injure you. In most cases though the worst that happens is a cone is hit, or a gate is missed. Eitherway, you need to be alert and watching so you can flag or radio the penalty into the timing tent.
17. If you baby your car on the street and like to keep the rpm’s low, you are going to have to make a habit of not shifting on straights. For our lovely cars, with a huge second gear, you can leave it there the whole time. Our series has a design standard that speeds shall not exceed 110km/h (62-63mph). IRL, with 7000 rpm redline will go to 107km/h. I have yet to ever feel the need to shift. The highest rpm’s I have ever gotten to was 6300 on a long straight. You may sometimes feel the need to drop it into first. Please do not do this, first gear is WAY to tall for this, and you may risk frying your syncros or damaging other drive-train parts.
18. Remember in driver’s education they told you “two hands on the wheel, 10-2”? Well this advice is very important in autocross. Your hands/arms move way to fast to be using 1 arm. No matter how cool it feels to have that left hand on the top of the steering wheel, and the right hand gripping that shifter, it IS going to cost you in autocross. You all know what I mean..haha.
19. My favourite quote “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”. Try to remember that.
20. If there is a competitive driving school offered by the club, take it. I haven’t taken it, and I wish I had of. 2008’s classes are already booked solid here.
21. The dreaded slalom. Pick your speed upon entry, and hold that speed. Do not use your brakes, but rather use your accelerator to decrease/increase speed. You do not want to be hard on the gas/hard on the brakes in slalom. Anywhere else, you do.
I think this would be an appropriate Sticky Thread. If you notice any spelling/grammar mistakes, please pm me and I will fix them. If you have anything to add, or feel should be changed, post it up or pm me and I can edit/change my post.
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