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STICKY? New to Auto-X? Read me! Beginner's Guide

 
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Default STICKY? New to Auto-X? Read me! Beginner's Guide

Never done an autocross before, here is a good read on what to expect. This goes over everything you need to

What you can expect from yourself as a driver at your first autocross.

We see too many drivers including a few women who think they are most
excellent drivers whose times end up reflecting their newness to
autocrossing rather than their natural talent or driving skills. In other
words, they are slow compared to experienced autocrossers in similar cars.
Sadly, they seem to have a penchant for becoming quite angry over their
disappointing times and have a tendency to go away, often forever.

How much do you know about driving a motor vehicle at it's limit?

Have you read all of the books on driving? If so, good for you. You have a
good theoretical foundation for understanding all of the various skills you
still need to develop through experience and practice. Have you ever
driven a car at it's limit of cornering ability on public roads? If so, you
either scared yourself out of your wits for a few seconds or you're
socially psychopathic. You just can't get anywhere near the limits of
handling in a modern vehicle on the open road without seriously
endangering yourself and everyone around you. Once you've
learned where the
true limits of your vehicle are, you'll realize how far away you were from
them in the past, and will never contemplate approaching them on public roads.

Finding the limits and instantly exceeding them.

It's relatively safe to exceed the limits of handling in an autocross, you might
brake too late or too hard and slide a bit past your intended turn in point,
you might accelerate too
abruptly or too much coming out of a turn and cause your front tires to push
beyond their traction limits, you might run wide in a corner and hit a cone
or two, you might even spin. But you likely won't hurt yourself, your car,
or anyone else the way you likely would on the open road. What you can do, and
will likely do if you are at all aggressive is drive beyond the optimal
grip level of your tires. Maybe when accelerating, probably when braking,
and most certainly when going through the slower corners (see the tame
consequences above). Your times will suffer for it, badly.

You probably won't be exceeding the handling limits in fast corners though
because you won't yet know how high they are, and the faster you are going,
the less tame the consequences become. Emerson Fittipaldi said most new
race drivers go too fast in slow corners, and too slow in fast corners. It's
definitely true of new autocrossers. Before you can produce reasonably
quick autocross times you will need to learn where the optimal handling
limits of your car are when accelerating braking; going into, through, and
out of slow and fast corners; and when going through a slalom And you will
need to drive at those limits throughout the entire run.

Cartoon time.

To achieve and maintain optimal tire grip, you will need to learn to be
ultra smooth but very quick in manipulating the cars controls; when
pushing down or lifting off the throttle, when turning or unwinding the
steering wheel, when shifting, and when pressing on or coming off the
brake pedal. This will take a lot of seat time (practice). On
the open road, or even on a race track, you often have seconds to set
up for a corner. You may start braking 100, 200, or even 300 yards before
the corner depending how on fast you are going. In autocrossing,
you will have zero time to set up for a corner. Even if you are on a
very short straight stretch of the course, you will begin braking as soon
as you stop accelerating as hard as the car can, usually in second gear.
It typically takes 35 to 50 seconds to run an autocross course. There are
no straight aways on which you can relax while the car is in top gear. You
will always be busy. You may become frenetic not from panic or
uncertainty, but because you aren't yet used to the relentless pace.
Some hold their breath for the whole run, and some don't discover they are
doing it for years or even decades of autocrossing. Many have shaking hands
at the end of a run due to the intense adrenaline rush.

So you need to learn where the limits of your car are, how to correct
instantly when you start to exceed them, and how to be ultra smooth
with the controls so you don't upset even slightly the suspension of
your car which needs total composure to produce it's ultimate
performance. And you need to learn to do it while driving in speeded up
cartoon time. So give yourself a break. Don't expect miracles the
first time out and you'll have a lot fun now and in the future rather
than becoming disappointed in yourself at your first event. In time,
maybe a season or two, you might well be turning some pretty quick
times. Assuming you actually do have all that natural talent and
driving skill you thought you had in the first place.

How to be smooth and fast.

Undoubtedly, you already want to know all the driving techniques
specific to autocross, how to read the course, where the correct line
is, and everything else you can arm yourself with for your first
event. Well, that's a much longer subject, and we might get around to
actually writing it for you. In the meantime, I'll give you the most
important one which you would do well to begin practicing immediately:
LOOK AHEAD! When you drive on the freeway you look well up the road due
to the speed you are traveling, and to give yourself adequate time
to react to the unexpected antics of all of those other people on the
road who are actively doing any and everything except actual driving.

When people begin autocrossing they tend to look at the cones. Don't do
it! You've already trained your nervous system to drive the car exactly
where you look, so look at the course between the cones. Your nervous
system also knows not to run over curbs at the side of the street
without you looking at them, so trust it not to run over the cones you
are about to pass by. You are going to be traveling at highway speeds
on the autocross course and you need to look ahead as you do on the
highway to give yourself time to properly position your car for the
next turn and the next. If you look no further ahead than the corner you
are about to enter, you will find yourself constantly surprised by
each of the succeeding corners which of course will all be rushing at
you at cartoon speed. If you do look ahead, you won't be surprised unless
it's by the facts that you really can drive between the cones without
looking at them, and that you'll automatically drive a line faster than
the one you thought was optimal when you walked the course looking at
it one turn at a time.

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Here are some "rules to live by" that will help you enjoy your first season of autocrossing, and hopefully help you become a valuable addition to your club.


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First rule: Be nice.
Your autocrossing experience, and the experience of those around you, will be greatly improved if you lose the attitude. If you're a real *******, you may even run the chance of getting kicked out and being banned from the club.

Second rule:Be nice.

Have we mentioned how important it is to be nice?

Third rule: Work on you before you work on your car (a.k.a. the "practice, practice, practice" rule).

This will probably come as a shock, but you aren't the world's best driver. The single best thing you can do to improve your times is to practice. All the go-fast parts in the world won't make you a better driver. Learn as much as you can about driving: go to all the events you possibly can, go to driving schools, read books. After that, you can succomb to the temptation to start adding stuff to your car.

Fourth rule: Go slow to go fast.

It seems counterintuitive, but it's true. Slow, smooth, and deliberate is always faster than hot and spastic. Get your braking done in a straight line. Anticipate the corners ahead. Concentrate on a smooth line. Don't waste time sliding around. It may feel slower, but your times will go down. Also, the course workers will appreciate you not hitting as many cones.

Fifth rule: Course walks are good, course walks with good drivers are better.

You must walk the course to learn the proper line. If you don't know how to "read" the line through a series of corners, finding the proper line can be hard. If you followed the first two rules (remember the part about being nice?), you should be able to talk to other folks out walking the course to get advice. If you've noticed some drivers turning really fast times, see if you can walk with them -- you'll be amazed what you can learn. Many clubs offer novice course walks. If those are available, take advantage of them.

Sixth rule: There is no rule six.

Seventh rule: When it's your turn to work, work hard

See those people standing out there beside the course? The ones putting the cones back after somebody hit one? You have to do that too. It's an important job, don't slack. Pay attention to the course at all times. Never turn your back on the cars. If you see a cone down in your section, run, don't walk, to put it back. Don't talk on your cell phone, take pictures, etc. -- you're there to work -- people work while you drive, you must as well. The quality of an event often hinges on how well course workers do their job, so always do your best.
and..

---

This list should be fairly comprehensive. I'm sure you wouldn't need every one of these items at every event, but you'd be surprised at just how many times the one item you really wish you had will be the thing you forgot. Often, you'll be able to share one of the larger items with a friend (i.e. if only one of you has a torque wrench).
It's easiest to put all the smaller items into a large "rubbermaid" style tub that will fit in your trunk. This makes it much easier to load and unload the car. Since it has a lid, it also keeps the sun (and rain) off of your stuff while you're competing.

Personal items to bring:


Water
Food
Jacket
Hat
Gloves
Sunscreen
Umbrella (good for shade when it's hot too)
Comfortable shoes
Money
Membership card (if you're a member)
Driver's license
Rule book
Camera (film, batteries, etc. too)
Helmet
Folding chair(s)
Car-related stuff to bring:


Racing tires (if you've got them)
Magnetic numbers (if you've got them)
Jack
Lug wrench (a 12V electric impact wrench is by far the best)
Torque wrench
Compressor (or air tank)
Tire pressure gauge
Tools
A quart or two of oil
Windshield cleaner
Shop towels
Old beach towel, blanket, or cardboard (to lay on while working on the car)
Stuff to do when you get to the event:


Find a good parking spot. You'll be unpacking and leaving stuff here, so plan accordingly. Find shade if you can.
Register. If you're given a work assignment at registration, be sure you know where and when you're supposed to work (and be there when you're supposed to be).
Unpack car (remove all loose items from interior, trunk, glove compartment, etc.)
Change tires (if you're running dedicated race rubber)
Apply magnetic numbers (if you have magnets)
Check and set initial tire pressures
Take car through tech inspection
If you don't have magnets, put on shoe polish numbers here
Make mental note to get or make magnetic numbers, 'cause shoe polish is a pain in the butt.
Course walk(s)
Have fun!






SCCA Solo – A Beginner’s Guide Author - JimPerrin http://wny-scca.com/index.php?topic=7.0

Beginning to compete in Solo, or most anything remotely similar, usually results from word of mouth and a – ‘Hey let’s (you and I) do this’ OR ‘Come on I’ll help you get started’. This is the way to begin without a doubt. But where does the beginner go from here?

I remember the uncertainty of what to do and where to be and what to do and what happens next……and I knew several of the best young drivers when I started. Unless you are a ‘type A’ personality and also have no inhibitions you stand at best a 50% chance of sticking with anything including Solo for very long unless you feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging. I remember a certain sense of terror at times – of course we used compete at Lancaster Speedway as well as Holland Speedway. But what scared me the most was being a fool or causing problems for others or the event.

Solo is a fairly singular discipline by definition but in reality becomes a communal experience if you let it become so. When you arrive at an event you gravitate toward those people and cars that you relate to most when you choose a pit spot. As you prepare for the day’s event you chat with and walk course with those people that you are comfortable with. As you gain experience and confidence those people will evolve to be different or more varied. As a beginner it is important to associate with knowledgeable drivers that can steer you in the correct direction to be more successful but I like to keep the social aspect as well.

I once asked the most prominent driver in Solo at time, Roger Johnson a BS Corvette driver, - What is the most important thing that an aspiring driver can do to improve? The answer was simple but profound – ‘drive every chance you get’. Roger was correct but he left out or assumed that the driver would do so under proper tutelage. That guidance may not be available in your class though. Look to those people at an event that are successful, personable and approachable. Don’t expect that someone can drop what they are doing at the moment that you speak but coax them to find a little time later to talk with you. Be persistent – don’t wait a month – if at first you don’t succeed try another driver or the same guy with a different approach. My favorite is – “Wow nice run! Can I catch you later to ask you about that turnaround entrance?”

Let’s stop for a moment and look at Solo and any sport for that matter. Why do 25,000 runners participate in the NYC Marathon? Because all of them have a real chance to win the event? Not likely. A marathoner and a Soloist are similar – they compete as a singular being in a large field and they run to win. The ‘win’ comes in many different ways though. One way in the case of Solo is that the driver refines a course maneuver or runs a little faster relative to another driver. The target is to drive at your limit and the car’s limit, win class, Pax well, and have a good time.

I would like to invite the drivers in WNY and FLR to provide their stories and their recommendations to help new and young competitors to be successful for the betterment of the sport. Idea

Bruce-fastwrx15-stx


-------- FAQ-----------

Question
Can I take a passenger with me when I run?
Do I need my own helmet?
Can I drive my car in the fun runs if I didn't run the event?
What's the correct way to put numbers on my car?
How many runs will I get?
What are fun runs?
Where are the Steel Cities events?
Where is Misery Bay?
If I am racing, what time do I need to show up?
What time should I show up to watch an event?
What time does the event end?
If I can't stay until the end of the day, can I leave early?
How much does it cost to watch an event?
How much does it cost to race?



Answers

Can I take a passenger with me when I run?

If you are a novice, the only passenger you may take with you is an instructor. No friends or girlfriends. Any others require the approval of the safety steward on site.


Do I need my own helmet?

No, we have loaner helmets if you don't have your own. If you do decide to buy your own helmet, please make sure that it is Snell rated. The year rating changes, so check for the current requirements.


Can I drive my car in the fun runs if I didn't run the event?

No.


What's the correct way to put numbers on my car?

We have been having a great deal of difficulty in timing because of illegible, or wrong, car numbers and classes on cars coming to the start line. While we have no desire to penalize competitors for incorrect or illegible numbers/letters, we are not willing to constantly run around trying to find out who was really in the car that just finished. So, be prepared to lose your run if you have numbers/letters that are wrong or illegible.

Here are some guidelines:
Don't use shoe polish. There are paper numbers and letters available at registration that are legible. Tape them inside the window, not outside where they blow around.
ALWAYS have numbers and letters on both sides of the car.
Do not put numbers across the rear hatch glass, they are never visible to course workers or timing. Put them on the side of the car.
Don't put a strip of tape across a number to mark it out. Cover it completely.
Don't put a strip of tape in front of a number and expect workers/timing to know that it is supposed to represent a 1.
Two driver cars must remember to change the numbers on both sides of the car.
Formula cars frequently have permanent numbers on the car that are not related to the Solo event. Cover them completely, or at least put a rectangle of paper on each side of the car that has the correct number/class for the Solo event.
Go carts have very limited space to put numbers. Attach an appropriate plate to put numbers on and remember to include the class. If all else fails, consider taping the number on the side of the helmet.

Magnetics:
Magnetic numbers/letters are readily available and inexpensive.
Numbers should be at least 8" tall with a stroke of at least 1 1/4".
Class letters can be smaller, but remember that they must be easily visible from 100'.
Always use numbers/letters that have strong contrast with the car color. Silver numbers on a blue car may look nice from close up, but can not be seen from a distance. Red is a dark color; do not use red on black or black on red -- this combination is not easily visible. White/red is a much better choice.


How many runs will I get?

There will be a minimum of 3 runs. We usually get 5-6 runs a day. If time permits, there will either be additional runs or fun runs.


What are fun runs?

Fun runs are timed (but not recorded) runs after the 'official' runs have been completed. Each run will cost $2. This is your opportunity to practice and get more seat time or to drive somebody else's car - if they will let you. You could also get an instructor to drive your car if you so choose - you might see something new.


Where are the Steel Cities events?

They are usually at the BeaveRun location, about 30 minutes outside Pittsburgh, PA.


Where is Misery Bay?

It's the SCCA club around Erie PA.


If I am racing, what time do I need to show up?

If you are coming to race, you must show up between 8:30 and 9:30.

Registration closes at 9:30 and you may be turned away if you are late.

If at all possible, use the pre-registration system on the web site. That way if there are changes, we can notify you by email.


What time should I show up to watch an event?

If you are just coming to watch an event, racing will start at approximately 10:30am.

You will need to sign a waiver when you arrive on the premises. There is no cost to watch.


What time does the event end?

Our events usually end around 3:30 pm. The actual end time will depend on the number of competitors and whether there were any delays.


If I can't stay until the end of the day, can I leave early?

You work once for each run you make. If you fail to work once for each run you take, your fastest run will be disqualified. If you miss more than one work, we may disqualify all your runs.

If you need to leave early, you can go and work BEFORE you take your run. This way you can leave immediately and not worry about losing your time.


How much does it cost to watch an event?

It's FREE!


How much does it cost to race?

For 2016:
SCCA Members $35
Non members $45
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Bob Tunnell's Advice For The First Time Autocrosser

Lots of great advice has been written for the novice autocrosser. Kate Hughes' Novice Handbook is just one fine example.

But I've also noticed that despite all the good advice, first-timers often still don't get the most out of the experience. Here are four things I suggest to pay particular attention to.

1) Go to have fun.This has been my primary motivation for more than 20 years and if you ain't goin' out to have fun, then go golfing or scuba diving or shopping or somethin' else. After all, you're gonna get to drive your Ultimate Driving Machine in a totally irresponsible and illegal manner, and not worry about getting busted for it -- what more could you ask for!!

2) Treat walking the course like voting: Do it early and often.You don't get practice laps in autocrossing -- that's a major part of the spirit of the sport -- so walk the course until your feet bleed. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. This is probably the single most common "mistake" beginners make -- they walk the course only enough to avoid getting lost, but that isn't nearly enough to be FAST. The course will look a lot different from the driver seat "at speed" than it does at a stroll.

Think about driving around in a strange neighborhood looking for an address. The next time you go to that house, you'll get there in half the time because it looks familiar. Walk the course until various sections are imprinted in your brain and you can "drive" the entire course in your mind.

I actually put a clock on my mental "practice runs." When I can mentally drive a course within a couple seconds of my actual run time, I did a good job of memorizing it. But that's probably way more than a beginner should expect to be able to do.

While walking, pay particular attention to the "straightaways." I define those as sections of the course -- straight or not -- that can be taken without lifting off the gas. Autocross (or any racing for that matter) is nothing more than drag racing with corners. Of course you need to slow down for the corners (see #3), but look for the earliestpoint at which you can get back on the gas and not have to lift at the exit of a corner. Now see if you can get on the gas even earlier than that. As long as you don't have to lift at the exit, you didn't get on the gas too soon. Remember, "He who late apexes the earliest wins." (paraphrased quote stolen from John Ames)

3) Go fast in the fast places and slow in the slow places.That may be a bastardization of an Emerson Fittipaldi quote, but it's the absolute truth.

Most beginners can't believe how fast they can really go through some high-speed maneuvers (as evidenced by the stains in my passenger seat), but they also try to make up for it by going 11/10ths through slow maneuvers. Bad idea.

Really good drivers know when to go slowly and when to go all out. And great drivers can actually do it.

Going faster in the fast sections will come naturally with time, so be aware of the "slow" sections and be sure you don't overcook them. In general, you should take the shortest line possible. This ain't NASCAR and runnin' the high line next to the wall like The King won't cut it -- in autocross the shortest line is almost always the quickest. This is particularly true in corners more than 90 degrees and is a must in corners greater than 120 degrees. Our BMW's have a reputation for "pushing" or "understeering" in slow corners and IMNSHO the biggest contributing factor is usually excessive entry speed -- drivers trying to take a "wide line" to "carry speed." Uh-uh. That's a no-no.

4) Remember to have fun. It bears repeating because beginners almost always get discouraged when they see how much slower they are than someone that's been doing it a while, even only once or twice before.

An average 60-second autocross course can have as many as 100-150 of what I call "decision points" -- places where the driver needs to make a decision regarding when to get on the gas, when to lift, when to brake, how much to brake, when to turn into a corner, how sharply to turn into a corner, when to begin unwinding the wheel out of a corner, etc. AND all the various subtleties, variations, and combinations of those techniques.

The difference between a really good autocrosser and a slug-slow novice may be as little as a tenth of a second at each decision point -- an imperceptible amount. (Provided the driver isn't also wondering, "Where is the next corner?") But multiply that tenth of a second by 100 decision points and you've now got a 10-second difference between a truly great run and a very good novice run.

In reality, the difference between a discouraged beginner and a great driver really only boils down to a tenth of a second. But it all adds up.


I hope that helps. Good luck and have fun!
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What if I hit a cone? http://www.wdcr-scca.org/events/auto...eginners-guide
Cones are counted as a two-second penalty added to the run time for each cone hit. A penalty is applied only if the cone is knocked down or displaced from its marking on the pavement. If the cone is hit and any part of the base of the cone is touching the marking box on the pavement, no penalty is applied.

Will the cones hurt my car?
Generally, no. The cones are constructed of soft plastic, and they deform when hit. They will occasionally leave slight marks on the paint and wheels which can be removed easily with car polishes.

Do I need a special license to autocross?
No. Most local events are open to the general public, and only a current state-issued driver’s license is required. Some specific clubs will limit entrance only to current club members. Most SCCA events are open to the public, and many of them offer a discount to current SCCA members.

Do I need to wear a helmet?
Yes. Insurance regulations require that all autocross participants wear seatbelts and Snell-approved helmets during all runs. Helmets must either meet the current or two previous Snell standards. These standards change every five years. As a result, helmets with the 2010, 2005, and 2000 Snell standards are currently acceptable. Loaner helmets are available at many autocrosses, including the local WDCR SCCA events.

Is my car ok to autocross?
Most vehicles are acceptable for autocross. The exceptions are vehicles with a high center of gravity, such as SUVs and tall pickup trucks. Virtually all types of vehicles, from station wagons to open-wheeled racecars, are welcome to participate in Solo events. Vehicles competing in each event must pass a general safety inspection and must be emptied of all loose items.

Is there anything I need to do to my vehicle?
At very minimum, the vehicle needs to be in good running shape. No leaking fluids are allowed, the suspension and steering should be tight, the tires should be in good shape, and the brakes should be solid. Before competition, all loose items (including the driver’s side floor mat) need to be removed from the interior, and the tires should be inflated to about 5-10 PSI over the usual street inflation pressure. Some clubs (including the Washington, DC Region SCCA) have an air compressor available on site. Many competitors bring their own portable air tanks to adjust tire pressures on site.

What if my car isn’t modified for autocross?
All the better. Modifying your car will often place you in a more challenging class. Autocross is primarily about driving, not about modifications. Modifications can make your vehicle perform better, but it is ultimately the driver that will make the car faster. Knowing which modifications are legal for which classes is beyond the scope of the average person entering the sport, but you can find all the details in the Solo rulebook or on the National SCCA site (http://scca.org) if you’re interested.

How much does entrance cost?
Entrance fees for running most local events range from about $25 to $50, depending upon the club, the number of runs, the quality of the venue, and the format of the event. Entrance fees can cover the cost of insurance, lot rental, trophies, and the cost of the equipment for running the event. For Washington, DC region events, the entry fee is $40 for SCCA members, and $50 for non members. Each competitor receives four runs. Non-competitors are admitted free of charge.

How long does an event last?
Most autocrosses are full-day events. The majority of the competitors are present for about half the day, but some choose to stay at the event to watch or work. The Washington, DC region events are split into morning and afternoon sessions, and most competitors are present for half the day.

What should I bring to an autocross?
As you will be there for a while, bring gear appropriate for weather conditions. If rain is predicted, be prepared with umbrellas, tarps, etc. If it is sunny, bring sunscreen and drinks. Bringing food is always a good idea, although some clubs offer on-site food sales. Folding chairs are always useful. Cameras are allowed at most venues.

Does my vehicle need numbers?
Virtually all autocrosses require easily visible identifying numbers for each vehicle. At WDCR SCCA events, large visible numbers and class letters on each side are mandatory. Bigger is better, and good contrast is important for visibility. Most competitors use magnetic numbers and letters applied on the sides of the vehicle. If you don’t have magnetics or have a non-metallic vehicle, be creative. As long as the numbers and class letters are visible during the runs, you’re fine.

Can I come to an event and not compete?

Absolutely! It is highly recommended that you attend at least one event to learn the basics before participating. You can see how the event flows, watch some runs, walk the course, and talk to the competitors. Depending upon the club managing the event, you may even be able to take rides with the competitors!

How do I sign up for events?
Most clubs now offer an online pre-registration system. Some have online payment available. Online registration for WDCR Solo events is available at http://www.wdcr-scca.org/calendar.

How do I know what to do when I arrive at the event?
This is where attending an event beforehand can be helpful. Regions differ in the format of their events, although most are relatively similar. In the Washington, DC region, you begin by signing a liability waiver at the entrance. After that, you go to a registration area to sign in, show your driver’s license, and receive your worker assignment for the day. Next, you should get your car ready and go through the vehicle safety inspection (often called “Tech Inspection”) and move your vehicle to a gridding area. You will need to walk the course a few times to become familiar with the layout. More time spent walking is always better to learn the course fully. Finally, you will take your runs and perform a work shift, although not necessarily in that order.

I already paid for the event. Why do I have to work?
Autocross is a true “grassroots motorsport”, meaning that the entry fees are intentionally kept low to make it accessible to everybody. Much of the cost savings are realized by employing the competitors as workers. If paid workers were required for every position at an autocross, the entry fees would skyrocket. At most events, the competitors are only required to work for an hour or two, and many different types of work assignments are available to suit individual abilities.

Are pets and children allowed at the events?
Pets are not appropriate at autocrosses. If you absolutely must bring your pet, make sure they are comfortable and either fully supervised or secured well away from the action of the event. Young children should obviously be supervised at all times, and older children should be instructed about safety at the event. Insurance regulations require all minors to have a parent or legal guardian sign a minor waiver at the entrance. Safety is always a paramount concern at all autocrosses. If in doubt, please make alternate plans for caring for the kids and pets for the day.

What do I win if I drive well?
Most local autocrosses offer some form of trophy (plaques, engraved mugs, T-shirts, etc.) to the top drivers in each class. Some even offer small cash prizes. Don't expect to get rich by autocrossing, though! Serious prize money and awards can be obtained by finishing well at some national level events, but this is often offset by the cost of entry fees, travel expenses, and equipment purchased for the vehicle.

I’m hooked. Now how do I learn how to get faster?
Practice.Then, practice more. Unless you have Mario Andretti’s DNA, you’re probably not going to be the fastest driver in your class on your first day of autocross. There’s a learning curve to every sport, and autocross is no different. But, there is a way to get tons of practice without spending years autocrossing. Go to school. There are autocross schools available, and the DC region has a great program geared toward many different skill levels. With a school, you can get an entire season’s worth of autocross runs in a single day, and skilled
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TIR's Beginner Guide to Autocross

Author: Brent Angevine (Tronix)

This guide was put together using information from various sources ranging from expert tips and testimonials, manufacturers suggestions and my personal experiences with three different clubs I have raced with. Some of this information may not pertain to the club you are racing with, But reading and knowing everything listed here will still be a great start and will make your first experience alot easier. I am putting together this guide in hopes of launching a few people in the right direction and to maximize your autocross experience. In no way should this guide be taken as a rule or regulation. Any information given here is shared information and should be taken as a tip or suggestion. You should use this at your own risk, as the author takes no responsibility to damage or injury caused by following these guidelines.

Definition:
Autocross events are often set up in parking lots or any place with a large enough area of pavement and are all about a driver's ability to accurately and precisely maneuver around an
orange cone orange cone
(pylon) marked course in the fastest time possible. When you are racing, you are racing against the clock. This way you can drive your daily driver car and not have to worry about other people crashing into you. It’s a timed lap event and you often get 4 or more chances of producing a best ET.

Tools required: 1 operational/safe vehicle, 1 licensed driver, 1 Snell (SA, K or M) approved helmet and a roll of masking tape preferably the opposite shade of your car so it will stand out.

Beginners:
I think the toughest part in Autocross or “SOLO 2” racing is getting up the nerve to sign up and just DO IT. THe easiest way is to hook up with an experienced driver so they can “show you the ropes” around the particular club or regional SCCA group. Or you can go to a race where you know someone who will let you ride along with them so you can get an idea of what it’s all about. But if this is not an option and you don’t know anyone than hopefully my tips will help you out.

Step 1) Find out where the local track is. In our town various groups hold their own autocross events ranging from the local Porsche club, Austin Healey club to local sports car club and most definitely, your regional SCCA sanctioned group. You can do internet searches for racing or clubs in your area. If SCCA is the way you want to go then visit:
http://www.scca.com/Inside/Index.asp...gionalSites&~= this will help you locate the region and division you would be racing with.

Don’t worry about becoming a paid SCCA or club member before you race. Your first race will be a learning experience and you can decide after that if you wish to pursue a serious hobby in
Solo Racing Solo Racing
. Just sign up for the race. Cost usually ranges from $25-$50 per race. Many places allow you to register for races using http://myautoevents.com/ or several clubs also allow “walk ups” the day of the race. The key is to get there early so you can and get in before the cut off. Find out when the earliest you can register is and show up!

Step 2) Register your car and get it tech inspected. Showing up at the track you will find many people in one area getting their cars ready (swapping tires, etc..) This is designated as the pit area. Park here and find the registration table. You won’t have to figure out exactly which class you will need to run in right away, but you will need to be assigned to one for lap scheduling reasons. You can spend some time going through the very vaguely defined car classes here:
http://www.scca.com/_filelibrary/Fil...categories.pdf
This will give you a good idea what category your car falls into.

After determining which category your car falls into, now we will decide on your class.

For Stock Class:http://www.scca.com/_Filelibrary/Fil...ionsbymake.pdf

For Street Touring:
http://www.scca.org/_FileLibrary/Fil...nufacturer.pdf

For Street Prepared:
http://www.scca.com/_Filelibrary/Fil...ionsbymake.pdf

Now you have determined the class of your car and don’t worry about accuracy this is just going to be a general grouping because you will be designated as a novice anyway. Your times will not be affecting anyone else so making a mistake in classing your car isn’t that important. You will now put an identifier on the side of your car so the timing/scoring dept can accurately record your times. You will have to pick a number and club members will have first pick, so you may have to modify your car number. Many clubs make you put a 1 in front of your number and/or an “N” after your class designation. So let’s say your class was DSP and your number is 123. You will fashion letters and numbers out of masking tape on the side of your car that are large and clear and able to be read by the course workers and the timing/scoring team. In this case you would make 123 DSPN on the side of your car.

Remove the floor mat from the driver’s side floor and store it in your trunk or another safe place. They don’t want the fast motion of your feet accidentally kicking up a floor mat and causing it to lodge under your brake pedal and not be able to stop.

Now you will need to pass tech inspection. Some groups will come around and inspect your car while it’s waiting in the pits, others will make you drive your car up to a designated tech inspection area to get it inspected. Find out how your group does it when you are signing in at the registration table.

Basically tech inspection is just a safety inspection, they are making sure you have everything you need and your car is safe to race. They are looking for loose lug nuts, loose battery cables or battery tie downs, proper safety restraints (belts or harnesses) an approved helmet, NO floor mat on the drivers side. No radar detectors suction cupped to the windshield that can fall off causing distraction, etc. So go over your car, make sure everything inside is secure and there are no items in your backseat floors that are going to be tossed around in the car. Ensure that overall everything is in tight and working order before getting inspected.

Step 3) Familiarize yourself with the track. Your group should have a designated time before racing that drivers can walk the track. Use this time wisely. Figure out where the starting point is (ask if you can’t tell) and begin here. You will use this exercise to make mental notes on the layout of the course. For a beginner the course looks very confusing. I assure you once you know the basic principles of a course it will become much easier to read. Again, if you have any questions it’s always best to ask those around you. Many people will be happy to show you around. Here is some basic information that will help you determine the direction of the course.

The course is often laid out with straight aways, long drawn out turns, loop backs, boxes, dips and slaloms. It is more like an obstacle course than a road track. We will take a look at some basic course layouts so you can better understand what you will be looking at.

Cones: You will notice a sea of cones in your course and to make heads or tails out of them you will need to know a couple of things.

Step 4) Worker Assignments. They will hold working assignment sign-ups at some point during the morning before the race begins. For the beginner its best to be assigned a corner out in the middle of the course so you have the advantage of watching other racers to see where the problem areas are, and to hopefully gain some insight into the best way to run the course. Everyone has to work, sometimes it’s not a fun task to stand out in the baking sun (don’t forget to bring sun block and sunglasses) for an entire heat. But workers are essential and without them we couldn’t hold these events. They should give you basic instructions on the tools assigned to you. You may receive a radio and/or a flag. If they do not instruct you on how to perform your corner duties here are some basic tips to get you ready.

A) Make sure you position yourself back and out of the way of any harm. Stay clear of an angle where an out ofcontrol driver may come out of a turn too hot and slide out of control into your path.

B) If a driver knocks a cone over call in that cone using a radio or hold the cone in the air to the nearest person with a radio so they can call the deduction into the scoring booth. To qualify as a deduction there is a usually a chalk outline of where that cone was originally placed, if the cone is laying on its side it counts as a deduction. If the cone is upright and any piece of the cone is still touching the original position (say someone just nudges the cone 6” left) then you should just reposition the cone where it was and wave it off so that nobody calls the cone in as a deduction.

C) If a person misses a gate, obstacle, cone or goes the wrong direction through an obstacle then his/her run is disqualified or “DNF’d”. A racer is allowed to veer off course and then back on course as long as they do not miss any cones and they enter the course back on the same path that they left it.

D) If a person skids out of control, comes to a stop or breaks down, the person running behind them will need to be flagged. This will tell the driver that someone ahead of him has had a problem and they need to abort their run and slow down to a stop to wait for the person in front of them to get their vehicle out of the way. The person who is flagged will never be penalized, and will be allowed to make up that run again.

There are terms you may hear over the radio such as “the track is hot” this means stay out of the way, cars are entering the course. Do not sacrifice yourself for a cone. Be safe out there and make the best of your time working.

Step 5) Its Race time! Most races are broken up into heats. For instance: One race consists of 3 Heats. Heat 1 will include all Stock class cars and Street Mod cars.
Heat 2 Heat 2
will be all Street Prepared Cars and Heat 3 will be Street Touring, Modified and open wheeled cars. They usually try to break up the groups and make them even. Hopefully you will get to at least watch one heat, or work one heat before you race so you have a good idea of how the race flows.

You usually get in your car and report to the “staging area”. This will be the area where you will line up to determine the order in which you will run, and after your run you will return to this area to get back in line and ready for your next run. On an average race you will get at least 4 runs. You may get more than that based on the amount of racers that day or amount of time left.

For our purposes we will say you get 4 runs today. Before you start remember that its best to run slow, take it easy and LEARN the basics before you go all out. Experienced members and staff will much rather see you out there running slow then getting wild and knocking over cones. If you are new, and you appear out of control you could be asked to leave and maybe not even come back again. If you are running a manual shift vehicle in the first straight you should be able to get up enough speed and rpm’s to shift into 2nd gear. Once you reach second gear I would just leave it in 2nd for the whole remainder of the race. You shouldn’t ever have to shift to third as your top speed probably wont pass 50mph. If you are running an automatic car place the gear select in 2nd and launch and race the entire race in that gear.

For your first run it’s always a good idea to take it nice and easy and make sure you are following the course correctly. I have seen people go out there and race as hard as they can right away and not realize that they keep making a mistake on one of the turns and kept DNF’ing and not even get a time for the day.

Your second run (provided you followed the course right the first time) will be a run where you start to take the turns a little faster and start getting to know the thresholds of your car. This is something you simply can not master by driving it every day. The degree of turn and the speeds at which you will be taking them is not explored by driving the car on any road in the U.S. so this will be new to you.

Your third run you should experiment with your braking and turning. The best tip I can give you is to remember to enter a turn slow, but come out of it fast. So ease up and brake right before coming into a turn and as you are exiting a turn start accelerating.

For your fourth run you can open it up even a little more. By now you should know the course and have a good idea of how your car is handling it. Be smart and safe. You get to race as a beginner or “novice” for at least 3 races. After that you will have to actually do your homework and make sure your car is properly classed and that you are ready for membership and start collecting points.

Now you have finished your racing and your work assignment. Usually times are posted after all racing is complete and you can hang around to see what your times were and watch the awards ceremonies.

The biggest things to remember when starting out are:
A) Driver makes all the difference in the world. In your first few races it’s not going to matter what kind of a car you are driving, what modifications you have done or what tires you are running because getting the experience is key. Seat time almost always trumps mods. If you are ready to start making changes to the setup of the car then you are ready to advance on to the intermediate guide.
B) Go in Slow, come out fast. Always slow down before entering a turn, slowing down in the middle of a turn could cause you to spin out. So always remember: gas,brake,turn,gas.
C) Don’t be discouraged if you are running 10 seconds behind the leaders, we all went through it, and it takes time. Experience is key and will always make a bigger difference in time than any modifications you make.
D) If you hit a cone, continue on the race as if nothing happened. A cone will often cost you at minimum 1 second deduction in your time. So if you hit a cone there’s a good chance that’s not going to be your best run, but go ahead and finish out your run to gain experience for the next run.

I hope this guide helps you understand the basics and prepares you for racing. If I would have had a guide like this when I started I think I would have had an easier time and learned a lot quicker.

Once you get a few races under your belt you are ready to begin preparing your car and getting to know the tricks of the trade, its then time to move on to our Intermediate guide.

1)
Quote:Don’t worry about becoming a paid SCCA or club member before you race.
Change paid to paying... no one is paid anything.

2)
Quote:You won’t have to figure out exactly which class you will need to run in right away, but you will need to be assigned to one for lap scheduling reasons.
You need to know what class you are going to run in before you register so use the guides above or rule book to determine. Talk to others and many regions have a novice chair that you can talk to to help you get the right classification.

3) About novices.. not all regions allow for a novice grouping/class (Most do tho).

4)
Quote:Many clubs make you put a 1 in front of your number and/or an “N” after your class designation.
All regions handle this differently. Seek out someone who has been doing this for years with the club you are going to run with to find the right designation.

5)
Quote:So let’s say your class was DSP and your number is 123. You will fashion letters and numbers out of masking tape on the side of your car that are large and clear and able to be read by the course workers and the timing/scoring team. In this case you would make 123 DSPN on the side of your car.
Check with the region to see if masking tape or paper numbers are allowed. Again, some larger regions will not accept them. Also, most regions reserve "1" in front of 2 digits for dual driven cars. So using 123 is a bad example.

6)
Quote:Remove the floor mat from the driver’s side floor and store it in your trunk or another safe place. They don’t want the fast motion of your feet accidentally kicking up a floor mat and causing it to lodge under your brakepedal and not be able to stop.
Also, remove anything loose in the car that's not bolted down. Empty the center console. Empty the change tray. Empty the glove box. Everything... out.

7)
Quote:Many people will be happy to show you around.
Some regions also have a novice walk-through that starts about 15-30 min before the drivers meeting. Be there, on time. Ask at registration if the club offers one.

8)
Quote:A cone lying on its side is a directional cone. These cones will let you know which side of the standing cone you will need to be on
It is called a 'pointer' cone. It POINTS to the direction you must go around.

9) Starting at the top left, remove the 3rd cone down on the left of the page (the one to the back of the pointer cone). That cone is extraneous, and if I were running the course, I would be confused by that cone as to what to do. Do I run it before or after the pointer cone? Remove it.

10)
Quote:These are just a few instructions that will help you navigate your way through a track. Often before a race begins the club will hold a “novice lap” in which an experienced driver will drive the course at a very slow speed (10mph) and any new drivers will follow along so they know how the course is laid out. This doesn’t happen every time so the better prepared you are, the more enjoyable your race is going to be.
News to me. See earlier novice walk through reference. I've never, ever seen a drive through at an auto-x. That would be the exception, than the norm.

11) A big note that needs to be put in: NEVER turn your back to a car. A not so big note, that still needs to be in there: As cars are sent every 15-20 seconds, and some courses have multiple cars on track, if someone displaces a cone, the worker needs to hustle to reset the cone. Run out to the cone, pick it up, re-set it squarely in the marked box, get out of the way for the next car.... ASAP. Remember, be aware of other cars on the course. If you cannot get the cone re-set in time safely before the next car, get off the course, and take the cone with you. It's up to the driver to realize the cone wasn't there, and they can get a re-run if they notice. This is not your problem. Safety of the course workers is paramount... so if you can't get the cone reset in time, be safe and vacate the course.

Help from this comes from knowing your area.

Also: When you go out to work the course, walk around the section of the course you're working and check for misplaced cones. This also helps in that you come familiar with finding the box where a cone needs to be reset if one becomes stuck under a car and taken with the car.

12)
Quote:D) If a person skids out of control, comes to a stop or breaks down, the person running behind them will need to be flagged. This will tell the driver that someone ahead of him has had a problem and they need to abort their run and slow down to a stop to wait for the person in front of them to get their vehicle out of the way. The person who is flagged will never be penalized, and will be allowed to make up that run again.
Hence the reason why hustle is needed. Sometimes, if a car spins/slides, but gets going again within a few seconds, no flag is needed. Be aware of the surroundings. If in doubt tho, throw the flag on your section of the course.

13)
Quote:You usually get in your car and report to the “staging area”. This
It's called 'Grid'.

14)
Quote:For our purposes we will say you get 4 runs today. Before you start remember that its best to run slow, take it easy and LEARN the basics before you go all out. Experienced members and staff will much rather see you out there running slow then getting wild and knocking over cones. If you are new, and you appear out of control you could be asked to leave and maybe not even come back again. If you are running a manual shiftvehicle in the first straight you should be able to get up enough speed and rpm’s to shift into 2nd gear. Once you reach second gear I would just leave it in 2nd for the whole remainder of the race. You shouldn’t ever have to shift to third as your top speed probably wont pass 50mph. If you are running an automatic car place the gear select in 2nd and launch and race the entire race in that gear
Ask for an instructor if available. They can ride with you to give you pointers in what to look for... many regions have them available... all you have to do is ask. There will be other events later in the year you can work on going faster (still, you can ask for an instructor then too). For all your runs, you can ask for an instructor to get the biggest bang for the buck. They will be more than happy to help!!!

Add onto that, if you get a chance, ask an instructor for a ride in their car. Again, most will be happy to show you what it really should feel like.

15) Your description of 1st through 4th runs are off. The driver should be working on what they need to do to become more comfortable and relaxed, not a regimen of "this should be done during X run." Instructors can greatly assist and assess the driver in working with weaknesses (and strengths) I feel, without an instructor, you don't know what you're doing wrong and will never get faster unless you are just born with the talent.

16)
Quote:You get to race as a beginner or “novice” for at least 3 races. After that you will have to actually do your homework and make sure your car is properly classed and that you are ready for membership and start collecting points.
Your region maybe. Some regions allow for a whole year in novice and have a separate trophy at end of year for it. Depends on the region.

17)
Quote:Now you have finished your racing and your work assignment. Usually times are posted after all racing is complete and you can hang around to see what your times were and watch the awards ceremonies.
Some regions/clubs to a few runs in the morning, and a few in the afternoon. Don't leave/pack up unless you're absolutely sure you're not going to run again in the afternoon. (That would mean you may also have to work again too).

18)
Quote:D) If you hit a cone, continue on the race as if nothing happened. A cone will often cost you at minimum 1 second deduction in your time. So if you hit a cone there’s a good chance that’s not going to be your best run, but go ahead and finish out your run to gain experience for the next run.
2 seconds is the norm. If you find yourself in a slide or a spin.. put both feet in! (foot on clutch/foot on brake) and keep them that way until you're stopped. Don't be a hero and try to save it. Even the best spin. Come to a complete stop, gather your wits and proceed at around 1/2 speed through the rest of the course. Auto-x is very safe where courses are generally designed not to come in contact with sold object. Just putting both feet in at that spot you lost control means if there are any objects, odds are good you won't hit any. If you try to save the spin, all bets are off and you can decrease safe distances to sold object VERY quickly. Don't be that person we have to read on a forum that got into an accident at one of the most safe event because you tried to save it.

Those are my comments. Overall, pretty good.. but it seems you have only been doing this for a short period of time, and have only been doing it locally to your region/club. Try different clubs... even if it means a hotel some nights. It's worth it!
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Watch this:








365Racing
Boostedfims
CWSCC
RSMOTORS
http://www.soloracer.com/autoxguide.html
http://www.soloracer.com/autoxchecklist.html
http://www.tirerack.com/features/solo2/handbook.htm
http://home.dejazzd.com/mlouie/autocross.html
http://www.grassrootsmotorsports.com/flysolo.html
http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/showthread.php?t=623440

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