Autocross events are auto racing events generally at low to medium speeds. Courses for autocrosses are usually setup on large, flat parking lots. Pylon cones are used to lay out the track.
One car at a time runs the course with one basic goal: complete the course as quick as possible. Whenever cones are knocked over or pushed out of their proper location, a time penalty is added to the overall score of the run. Two seconds are added for each cone disturbed. For most competitive members of an autocross, two seconds is just a little short of what seems eternity.
Although it may sometimes feel like 1,000 mph, the actual speeds are relatively low at an autocross. Most of our courses may only see a 45-55mph maximum speed. Competitors are often told to "go slower to go faster". This is because there are so many turns and quick maneuvers on course that speed can sometimes chew away time if going to fast through a turn.
All vehicles that enter an autocross have a specific class they run in. Each class is composed of cars which perform similarly, so the competition is more focused on driver skill than any one vehicle's performance. There are several different classes and it is good to know what class your vehicle falls into before attending an event (although there are always people at the events that are willing to help determine which class your car falls into). Checking the SCCA rulebook or visiting sites such as www.scca.org or even our forums can help you find the proper class. Be sure to also read the specific rules of our local region.
When attending an event, everyone has completes their runs in 1 heat, and has a worker assignment for 1 heat. Generally, half of the competitors are working the course, running timing equipment and running the starting line while the other half of the competitors run the course. The event is broken into a number of heats, where run and work groups are assigned to certain heats. All competitors will be allowed to get the same amount of runs in. Most of our events offer 5-7 runs per entrant, however in some very rare cases we have run a few more (depending on how many competitors show up, the smoothness of operations throughout the day, etc...)
There are safety requirements that must be met to participate. Each competitor must have a valid driver's license and must have his or her car inspected prior to competing in the event. The "tech inspection" is a fairly quick yet important inspection to make sure critical items within the car are working properly and that the overall car is prepared for competing in an autocross environment. Many times when there is an issue with a vehicle, the tech inspector offers simple and do-able fixes on the spot to make the car OK to run.
All entrants are also required to wear a helmet with a Snell 2000 approval or better. The club has a small number of loaner helmets for those that don't have their own, but for the safety of the competitors, all occupants of any vehicle on course must wear a helmet.
Because it's FUN! Autocrossing is one of the few motor sports that an entrant can spend $25-45 for a full day on the weekend and get to drive their very own car and test it's (and the driver's) limits. The cost really is very low with respect to auto racing activities. The $25-45 fee helps pay parking lot rental fees the club endures to host an event, the timing and scoring equipment, display, trailer, cones, national SCCA audit fees and many other items it takes to run an event.
The pictures you find on this site really cannot illustrate the experience behind the wheel on an autocross course. It's truly an enjoyable sport full of camaraderie and friendly competition. Many competitors find autocrossing so much fun that they buy dedicated autocross tires of a special compound to get the best times. Autocrossing is also relatively safe on everyday vehicles. Tire wear is by far the biggest wear factor in this sport.
So how do I get involved?
Just keep your eye on the Solo schedule and come on out to an event. Even if you don't want to drive, we always welcome spectators. Most competitors are even willing to let you ride along on a run or two to see what it's all about. Warning: it's highly addictive!!!