What is Autocross?

Autocross (AKA autox) is a forward motion driving skill contest. Each driver is individually timed over a short, miniature road course defined using traffic cones. Cars compete one at a time ("solo") against the clock, with elapsed time and penalties for course deviations being the determining factors for finish time. Autocross does not preclude the running of more than one car at a time, provided they are separated on course by adequate time and distance to avoid a passing situation. Safety protocols such as "red flagging" of vehicles by course workers ensure driver and worker safety. An autocross can be held on any relatively flat paved surface, such as a parking lot, airport apron or runway, or even a closed road course.

Anyone with a driver's license using most any registered street vehicle can participate in an autocross event. This is a significant reason for the popularity of autocross because you don't need to buy a special car! Instead, you can compete using almost any everyday use automobile (with limited restrictions such as for pickup trucks, SUVs, or certain 4WDs with high rollover potential). You can even bring your hybrid or electric vehicle. However, motorcycles and karts are excluded.

Unlike NASCAR that runs in dry (and typically warm) weather, autocross is a motorsport activity that can be run rain or shine (or snow on occasion)! In fact, you often can learn more from attending a wet or cold event than you can during a warm dry one as control of your car requires additional precision from the limited grip available. So don't be discouraged from a little bad weather. In fact you may learn to enjoy it!

The day in a nutshell consists of registration, vehicle tech inspection, a course walk (preferably several), short drivers meeting, several alternating heats where drivers switch between run groups (driving the course) and work groups (working the course), and course clean up after the event.

The Action

Autocross emphasizes driver skill and vehicle handling (and a little memory) rather than just speed. A typical autocross course is a relatively low speed event made up primarily of corners (lots of them) linked together with an occasional straight or series of slaloms. Speeds vary from course to course due to lot size and configuration. However, regardless of the actual speed, due to the many abrupt directional and speed changes and the narrowness of defined lanes of travel it will feel MUCH faster, exciting and challenging! Autocross Videos

No special competition licenses are required to compete, and hazards to spectators, participants and property are kept to a minimum as a result of several safety procedures followed throughout the event. In this regard, autocross is an excellent way to teach car control skills (e.g., smooth transitions, enhanced braking, skid correction, improved reaction time, situational awareness and confidence among others) and individual car characteristics (and limits) to drivers in a safe environment. The car control skills you learn and practice at an autocross will have an immediate impact on improving the safety and skill of your street driving.

The Popularity

A significant reason for the popularity of autocross is that you don't need to buy a special car. As can be seen, you can participate in autocross with a wide variety of vehicles from mild to wild. In fact, with limited exception (e.g., 4WD pickup trucks) you can typically run your daily driver car! However, various levels of modifications are allowed and encouraged so that you may grow with the sport and your increased driving skills through upgrade in parts or car models.

Another significant reason for the popularity of autocross is the minimal safety and other equipment needed, and the reasonable cost for entry. Your functional factory seatbelts are sufficient, so the only safety gear needed is a suitable helmet (currently Snell approved SA2010 and newer helmets). If you do not own a helmet several club helmets are available for daily rental.

The People

Autocross is also a very social sport, filled with some of the friendliest people you'll ever meet! Most are more than happy to help you out with car setup and driving tips. We also encourage ride-alongs, which are a great way to learn driving techniques.

One thing that differs from other sports is that autocrossing is a cooperative sport. That is, competitors when not running are usually asked to serve as workers that help out with functional tasks needed to run the event. This typically includes coordinating grid, manning the start and stop of the course, and manning various track stations "on course" where various duties are performed, including calling in any course penalties (e.g., off course or knocking down of cones) and "flagging" any immediate safety concerns. More Info

School or Test & Tunes

Throughout each season the Corvette Club of America usually hosts one or more autocross schools or test & tune events in conjunction with or separate from regular autocross events. These primer events are perfect for those who are just starting out as well as for those looking to brush up on their skills or do some setup experimentation before running in conventional timed events.

These events will typically consist of a combination of:

  1. classroom time
  2. car prep time learning good prep practices and the technical inspection process used to ensure your car meets safety standards for participation
  3. a guided course walk (multiple walks are recommended to ensure familiarity with the various course elements)
  4. lots of practice time on the autocross course to hone your driving skills
Experienced autocross instructors are available to ride with you and/or coach you from the passenger seat to provide feedback on course negotiation, looking ahead, line, speed, and braking techniques.

Still not convinced? Here's a good article on why you should take an autocross drivers' school.

How to Prepare

  • A valid driver's license and proof of registration and personal automotive liability insurance for the car being driven.
  • A car suitable for autocrossing. As noted above, most registered street cars can participate. However, CCA reserves the right to prohibit any vehicle deemed unsafe for the event or not suited for our club event or insurance regulations. For example, motorcycles, go-karts, pickups and high ground-clearance SUVs are prohibited. Also, cars that are found to fail our mandatory tech inspection are also prohibited (e.g., loose wheel bearings, missing lug nuts, leaking fluids, unsecured battery or parts, excess steering play, bald tires, bad brakes, etc.)
  • A Snell-approved (SA) helmet manufactured within last 10 years (SA2010, SA2015) is recommended, but certain other helmets with only a DOT marking may be accepted by the CCA Competition Director or Tech Inspector. Limited loaner helmets are available for a nominal fee and will be shared during the event.
  • Extra air in your tires as the cornering loads in autocross often exceed that during normal street driving and pressures (plus you can always bleed them down if overinflated but will need an air compressor to inflate if pressure is too low). A portable air tank or compressor is helpful.
  • Suitable shoes for driving. Light narrow soled shoes are best for pedal feel. Open-toe shoes, sandals and going bare foot are not allowed as these may interfere with gas, brake and clutch pedal operation during runs. Comfortable walking shoes can also be brought for when you are not driving (e.g., for walking or working the course).
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen. Portable tent or canopy can be set up outside the fence since shade will be limited (optional but you will make friends fast).
  • Folding chair is nice for spectating or resting throughout the day.
  • Appropriate attire. Clothes appropriate for the weather forecast, plus a change for when the forecast is wrong. Rain gear/umbrella are particularly important if rain is a possibility as we run/work rain or shine. Hat and/or gloves.
  • Drinks for hydration such as water or other non-alcoholic beverage. Note that a limited quantity of complimentary water will be provided for the workers and drivers.
  • Cooler for lunch or snacks throughout the day. Note that a lunch break between morning and afternoon heats will allow time to go to a nearby restaurant to grab a quick bite.
  • Windex and paper towels are great to get your windows spot free for visibility.
  • Pad and pencil to write down course info, driving tips, tire pressures, etc.
  • High-quality tire pressure gauge is helpful as tire pressures will likely increase throughout the day from heat added from each run and you may wish to monitor and adjust accordingly.
  • Chalk or white shoe polish to mark the tires (to note contact patch and sidewall rollover).
  • Basic car tools for adjustments or minor repairs. Zip ties, duct tape, are helpful supplies. Spare fluids, e.g., engine oil, brake fluid, power steering, etc. Car jack for changing wheels/tires if you plan on changing at the event.
  • Magnetic numbers, vinyl or static cling decals, blue painter's tape, or white shoe polish to clearly mark your car number for the event (a limited supply of blue painter's tape and shoe polish will be available).

Acknowledgement: Some of this content is based on the "Solo II Novice Handbook" (Glen Region SCCA) copyrighted May, 1996 and revised March, 1998, and the FAQ pages from the Capital Driving Club copyrighted 2003-2012. Changes have been made to reflect individual differences in goals, procedures and philosophies between the Corvette Club of America and other clubs and to reflect additional information gleaned from other sources and experiences.

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