Intro to Autocross
The autocross season is getting tantalizingly close for those of us addicted to the smell of race gas in the morning dawn. The first event is set for March 22nd, at Marina Airport. Time to get the car tuned up and aligned, the sticky tires mounted, and quickly re-read “Secrets of Solo Racing.” But for those of you who have not yet experienced an autocross, don’t worry about that last bit, all you need to do to get started in autocross is to show up!
So what is an autocross and why would you come out to one? These Porsches we all drive are remarkably capable machines. So capable, in fact, that you can’t even come close to exploring their true performance potential in any sane and legal way on the public streets. An autocross is the perfect venue for learning what your car can really do, as well as developing your own car control skills, in a very safe and controlled environment. But beyond the intellectual stimulation of those reasons, the bottom line is, IT’S A BLAST! Think roller coaster that you get to steer. Exciting, exhilarating, blow your socks off fun! And beyond the giggle-inducing rush, there is also the thrill of developing the skills to slide a ton and a half of snarling metal around the course in a smooth, precise ballet. Much like golf, the basics are easily learned, but true mastery is rare and elusive, making the quest for those skills both endlessly intriguing and deeply satisfying when a run comes together and you get it just right.
Yes, we keep times, and have classes and placings and trophies at the end of the year, but that’s not what it’s really all about. Quick times are just the byproduct of learning the skills necessary to be fully and totally in control of your car, confident and assured in your actions. And that’s a great feeling.
The basics of an autocross are a big piece of open paving, a few hundred traffic cones, and an electronic timer. The course is laid out and outlined with cones and chalk lines, and timing beacons are set up for the start and finish. One car at a time is released onto the course and a time for that driver is recorded. The courses are intentionally kept tight and twisty, with few straights, keeping speeds low. Average speeds are around 40 mph, with very brief maximums of perhaps 70.
We group the drivers into three run groups. During each run session, one group is taking turns in their cars, one group is manning the course (shagging cones, running the timer, etc.), and the last group is resting. We cycle through six run sessions through the day, so everyone gets two sessions each of driving, working, and resting. One of the advantages of this system is that we can run continuously throughout the day, without a lunch break. You just grab a bite during your rest session. We arrange for a taco truck to be on-site, so you don’t even need to pack your own lunch. Depending on how well we’re running things, we usually get between 4 and 6 runs per session, so you should end up with 8 to 12 runs for the day.
We open up pre-registration on MotorsportsReg.com about 2 weeks before each event. Pre-registering on-line saves you $10 on the event fee, but you can always just show up and register on site. Gates open at 7 am and the registration table is up and running soon thereafter. Registration stays open until 8:15. We have a mandatory drivers meeting at 8:30 and then shoot to have the first car out on course at 9:00.
One of the standard parts of the drivers meeting is to have any first timers hold up their hands so they can be greeted with a rousing round of applause and be introduced to our Chief Instructor, Neil Librock. Neil then takes the new rookies under his wing and pairs them off with one of our large pool of excellent instructors. Your instructor will guide you through the day, teaching you both the workings of the event, how to do your assigned work position, and, hopefully, some of the mysteries of performance car control. Your instructor will ride along with your as long as you feel they are needed.
Helmets are required for all drivers, however, we have a stock of loaners, so no need to buy one before you inevitably realize you’re totally hooked.
For those of you with the more powerful late-model cars, ever been caught out in a rainstorm and worried about dealing with those wide tires and all that power in the wet? We’ll, you can learn about that at an autocross too. We’re a rain or shine event. If it starts raining, the cars keep running. The times do start going up, but that doesn’t diminish the fun.
If the forecast predicts rain, be sure to bring some rain gear. A few lucky soles working in the timing trailer get to keep dry during their work sessions, but the rest of us will be standing out in the rain. Appropriate gear will make that much less soggy.
Have I got you hooked yet? If you own a Porsche, by definition, you own a car designed for performance driving. Isn’t it time you and your car fulfilled your joint destiny?
Hoping to see you out there,
GGR Autocross Chair
2015 GGR Carlsen Porsche Autocross Series Calendar
March 22, Sunday, Marina Airport
April 11, Saturday, Marina Airport
May 23, Saturday, Alameda Point
June 20, Saturday, Alameda Point
July 18, Saturday, Alameda Point
August 30, Sunday, Alameda Point
September 13, Sunday, Marina Airport
October 17, Saturday, Alameda Point
November 14, Saturday, Alameda Point