Autocross transforms daily driver into weekend racer

Most people in America automatically associate car racing with NASCAR and are oblivious to the hundreds of other racing circuits in this country.

Even fewer people are aware of how easy and inexpensive it can be for them to participate in these types of racing.

Quite possibly the easiest type of racing to get involved in is autocrossing.

Organized across the country by local chapters of the Sports Car Club of America, autocrosses take place in wide-open places, usually a large parking lot.

An autocross course is set up using cones and can include sharp 90-degree turns, wide 180-degree sweepers, hairpin turns, slaloms and straight-aways, all within a time span of less than a minute.

Pointer cones mark the corners and help drivers stay on the track.

Autocrossing is a time-trial event rather than wheel-to-wheel racing. Drivers go out one at a time and maneuver through the turns, giving it their best to try and achieve the fastest time.

Something interesting about autocrossing is that any car can enter. The staging area is filled with a variety of cars. You might see Ford Festivas and Chevrolet Cavaliers next to Dodge Vipers and Corvettes.

However, cars are divided into different classes based upon their make, model and modifications.

In an autocross, horsepower alone won’t get you the fastest time. Due to the many tight turns, the best type of car for autocrossing is one that has a good power-to-weight ratio and handles well.

While it may not seem like it, autocrossing isn’t necessarily bad for a car. The only wear is to the brakes and tires, and a casual autocrosser won’t even notice it.

People who are serious about autocrossing usually have an extra set of performance brake pads and racing wheels and tires.

In Greater Cincinnati there are two autocross clubs, the Cincinnati chapter of the SCCA and the Cincinnati Sports Car Club (CSCC).

Between the two clubs there can be 20 or more events in a year. This gives drivers in the area plenty of opportunity to hone their skills and wear out their tires.

The Cincy SCCA has events at River Downs horse track and Kentucky Speedway and the CSCC has events at Scarlet Oaks vocational school in Sharonville, Ohio.

Each club brings in a large crowd, showing that autocrossing is becoming a popular sport in Greater Cincinnati.

Autocrosses are safe and legal events. The participants work during the heats in which they are not running. Workers stand at each major corner of the track with fire extinguishers and walkie-talkies.

Before autocrossing the first time, it’s a good idea to watch one. It’s also beneficial to ride with someone and get tips from some of the veterans.

Most of the people that race are friendly and willing to help out novices.

So if you’re looking for an adrenaline rush, for a test of your car’s performance or just for more to do with your car than commuting; then check out the next local autocross.

The only thing you need to worry about is getting addicted.

Next week’s column will discuss autocrossing’s dirty cousin, rallycross.