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Great post ... (archive)

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Posted by Kessler on September 28, 1998 at 10:54:19:

In Reply to: First Autocross (long) posted by Karl Seeger on September 28, 1998 at 09:47:30:

A lot of people assume that autox is just a low speed version of a road course. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most people who've done both will tell you that turning a good lap on an autox track is far more challenging (and intense) than turning a good lap on a race track.

The lap record at Sebring results in an average of one turn every seven seconds. Fast time of the day at a Suncoast region autocross results in an average of one turn every FOUR seconds - not counting a slolom or two! Accomplishing this requires both tremendous precision (you need to exit every turn already set up for the next) and running the entire course at 10/10ths (and beyond).

To make matters worse, the autox track is not a clearly defined track. Instead, it is a sea of orange cones which come at you at an alarming rate once you begin your run :-). On top of that, you have so few runs that you must make every one count.

The best advice for beginning autocrossers, regardless of previous driving experience, is "memorize the course". Do as many walk throughs as you have time for. Study a map (make one if none are provided) until you can close your eyes and visualize every single turn in sequence and in real time. If you work the course before you run, use every run you watch to reinforce your memorized "map". Pay attention to where drivers go off course and ask yourself if you really understand what is going on in those sections. Take short breaks from memorizing and then see if you still have the course in your head. Run the course over and over in you mind while you sit on the grid awaiting your run. When you get to the point where you have the course down cold (it may take more than one event to get to this point), now start thinking about your line. Add breaking, turn in, and apex points to your mental map.

If this sounds difficult, it's becuase it is! It's also a tremendous amount of fun. Like all things, it gets easier with practice. If you haven't autocrossed yet, you owe it to yourself and your Z3 to give it a try. It's a thrilling, challenging, humbling, and safe experience, and the car control skills you take home may save your life someday.

Keep it between the gates!

-Dave Kessler

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