What’s an autocross?
An autocross, also called a solo event, is a timed automotive competition in which a driver navigates a short, twisty course defined with traffic cones as quickly as he can.
Is it dangerous?
Not really, but it’s thrilling. While the driver is trying to go as fast as he can, the course design limits speeds so that the fastest street and street touring class cars (think a Corvette Z06) generally cannot get much beyond 60 mph in short spurts. The driver in his grocery-getter Honda will be slower. Also, the driver is alone on the course (hence “solo”), and SCCA solo rules require that solid objects be far away from the course. However, we cannot say accidents never happen — we’re trying to go fast in a car after all — but they’re extremely rare. SCCA Solo has an aggressive safety program including licensed safety stewards at every event. Further, Salina Region’s autocross site — at the south end of the East Crawford Recreation Area — is a city park that used to be an airport runway. There’s almost nothing out there to run into.
What is Salina Region SCCA?
Salina Region is one of 116 regions — local geographic entities — that make up the Sports Car Club of America. SCCA is more than 50,000 members involved in autocrossing, road racing, rallies, rallycross, and other such activities. Salina Region’s territory is basically northwest Kansas reaching the Colorado and Nebraska borders. It is one of four SCCA regions in Kansas — the others are Kansas Region (eastern), Wichita Region (southwest) and Kansas City Region (metro KC and northwest Missouri). For more information, check out the websites www.scca.com and www.salinascca.org.
What kind of car can be driven in an autocross?
Almost anything on four wheels, to a point. We’ll generally reject top-heavy SUV’s that tend to tip over easily, but almost anything else from that swoopy sports car to that modest little family runabout works. We get some really nice cars at our events like Corvettes, Vipers and Honda S2000s, but we also have people autocrossing things like pickup trucks, family sedans and go-karts. To quote a neighboring region’s motto: “Every car is a sports car … sometimes.”
What do I have to do to get ready to autocross my car?
Just make sure it’s in good running condition. Street and Street Touring classes, mostly cars with virtually nothing done to them, are among the most popular. Be sure tires have tread showing (no bald spots or cord), that the battery is firmly held down (no bungee cords!) and that the seat belts work. Put about 10 extra pounds of air in the tires, and bring your tire gauge. Ask someone at the event where to set the tire pressures.
Do I need a helmet or driving suit?
Helmet, yes. Driving suit no. And we have loaner helmets. If you bring your own, make sure it has a Snell Foundation sticker inside it (not on the back) dated 2005 or later.
What’s the cost?
If you pre-register on the Salina Region website, it’s $30 which includes your Weekend Membership in SCCA. Membership is now required for all participants and Weekend Membership kicks in SCCA’s $5 million insurance coverage for you. If you have friends “just watching” (no charge) they don’t need a membership, but they have to sign the insurance waiver. Everybody, including all members, signs the waiver at every event. A weekend membership receipt (maximum of two) can also be used for a $15 discount toward full SCCA membership. Full members pay $25 entry fees.
When’s the next event?
Check the schedule on www.salinascca.org. We generally open on-site registration about 9 am and the course is usually set up and open for walking about then too. We start running cars about 10:30 or so. If you’re a first-time autocrosser, let us know and we’ll try to hook you up with an experienced member to give you some tips, walk the course with you and get you started.
Can more than one person drive the same car?
Yes! We do prefer that they run in different heats (our typical event has about two-three heats). The basic rule is no more than two persons per car per class, which means you and your son can run in the Open class while your wife/daughter drives in the Ladies class. And if you have three guys, or girls, we’ll put one of them in a different class somewhere.
How do I know what class to run in?
It depends on what modifications, if any, you’ve done to the car. But Salina Region has a “Street Touring Other” class that is a local catch-all and a good place to start. Street Touring classes require tires of 200 treadwear rating or higher, while Street Prepared allows rather expensive street-legal softer “race” tires — so a lot of new drivers gravitate to the ST classes. If you’ve done a lot of things to your car but it’s still streetable, it might be in a Street Prepared, Prepared, or Street Modified class. Full-out race cars and wild specials running on race slicks go in Prepared and Modified classes. Your tech inspector at the event will help you figure it out.