How Do I Autocross?
Because SCCA® Solo® uses rubber traffic cones to build a course in large parking lots or on inactive airstrips, the hazards and barriers to entry are low and that makes autocross one of the easiest and least expensive ways to compete in a car.
While speeds are generally no greater than those encountered in highway driving, the combination of concentration and precision maneuvering leaves many drivers with their heart racing and hands trembling from adrenaline after a run.
Although there are many ways to go autocross and the effort can be as easy or as intense as you want, the basics of going autocrossing are simple.
What you need
Driver's License: Unless you’re entering one of the Karting classes, you will need a current driver's license to enter an SCCA Solo event. Bring it with you to show the people working registration you’re good to go.
Helpful tip – If you are under 18, you will need both your parents to sign a minor waiver for you.
Vehicle in good working order: Although autocrossing doesn’t require the same safety gear that you might see in race cars, you will need to make sure that your car (or kart) is in good shape with no loose/worn suspension parts, your car battery is securely held in place, your tires have no cord or metal showing, your car’s brakes and seatbelts are in good shape and it has no big fluid leaks.
Helpful tip – When you get to an event, the tech inspector will make sure your car is ready to go.
Helmet: You will need a helmet when you’re driving on course, but you can usually use a “loaner” helmet provided by the host Region of the event. If you bring your own, it has to meet certain safety standards – more than just "DOT-Approved.” The most common certifications are Snell “M” and “SA” and need to have the number 2005 or higher after the letters. ECE R22.05 certified helmets are also allowed and are common at motorcycle shops.
Helpful tip – If you’re not sure if your helmet is OK or not, show it to a tech inspector who can let you know if it’s acceptable.
How to participate
Find an event: Below this description of steps will be an application to help you find your local SCCA Regions and events. Put in your zip code, find local Regions, look at the schedules, and choose an event to attend.
Register: Some Regions require that you sign up online before coming to an event and some allow you to just show up and sign up. When you find an event, look for the details about how registration might be unique. Depending on the Region and the location, Regional events tend to cost between $25 and $60 to enter.
Helpful tip – SCCA members are a helpful bunch. If you arrive early and tell someone you have never done it, chances are you’re going to get walked through the process. You’ll probably even make some new friends along the way.
Show up: Once you have what you need and have registered (or know how to register), the next step is to come out to an event, sign the waiver, and come on in. Because autocrosses tend to pack a lot into a day, pay close attention to the schedule of when you can have your car go through tech inspection, when registration opens, when the course is open for walking, when drivers meetings are held, etc.
Helpful tip – Autocrosses tend to run in any weather. Bring appropriate clothing and weather gear, closed-toed shoes, and drinks/snacks for the day. Since no loose objects are allowed in your car while you’re competing, a plastic tote bin is a helpful item to bring and put your stuff in.
Get your car checked out: The technical safety inspection, also known as “Tech,” is where one of your fellow autocrossers will double-check your car and make sure it passes all those safety items. They will look under the hood, inside the interior and trunk, check your tires, make sure your suspension is tight, make sure your helmet is good to go, and see that there aren’t any loose pieces on/in your car. Your battery will be checked so be sure it's secured properly (no bunge cords).
Helpful tip – It’s best to come to tech with your car empty and when you get there open the hood and trunk for the inspectors. Also, if you don’t have numbers and the inspectors don’t have shoe-polish to write the numbers on your window, you might have to ask them for some low-sticky “painters tape” to make numbers and class letters.
Walk the course: Since you will only get a few runs on the course it’s important to walk and “plan” how to drive it. You probably want to get there in time to walk the course at least 2-3 times and they usually take 5-10 minutes per walk depending on the location.
Helpful tip – The course should be marked well enough that you don’t have to memorize it, but the better you learn it the faster you will usually go. Also, don’t be afraid to ask another member to help you walk through it. Just like asking for help before, you’ll probably make a new friend.
Help Out: One of the things that makes autocross less expensive than other forms of motorsports is that competitors are also organizers and helpers. That person who helped you sign the waiver? They’re probably driving today. The person who helped you register? Yep, also driving. The tech inspector? Well, you get the idea...
There will be a time period during the day where you will need to help out. Helping out might include working in the timing trailer, helping direct cars from grid to the course or re-setting cones on course when they get knocked down.
Helpful tip – Work times and drive times are most often announced in the drivers meeting. That’s when you find out what group you’re driving in, which group you’re working in and which groups you will have some down time to relax, socialize, or watch.
Drive: This one is kind of self-explanatory. There will probably be an area for “grid” where you park between runs, and grid workers will tell you when to go up to the line to make your run. Have fun, look at your time, and try to go faster. Repeat until all your runs are done.
Helpful tip – Look ahead and relax. Looking ahead helps you see where the course is better, and relaxing enables you to feel what the car is doing better so that you can ultimately get a better time.
So that’s it – those are some of the essential facts of what you need to know and how to go autocrossing. From there, SCCA Solo has more levels of driving including a school to make you a better driver, Solo National Tours, a Solo National Championship, and even ProSolo® series. There are classes for race cars, cars right off the showroom floor, and everything in between. The menus on the right should answer all of your questions about autocrossing options and details.
For now, use the app below to find local regions and events to get started, and from all of us at SCCA – we hope to see you at a Solo event soon!