What to expect at an Autocross
During the day you will of course get to drive your car through the course, usually 6-8 times. Most regions give 6 runs per heat. You’ll also be required to help work, either at a corner, the registration table, the grid, timing truck,or other position. If you are new to the sport you’ll be teamed up with some veterans, so don’t fret what position you work. You’ll also have ample opportunity to get to know other drivers, hang out with friends, ask questions to other competitors, compare cars, swap stories, and have a fun day outside!
At registration you will choose or be assigned a car number. It is helpful to know your car’s class, although other participants may be able to help you class your car. You must indicate your car number and class on your car so that event officials can read it from a distance. You will also be assigned a ‘work assignment.’ Course working is the most common work assignment, because it takes many people to keep the course ready for the cars.
After registration, your car will need to pass a brief technical inspection. The tech inspector will visually check over your car for any loose suspension items, excessively worn tires, leaking fluids, loose interior items, or other potential hazards. The tech inspector will also check your safety equipment: the car should have seat belts, and you will be needing a helmet. Loaner helmets are often available.
Before you run, make it a point to walk the course, preferably several times. In an autocross, you do not get a practice run, so the more familiar you are with the course, the better your initial run will be. You will get three runs, sometimes more. Generally the number of runs is announced at the driver’s meeting before the event begins.
Course Working & Volunteering
No one at an autocross is getting paid to do their job or be there, so every event requires that everyone help to keep things happening. We require that if you are there to drive, then you will take a turn working or doing some task during the day. It’s only fair, as there are a lot of folks that spend a lot of their time to get an autocross scheduled and setup and running, and none of it is ever paid by any one or any company. (If we were paid, we’d be doing this 7 days a week!)
Generally, when you register at the event, you will be asked or assigned to work at one of several stations during one of the heats you aren’t driving: on a corner (flagging cars, fixing downed cones) , at the registration desk, in the timing/scoring truck, announcing, watch the start line, coordinate cars in the grid, teching cars, etc. We also need help with morning setup or after-event take-down. If you are an earlybird, help with setup, as it will get the event started sooner. If you arrive later, help put things back in the truck (and of course get your trophy!).
Without the help of everyone there, our autocross could come to a standstill. Even if you’re at your first event, ask what you can do to help and someone will gladly explain how the event works and make sure you feel welcome.
Running the Course
There are many schools of thought over what to do for your first run. However, the most important thing for a novice to do is to try not to get lost. The course moves a lot faster in a car than it does at walking speed, so try to keep yourself prepared by looking ahead as far as possible. On your subsequent runs, you can increase your speed, but it is most important to be smooth and maintain control. If your car has street tires, they will make noise as you corner, but a constant howl likely means you’re exceeding their stopping/turning/braking capabilities. Lots of tail sliding, burnouts, and e-brake turns may look cool, but it’s not the fastest way through the course. You don’t want to wrestle the car, because your car will react better to smooth inputs. Unlike World Rally or ice-racing, you can use the available surface traction to your advantage, so you want to try to avoid sliding when you can. Don’t get stressed about your time, you’re there to have fun!
Hopefully your time improves with each subsequent run, if not, help is all around you: Don’t be afraid to identify yourself as a novice, autocrossers are a friendly & helpful bunch who want to share their love of their hobby with you. We want you to enjoy yourself so that you will come back and see us again and again!