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Old 07-22-2004, 10:49 PM   #1
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Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

SUMMARY: The car makers, and car clubs advertise that auto-cross is the best way to learn how to drive your high performance machine these days. Although what exactly does that mean? Further reading will raise some questions.

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What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.
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Old 08-25-2004, 11:14 PM   #2
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I'll have to comment on this article because I've been autocrossing for 8 years now.

While autocrossing is not for everyone, you cannot judge the "whole" on two people. Especially since they sound like novices in this case.

Autocrossing is a very time consuming sport. Each region might be a little different on the aspect of working, and it was not until this year that our region has even-ed things out with how long you have to work on course. It used to be the 2nd and 3rd heat workers would be out there for 1-2 hours while 1st and 4th heat would be out there for 30 minutes. Thanks to our autocross heads we have somewhat even-ed it out now to about 1 hour each heat.

But you also have to realize the amount of time the CORE WORKERS spend at the event, or even main people who organize the event. For our region CORE WORKERS get there around 6am (about 2 hours before everyone else arrives) to set up the course, registration tent, grid, barriers, tech, insurance waivers, timing equipment, or even sweep the course. During the event some of us are in the HOT timing truck with no breeze or fan for 5 hours, while others are helping out with instructing worker assignments, posting results. Then we are there til the event ends to clean up.

I'd say we are working about 10-12 hours at one event. I would gladly trade Greg for 2 hours and he can work my 10-12 hours.

Also Greg said he walked the course. Didn't mention how many or if he asked for help. There are plenty of people to ask for help if you do not understand the course. It took me a whole year or two to understand different aspects of the course completely. I can probably walk the course 5-7 times if I need to.

As far as the “ugly car” it would depend on how safe or unsafe the car was. I’ve seen many cars show up held together by duct tape, which of course would be unsafe. While others trying to pass tech inspection with 2 lugs holding the wheels.

I think a little more research should have been done before writing this article. Not only because autocrossing is a safer way to race, but it's more fun than you make it out to be in the article.
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Old 08-25-2004, 11:35 PM   #3
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Re: Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

1. Mark (the author of the article) has plenty of autox experience.
2. Have you ever been to a road racing event? With either SCCA or NASA?

As I went to my first autox event recently with plenty of hours on road courses in my bag, I experienced severe frustration for this main reason:

I got 6 runs, each around 30 seconds in the span of 1 whole day - from morning until evening.


With quick math, that means that I got 3 minutes or so of actual 'track' time (around the cones in a parking lot can be hardly called that...)
I also had to work the corner for about 2 hours in dispicable heat. Cost for entry was about $30.

I have been to many road racing events with NASA, S2000 Club, BMW CCA, Lotus Club, and some others.

When I went to Mid-Ohio (http://www.midohio.com) with the S2000 Club, it was just a 1 day event, but I got about 3 hours of ACTUAL track time, with 30 minute sessions spread out throughout the day. I did not have to work any corners, as that would have surely killed me. Exhaustion that comes with spending 3 hours behind the wheel of a car on an actual race track is beyond imagination. The cost? $180.

3 hours is 60 times the track time that I got at the autox event. Instead of going 20-45 mph, I was going 50-125 mph (with the most recent modifications on the AF 350Z, my speed ranged from 60-140 mph) around a real race track, which is 2.6 miles long with engaging corners and high-speed straights.

I paid $60/hour of track time at Mid-Ohio
I paid $600/hour of "cones around a parking lot" time at AutoX.

I learned significantly more going around my very first lap at the race track than I did at the AutoX event I attended.
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Old 08-26-2004, 12:22 AM   #4
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Re: Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

You said to make comments below. So I did. What did you expect everyone to agree with you? As I said autocrossing is not for everyone. What does "plenty" of autocross experience entail?

Also realize that an off road excursion with autocrossing is completely different than an off road excursion with a track day.

And as I stated each autocross region is different. Some clubs I've worked like 30 minutes out on course and we got 9 runs on a 45 second course (The M Club), some clubs I've worked 1 hour and got 6 runs on a 40 second course (http://www.nepa-scca.com).

It depends on how large your region is. Susquehanna Region (the main region I run with) gets about 60 cars per event. I've attended one DC event and it has over 300 competitors! I know San Fransisco region gets about that too.

And to answer your 2nd question, yes I've been to a couple of track days/schools with NASA. Yes you get more seat time, but that's a different animal, while it's seat time - it's s different sort of seat time.
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Old 08-26-2004, 12:33 AM   #5
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Re: Re: Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

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Originally Posted by CivicSiRacer
You said to make comments below. So I did. What did you expect everyone to agree with you? As I said autocrossing is not for everyone. What does "plenty" of autocross experience entail?
Whoa now... certainly, your comments are wonderful! I did not write this article, Mark Sanew did, but I most definately agree with much of it from my own experience. We now started a great debate, and I'd love for more people to join us

As far as Mark's experience with AutoX, I am going to try to lure him in here so he can join the discussion.
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Old 09-06-2004, 01:42 PM   #6
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Re: Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

CivicSiRacer most certainly has his hand in autox the way most people don't he has experience and he has had success.

The article is to highlight, an experience.
Just as the article states, is an autox the place to learn better driving?

It raises that question, because that is the way most clubs market their autox.

I have brought dozens of people to an autox who like motorsports, and in the midwest region, the concensus was that there was not enough seat time, and they worked too long.

I know you are an event chair, and probably are just looking at trying to make events smooth. I have a lot of respect for that. However, there is more to the event than just setting it up. There are people there that drive the event.

Many have the potential to become members or be there in the future.

At least in the midwest region, there is not enough time put into working with people trying to get into the sport.

Hence the name of the article, I read about first time experiences and did my article based on this, most people had no idea what to do when they got there or how they did when they got done.

That is a problem and the realistic side of autox for the first timers.
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Old 09-06-2004, 10:52 PM   #7
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Well yeah each person experiences things differently, which makes us human - but throwing out a little negativity due to inexperience or maybe lack of questions should also be addressed.

And also asking questions to the right people help too. You don't want to be asking questions to someone who is "in the zone" studying the course or someone who looks like they have their hands full.

I've been to regions where people wouldn't give you the time of day, then there are other regions who would kill themselves just to help you drop 1/10h of a second.

I remember my 1st autocross experience as a great one. So many people tryiing to help the newbie.

Also realize working is part of the experience of autocrossing. Realize that autocross lots are getting harder and harder to come by. I know one region who gets their lots for free, and I know of others who have to fork out $3000. If you get 300 competitors @ $20/comptitor, you only come away with $3000. And that doesn't include trophies, insurance fees, etc... Also working the course can be an advantage to you since you can see what lines people take.
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Old 09-07-2004, 12:32 PM   #8
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Re: Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CivicSiRacer
Well yeah each person experiences things differently, which makes us human - but throwing out a little negativity due to inexperience or maybe lack of questions should also be addressed.

And also asking questions to the right people help too. You don't want to be asking questions to someone who is "in the zone" studying the course or someone who looks like they have their hands full.

I've been to regions where people wouldn't give you the time of day, then there are other regions who would kill themselves just to help you drop 1/10h of a second.

I remember my 1st autocross experience as a great one. So many people tryiing to help the newbie.

Also realize working is part of the experience of autocrossing. Realize that autocross lots are getting harder and harder to come by. I know one region who gets their lots for free, and I know of others who have to fork out $3000. If you get 300 competitors @ $20/comptitor, you only come away with $3000. And that doesn't include trophies, insurance fees, etc... Also working the course can be an advantage to you since you can see what lines people take.
Yes all those things are true, I agree 100%, but many people who go don't have the slightest idea of what goes into setting them up.

I don't know if that is good or bad.

In any case, an editorial is not going to change anything, however if I were running a local club, I would put more time into the rookies, some people don't just go out there and get it.

There should be one guy or girl just like there is a safety person at some events, one guy who takes care of all the questions for the new people, rides with them. Maybe even set up a heat for the rookies, where they don't have to run with other people in their class, for a better shot at getting ride alongs.

I mean clubs need the money and memberships, I don't think it is such a bad idea or impractical one.
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Old 09-08-2004, 10:36 PM   #9
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Re: Autocross Not the Place to Learn?

Well our region for one DOES have one person who is the "Novice Worker". He either sets up stuff himself or knows the rest of us who are good with novices. The select few then eithe do course walk throughs with the novices, jump in with them, or anything else they need.

Maybe something should be said to the region. Sometimes people don't know there's a problem unless something is said.
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