In Reply to: Re: Autocrossing Explained. posted by Christopher Graff on January 29, 2001 at 18:20:09:
Let me explain. Autocrosses are cheap, fun way to push you (and maybe your car) to its limits and learn how to drive. Contact your local BMW CCA chapter (most have websites with the schedule up anyways), and see when the autocross season starts. Autocrossing, for those who don't know, is a form of racing/timed event held in parking lots. The organizers set-up a course that twists and turns, usually with a few chicanes or gates", and usually with a slalom area as well. Each "lap" lasts between 30 seconds and change, all the way to 1 minute and 30 seconds. Each driver gets between 3 and 6 runs per session, usually. And there are 2 sessions (morning/afternoon). And you usually don't end up going faster than 60 mph. Most corners are done in second gear around
20-40 mph. Gates or chicanes you *might* use 1st, but more often than not you shift once, on acceleration from the start, into second, and leave it there for the lap.
The very tough part is that you have to memorize where the course runs by walking it in the morning before the runs. There's no "practice" runs. And if you miss a cone or gate, you're off course, and your time doesn't count.
Autocrosses are a great way to learn how to drive well at the limit. They're inexpensive (you can even borrow helmets from the organizers usually), and very fun. The more you do, the more you learn how to handle oversteer/understeer and other driving situations. You learn how to drive the car, and not let it drive you. Not only that, but since it is relatively low speed, if you do spin out or get in trouble, all you end up hitting are
cones. There is no grass, walls, trees, etc., that you have to worry about like at a driver's school. You learn how to correct your driving errors VERY quickley.
Anyway, my point is that many of you out there know your cars well and enjoy to drive them on a regular basis on the street. But, you have an entirely different character to your car that you do not know about. It's the fact that these cars are made to handle extreme driving conditions. Once you've done a few autocrosses or driver's schools in a BMW, then you'll realize that you have a helluva piece of engineering. You will be AMAZED that anyone can build a car that can not only be reliable and handle everyday chores,
but hold its own at driving events.
Remember though, that you have a 3200 lb-ish car, with relatively antiquated suspension (versus newer BMWs), so don't expect the big 5-er to be as fast as...say 3 series or M3s out of the box. This is why the more nutty enthusiasts here want to modify our cars... hehe... But, also remember that at an autocross, a good driver is worth at least 5%, if not more, of the lap time. I know for certain, that if Ed Walters drove my car, he will pull 2-3 seconds on me, guaranteed, within a couple laps. That's what years of experience will do, and those seconds are an eternity in AutoXing.
In any case, this will definitely get most of your "enthusiastic driving" out of your systems so you don't endanger the general public (just j/king), and make you a better driver. I can attest to the fact that Autocross experience has saved me at least 2 times in winter weather driving.
I suggest you start out with an UNMODIFIED CAR. You first have to LEARN HOW to drive your current car. Modifications heightens the limits of the car and the break away won't be as progressive generally. You will not be able to save the car if you get in trouble. Once you as a driver reach and surpass the limits of the car, ONLY then do you start modifying your car.
I too checked out the AutoX action at the NJ Chapter... there's a heavily modded (no backseat, lowered, chipped, custom exhaust) 1988 535iS that consistently placed best track time. Not just in it's class, but beating EVERYTHING, including some heavily modded E36 M3's, E30 M3's, etc. Very impressive, and encouraging for the rest of us! I plan to get my 1987 535i up and running for the Spring, I'll keep everyone posted.
'87 535i 189K miles
I went and checked out some autocrossing action this weekend (my 2nd time) and had a blast! I was wondering how many of you 5-er drivers participate in auto-X? You see, I'm thinking about getting the 533i out there pretty soon. If anyone is willing to share their experiences of driving the e28 at an auto-X event, I would love to hear them. Perhaps some of you would be willing to share some of the upgrades and modifications you've had success with? Oh, one last thing...what classes are you guys or gals running in? Any words of wisdom would be much appreciated. Thanks.
1976 2002 (for sale)
1983 533i (Dinan stage 3 suspension, screaming auto-X)