First thing’s first:
"What is Autocross?"
Autocross is one of the most fast-paced motorsports event you can take part in. The setup is incredibly simple. Take an empty parking lot or any large plot of tarmac, use parking cones to set up a course, and see who can go around in the shortest amount of time (without hitting the cones or going off course). Automatic timing devices are set up at the starting and finish lines and track your time, but every cone moved from its spot will add 2 seconds to your time.
Cars are placed in different classes based on vehicle model, drive terrain, and modification level. This means that competitors are timed against vehicles that are within the same performance range as themselves. What results is a great way to benchmark your performance, identify areas of improvement, and quickly adjust your driving.
So why should I spend a day driving around in a parking lot? Well I’ll tell you!
1.) It’s Affordable
Autocross is cheap to organize, and therefore cheap to take part in. The group I run with charges $17 to non-members and $12 to members per event ($15 membership). That is about 5% the cost of a full track day on a road course. Not only is the cost of entry low, but the wear on brakes, tires, and the vehicle are much less than at a track day.
2.) Anyone Can Do It
Now by anyone, I mean anyone with a license typically. Still, you don’t need any prior experience or knowledge. They even have instructors that will sit in with you to give you pointers! The above picture is actually me from high school in my 300ZX. If my high school self can do it, I’m sure you can too.
3.) Any Car Can Do It
I’ve seen a Toyota Yaris, Volvo 240 Station Wagon, Classic Porsche, Kit Car, Ford Taurus, and everything in between. Trust me, your grocery getter is perfect for this (as long as its not an SUV or Minivan I suppose).
4.) Great Way To Meet Enthusiasts
There are tons of people that take part in these, and often times, groups will invite others from the surrounding areas to participate. I’ve met a lot of people whom I still talk to today and see at track events. They are a great source of insight and knowledge as well.
5.) There’s a Group Near You!
There is most likely a group that puts on autocross events within a reasonable distance of where you live. Because autocross doesn’t require an actual track, it can be done almost anywhere. Hop on Facebook or do a quick google search and see what groups you can come across.
6.) Skills Translate to the Track
Autocross is the perfect way to learn the handling characteristics or your car, understand throttle control, deal with under/oversteer, and gain a whole slew of skills. Should you decide to go a step further in motorsports, these skills will translate over to the track as well. The slow speeds and fast pace of autocross force you to focus on the cars handling in order to have the smoothest run possible.