Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Get Involved - Autocross

Get Involved is going to be a series of posts detailing forms of grassroots motorsports on a weekly basis.  I write these posts with one goal:  To get you to bring your car to an entry level motorsport event.  I want you to stop buying parts, stop planning for 'some day,' stop building the perfect car, and register for an event.  It is ridiculously easy to have fun with your car right now, as you're currently driving it.  You don't need a racing license.  You don't need a roll cage, a fire suit, or expensive modifications.  You do need $40, a valid state issued drivers license, and a car in safe driving condition.  It doesn't matter if its a stock Camry, a tuned Civic, or a $75k Corvette, there's a place for you.

There are a number of ways to get started - whether you want to drive on asphalt, dirt, or a race track.  We're kicking the series off with the easiest sport to get into: Autocross.

You can see the full list of event types here: Get Involved.  This page will be updated as each installment is posted.  Read on to find out how you can get some quality seat time in your very own car.

This is where most people get started, including myself.  Local events are very approachable, and there will be one near you, no matter where you are in the country.  The largest organizer of autocross events is the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), which calls these 'Solo' events because you compete independently for time, rather than door to door for position.  Speeds rarely exceed 60mph and the focus is on the corners.  It may not sound fast, but believe me, your hands will be shaking with adrenalin after your first run.
Don't let the fancy car and numbers fool you, anyone can do this.

A track made out of traffic cones is laid out on a large parking lot, unused runway or other large tarmac.  Cars take turns traversing the track one at a time, with everyone getting an equal number of attempts. The fastest single lap time at the end of the day wins.  Drivers are split into classes based on their vehicle and level of modification.  There is no door to door racing and there are no walls or barriers that you could run into.  This is the lowest risk motorsport you're going to find, and absolutely the cheapest way to legally drive competitively.

Usually $30-$50.  It varies by each local SCCA region, and many offer discounts for new folks.  Tire and brake wear are negligible for a single event.

Painters tape is perfect for numbers.  It leaves no mark
on your paint.
Level of Competition:
This sport is only as serious as you decide to take it.  Most people show up, put painters tape numbers on their car, have a good time driving their car, and then go home.  Some people bring special tires they only use to compete.  Other people spend thousands of dollars chasing the national championship.  Its totally up to you to decide your level of involvement.

Vehicle & Gear Requirements:
These will vary by event organizer, so make sure you carefully read the rules for your event, but you will need the following for most of them:
  • Helmet (most events will have loaners available for new people)
  • Seat belts
  • Car is leak-free (a drip may be OK - we just don't want to create a slick for the person after you)
  • Battery is properly secured - new hardware can usually be found at your local auto parts store
  • Lug nuts are tightened
  • No play in your wheel bearings - hold the top of your tire and push/pull them as though you are trying to take them off, if they move, you need to take it to your mechanic
  • Remove all loose items from your trunk and front seating area
  • Bring some sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and plenty of water with you
  • Most trucks and SUV's are disallowed due to being a rollover hazard.  So are these stock cars:
    • Chevrolet Sonic, Dodge Caliber (non-SRT), Fiat 500 (non-Abarth), GEO Tracker/Suzuki Sidekick, Jeep CJ series, MINI Countryman, Nissan Juke, Suzuki Samurai, Scion xB (2004-06), Scion iQ
How to get involved:
Saturday:  Get Groceries      Sunday:  Racecar!
The SCCA is split into local regions, so this will be a little different for everyone.  The easiest thing is to Google for "autocross near [local city]" or "SCCA Solo [local city]"and see what comes up.  If that fails, search for your region at this site: SCCA Region Directory and email the regional executive to find out how to get started in Solo events.  Most regions have Novice programs designed to help guide you through your first event, so you'll know where to be and when to be there.

What it looks like:

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