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.
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!
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.
Prices for entry fees vary across the United States but most regional events will cost between $25 and $45 to enter. Costs are generally related to the cost of the site, and also cover event operations and insurance. National Series events cost between $100 and $150, depending on the event format.
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.
Absolutely. All that we ask is that you sign our waiver upon entry into the event. If you are curious about autocross, find an event near by and check it out. Feel free to ask questions, and don't be surprised if someone offers you a ride-along.
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.
The cones that are lying down are directional cones or, "pointers." They act as arrows to tell you which side of the cone to go on. If you happen to go on the wrong side of these pointer cones the penalty applied is considered a "Did Not Finish" (DNF). Some regions will score this as "Off Course" (OC) and no time is recorded.
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.
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 don’t meet these requisites.
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 The Tire Rack.
Praparing 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.
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. 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.
"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!
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.
You will be driving against people in your class. The classes are separated into groups of comparable cars of similar performance for the fairest competition 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.
You need to bring your car in good working mechanical order, a valid driver's license and a helmet (loner helmets are available in most regions). You may also want to bring a tire pressure gauge, multiple layers (coat, sweat shirt, sweat pants) gloves, a cooler (water, 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.
Most regions have courses in the 40-60 second range and try to release a car every 20-30 seconds. This can mean there are as many as 3 or 4 cars on the course at one time, but far enough spaced out that they do not interfere with one another. 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.
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.
Competitors under 18 are welcome at SCCA autocross events. Drivers from 5-18 can compete in the Formula Jr classes and competitors with a license or permit may compete in the same configuration as they are legal to drive on the street. For example, many states require permitted drivers to have a parent or guardian in the car, a permitted autocrosser would then be allowed to compete provided their parent or guardian was riding along.
Autocross is a rain or shine sport, the only thing that shuts an event down is lightning in the area. For rain 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.
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.
"Both Feet In!" Get your left foot on the clutch and your right foot on the brake to bring the car to a stop (for a manual car). Hard on the brakes for an automatic or other clutchless cars.
- 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.