So you wanna be a racecar driver. Except you don’t own a racecar and you don’t have any legitimate racing skills and you really can’t afford to have the car you do own crash and burn. Good news! You are a prime candidate to enter the exciting world of Autocross, a motorsport activity that will satisfy your racing craving without risking life and limb (or fender or grill).
The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) organizes autocross events throughout the U.S. and provides the rules regarding the race itself and defines the qualifications for classes for the cars. Autocross races are against the clock, not car to car and are run one car at a time. Races can be held on tracks, streets, dirt roads but most usually on large open paved areas like parking lots or runways that are not in use.
Autocross focuses on driving skills and the handling performance of the car rather than the horsepower under the hood. Speeds rarely exceed legal speed limits but the twists and turns make the race an adventure. There is a “class” that will fit most any car and most “classes” require that the car be stock with no or very little modification.
Autocross is an amateur racer’s dream.
Getting ready for your first autocross race
If you’ve joined SCCA and decided to take the plunge and register for your first race (it’s probably a good idea to go watch one first) then here are a few tips to get your ride “race ready.”
The course will put some G forces on your car so anything that is lose in the passenger cabin can potentially become a missile. Clean out your car. Get rid of the map, the empty Burger King wrapper and those unidentifiable items from under your seat.
Take your hub caps/wheel covers off to beat Mother Nature’s forces to the punch.
Pump in a couple of extra pounds of pressure into your tires.
Pick a number (make it over 200) write it on two sheets of paper and tape it to each side of your car. White shoe polish works as well.
When you get to the autocross course
Register and sign the liability waiver. You’ll need your SCCA membership card and driver’s license. You’ll get a bar coded event sticker that you want to place on the lower left of your dash.
Sign up for a work detail assigned to the Novice Class. Everybody who participates in an autocross also participates in making it happen by performing track work.
Walk the course. There are usually two opportunities to walk the course; once before morning racing and again after lunch and before the afternoon racing. Normally an experienced driver will lead these walks particularly for the autocross Novice Class.
Listen for the announcement for the Driver’s Meeting. You have to attend or you won’t race. At the meeting you’ll be told what your work assignment is, where and when to get your car “teched” and when to get set on the grid.
At the tech station the car will be inspected for safety. You’ll need a helmet but if you don’t have one the race can probably locate a loaner for you.
Get to the Grid on time. When your class is called, head to the grid and follow the instructions of the person organizing it. Remember your position on the grid has nothing to do with your advantage or disadvantage in the race. Cars race against the clock…one car at a time.
When it’s your turn put both hands on the wheel, watch for the flag, stomp down on the accelerator…and race!
Autocross racing is a ton of fun and after you’ve been at it a while you’ll understand the value of the camaraderie that these events promote. However, if you want to get an edge on your “buddies” consider checking out the autocross tires at Vivid Racing. Tires are not considered “modifications” and if yours grip better and handle better in a turn you will have that bit of an advantage that could win the day!
Stay protected and outfitted while racing at the track. Vivid Racing sells shoes, suits, helmets, harness kits, gloves, and more.
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