Autocross FAQ

 

What is an autocross?

Autocross events are low to medium speed car control events. Most events are held in large parking lots or airports but some events are held on race tracks and go-kart tracks. Courses are created using traffic cones, and sometimes outlined in chalk to help with visuals. Drivers take to the course one at a time with results determined by comparing each drivers time to complete the course. Penalties are given for significant contact with a cone or if a competitor misses part of the course.

Who autocrosses?

Many types of people autocross. Men, women, young and old are all found at events. Some may not own a racecar so they bring out their daily driver and some hard-core members will bring out vehicles set up specifically for autocross. There will be novices wanting that first experience and veteran road racers keeping their skills sharp. Family and friends compete together. Whoever it is that comes to events they all share a love for motorsports and most of all, the desire to have FUN!

How much does autocrossing cost?

A weekend membership is required and this covers all events for the weekend. The cost for the weekend membership is $5 plus $30 for each daily event. Current SCCA Members the cost is $25 per event.

Why should I autocross?

First and foremost, autocrossing is fun. It is also an inexpensive way to get involved in motorsports and can be an activity for the whole family. It can also make you a better and safer driver. By discovering the limits of your car in a safe, controlled environment, autocrossing will help improve your driving skills on the road as well as on a track.

Will autocrossing damage my car?

Autocrossing can have an effect on how your car wears standard consumable items such as tires and brake pads, however it is extremely unlikely that it will threaten the structural integrity of your car. Tires are the most notable consumable, and many competitors choose to have a separate set of wheels for autocross tires for this reason.

Can I just Watch?

Absolutely. All that we ask is that you sign our waiver upon entry into the event. If you are curious about autocross, Just show up at one of our events and check it out. Feel free to ask questions, and don't be surprised if someone offers you a ride-along.

Do I need to be a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) member to participate?

Membership is required for all SCCA events. With this membership you gain access to a wide vairety of member benefits, including a subscription to Sportscar magazine and discounts with club partners. For those just wanting to test the waters, there are weekend memberships available.

How are cone penalties scored?

Each cone position is marked with a chalk outline known as a "box.". If your car causes a cone to fall over or get knocked completely out of its box, it’s a 2-second penalty. If a driver runs over or bumps a cone and it stands back up or doesn't fall over no penalty is applied as long as some part of the cone is still touching the box.

Do I need a special car to autocross?

Nope. Run whatever you have! We’re here to have fun! You can run anything from a Yugo to a Ferrari as long as it’s in good shape mechanically and doesn’t have a roll-over risk. Generally SUVs and trucks (4x4)  don’t meet these requisites, although some rear wheel drive pickups meet the requirements.

Are there special tires for autocross?

Although the only tire requirements are safety-focused, some tires will work better than others. There are a variety of good options for autocross tires on the market. For beginning drivers, a quality set of performance road tires are recommended. You may want to opt to have these mounted on a separate set of wheels for autocross use only. This will keep you from wearing out your daily tires autocrossing or your autocross tires commuting to work. There are also extreme high performance, or "R-Compound" tires on the market that can provide the maximum grip, though their life expectancy is significantly less than that of a performance road tire and it will affect what category your car is classed in. If you're still not sure, talk with experience individuals at events or speak with a representative at  Tire Rack.

How should I prepare my tires for autocross?

Preparing your tires for autocross is not complicated. As long as they do not have cuts/damage or have any cord showing (or are not about to have cord showing) your tires should be ready for the event. It is suggested that you raise your tire pressures 5-10 psi over factory settings to minimize wear on the edge of the tire.

When I arrive, what should I do?

First, if this is your first event, let someone know. Many regions have programs for novice drivers, and already have everything you need waiting for you. First time novice drivers will have their own course walk through with a experienced driver. Also Novice drivers will get a drive through with an experienced driver.

You should also do a quick once-over on your car. Be sure to check the fluids, check the battery tie down, shake the wheels and remove any lose items. You will need to check in, and have your car inspected at "tech," both of these should be well marked and easy to find. Finally, make sure you leave enough time to get a few course walks in. There are no practice sessions on autocross, so walking a course is crucial in being ready to do your best lap

What is "Tech"

"Tech," is the short word for technical inspection. This inspection is made by other more experienced autocrossers to check the safety of your car. They check for a working seat belt, good return on throttle, brake pressure, a secure battery, tight lug nuts, play in suspension and bearings, interior free of lose items including floor mats, street tires must have measureable tread left and no cords showing. Any car in reasonable condition should pass a tech inspection no problem!

Do I need to do anything special to my car?

The best thing you can do is make sure it's mechanically well maintained and that you keep up with fluid changes. The technical inspector is going to check to make sure your car is safe, with attention given to the proper installation of wheels, removal of loose items and properly functioning controls. You will want to confirm these things as well as check that the battery is tied down and secure. Drivers and passengers seat belts need to be in good working order. It is also highly recommended that you raise your tire pressures 5-10psi in each tire. In autocross there is a lot of load transfer, so increasing the pressures gives your tires more rigidity to manage the energy.

Who will I be driving against?

You will be driving against people in your class. Car classes are separated by groups of comparable cars of similar performance for the fairest competition possible. You may or may not be driving against other people in your class as there are usually two heats and these heats are kept to an even number of drivers as possible. If you are a novice some regions have a Novice or Rookie class. In this case, you'll be running against people with similar experience as yourself.

What do I need to bring to an autocross?

You need to bring your car in good working mechanical order, a valid driver's license and a helmet (we do have loner helmets are available). You may also want to bring a tire pressure gauge, multiple layers (coat, sweat shirt, sweat pants) gloves, a cooler (pop/soda, sports drink, lunch), comfortable shoes, towels, rain gear, sun block, a hat and anything else that you would want for a day spent outdoors.  We do provide water for hydration.

Will there be multiple cars on course?

WE try to design courses in the 40-60 second range. Depending on course design, their may another car on the course at one time, but far enough spaced out that they do not interfere with one another and they usually at the end of the run when you start your run. There will be a series of work stations on the course, each with a red flag. Should someone spin or stop on course, the other cars are also stopped and granted a re-run.

Can I share a car with someone else?

Absolutely! A car can have as many as two people running it in a class and it can run in other classes that are running in separate heats. This is a great way to save money, get to drive well prepared cars and compare yourself directly with other drivers.

What if it rains?

Autocross is a rain or shine sport, the only thing that shuts an event down is lightning in the area. For rainy days plan to bring some plastic bins to keep your stuff dry, a towel to dry off hands and feet before driving and something to protect you from the elements. An umbrella does ok, a poncho is a little better, but the seasoned competitors will all be in full rain suits. A rain suit can be had for under $100, and will provide you with many years of service and comfort.

What are the top speeds?

Autocross courses are designed not to exceed normal highway speeds. For most cars, that means staying in 2nd gear, and topping out around 55-60mph. That doesn't mean they are slow. Well designed courses will feel plenty fast as you attempt to maintain that speed through a series of elements. Imagine slaloming every barrel in a 55mph construction zone, and you will start to get the idea.

DO's and DONT"S

Take your work assignment seriously. Part of autocrossing is helping with various tasks that keep the event running. Giving your work assignment 100% of your attention will ensure that you are not having a negitive effect on someone else's event. Be sure that you arrive on time or ealry for work, as tardy workers often delays event start times.

Arrive Early. Give yourself plenty of time to get yourself together, register, tech and walk the course a few times. It’s always better to have a little spare time to chat with friends than be scrambling.

Look for opportunities to help. Few are able to bring their full garage to an event, as such often people need to borrow a tool. If you have a tool someone needs to borrow, let them borrow it, or better yet, offer them a hand. Autocross is a community, everyone is there to enjoy the day and helping someone else enjoy theirs will certainly come back to you in the long run.

Respect the Site. Autocross sites can be challenging for a region to secure, and require a relationship between the site management and every person who participates in the event. Simple misjudgements, such as disrespectful driving, littering or excessive noise in and around the site can strain this relationship and put the usage of the site in jeopardy. Being mindful of this balance at all times is a essential part of being a member of the autocross community.

Be Honest. Despite the very best efforts of all involved, mistakes do happen in the timing and scoring of runs. Generally, the first person to notice is the person it benefits. If this ever happens to you, whether you were assigned the wrong time, or a penalty was over looked, own up to it. You will appreciate it the next time when someone does it for you.

Allow others to prepare for their runs. Autocrossing is a largely mental sport. Many drivers require a few moments to become prepared for a run. Be aware of this when you are in the grid, and be cautious of when you approach someone with a question. Most autocrossers are always willing to help out, but there is a preferred time and place.

Save the performance driving for the course. Whether it is for the preservation of the site, or safety of those around you, there is a place to play with your car, and there are many places not to. Any unsafe practices puts everyone at risk, and should be avoided at all cost. If you speed on roads leading to or from the event site, it not only puts you at risk of a speeding ticket but also can give the club a bad reputation. This hurts everyone involved.

Remember, we are all in it for fun. You may not get why some of us do what we do, but if you step back and look at the sport we are all in it for fun. We come out here to drive cars, but most of keep coming back to hang out with great people. Stay positive, have a great attitude and you'll rarely have a bad event.

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