Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Autocrossing: Helpful hints for new racers

Brad Pines on his way to a class victory in SCCA Solo2 racing in 2000. (John A. Lacko)

Walking is good for you.
Walk the course as often as possible to learn the best line through the cones. Try to look far ahead to build good “eye habits.”
Restrain yourself.
Move the seat back with the seatbelt on, then give the chest belt an abrupt tug, locking it. Lean forward to keep it locked and motor, or pull, the seat back forward.
Mom was right, sit up straight.
Be sure that your seat is more upright than in normal street driving. To check your position, extend your wrists. They should touch the top of the wheel. Hands belong at nine and three for best control.
Lose a few pounds.
Remove all loose interior items, including the floor mats, for safety. Then empty the trunk and remove the jack and spare tire.
Add a few pounds.
Check your driver’s door jam for cold tire inflation pressure, then add about five pounds to each tire to firm up the sidewalls and improve handling. 
I can see clearly now.
Turn your center interior rearview mirror sideways to improve forward visibility. Remember, just as in the movie, “Gumball Rally,” what’s behind you (while autocrossing) is not important.
Look where you’re going.
The car always goes where the eyes go. Don’t look at things you don’t want to hit, like cones. Look next to them, and look as far ahead, along your path, as possible. Always plan for the next corner, don’t react to the one right in front of your car. Keep your eyes up.
Go like hell, stop like hell, go like hell. 
There’s no coasting in autocross. Don’t depress the clutch when you apply the brakes. Either be rolling on the gas, or squeezing the brakes, hard. When braking, make sure the wheels are straight and squeeze the brakes very, very hard at first, then melt off quickly before turning. When you move to the gas, don’t just stomp on the throttle, roll on quickly but smoothly. Think of each pedal more like a dimmer switch than an on/off switch. 
Do your homework.
Here are a couple of good books about autocrossing:
“Speed Secrets: Winning Autocross Techniques” by Ross Bentley and Per Schroeder. (Paperback $19.99 or less)
“How to Autocross” by Andrew Howe
(Paperback $24.74 or less)

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