Tips, Tricks & Trends

Planning to Autocross? Here Are Some Helpful Tips to Get You Started

If you want to explore the upper regions of your car’s tachometer, then you can either run it hard on the street or take it to a track. But if you don’t want to run the risk of getting pulled over on the street barreling your pride and joy into a wall when on a race track, autocross racing can be a great solution.

With autocrossing, you’ll get to enjoy your car’s potential in a safe environment while only having to worry about hitting some cones. However, you might not know how to get started in autocross racing, so here are some helpful tips.

Register for an event early

If you decide that you want to take the plunge and get your feet wet in the world of autocross racing, then it’s a good idea to register for a Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) event. These events are typically held during the warmer months of the year across the nation, so you can find one in your area and sign up for it early.

However, due to the pandemic, some events have been canceled while others are still going on. Check out the SCCA website to find events in your area.

A 2007 Honda Civic Si running an autocross course
A 2007 Honda Civic Si running an autocross course | SCCA

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What you should bring to an autocross event

After signing up for your first autocross event, it’s a good idea to take inventory of what you’ll need to bring to it. Technically, all you need is a good working car, a helmet, your driver’s license, and money for the entry fee. However, there’s a lot more stuff that you might want to bring if you’re planning to stay for the whole day.

Here is a handy list that the Fort Wayne Region SCCA chapter put together:

  • Your Valid Driver’s license. (to get a discount)
  • If you’re under 18 you will need the proper form filled out by both your parents.
  • Your safe car (although you may share a car with someone else).
  • Your entry fee.
  • Sunscreen – You’re out in the sun all day (hopefully).
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses.
  • Comfortable shoes and/or driving shoes.
  • Umbrella and other rain gear – if you’re not out in the sun all day.
  • I like to bring a change of shirt for when I get sweaty, and extra shoes and socks in case it rains.
  • Jacket, etc. if it will be cold – especially in the morning.
  • Folding Chair.
  • Water – I bring at least a gallon.
  • Cooler
  • Pack a lunch (and snacks).
  • Tire gauge.
  • Air tank or pump. Or get extra air in your tires on the way to the event.
  • Tools (jack, jack stands, lug wrench, etc).
  • Chalk or shoe polish to mark tires.
  • Magnetic numbers or painters’ tape.
  • Pyrometer
  • Notebook to keep notes.
  • Helmet if you have one. (if you’re concerned if it meets safety requirements – bring it. If it doesn’t you can still borrow one of ours)

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What to do when you get to the autocross event

Now that you know what you need to bring to the autocross event, it’s good to know what to expect when you get there. According to the Fort Wayne SCCA, you should register early and get your wristband. Afterward, park in the paddock and pick a spot to store all of that stuff you brought with you.

Be sure to put your numbers on your car and then take your car to the tech inspection area. When you’re there the inspectors will check out your car’s mechanical bits like the wheel bearings, tires, brake pedal, and battery tie-down to ensure that the car can safely handle the track.

When that’s done, be sure to walk to the course with the group since that might be the only time that you can get familiar with all of the turns and where to go. If you don’t do this, you might end up going the wrong way when you actually run your car.

SCCA solo autocross participants walking the course
SCCA solo autocross participants walking the course | Fort Wayne SCCA

During the event

Now that all the preparations are done, it’s time to start the events of the day. There is typically a driver’s meeting to go over all the rules and the schedule for the day. While some events can vary when it comes to their schedule, most events are divided up into two or three “heats.”

Drivers are typically expected to work one of the heats and drive for two of them. Working includes helping the crew in picking up cones and other duties. But when it comes to driving, you’ll typically get four to six runs per heat.

Have fun

While it’s easy to get nervous before running an autocross race, it’s important to have fun while doing it. After all, driving your car to its limit in a safe can be fun, so why be nervous about it? Just remember the course layout.