Looking for info on local autocross clubs and venues?

Getting Started

What is Autocross?

Autocross (also called "Solo", "AutoX") is a timed competition in which drivers navigate one at a time through a defined course. It is a form of motorsports that emphasizes safe competition and active participation. 


Autocross differs from road racing and oval racing in that generally there is only one car on the track, driving against the clock rather than other cars. As an entry-level motorsport it provides a stepping stone for drivers looking to move into other more competitive and possibly expensive forms of racing (such as rallying, rallycross and circuit racing).

What are courses like?

Autocross courses are typically less than 1 mile long and tend to place demands on car handling and driver skill rather than on engine power and outright speed.  Courses also tend to be different from event to event, even courses held at the same site, so you have the unique challenge of figuring out the best driving lines from one event to the next, even with the same club. 


Due to the nature of a typical course, speeds can be slower when compared to other forms of motorsports, usually not exceeding highway speeds, but the activity level (measured in discrete turns per minute) can be higher than even Formula One due to the large number of elements packed into each course. 

What kinds of cars can run?

Events typically have many classes that allow almost any vehicle, from economy sedans to purpose-built racing cars to compete. While "Street" classes tend to be the most popular classes (stock or some minor bolt-ons), others do bring purpose built cars. However, you can expect to see many vehicles you wouldn't expect, including certain trucks, or even a 450+ HP Volvo Station Wagon.

How do I get started?

 

All you really need is a car in general working order, to figure out which class you're in (more on this later), and to register! Some clubs only offer walk-up registration, but most clubs also offer online registration as well, usually at a discounted rate! Event fees typically range from $25-$45 for local events.

First Time

It's my first time, what should I bring?

If it's your first time, not everything below is required to bring - but if you have them, it'll go a long way and make for a better day. Some good items to bring include the following:

  1. Helmet: Should be Snell rated 2005 or newer (e.g. SA2005, M2005, SA2010, M2010, SA2015, M2015) - however many clubs offer free loaner helmets in case you don't have one, such as at most SCCA and NHSCC events. Other clubs also rent helmets, like the LowKey events held by Pitt Race.
  2. Painter's Tape: Painters tape is a cheap alternative to magnets to putting which class and number you're running on your car - however if you have a blue car, you may want to opt for "yellow" painters tape so course workers can read the numbers on your car. Numbers should be at least 8" tall, and letters should be a minimum of 4" tall. Also, some clubs will provide you numbers to tape to your car, such as at AHR and CPR SCCA events, and other clubs do not permit taped numbers such as ASCC. Another cheap alternative is vent cover magnets which are sold at most Home Depot locations for under $5. You get 3 8"x15" magnets for this price, and they're also good for putting decals and sponsorship stickers on your car that you'll receive at nationally sponsored events such as Match Tours, Champ Tours, and Pro Solos.
  3. Food & Water: You'll be outside for a while, and while some venues offer food and water - it's not always a guarantee. Better safe than sorry!
  4. Hat & Sun Screen: Optional like everything else above, but again, better safe than sorry!
  5. Lawn Chair: Standing all day can get old. Having a seat can go a long way. Again, collapsible lawn chairs can be had at Lowe's or Home Depot for under $10.
  6. Tire Pressure Maintenance: Your tire pressures will change throughout the day! To start, adding a few extra PSI in the morning is solid advice, as reducing sidewall rollover will help you go faster. A few things to consider bringing are a tire pressure gauge, portable air tank/pump, and chalk. Yes, good old fashioned sidewalk chalk. Why? On each tire, add maybe 3 or 4 simple lines of chalk. When you take your runs, the chalk will rub off, allowing you to see how far your tires are rolling over. You'll be able to tell from how close the chalk line is to the edge if your tires have too much or too little air pressure. A tire sprayer (if you have one) might also be a good idea to bring down temps if you need. Some tires can heat up quickly - such as the Nexen Fera SUR4G or Bridgestone Potenza RE71R. Other top tires like the BFGoodrich Rival S 1.5 or Hankook Ventus RS4s probably don't need sprayed at all, even if the car has 2 drivers.
  7. Torque Wrench: Heat soak happens which can loosen things up. You'll want to periodically torque your wheels - and you're certainly not making it through tech inspection w/out your lug nuts freshly torqued.
  8. Take almost everything loose out of your car before the event. This includes your trunk, stuff in the back seats, floor mats, etc. (though don't take out your seats since this can change your class). You can't run with any loose objects in the car from a safety perspective, so if you don't need it in the car, leave it at home. One exception is your spare tire. A spare tire is a nice way to reserve your parking space at the event. 

Morning of the event, what should I do?

1. Make sure you have everything you need in your car. Also, leave everything at home you don't need. Maybe stop at a gas station - you'll want at least 1/2 tank of gas (and definitely no less than 1/4 tank), check your fluids, air up your tires, grab some snacks, water, etc.


2. Arrive! Earlier the better. Once you arrive, you'll want to Register/Check-In. There will typically be a timing trailer at each venue where you'll want to register/check-in. Even if you registered online, you'll need to go up to sign the waiver and "check-in", many times this is a shorter line since you've already pre-paid. Also, if you're not sure of your class, the registration folks will be able to help you determine that. You can typically pick any number you want as long as it hasn't already been claimed. They'll also fill you in on when the driver's meeting will be, if/when the course opens for walking, and other important details.


3. Empty all loose objects of your car, including the trunk and passenger floor mats (driver's too if not secured by a hook/latch). This is required to pass tech inspection. However, you will want to keep your helmet (if you have one) in the car with you. Also, put your Numbers and Class Letters on your car, and re-torque your wheels, as these are also required to pass tech inspection. 


4. Get Tech'd. Drive your car up to the tech inspection area. Unsure of where that is? Just ask! Most of the other drivers will be able to point you in the right direction. Once you arrive at tech, they'll typically ask that you leave the car running, pop the hood, and open your trunk. 


5. Walk the course. After you re-park in your space, relax a bit and head up to the starting line of the course. It's not a bad idea to try to partner up with someone, especially if they're experienced. If you tell someone you're new and you'd like their help, they'll either help you themselves or find someone more knowledgeable to help. Some places also have novice walkthroughs of the course right before the driver's meeting where an experienced autocrosser (or even the course designer for the day) will take you through the course explaining various elements, as well as explaining what certain cones mean. This way you'll be less likely to get lost on course while also figuring out key strategies and driving lines so you can properly attack the course once competition starts. Victory loves preparation. You can walk the course as much as you'd like while it's open. Some people are one and done, while others will walk it 4 times or more.


6. Attend the driver's meeting. They'll give you information about when you run, work, rest, radio station to listen to announcers, website to look at live timing and scoring, and all sorts of other pertinent info for the day.


7. Have fun! Make sure before you run to check your tires, make sure you've turned those pesky nanny controls off (traction control, stability control, etc), and that you have enough time to get your car warmed up to temp before you make your first run. DON'T do tire warmups - it's a good way to get kicked out. Your tires will quickly warm themselves on the course.

Improving as a Driver

I already know I'm awesome, but how do I win?

Talk to people. Attend driving schools. Trade ride alongs. Prep your car to the limits of your class allowances. Read articles (like www.beyondseattime.com) or listen to podcasts. Get involved on the Pittsburgh Autocross Facebook Group


Don't be afraid to ASK QUESTIONS!!! 


Everyone starts somewhere. 


Any seasoned veteran or trophy winner has spun out, hit cones, turned their windshield wipers on, beeped their horn, or done all of thee above simultaneously. It's a rite of passage. We all start somewhere, and there will almost always be someone faster than us. The autocross community is incredibly supportive of helping drivers find whatever they need to improve.