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Author Topic: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers  (Read 3405 times)

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Offline Ben L

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Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« on: September 09, 2010, 07:29:03 AM »
Hello, Kappa nuts.  I posted these tips on the Capital Area Cobra Club site, and CDC cross-posted and made them a "sticky" on its site.  Also, the weekend after I wrote them, I placed second overall at a CDC event, so they might just work.  Anyway, I thought they might be of interest to newbie Kappa autocrossers.

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As the 2010 season draws to a close, I realize I have been cone dodging for five years now.   I am not in the top tier of drivers, due to an unfortunate learning disability involving the neural pathways linking the right brain to the right foot, and an overall talent deficit.  But I don’t want your pity.  I am making slow and steady progress.    As a fresh new crop of budding sproutling CACC autocrossers take the field, I thought I’d collect and pass on a few observations and tips I have gathered in my autocross adventure.  Consider the source.  These are not rules for how to beat Wade, Larry and Fred.  They are tips for how to make progress and have fun doing it.

1.  Showing up is Half the Battle – If you don’t come, strap in, and get out there, you won’t get seat time and you won’t get better.  Period.  Don’t stay home.

2.   Don’t be Mr. Know it All. --  In every club, there are always instructors, and tons of grizzled veterans willing to offer advice.  Take advantage of the opportunities.  No matter how experienced a car guy you are, being a proficient autocrosser is a highly specialized art form.  Pay attention to what people are trying to tell you.  You will get a lot of perspectives (some good, some bad, and some just totally off the wall).  You will have to figure out for yourself what works for you, but the key is to absorb, not repel, learned knowledge.

3.  Play by the Rules – Autocross, like golf or any sport worth doing, has a certain etiquette.  Working the course is part of the deal.  Do it like you mean it.  Crisp and efficient cone-shagging and calling makes the event go smoother and gets you back in the cockpit quicker.  Don’t shirk work, and when you are out there, be alert and quick.  Nothing will endear you to your fellow drivers faster.  Corollary – don’t whine (publicly at least) about a bad call or a nitpicky tech guy.  Petulance and yelling is a downer for everyone.  Whatever it is, be a sport, shake it off and fix it.

4.   Bring the Right Tools for the Job --  Face it.  If you want to get good times, you are going to have to invest in tires, even in “street tire” classes.  You don’t have to join the constant, ever escalating arms race that goes on at the top of the field, but you can’t expect to mow anybody down by bringing a knife to a gunfight, either.   But be wary – most of the time, its not the equipment that is holding you back.  It’s the meaty bits behind the wheel.  Do not be the guy who blames his sway bars, shock settings, alignment, powertrain, everything but himself.  Most of the time, its you, bub.

5.   Find the Path --  Focus first on learning the course.  The course walk is not the freakin’ social hour.   Pay very close attention when walking.   Do not try to remember every cone, gate and turn.  Dice the course into a few sections, and look for key index cones marking transitions that you think you can pick up quickly at speed.  Use your first run for recon purposes to “burn in” to your muscle memory and your thick skull a clean  on course run.  Drive that first one  like a legally blind grandma if you have to.  You can go for speed and more perfect lines on the next runs.  Nothing causes frustration and despair faster than finishing a heat with no time at all.

6.    Keep on Pushin’ Baby – When I first started, I thought I should sacrifice time for clean runs.  So I’d try not to hit cones at all costs, and the price was slower times.  Bad tradeoff.  You will find yourself digging a rut, and its very hard to reinvent your whole driving style.  From the beginning, push the car and yourself to go faster, brake harder, get on the gas earlier and stay in it longer.   Watch how hard the really fast guys like Larry and Wade push and how close they come to the cones.  That minimizes the distance covered, and the time it takes to cover it.  Cones will die.  C’est la guerre.
 
7.  Look Ahead – Yes, it really works.  There.  I just saved you thousands of dollars in autocross and performance driving schools tuition.  I have done lots, and the central teaching of all of them is that the car is going to go exactly where you look. Do not pick your way through the course gate by gate.  As you enter one segment, already be looking ahead to the next one, it could be several gates ahead.  Even at autocross speeds, the next gate or two is history even before you get there.

8.  Be Silky Smooth --  Hanging the ass end way out and drifting looks cool, but all that friction is doing nothing for your times.  Smooth is fast.  Strive for nice smooth transitions.  Fred Kelley is a master of this.  His runs have an uncanny slowed down quality to them, until you hear the time.   Bastard.  Jim Harris, too.

 9.    I Like to Watch --  Speaking of the fast guys, watch closely the runs of the super fast guys who drive like you wish you could.  Appraise their runs with a technician’s eye, not just a spectator.  If they are dumb enough to let you ride along, do it.  Notice when they turn in, accelerate and brake.  Pay attention to where their heads and eyes are looking as they go around.  Notice their car position as they approach and cross the key elements of the course.  Do not compliment them.  Their heads are too big already.  

10.  Don’t Give up the Ship – Above all, do not get frustrated and quit because you are not on the top shelf from git.  Also, some autcross clubs are cliquey, sort of like high school.  You may think people are laughing at you.  You could be right.  So what?  F**k them.  Unlike you, they have no other life, and are only big when they are making others small.  This shit is not easy, especially in a high horsepower , short wheelbase, light Frankenstein English roadster mated to a massive V8.  Plus, remember that they are just jealous because you have a cool car and they don’t.  Your best revenge will be to improve.  Plus, you will almost always have your CACC brothers to hang with, and several of our drivers command everyone’s respect.  So never mind the bollocks, and keep at it.  The way you must look at this is that the satisfaction is in the journey.  With more seat time, more of the mysteries will be revealed, and you will improve.  


Offline smartin

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2010, 09:35:45 AM »
Thanks, Ben L! Great list!

#10 applies to regular life as well! :lol:

Offline Vanguard

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2010, 10:36:11 AM »
Something I'd like to add...don't just watch, but ask the good guys to ride along with them.  During my TO runs, I'll ride along with a pro between my runs to just see if I'm taking the correct line and applying throttle/braking in the right spots. 

It's all relative though...I can't expect to go as fast in my automatic RL on kuhmo V710s than a 911 GT3 on Hoosiers and the new ProSolo National Champ in STX in his 328i, or Brian Peters in whatever the heck he drives :lol: But...you get to see how to drive fast up close and personal, and that is invaluable.

Offline Ben L

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 10:53:07 AM »
No need to add, V'guard.  Already covered in Tip No. 9 --

Speaking of the fast guys, watch closely the runs of the super fast guys who drive like you wish you could. If they are dumb enough to let you ride along, do it.  Notice when they turn in, accelerate and brake.  Pay attention to where their heads and eyes are looking as they go around.  Notice their car position as they approach and cross the key elements of the course.  Do not compliment them.  Their heads are too big already. 

Offline Critterman

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2010, 11:41:38 AM »
Great tips Ben, now if I could only remember them on the course.  CRS really sucks.  How's the pony?
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Offline Uranium-238

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2010, 11:53:54 AM »
The only thing I can think to add would be that some autocrossing tecniques apply to daily driving as well, like looking ahead. I read somewhere that 90% of all drivers don't look more than 30 feet in front of their car. See everything! Look as far ahead as you can. What does the next corner look like? What is that pickup 5 cars ahead of you doing? It's already too late to worry about where your car is, figure out where it should be a few seconds from now. If you "See everything, focus on nothing" you will have far more information to use to make decisions driving, or autocrossing.
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Offline Treeman

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2010, 11:55:24 AM »
Thanks, Ben!
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Offline Ben L

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2010, 12:04:22 PM »
Thanks to you guys.  U's point is well taken.  Autocross is sometimes billed as promoting street safe driving. Rightly so.

Its interesting that the first two days at Bondurant were "boot camp," where all students, accident avoidance driving, anti-terrorist evasive driving, and road racing alike, drilled in C6 'Vettes to learn the fundamental truths that:  (1)  the car will turn a whole lot faster than it will brake to a stop; and (2) look ahead and decide where you want to be, because the car is going exactly where you look. 

In the classroom, we were shown a slide of a desert highway with nothing around for miles in any direction but a single roadside pole, and multiple tire skids marks ending up -- guess where?  Smack into the pole.

Offline DeepBlueGXP

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2010, 02:28:58 PM »
Thanks Ben L, sticked here also.

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2011, 11:40:33 PM »
All good things to know

Offline QuickBlack

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Re: Ten Tips For New Autocrossers
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2013, 01:56:01 PM »
For all the new Autocrossers your post is very helpful. You describe comprehensively in 10 tips how to become an expert of autocrosser. The best tip which I like is that you say don't understand yourself as Mr. Know everything. Yeah, Definitely it happen sometimes that you feel overconfident due to which you get unexpected negative results. Be humble instead of feeling profound and be gentle with other Autocrosser even who are new. Thank you so much for great tips and I hope these are very useful for entry level crosser.

 

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