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Author Topic: What to expect at your first autocross. Complete with checklist.  (Read 10091 times)
Paul Inskeep
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« on: July 10, 2013, 04:27:37 PM »

We seem to be getting lots of the same questions about what autocross is and what to bring, especially from novices and there first time. Here is a basic guide I got from and explains the situation pretty well.


Solo II is the SCCA brand name for autocross competition. Autocross, or Solo II events, are driving skill contests that emphasize the driver's ability and the car's handling through a course designated by traffic cones on a low hazard location, such as a parking lot or inactive airstrip. While speeds are no greater than those normally encountered in legal highway driving, the combination of concentration and car feedback creates an adrenaline pumping experience.


Autocross is one of the most affordable forms of Motorsports. Basically all you need is your car and a helmet...however there are several other products we recommend to enhance your experience and have put together a comprehensive guide to help you out.


You can never know too much. Study this guide as much as possible and also review the websites listed at the bottom of this page. If you autocross long enough, you'll soon realize that you learn something new at every event. It can't hurt though to know as much as possible before your first race!

Study the rule book and know your class
If you are going to attend an SCCA autocross event, study their Solo II rulebook and try to find out what class your car is in. You can find out more by visiting This will also help with registration, where your car class needs to be known. Google can be your best friend here.


Check out the Autocross Checklist (printable) Here is the short version below.

1. Driver's License

2. Magnetic numbers or painters tape work well  (static for Corvettes & Fieros & Sonetts)

3. Helmet, standards- typically Snell, DOT or ANSI Z90.1b approval. Rentals are avaliable.

4. Tool box for your car

5. Race tires on separate wheels, street tires also work well

6. Jack, for tire changing only

7.Torque wrench for changing tires

8. Air tank/Small pump

9. Tire gauge

10. Motor oil

11. Spray bottle (put water in it, great for cooling off)

12. Heavy duty gloves for changing tires or wearing in bad weather

13. All-weather gear if necessary: Rain Coat, Rain pants, Boots, Umbrella, Hat (sun/cold)

14. Rain will not stop an event unless it is interfering with the timing system. Lightning, however, will suspend or halt an event. Be prepared to be outdoors in the event of rain. Protect not only your self, but also the belongings unpacked from your car. Large plastic garbage bags are convenient and easily packed. They may also double as a crude raincoats after the appropriate holes are made.

15. Water (at least 2 quarts of good drinking water)

16. Food, often have venders

17. Sunblock

18. Folding chair or equivalent (takes the load off your feet)

19. Also required is the entry fee. The amount should be printed on the event announcement. Events providing series pre-registration sometimes provide discounts. In any case, pre-registration is a convenience.


Car Prep
When you get to the event site, get your car prepped for the upcoming tech inspection. Remove all the loose items from the interior and trunk. If you have hubcaps or lug nut covers on your wheels, remove them as well. This might be a good time to make sure your tire pressures are where you want them. If you are fortunate enough to be running race tires, get changed over to them ASAP.

Registering for an autocross event requires a valid driver's license and an entry fee (usually $25 for members, $30 for none members). Knowing your class and car number ahead of time will also make things run smoother. You will also be asked to sign an insurance waiver typically at the gate.

Tech Inspection
Your car must pass a tech inspection before you can compete. They will check to make sure your car is safe to compete by checking over various items on your car (tires, wheels, battery, brakes, etc). They will also require that any loose items in your car be removed (jack, floor mats, spare change, etc). Once completed, the tech inspector will sign your card if you pass, or recommend changes to make the car pass. VMSC usually does a "roaming tech" meaning that the person techs the car will come to you.

Course Walk
After the tech inspection, it is imparitive that you walk the course. This is especially important for first timers, but it is a must for any autocrosser. Without a course walk, you will be lost once you get out there in your car. Most events will also have a novice course walk just before the drivers meeting. Try to have the course memorized before you go on the guided walk, and definitely before its time to run. If course maps are not provided, we recommend a pen and paper be used to draw the course out. This will be handy later if you are having trouble remembering something from your course walk.

Drivers Meeting
The drivers' meeting is mandatory for all drivers. The event chair will hold the meeting approximately one half hour before the first car starts. Be sure to attend. This is where you will find out information you'll need to know about the course conditions, number of runs, particular safety concerns, how penalties are assessed, and how work assignments will be handled.

This is what you've been waiting for! Most autocross events will have between 4-6 runs per event. This means that you will get between 4 and 6 laps around the course you walked earlier. It doesnt seem like much, but once you finish your first run, we guarantee you will be hooked. Cars will be gridded by run heat, be sure to stay in the original order!

VMSC typically has 3 run heats 1-2-3 The work/run order is like this

heat 3 works while heat 1 runs
heat 1 works while heat 2 runs
heat 2 works while heat 3 runs

Working the Course
And you thought that all you would be doing is driving. Everyone who competes in an autocross event must also work. Work assignments vary. Most people will work somewhere out on the course, helping pick up downed cones, etc. However there are various other work assignments that exist (timer, announcer, flagger, etc). Report for your work assignment as soon as you hear your heat announced. This will make for a speedy transition from heat to heat.

The Awards
Well, if you did well, you will definitely want to attend the awards ceremony after the event. Most clubs give out small prizes for each class, and also usually for Fast Time of the Day (FTD). This is also a good time to chear on your fellow competitors...and check out your competition.

Fun Runs
Some events will run fun runs after the competition runs have been completed. This is a great time to work on your driving and try different things. These fun runs usually cost $1 per run.

Course Cleanup
This is a must. Please stick around and help clean up after the event is over. Many people have worked their butts off so that you could compete, now its your turn to return the favor and help collect cones and so on.


Walking the course is one of the most important things you can do come race day. The better you know the course, the faster you'll be. Here are some suggestions...
Walk the course as many times as possible.
For longer courses, draw the course on a notepad for review later in the day.
Take your time while studying the course, paying special attention to "the line".
Try to pick out a few "key cones" along the course and make a note of them.
Try to figure out if you will need to shift gears (up OR down) anywhere on course. You will find that most racers get their car into 2nd gear and leave it there for the duration of the run, however certain courses may require that you downshift to 1st gear at some time during your run...or possibly even upshift to 3rd. Try to figure that out on your course walk.


The driver is the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to autocrossing. A fast car helps, but without a competent driver, that fast car, will end up having slow times around the course. Here are a few tips...
Look ahead! Look at where you want to go, not what you want to miss (ie. the cones)
Be smooth on the gas, on the brakes, and with the steering wheel
Go slow to go fast. Dont take the tight sections too fast.
Brake hard! Use your brakes HARD to slow the car, thats what they're for.
Launch at higher RPM's than you're used to, but try to limit wheelspin.
Limit gear changes. On most courses, get it into 2nd gear and leave it there. Some courses, and some cars, will require downshifting/upshifting, but if you're new to the sport, get it into 2nd and leave it there so you can concentrate on other things - you're gonna be busy in the car!


Here are a FEW general things to do/remember on race day...
Walk the course as many times as you can

Visualize the course as you sit on the grid waiting for each run
Use your first run to study the course, go slow if you have to
Monitor your tire pressures between runs (they will increase with each run)
If you get a chance, ride with one of the local hot shoes
Have fun!!!
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 01:59:25 PM by wahoo5 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2013, 06:03:00 PM »

 Great guide !

 Looking ahead is key to being successful and also to seeing whats happening on the course such as red flags and downed cones.

 Get a good nights sleep before the event and eat a healthy dinner, can't count how many times I wished I had and people who want to skip out of their work assignments for potty problems.

Be Punctual ! We need everyone in our sport to help guide things along by arriving in a timely manner and participating in the schedule layed out for each event. If you have to, print a copy of the information that has the tech inspection, registration, drivers meeting and first car off times, it will help immensely to be informed about the functionality aspects of the event.

Ask for help, when in doubt ask someone for help most autocrossers are friendly and if you run into one who is not they are probably just wishing they ate a more healthy dinner so the next guy or gal you ask will be nicer I promise.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2013, 06:06:10 PM by ccann26 » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2013, 01:59:59 PM »

Nice work. I made it a sticky post so it will stay at the top.

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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2013, 03:16:32 PM »

I have a plan for putting this stuff on our home page, just hasn't come to fruition yet.
When I get there, may I steal some of your content?   Smiley

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Paul Inskeep
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« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2013, 06:58:08 PM »

Not a problem. Thanks for making it a sticky. Hopefilly this will alleviate some of the first timers confusion, if they can get this page on there screen. Seems like the regristar gets repeated questions on the same subject. So I was hoping there was a way to have this link show up at regristration by the contact info/description on myautoevents?

Maybe this is something the competition comittee can work with?

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« Reply #5 on: July 12, 2013, 07:47:53 AM »

Found another good source of info via Tidewater, on the 2nd page of their registration form:

Reproduced here without permission... ('sokay, Keath knows where I live)


7:00                              Gates Open
7:30 – 8:45                    Registration
7:45 – 9:00                    Tech
8:45                              Novice Meeting/Course Walk at Start Line
9:15                              MANDATORY Driver's Meeting at the TSCC trailer
10:00                              First Car Off
The event will take place RAIN OR SHINE. In the event of severe weather, a decision will be made at the driver’s meeting to determine whether or not we will be running. If the decision is made to cancel the event earlier than that, you will be contacted by email.
The event is normally split into 3 heats, as an entrant you will drive in 1 heat and work in 1 heat.  During other heats, you can relax and watch the other entrants on-course.
Pre-registration is open to 40 cars per heat.  Additional cars can be added the day of the event.
Dual driver cars - Try to make sure that your co-driver is signed up for a different heat if possible. If this is not possible, we will stagger your runs during the heat, so you have time to change drivers.
The work schedule for 3-heat events is as follows:
Heat 1 drivers will work Heat 2
Heat 2 drivers will work Heat 3
Heat 3 drivers will work Heat 1
Workers will meet with the Chief of Workers (COW) at a designated location approximately 15 minutes prior to the heat they will be working. The COW will then assign your work position. Workers will change out on the fly. So if you are working heat 3, you will need to be ready to head out onto course the minute the last car in heat 2 crosses the finish line. All entrants in events at ACU-4 are REQUIRED to participate in the FOD walk down at the end of the event; the event OD will address exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
We will be keeping track of workers. Every person driving in the event MUST work the event. If you do not work the event, and have not notified the OD with a valid reason for not working, you will not be able to participate in the next event. If this circumstance should happen twice, you will be banned from participating in any more events this season. Nobody is getting paid to put on these events; everybody has to chip in to make it happen.
All drivers must check in at registration the morning of the race, even if you pre-registered online.  TSCC uses SCCA car classing.  If you do not know what class you are in, please review the SCCA car classing rules , or ask for help from one of the more experienced drivers the morning of the event or on one of the local autocross forums like, TSCC's official discussion forum.
Tech Inspection
Cars must be fulled prepared, including numbers applied and registration card under your wiper, before proceeding to tech.  
All cars will required to have their number and class displayed on each side of the car.  Numbers must be at least 8in tall and must be a contrasting color to the color of the car.  Painter's tape is available at tech.  Class letters must be at least 4in tall.
Make sure that you clean out all the unnecessary stuff that you have inside your car. Loose speakers, stuff hanging from the rear view mirror, wrappers and those wrenches that you have been carrying around need to be removed. Clean it as if you were selling it. Remove the floor mats. Grab a plastic grocery bag (or two) and put everything in. They also come in handy when “restuffing” the car at the end of the day…
Clean it out with the exception of stuff that you don’t mind leaving in your parking space at the event. For example; spare tire, tools, jack, lawn chair.
Helmets must be SNELL M2000, SA2000, K2000 or newer; SFI 31.1, 41.1, 31.1A, 31.2A, 41.1A, 41.2A or British spec BS6658-85 type A/FR are also acceptable.  Any helmet must be fit properly and be in good condition.  DOT helmets that do not meet the more stringent regulations are not permitted.  Club loaner helmets are available for those who do not have approved helmets.
Car preparation:
Check that all your lug nuts (wheel bolts) are there and torque them to your owner’s manual specifications (if you have hubcaps leave them at home)
Inspect your tires.  Tires must have visible tread and cannot be showing any cords.
Please don’t put on a new coat of tire shine…
Check your brake pedal pressure and brake fluid level
Clean your windows
Check your throttle return spring
Check wheel bearings
Ensure your car is not leaking excessive amounts of any fluids
Make sure your battery is secured (Bungy Cords are not acceptable)
When you get to tech, please place your registration card under your driver’s side wiper; the tech inspector will keep this card when you are completed.
If you don’t know what class you’re in, let us know before we tech your car.
If you are in the first heat, please go directly to grid after tech.  You do not need to park in grid in chronological order for TSCC events.
Tech will close shortly before the mandatory drivers meeting. If you arrive late and miss tech or the drivers meeting, you will not be allowed to drive in the event.
Course Workers:
The most common work assignment, especially for novices, is course working.  Course workers stand at worker stations around the course and reset cones as they get knocked over.
You need to look down to reset the cone, but keep one eye on that car as long as it's still on-course.  Never turn your back on a car!
When you set a cone, please RUN, don't walk, and hustle back.  This is for your safety, and helps the event run smoothly.
The Radio operator at each worker station should also hold red flag - unfurled - but holding the tip to keep it from flapping in the breeze.  The radio operator should be calling in downed cones, not running for them.
If you see a dangerous situation, do no hesitate, throw a red flag and call "RED FLAG, RED FLAG" on the radio.  If one red flag is thrown, all stations should throw red flags.
No sitting or kneeling at worker stations while cars are on the course.  We try to place worker stations in safe positions, but drivers can lose control in unlikely places- you need to be on your toes and ready to react at any instant.
Cameras, cell phones and other distractions are prohibited at worker stations.
Watch out for your fellow workers- keep them safe, too.
Only upright cones are assessed as penalties.  Lay-down pointer cones are not assessed as penalties unless struck after the finish.  Cars are required to be under control after passing the finish beams; any cone struck after the finish disqualifies the run.
Radio etiquette:
 TSCC assigns one experienced courseworker at each station to operate the radio and hold the red flag.  The radios used by TSCC have a delay after depressing, and the first second or so gets cut off, so always pause before speaking.  State "[pause] Control, this is Station
  • ".  After Control replies, key the button, pause, and call in your report.  This etiquette is especially important for events at large venues where 2-3 cars are on course at once and multiple cone penalties are being assessed simultanously.  The exception to this is a red flag, which should be called immediately.  When reporting penalties, always refer to the car number, not the car description.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2013, 07:53:34 AM by whiteryder » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: July 12, 2013, 06:25:42 PM »

We have two or three additional documents on our downloads area, page 2

[Home] [Upload & Download Files] [Public]


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« Reply #7 on: July 12, 2013, 07:22:19 PM »

We have two or three additional documents on our downloads area, page 2

[Home] [Upload & Download Files] [Public]

That's true - but those are hard to find unless someone tells you where to look.
I'd like something that catches your eye right from the home page.
(So you'll know where to find the answers even before you have all the questions!)

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