What is autocross?
- Introduction to Solo (autocross)
- Links to More Information
- Eligible Cars and Drivers
- Tips and Suggestions
Introduction to Solo (autocross)
An autocross is a skill driving event in which one car at a time negotiates a prescribed course, using traffic cones to define a variety of turns. The sites are usually laid out on huge, open parking lots, or on sections of airport runways. The course is set up so that you are operating in lower gears, with a top speed of no more than 60mph or so, depending on the car. The average time of a run on the course is approximately one minute, plus a penalty of two seconds for each rubber cone (pylon) hit. During each run you operate your car at it's limit of acceleration, turning, and braking...and yours. You maintain complete control of your car while maneuvering through the course in the lowest possible time.
While driving on the street, the time span of most emergencies is only a few seconds. Thus the experience of maintaining control becomes a valuable training session. You will develop a sense of timing, judgment, and ability to interpret your vehicle's handling characteristics - at safe speeds and in a safe place. Your experiences at an autocross will enhance your driving ability on the street.
Links to More Information
Here's some very informative source to familiarize yourself more with autocrossing.
- Getting Started in Autocross? (at Autocross.com)
- Solo2 Novice Handbook (at The Tire Rack)
- NER Novice Driving School Handouts (PPT)
The events are open to any make of car, from an economy commuter car to racing only formula cars and racing Karts. NER/SCCA has 30+ classes for autocross competition.
The different class categories are:
- Stock Class (Few changes from what the dealer sells)
- Street Touring Classes (Minor mods like lowering springs or wheels are allowed.)
- Street Prepared Classes (More significant changes to engine and suspension)
- Street Modified Classes (Radical changes to street cars)
- Prepared Classes (Significant preparation allowed, close to race prep, usually running on true racing tires.)
- Modified Classes (Home to true race vehicles such as Formula F and Formula Vee, plus custom race vehicles.)
- Kart Classes - including three classes for children 5-16 years old.
We also run three index classes:
- Pro Class - this where some of the best drivers in the region compete against each other. If top-notch competition is your desire, this is the class for you.
Novice Class - This is where newbies can compete against each other without having to compete against more experienced drivers. It allows you to get your feet wet and identifies you to our instructors as someone that might need a little extra help during the day.
Road Tire Classes - These classes are reserved for cars that would run in Stock Class, but do not want to run on D.O.T. legal R-Compound tires. Cars running in this category are limited to tires with a UTQG rating of 140 or higher.
Each car is required to undergo a technical inspection at every event. The 'tech' inspection consists of inspecting the front end, seat belt installation, throttle linkage, brake fluid level and brake response, steering assembly, tires, and helmet. Prior to bringing your car to tech you will be required to remove the hub caps (wheel covers or trim rings too) which can and will fly off during hard cornering. The tech inspectors will check that your battery is securely tied down.
Autocross events are open to anyone who has a valid state drivers license. Drivers under 18 must have parental permission and a signed minor waiver form. We do allow 8 year olds to run in Karts prepared to WKA Rules. The 'old hands' will assist you in learning the sport until you are an old hand. You bought your car to enjoy driving it, didn't you? So - come to an event and enjoy!!!
- Know the course.
One of the greatest challenges of autocross competition is the fact that all of the courses are different. All drivers are allowed to walk through the course, as often as they wish, until the competition begins. Study the course as you walk it. You may wish to jot down notes or draw your own map. Walk the course again and again until you have if memorized. One former National Champion (several times) has taught other drivers that you must be able to mentally follow the course with your eyes closed before you are ready to make your run. You will never drive the course fast if you don't know where you are and where you should be going at all times.
When you are walking the course, try to look at the course from the perspective of the driver's seat of the car. Remember that you will be driving off center in your car. Most novices can judge how close objects are to the driver's side of the car but are usually a poor judge of distance to the passenger side of the car. Witness all those parking lot dents from the grocery store! Also watch experienced drivers put their tires within inches of each pylon.
As you are walking the course start thinking about what you feel will be the fastest way to get through each corner. Although the first several events that you run will probably be driven 'gate to gate', the goal should be to drive the course in smooth, flowing lines. Your line on one turn should leave you set up to plan the next turn. You should be looking several gates ahead. Try to plan times when you will be able to accelerate and when you will want to brake. Remember - time spent planning your run is time spent reducing your times in competition.
- Driving techniques.
Drive smooth and controlled at all times. It isn't easy to do, but it is the way to win. Those cars you see going through turns in 'four wheel drifts' are not being smooth and have lost some control. They may be able to regain control, but they have lost valuable time. The drivers that know how to win don't always look like they are going fast - they know how to drive smoothly and maintain control of their cars. Other competitors listen to their times and wonder where they are going so fast - everywhere.
All your inputs to the car - steering, braking, and shifting should be smooth, controlled, and well timed. All sudden and abrupt inputs to the car will cause it to be unbalanced on the suspension, lose cornering speed, and cost you valuable time. Smooth driving is a skill gained with experience and practice. Some people learn sooner than others. Start learning today.
- Analyze each run.
We assume that you have attempted to put the preceding tips to use. After each run think of where and how you could improve your time. Do not dwell on your mistakes. THINK POSITIVE. Ask yourself questions: Where could I accelerate sooner? Where could I brake later or less? Which turns can I go faster in? Would a different line be better through some corners? Should I take the slalom the other way? Did I stay on course? Did I hit any pylons? How can I avoid them next time? Adopt an experienced driver. There are many drivers who will be willing to watch your run and critique it for you. We welcome new people to our sport and want them to come back - of course we will help you.
- Help work the course.
Although this may sound like a bore to you, our suggestion is very important. All of the most experienced drivers spend a lot of time shagging pylons. Why? If there are 100 cars entered, then each driver has a chance to watch 99 other drives go through the same course. There is always something to learn, always something that we are not sure of. The best place to observe is out on the course. Some other driver may try a line that you were planning to use through a particular turn - you can see if it does or doesn't work. Wouldn't it be nice to find out before you tried it. You may see things that you had not thought of and want to try them. Work different sections of the course so that you see all of it. Talk with and listen to other workers, they may give you very useful information.
By working, you will help the event run faster and smoother. If everyone helps, all drivers may get an extra run or two. Wouldn't this be great if you were a second behind the leader in your class and had an idea where you could gain some time if you had JUST ONE MORE RUN!? By having all of the entrants work we are able to keep entry fees reasonable.
- Stay for the trophy presentation.
You may have won a trophy! NOVICE CLASS is scored with a factoring system that takes into account the performance differences among the various classes. So don't worry if your Nissan Sentra is a few seconds behind the Porsche. Socialize. After many events there are informal parties and bench racing sessions. Use these opportunities to meet new people.
- DO NOT GIVE UP IF YOU ARE NOT COMPETITIVE.
None of us were at first and some of us still are not, but we still enjoy the fun and competition! Remember that racing is not an easy sport. There is always something new to be learned. Whether you are winning of not, you will become a better driver, and you may learn a thing or two about yourself driving tips and techniques for the novice.
If you have any questions about rules, refer to the Solo rulebook which can be obtained from your NER SCCA representative at SOLO events, or from the phone/Address below:
SOLO RULES published by:
P.O. Box 19400 Topeka, KS 66619-0400
Other suggested reading available:
- Classic Motorbooks, P.O. Box 1, Osceola, WI 54020
- "Winning Autocross and Solo II Competition, The Art and Science of Driving", by Turner and Miles; National Academy of Performance Driving
- "Secrets of SOLO Racing", by Henry A. Watts; Loki Motorsports
There are instructors available at all solo events. Ask the grid workers for an instructor before you run and they'll help you find a more experienced autocrosser to ride along with you on your run. Instructors in NER have all won local class championships or trophied at National events and are well suited to help you get more comfortable behind the wheel.