Although I intended on beginning my SCCA campaign in the STX class, I decided to start off as a Novice. Over 200 cars attended the event this past Saturday, and I did not want to interrupt a possibly large, competitive class with my rookie issues. The bonus of being a novice: an extra run during my session. I’ll take it. That run would pay off as it was my fastest time of the day at 68.392 seconds, which earned me 2nd in my novice group and 4th out of all 33 novices. I got a great taste of what my first SCCA autocross campaign would be like, and here’s the story:
The day was cold, but sunny, and the air was electric. The parking lot at zMax Dragway had been transformed into an expansive racing paddock and enormous autocross course. Every manner of car was in attendance from the stock Triumph Sprite to a brand new Alfa Romeo 4C. Due to my poor planning I was late for tech but still had enough time for a course walk before the drivers’ meeting. The course was long and technical with many of the elements I was used to from the Formula SAE autocrosses, as well as some features that were new to me. I tried to remember as much as I could and returned to the registration trailer to learn about shagging cones, safety and our run groups. I would run first and work in the third group.
When I lined up on the hot grid, the gracious staff at the event looked over my car and gave me the green light with a stern, “Make sure to get here in time for tech next time.” My novice instructor, Robbie, arrived at my car and we made small talk as the cars filed out of the hot grid and onto the track. When my turn came, I gave the course a meager once-over: coming in at 78.773 seconds. Although I had a good idea where all that time came from, hearing it from Robbie helped it to stick during the 10 minute wait till my next run. The follow-up to my inaugural lap came in at 71.948 seconds. My third run turned out a little slower as I forgot the trick to a deceptively tight turn. When my fourth run came in at 70.005, Robbie told me he felt I was ready for a lap on my own. My final lap came flying in at 68.392. Having Robbie along with me for the majority of the day was a great way to be introduced to the club. I had a great time talking to Robbie about the course, cars, and ourselves. His insights helped me to focus on my biggest problem areas, which was especially useful because remembering the course with that much adrenaline, and that little seat time, was very difficult after the lap was complete.
Things I Learned:
- Get there earlier than you think: the morning will be the busiest part of your day
- Bring tape even if you’re not expecting to use it… I had STX in vinyl on my car and switched to Novice the night before. Their tape was awfully cold and hard to use
- If you’re working group 3, you have time to go out into Concord to get lunch during group 2
- We made it all the way down to Carolina Ale House and back in time.
- The Novice class is worth doing despite any amount of prior racing experience
- AutoX is inherently different from other racing. Your other experience will help you pick up speed very quickly, but it’s still something new
- You can’t beat the opportunity to get an extra run. At $50/event for registration, you end up paying $10/run rather than $12.5/run. Alternatively that’s $8.33/min of seat time vs. $10.24/min of seat time.