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WFox's Autocross Journal

WFox93

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
ST.L MO
Alright, so I wrote up about my first time autocrossing a few weeks back over here. https://www.golfmk7.com/forums/showthread.php?p=812916#post812916

I thought it might be cool to keep a sort of log on all my events and be able to share my experience with you guys and maybe gain some advice along the way.

I popped for the annual SCCA membership and plan on being a bit more involved in this stuff. After the very first one, I'm hooked. I was able to go to the event this past Sunday June 23rd. This event was rained on, all day long. Towards the end of the day, there was standing water a few inches deep in some parts of the track. I expected it to be fun regardless but I actually learned quite a bit.

I enforced some knowledge that I already knew but ignored. Always put on sunscreen even if its not that sunny. I caught a bit of a burn despite the rain.

I learned the importance of a "race tote," especially with the hatch being big enough to support one. I wised up this time and packed all of my stuff in a plastic tote with a lid that way when I turn up I can just pull my gear out all in one shot.

I also decided to pull the trigger on some magnetic numbers. I'm tired of tape already, plus it doesn't look nearly as cool as the guys with numbers.

Now onto the driving. This is where I think I learned the more valuable lessons. For some reason I didn't anticipate the rain amplifying my faults but it did and am I glad it did. I feel like this time I really got the hang of looking ahead despite my helmet not liking me to (more on that later) but I found myself more able to be aware of where the track was more and look further ahead to connect the gates better. My two big take aways though were that I need to do more braking in a straight line and I need to be smoother with my steering inputs. As it stands right now I'm basically waiting until I'm right ontop of a corner before I slam on the brakes and chuck the wheel in the direction I need to go. All that's getting me is shredded tires and huge pushes to the outside of the corner. My goal for the next even is to keep my looking up and ahead and combine it with trying to brake a little earlier and be more smooth with my steering.

I'm practicing this on the road primarily in parking lots and when I can get decent runs in the twisties on the way to and from work. and so fard I'm finding that if I treat my car more like my motorcycle under braking that I'm smoothing out more and more.

The looking ahead part is a bit physically challenging to me right now as I'm using my motorcycle helmet which was designed primarily with 3 quarter tuck in mind. I've got a nice extended back on it that almost forces my head forward and down when I sit in the car with it, so an automotive driven helmet is pretty high on my list to buy next.

I am starting to consider some mods as well. Right now I'm in STH due to my intake, dogbone insert, and shift linkage and while I'm doing well in the class (3rd place this time), I'm still being outdone by a couple folks in G Street. My main focus is driving better but I am considering either a rear sway bar and end links or a set of shocks and springs. I was considering the Koni Actives and H&R OE Sport springs because I can't afford much of a drop in ride height on my daily driver. I'm sure tires would be good too but I'll worry about those when I wear out my current DWS06s (that I just bought).

The next event is on July 21st so my next big update will be then. Until then here are some videos I was able to grab. Let me know what you think and I'll keep practicing when its safe to on the road.

Run 1 (Best)
Run 2 (Worst)
Run 6 (Best Wet Run)
 

3rdOne

Go Kart Newbie
Location
NC
Looks like a great time and glad that you learned a lot. I hope to race in an event someday. Look forward to seeing how you progress.
 

Chad13762

Go Kart Champion
Location
Henderson NV
I'm jealous of that lot!

If you're getting serious about this (it sounds like you are) get a second set of rims and 200 treadwear autocross tires before spending a penny on anything else. Seat-time (#1) and tires (#2) will do more for your times at this stage than anything else. OK, I suppose being able to see out of your helmet is kind of important too ;)
 

WFox93

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
ST.L MO
lol That lot is actually the pit and staging area for the drag strip. It also serves the oval and road course at times. This is at Gateway MS... Sorry, World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway just east of STL. Apparently we will only be there a few time this year. and most of the events are held in the parking lot of a small arena used for concerts and indoor football. And trust me the surface at Gateway is not very kind, sand in some areas, heavy divits and cracks, and one super traction section where they have a "drift pit" on the weekends. The Arena one is much nicer although a little smaller.
 

Chad13762

Go Kart Champion
Location
Henderson NV
Definitely post up videos from the next race too. I do the majority of the course design for our region (Las Vegas), and I'm always interested to see how other regions set up and mark their courses, including cool elements I can steal.

I took a look at that arena site - it looks like a very nice lot, and a decent size if you get to utilize most of the area for a course.

I'm weird - I'm starting to get obsessed with parking lots and what can be done with them ;) Parking lot porn.
 

WFox93

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
ST.L MO
LMAO That's great. I plan to post two or three videos from each event. Next one is at the family arena and I'm expecting it to be a pretty interesting course based on the last one. Notable sections on that one were a tight right hander that actually crossed over itself, that fired into an 8 or 9 cone slalom.
 

Chad13762

Go Kart Champion
Location
Henderson NV
Yah - I was thinking if it's a tight course on a smaller lot, you might see some additional challenges. More dense cone spacing (sea-of-cones) and possibly a loop/crossover somewhere. Be sure to give yourself lots of time to walk the course several times, and maybe sketch some notes. The small courses can be confusing to navigate if you're simply reacting to whats in front of you, and don't have a mental picture beforehand.
 

WFox93

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
ST.L MO
So I had my third Autocross event yesterday and I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. I did learn a couple things yesterday but more on that later.

I was able to get two course walks in including one novice walk with an instructor. My buddy and I have started getting into the habit of talking the course over together then comparing that to the instructor notes during the novice walk and we are on the same page which is pretty good for boosting our confidence. After the course walks, I headed out to my work station where I got to be Corner Captain for the first time. That was pretty fun manning the radio for my assigning corner and having to keep track of car numbers and penalties. Luckily I was stationed on a pretty easy corner so we didn't get too much action for my first time.

Anyway, onto my runs for the day. I set out with the goal of getting smoother and looking further ahead. I was focusing on looking at the main elements rather than the "noise cones." And aside from my first run I think I did a pretty good job of that. I stayed pretty consistent for the day with all my runs about 2 seconds of each other including one bad run where I was distracted by my Ultra-gauge. I've linked a few runs below but I found this course to be a lot higher speed and less technical than the last two. It actually gave me an opportunity to work on the second goal I had which was to not brake so late and chuck the car into corners as hard. I’ve linked a few below. The first one was my very first run out after my work heat and I ended up completely forgetting the track and I DNF’d. The Second one is actually my third run where my Ultra-gauge started alarming and I panicked. Let off the throttle to see what the alarm was and by the time I had my eyes back on the track, I had lost my bearings and entered the wrong side of the slalom which set me up pretty poorly for the rest of the track. The last link is actually my last run and my fastest. I think in that run I am doing most everything right but I’m running out of grip due to all seasons and lack of suspension mods.

DNF Due to forgetting course
Ultraguage Fail
Best Run of the day

I’m starting to run into a conundrum with myself here in that I want to try and do mods that will enhance autocross performance but I also want to do the fun mods I planned before I started getting into this. I know I would benefit greatly from tires, especially on this track. A rear sway bar and end links would have done me wonders too. But I really am leaning more toward shocks and springs as my next mod because that’s a little of both worlds and won’t break the bank with the setup I want. I’m leaning heavily towards the Koni Special Actives with OE Sport Plus spring for not that much drop. I know coils are better but I can’t afford to go that low on my commute. Even with the ¾ inch drop from the lowering springs I’ll risk scraping in the driveway.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention. The new helmet I picked up is excellent. The eye port is slimmer than the motorcycle helmet but it way more usable due to the shape of the helmet itself.

And a picture of the car in grid and at the starting line.
 
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WFox93

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
ST.L MO
After I wrote this post Koni got back to me regarding some question I had about the Special active shocks and it seems those will not be a very good choice for me. I was hoping to find an easy cure all there but as suspected that's not the case lol. I guess I'll be continuing that search
 

Chad13762

Go Kart Champion
Location
Henderson NV
That did look like a long, fast open course - I'm again jealous of your lot ;)

Just curious. You only got 3-runs for the day? From the video, it also looked like a pretty small turnout. Are you only running 1/2 day events?

I'm going to say again - tires. See if you can do a run in someone's car with race tires (or ride with them.) Good tires are like heroin. Once you've driven with them, there's no going back.
 

WFox93

Passed Driver's Ed
Location
ST.L MO
We do four heats total. Work one, Race one in the morning, repeat in the afternoon after lunch. three runs in the morning and at least three in the afternoon if time allows. In this lot today we have to be off premise by 4PM. Gateway is a little more lenient and I've heard sometimes they get 4 or 5 runs in the afternoon. I'm just lazy and only edit down and upload three videos. I figure most of them have looked pretty much the same so my thought process is, post the first run, the worst (or most interesting) run, and the best run.

And believe me, I know about the tires lol. My buddy let me drive his Miata with RE71s on it and the level of grip was pretty impressive. I know they're different animals but tire grip translates pretty well in my opinion. I'm just not sure how I want to approach the subject of tires. Run a decent daily summer tire on my pretty (and wider) aftermarket wheels and winter tires on my Nogaros; or strap super sticky (and expensive) rubber on my Nogaros and run the all seasons on my fancy aftermarket wheels. I guess my concern is, how much better off is a sticky tire that's 20-30mm narrower than a wider, fairly respectable all season?


And Mr. GTO, you most definitely should. The first time I was out, there were 5 or 6 total GTIs/Rs. Now its just me and some dude in GS that is legit one of the fastest cars/drivers on the track and that's including the modded Corvettes and crazy prepped cars.
 

Chad13762

Go Kart Champion
Location
Henderson NV
Ahh - winter and rain and stuff. I see the dilemma. We don't need to worry about winter tires here in 'Vegas. Just a set of good summer tires for daily, and RE71's for autocross.

Wild guess..the difference between A/S (whatever width) and RE-71's would be 3-4 seconds or more on a 60-second course (huge). Something to consider too. Even though RE-71's will only last maybe a year at best, if you're scrubbing the hell out of your dailies, they aren't going to last any longer. I'll bet your outside shoulders are already looking abused. The RE-71's are also symmetrical inside to outside. When the outsides are getting worn, you can have them flipped and get a few more races out of them.

A good summer tire will provide maybe 80% of the grip of RE-71's when they are minty fresh and new, but they will also heat cycle and loose grip after being driven daily.
 
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