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Autox Article In The Washington Post

Started by ferrari, April 14, 2004, 09:02:00 pm

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ferrari

i'll copy and paste it cause you have to register to view the article on their website..i saw my pops reading the paper in dc over the weekend and there was an autox article.

its nice that this is getting mainstream coverage, even though they just give a simple explanation for people that have never heard of it before. its kinda long, but its interesting..

By Dallas Hudgens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 2004; Page WE32


Jim Howard is doing 50 mph in a FedEx Field parking lot, an automotive feat that might seem unimaginable to anyone who has ever been mired in traffic after a Redskins game. But there's no football on this Sunday afternoon, only driving, as the Washington D.C. Region of the Sports Car Club of America (WDCR-SCCA) is holding an autocross event that has attracted more than 200 drivers.

 Autocross, also called Solo, is a driving competition that emphasizes skill rather than horsepower. Drivers don't go wheel-to-wheel. Instead, they compete against the clock on a course marked with traffic cones. Hairpins, sweeping curves and slalom areas are all part of the action, and two-second penalties are given for each downed cone. The daylong events, which cost about $25 to enter and give competitors three to four cracks at the course, attract both male and female drivers. The ages range from 5 to 80, with the youngest competitors taking their runs in go-carts.

The assembled cars run the gamut in both price and appearance. Everything from Porsches, Corvettes and Mini Coopers to vintage Barracudas and homemade open-wheel racers are on display. All are parked in the adjacent lot before the action starts, awaiting their turns on the course.

Howard, who is the safety steward for the event, is making the day's initial course run in his new Pontiac GTO. He launches his car past the start line, which engages the official clock, and the attack on Parking Lot F begins. For the next 60 seconds, Howard's arms and feet are in constant motion: turning the wheel, braking, accelerating. The course, just under a mile in length, offers challenge after challenge and nothing that even resembles a long straightaway. A left turn leads into a right turn and then a stretch of slalom cones. Designed so that top speeds remain near highway limits, the course is simply one extended challenge of car control.

Out of breath after the run, Howard, 37, sheds his helmet and okays the course for the competitors. The first official runs soon begin, with cars lining up at the start and then taking off at approximately 20-second intervals.

"Autocross is 90 percent driver skill," Howard says. "The way these courses are set up, you can't make up a lot of time by having a powerful car. I was driving a Mustang GT the first time I raced, and I got beat by a Cavalier station wagon."

It can take a while to develop autocross skills, but that doesn't mean novices aren't welcome at the events. In fact, a routine practice at these competitions is for experienced drivers to either walk the course with newcomers or take them for a ride and show them the best way to negotiate the cones. A valid driver's license and helmet are required to enter an autocross, and all cars must pass a safety inspection. There is also the entry fee to consider, not to mention tire wear. But compared with most other forms of automotive competition, this is about as inexpensive and accessible as it gets.

The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), which uses the word Solo to denote its autocrosses, sanctioned 1,250 events nationwide last year, attracting nearly 100,000 competitors. Locally, a number of car clubs are active in the sport. Many take part in a nine-event series organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Sports Car Clubs (MWCSCC). The WDCR-SCCA, which hosts one of those competitions, also has its own seven-event championship series and will host a National SCCA Solo at FedEx Field next month. The autocross season runs spring to fall.

Rob and Leigh Graham of Georgetown completed a WDCR-SCCA novice school for autocrossers the weekend before the late March FedEx Field gathering, which is a tuneup for the regular season. The husband and wife are standing in the crowded parking lot adjacent to the driving course, waiting to make their first runs in Rob's Porsche Boxster. The sport's rules allow two drivers to share the same car.

"It's a fun way to explore the limits of your car," Rob Graham says. "And I think it translates to an awareness of car control when you're driving on the street."

Leigh Graham, who learned to drive a manual transmission only a week before the autocross school, says an autocross track demands full concentration. A brief lapse can lead to a cascade of tumbling cones or even a wrong turn.

"At first, I did it to support him," she says. "Then I felt like I was learning things, and now I'm having fun. For me, it's about trusting the car. Sports cars always scared me, but this has taught me you can control them."

Brian Garfield is the novice coordinator for the WDCR-SCCA series and is also in charge of the one-day autocross schools the club holds at various times throughout the year. He estimates that 30 to 40 new drivers show up at each event. Garfield takes the group on a course walk-through before things get underway, offering pointers and general directions. The walk is important to all drivers as they're seeing the track layout for the first time.

Beginners quickly realize that autocross isn't just about driving. All drivers, novices and veterans alike, are given a work assignment to perform at some point during the day. The objective of the shared workload is to keep the event running smoothly and quickly while also lowering costs. One of the more important jobs is spotting cones that are knocked over, reporting them to the timing truck and then setting them back up again. That means standing near the course and the cars.

Autocross is not high-speed racing, but it's also not a risk-free activity. It's very important that course workers know how to perform their duties safely.

"It can be difficult because not all of the new drivers know how to work the course," Garfield says. "We recommend they attend our novice school first because it explains how to work, register and drive. But we can't accommodate everyone because the classes fill up so quickly."

Garfield's parents are both autocross competitors from way back. Craig and Jane Garfield, who live in Ellicott City, drove an Austin Mini Cooper at autocross events in the late '60s and early '70s. The couple took a lengthy break from the sport while they raised their family. But when Brian began to compete a few years ago, an idea was hatched. Now, the whole family is back in the sport, piloting a pair of new Minis. Craig Garfield is also Solo chairman of the WDCR-SCCA.

"My wife got back into it before me," he says. "She bought a Boxster and wouldn't let me drive it, so I got an Audi S4. When we heard the new Minis were coming out, Brian and I put in our order."

FedEx Field is scheduled to host eight WDCR-SCCA autocrosses this season, including the National SCCA Solo event May 29-30. The national series attracts the top autocross drivers from across the country and concludes in September at the Tire Rack Solo National Championships in Topeka, Kan.

Autocross competitions are most often held in large parking lots. A major hurdle for clubs who want to hold events is persuading lot owners to okay the contests. Enthusiasts often emphasize that their sport is a driving skills competition and not auto racing.

"We're always looking for new lots, but it isn't easy to get permission," says Eric Wong, autocross chairman for the Metropolitan Washington Council, which has seven autocrosses planned for Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington this season, as well as one at FedEx Field with the WDCR-SCCA.

Rafael Garces, president of the National Capital Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America, says people are learning to drive their cars more safely at autocross events. This goes back to the challenge of car control and understanding an automobile's limitations. And courses are designed to reduce, rather than exaggerate, speeds.

The BMW Car Club has two autocrosses scheduled for Prince George's Stadium in Bowie, home of the Baysox minor-league baseball team. "We encourage people to come out and learn to drive safely, to learn the car's limits and, more importantly, to learn their own limits in a safe environment," Garces says.

SCCA events are supervised by a trained safety steward, and courses must be configured so that speeds on straight sections don't exceed 60 mph for the fastest cars. The fastest sections also must be located farthest from spectators.

The WDCR-SCCA autocrosses routinely draw 250 or more competitors. Anyone who wants to enter an autocross should register ahead of time and prepare for a long day.

A driver's morning starts with registration, car inspection and work assignment. A liability waiver also must be signed. One of the more confusing aspects of autocross is figuring out which class a particular driver will enter. There are numerous car classifications broken down by model, horsepower and modifications. If drivers are unsure of their classification, an official will help them determine the proper group to enter. There is also a special classification for novices.

Since the course design is different at each autocross, all drivers take time to walk it in the morning. This is where it pays to be a quick study, capable of remembering braking points and apexes (the point in a curve that a driver wants to hit in order to maintain maximum speed).

"Our goal is to make a course that flows really well," says WDCR-SCCA course designer Greg Olsen. "We want to include a lot of different elements, such as slaloms and big sweepers, and also make sure novices can follow it easily. It's also important that the course doesn't favor a particular type of car, such as a high-powered one."

The automotive lineup at these events tends to be eclectic. Anyone who enjoys looking at cars is likely to come across a sheet metal specimen that strikes a chord. Norm Beaver of Beltsville is piloting one of the more eye-catching rides at the FedEx Field autocross, a dark green, open-wheel racer modeled after a Lotus Super Seven.

"The car's quick enough to win," Beaver says. "It's just a matter of me catching up with it."

Beaver, who finished third in his class at the SCCA nationals last year, has no trouble doing that. He hits the course and carves it up in 59 seconds, currently the fastest time of the day. His tiny race car -- street-legal by the way -- is nimble and lightning fast, carving its way through the slalom as though it were held to the pavement by a magnet.

Beaver, 54, entered his first autocross in 1969. He was driving a Plymouth Barracuda in those days. After taking a break for a few years in the '80s, he eventually got back in the sport. Now, 35 years later, he hasn't grown tired of driving -- or winning.

"It's a great release," he says. "You can't get out of the car without a big grin on your face."



sorry no cliff notes  :P
-Sinan
'95 [span style=\'color:green\']CGP[/span] Integra SE - Begging for a B18C1 swap
[span style=\'color:red\']Premium Auto Detailing[/span]
QuoteThey all stare in crooked hat amazement as a lone AE86 continues sidewards, in a constant drift, though the snowy night. "OMG HI 2 DRIFTOOO!!!" The kids are so amazed they slam into each other a burn brightly into the night. Suddenly japanese people appear out of no where and yell catch phrases at the passing haichroku of slidewardness.The driver of the AE86 hangs his hand out the window, meanwhile some import hoochies staring at this blessed event from a gheyhound bus orgasm and pass out on the bus floor.

Jer

nice to see someone taking the time to write up on autox. not many people i talk to have any idea what it is until i explain, and then they still dont really get the point or understand how it could be fun.  

Habib88

April 15, 2004, 01:43:35 am #2 Last Edit: April 15, 2004, 01:45:17 am by Habib88
about locally, usually the first nice day NHSCC gets about every other year a small article gets done on them.  Nothing major just a general overview of the day, whats happening, etc.  Only other major coverage doesn't come till the Vintage Gran Prix dominates the city lol.

yea, most people love to rip on autox.  I've notice though these same people have never even seen one locally or let alone even tried it which kills me that they will just judge it on what they see.  Cuz as Jer said its not something you can explain to a person, inside the car is alot different.  I really don't care what others think thats their right to a opinion no matter how arrogant they choose to be about it.  But I have fun doing it thats all i care about, and it sets me up to be far better at a road course than just a normal person comming off the streets thats a fact.
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Jer

i agree 100%. if i had never actually raced id think autox was a boring looking thing to do also. but its amazing how fast it is once you are out on course. the first few times you run, its really hard to keep your brain up to speed with whats going on. anyone i talk to says that it just looks really slow and stupid(most people anyway) but if they got a chance to ride shotgun im sure their perspective might change a litlle.

Billy

Quotei agree 100%. if i had never actually raced id think autox was a boring looking thing to do also. but its amazing how fast it is once you are out on course. the first few times you run, its really hard to keep your brain up to speed with whats going on. anyone i talk to says that it just looks really slow and stupid(most people anyway) but if they got a chance to ride shotgun im sure their perspective might change a litlle.

the first time my sister rode along (at the 3-civic, 3rd gear day in march) ... she screamed the whole time.  she LOVED it, though.  she said it was really exciting to ride in a car at the limit.  thank god she isnt interested in getting her lisence.  i wouldnt want her to drive like i do at the track.  :o  

john

i tried explaining it to my mom.  she thinks i'm gonna die or wreck my car.  then to my friends:  'you drive around in a parking lot slow by yourself?  that's stupid.  street race y0.'
'13 WRX
'05 RS SOLD (flooded :( )
'96 Civic SOLD

Jer


SamuelK

yea, i told about the school presentation i tried doing on it, lol, everyone was like...............wtf......... :huh:  
---
2006 GTI (APR Stage 2+)

79Vette

Quoteyea, i told about the school presentation i tried doing on it, lol, everyone was like...............wtf......... :huh:

that was like the reaction that Dave and I got back in 11th grade on our 40 minute presentation on engines...

john

haha i gave a 10 minute speech about turbochargers.  of course that worked extremely well. -_-  
'13 WRX
'05 RS SOLD (flooded :( )
'96 Civic SOLD

ferrari

Quoteignorance is bliss B)

x2

less people knowing about it = more track time for everyone else
-Sinan
'95 [span style=\'color:green\']CGP[/span] Integra SE - Begging for a B18C1 swap
[span style=\'color:red\']Premium Auto Detailing[/span]
QuoteThey all stare in crooked hat amazement as a lone AE86 continues sidewards, in a constant drift, though the snowy night. "OMG HI 2 DRIFTOOO!!!" The kids are so amazed they slam into each other a burn brightly into the night. Suddenly japanese people appear out of no where and yell catch phrases at the passing haichroku of slidewardness.The driver of the AE86 hangs his hand out the window, meanwhile some import hoochies staring at this blessed event from a gheyhound bus orgasm and pass out on the bus floor.