What is Autocross?
In short, autocross is a time trial at a track made out of cones in a large open area; sometimes it will be a parking lot or an airfield, but really any paved open area will work. The speeds are low, especially when compared to other forms of racing, most courses are designed to keep the cars in second gear the whole course so it is rare to see speeds above 50 mph or so. Because of that, it is one of the safest ways to push your car to its limits, and turn a wheel in real anger.
A few days before the event I registered online for $40. The hardest thing about that was finding my class. There are 7 basic classes ranging from cars that are completely stock to race cars and karts. But the hard part is finding where you sit within the basic class. So after doing like an hour of research, I figured out that because of my mods, namely my wheels and tires, I was in Street Touring Ultra (STU). I would suggest just emailing the person organizing the event, they’ll be able to walk you through it.
I got there a little before 8:30 and they weren’t even set up yet, but it gave us time to prepare and get comfortable. So once everything was ready we checked in and got our cars inspected. The inspection is pretty simple, they just check to make sure the basic operations are in good working order and that your battery won’t come flying out, yes that can happen. You can then walk the course to learn where you’re going, it’s not as easy as you might think. The cones are spaced out and it’s easy to lose where you’re going next, even on foot. There’s then a short drivers meeting just to set out some rules and what to do in certain situations. I suggest going to the bathroom beforehand, it seemed much longer than it actually was.
Starting the Racing
They set out 4 different groups based on classing, I was in the second group. The first 2 groups had roughly 20 people in each, I wasn’t able to stick around after I went to see what the last 2 groups did. I’m glad that I got to go in the second group because it allowed me to see how things would flow.
Then it was my turn, I waited behind a red Mazda 3, he went off and I got staged up. The timer doesn’t start until you move, not when the light turns green, so I waited for the light to turn green, revved up, and then took off. My first 3 runs I missed a turn, a different turn each time. After walking the course 3 times earlier in the day I thought I had it down, but at full speed, it’s not easy to follow. On my 4th and final run, I finally got it right and posted a time of 70.383 seconds. I don’t think it was that competitive, but I never thought I would be since it was my first time. I definitely feel that if I was more confident in where I was going I could have shaved that time down to 63 seconds or so. If I was able to stay, I could have done the free runs at the end to see how low I could get that time, but I had to leave for work.
For those 70 or so seconds, it’s just you, the car, and the track, nothing else matters.