Autocross Tips 201: Part 1

When I mention “smooth” it’s not a reference to Sade, Santana, or God forbid Michael Jackson!

When I mention “smooth” it’s not a reference to Sade, Santana, or God forbid Michael Jackson! However, if it helps you to think of gliding through a course with ease than go ahead and do it (no moon walking please- that’s for drifters:)). An autocross course is a series of turns and straights that go from the start to the finish line in one fluid motion. Think of taking what appears to be an abrupt turn and arch or smooth it out so that you ‘flow’ through it- creating a perfect driving line. If you practice this every time you are in your car it will help you to figure a course out that much quicker. Disclaimer: DO NOT BREAK ANY TRAFFIC LAWS!

Step #1 Every day visualize your traveling lane as the course (NO speeding or erratic moves please!). Focus on hitting the apex of turns and using the entire lane to smooth out your corners. For example you come to a sweeping right turn, look ahead for an apex while moving to the left of your lane (STAY IN YOUR LANE!). As you move through the turn and hit your apex let the car open out of the turn back to the left side of your lane. This works well as you accelerate through an onramp on the highway- as you transition from the inside to the outside of the curve while accelerating you will notice you can apply more power sooner which mean getting up to speed a little earlier. When you start to visualize specific driving lines consciously all the time it will become second nature.

Step #2 Braking is an important part of setting up your turns. A much tighter turn requires you to slow down a lot more before negotiating it. While not all cars are the same, a good way to start is to think slow in and fast out. Too much speed going into the corner means a) you will plow into the outside cones or b) you will be using your screeching front tires to scrub off speed and slowing you down.

Step #3 The less you do on the course the more beneficial it is. Specifically do not shift any more than you must especially in the middle of a turn. If you think you have to drop to first in order to come out of a tight turn then get it done before you start to turn. It will allow you to concentrate on the turn itself and also not unbalance the weight of the car- which can happen every time you brake, push the clutch in/out, or accelerate (more on this later).

Remember, these are basic principles in order to help get you started in A/X. There are a few books out there that explain things in much greater detail and I found most of them to be very helpful. I also encourage you to talk with other Club Members and have them ride along with you AND get a ride from them- it’s amazing what you can learn!

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