Start at the Beginning
What is Autocrossing?
Is it Safe?
Check the basic requirements on our Solo Information page, and show up. That's it!
Prepare for Weather
A lunch break may be nothing more than grabbing a snack on the run, or it may be a 30-minute break if the day is going smoothly. Prepare accordingly.
Prepare your car
A regularly maintained car should have no trouble surviving an autocross, which makes it great for trying it out in the family sedan.
Your First Event
When You Get There
Find an unoccupied spot to park, and unload anything not safely secured to the car. This usually includes the spare tire, jack, floor mats, subwoofer, or anything loose that could move around while autocrossing. Once you have cleaned out your car, move your car to the tech inspection line or tech area. Open the hood and trunk, and a tech inspector will check your car and initial a small tech sticker (tech inspection details here). Then you can park and go to the trailer to register. If you pre-registered online via the link in the event announcement online, your information is already in the system and the next part will be a breeze.
Registration will ask you for your driver's license, SCCA card (if an annual member), and collect your entry fee. If you are not a SCCA member, you will fill out a SCCA weekend membership form good for five days of club membership and a discount on annual membership. Here they will also enter your class and number in the timing computer, and sign you up for a work assignment. No one likes work, but someone has to keep the event running while the other half race. Watching cars on course as a corner worker is a very good way to see how to go faster. If you mention that you are new to the sport, registration can usually pair you with a more experienced corner worker.
After registration is an excellent time to go walk the course and get to know the path you will be driving. If in doubt, follow others around the course and don't hesitate to ask for directions. Events usually have an experienced member lead a novice course walk around mid-morning, so listen for announcements.
End of the Day
Remember to get back into "street" mode at the end of the day. Burnouts, donuts, street racing, and speeding near the site attract unwanted attention. Please help us keep our site!
What is it about?
How is my car classed?
For a new autocrosser, the main thing to remember is to learn and have fun. "Competitiveness" can wait, so don't worry about who or what is in your class.
As a rule of thumb, if you can't run the course in your mind or the draw the general path on a piece of paper, you should walk it again. Help your memorization by narrowing down the sea of cones to just the important ones. Cones just set boundaries or provide direction, so pick out which ones you want to be looking for when you're driving at speed.
Experienced autocrossers use the course walk to plan how and where they are going to place the car. Behind the wheel, they are looking ahead to key cones and fine-tuning the line they planned during their walk. This is easier said than done, but it comes with practice.
For now, taking the time to know your way around will make the task of driving easier.
Getting the Most Out of It
Autocrosses are social events, a very open fraternity of car nuts. When you are not driving, there is plenty of time to meet new people, BS, and learn from others. Armchair racing can be as important as the actual racing in some company.
Autocross for fun, not to be the best. It takes years of experience to be among the most competitive in the sport. Enjoy the opportunity to drive your car on the limit and improve your skills.
The more seat time, the better. Autocross schools, as held by some SCCA regions and private schools like Evolution, are an effective route to better driving. Prices vary widely, but experienced instruction is valuable no matter what. Traveling to other regions' events on off weekends and attending higher-level events (described below) is also great for experience.
Relatively affordable Summer performance tires such as the Dunlop ZII, BFGoodrich Rival, and Hankook RS-3 are common in Street and Street Touring, categories requiring a minimum tread wear rating. They are also popular among casual autocrossers in classes where more expensive, faster-wearing race tires are allowed. Tires like these are a good place to start for beginning autocrossers.
In the Street Prepared and Street Modified classes, DOT-rated race tires are allowed. They are closer to a full racing slick, but have radial construction and minimal tread grooves to meet regulations for street legality. They are hardly a tire for street use, rather a tire designed with autocrossing or road racing specifically. You will often see experienced drivers using them to their advantage.
The Next Level
Solo Event Types
Divisional - SCCA regions are grouped into one of eight divisions, and OMR is in the Midwest Division (a.k.a. MiDiv). Every year, a series of regions host two-day inter-regional Solo events leading to a divisional points championship. Typically held at larger sites, they attract SCCA members from all around that part of the country. These offer a larger, more competitive field of drivers while maintaining much of the laid-back social atmosphere of a regional event.
National - the best drivers with the most competitive cars come together at large events administered by the SCCA national office. About ten National Tour events are held at sites around the country, bringing in competitors from great distances. The biggest autocross in the nation is the week-long Solo National Championships typically held in the Midwest during September. High turnouts in all classes require clockwork operation, fast coursework, and detailed timing and scoring. Trophy positions are fought among top drivers with cars prepared to the extent of the rules, but any SCCA member is allowed to compete and enjoy the excitement.
Try this example: a driver in an unmodified Mini Cooper (H-Street) has a best time of 60 seconds, while a driver in a more potent Datsun racecar (E-Modified) ran the same course in 54 seconds.
Both classes have a number on the PAX index chart:
HS = .792
Notice how a slower class has a smaller number? When you multiply it by the actual raw time, you get the "indexed" time.
HS Mini: 60.000 x .792 = 47.452
Advantage: Mini. The indexed time takes the performance of the car into consideration. In theory, the driver of the Datsun would have needed to pull a 53.48 second run to match the driving skill of the Mini's pilot on that course. Though PAXing not 100% accurate, it's based on years of competition at major events around the country. PAX times give a relative sense of who are driving their cars to the fullest potential.
You may hear more advice than you can absorb talking to other autocrossers. Remember that safely having fun is the first priority, followed by improving the driver. Don't worry as much about performance upgrades until you begin learning how to get the most out of your car. See you at the next event!