Skip to main content

Looking for the next level up beyond your local kiddy go-kart track? Well, autocross racing may just be what you’re looking for. It’s essentially the purest form of motorsport out there. Just a car, a driver, and a clock. You versus your own talent, grip, and the cones. And that’s why you should give it a go.

What is Autocross?

A BMW runs over a cone at an autocross course
The worst thing that can happen on a course | Allen J. Schaben via Getty Images

Effectively, Autocross is just an evolved version of that little cone course you did in Driver’s Ed all those years ago. The event organizer, usually the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), will set up a field of cones creating a course, outlined in chalk for added visibility. Then, it’s your job to get through this autocross course as fast as you can. If you’re worried about being taken out to Gapplebee’s, don’t be. The SCCA will usually split autocross events into different classes, in addition to you being the only car out there.

These classes, per the SCCA, can range from people whose cars take them to the track as often as they do work, or those with dedicated, stripped-down race cars. Usually, marshalls will know how to group up people on arrival at an event. Additionally, should you not wish to go out there blind, the SCCA offers some introductory courses smattered across the United States, generally held at your closest race track.

Why you should try racing

A sea of cones in a parking lot
The sea of cones can look intimidating, but it isn’t | Paul Hennessy via Getty Images

Sounds pretty approachable, right? Make car go fast, no hit cone. On the surface that’s the objective, but for anyone with a passion for racing, you’ll soon realize there’s much more to autocross. That level of approachability, combined with the skills learned is exactly why you should go out and give it a go, even if racing isn’t your thing. That’s exactly why I went to my first event.

Frankly, I learned more about speed, driving, and car control in my one day of autocross than any other first day of racing I’ve had. Short of karting that is. However, autocross has a more casual feel. It’s certainly been more approachable in my experience. Getting to show up in a vehicle you know well is key to the level of comfort afforded at an autocross event.

What to do before your first time out

BMW cars line up before an event
Staging up before a lap | Daniel Boczarski via Getty Images

Should you decide to go, know that your car must be immaculately maintained, with a number of safety regulations met, most important among them being a helmet. You can find those here on the SCCA’s site. You’ll also need good tires and a secure battery. Wouldn’t want that heavy item rocketing around your engine, would you? With those hurdles in mind, autocross really is easily the most approachable form of racing out there. All in all, autocross is a great beginner-friendly way to get going fast and learn.


What Is Autocross Racing and Is it Dangerous?