Autocrossing by Ken Campbell

Although not official NIFE sanctioned club events, for the last couple of years several of our members have been competing in autocrosses put on by the Salt Creek Sports Car Club (SCSCC).  An autocross is basically a time trial, with one car competing at a time on a closed road course against the clock.  The cars are divided into classes depending on power, weight, and modifications.  Time is measured to the nearest 1000th of a second and all cars in the same class compete against each other for the best time and trophies. All types of cars compete in autocrosses from race prepared Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs to stock VW Rabbits, and even Thunderbirds and Impalas. Occasionally we even have open wheel race cars show up.

As you might expect some of the drivers are very serious about autocrossing and spend a lot of time and money specially preparing their cars and attending special driving schools.  I personally do it just for the fun of getting out on the track and see how fast I can make my Fiero go on the straights and corners.  When I mention Ďautocrossí to some club members they become concerned that it might damage their car.  I have only noticed some premature tire and brake wear.  At times, I have gotten into a corner too fast and ran into a cone or off the track.  The area near the track surface is typically level grass so you can stop safely.  I also have spun out (with my wife riding as a passenger which she will never let me forget!), but the cones that line portions of the track are soft rubber and may leave a slight mark on your body panel, which can be easily cleaned off.

Most of the autocross events I have attended are held at Bennet Kartway in Utica, IL.  This is a pro 0.6-mile kart track with a 500 ft straight away and a lot of turns.  A timed run at the track consists of two consecutive laps.  Normally each car gets 5 timed runs in a day.  Your best run counts toward awards.

Last year, Jim Rogers, Tom Reimer, and myself met at Utica for a medium-speed autocross.  Since all of our cars are nearly stock, we competed in the C-Stock Class.  Some minor modifications are allowed in the stock classes, such as different shocks, tires, and wheels.  However, if your wheels are not stock, they need to be the same size as came from the factory (15" wheels on a GT for example).  Tires must have a tread all the way around them (some cars run racing tires which look like slicks with only one groove).  You are not allowed to have polyurethane suspension bushing, larger than stock stabilizer bars, or extensive engine or suspension modifications in the stock class.  You also are not allowed to change the weight of your car extensively (no gutting the interior or moving the battery).  If you do have some of these modifications, you can still participate in the autocross, but you will be put in a modified class.  On that Saturday, we had a total of 4 cars in our class (our 3 Fiero's and a Miata with racing tires and a lot of decals bragging of all the driving schools that the driver had attended).  It appeared the Miata was used exclusively for autocrossing and, as expected, it came in First Place.

The day normally starts off with registration around 9:30 AM ($30.00 fee for non-SCSCC members and you need to sign a waiver) and a technical inspection (make sure the brakes work, the battery is secure, and most things are in good working order).   After that, you are given some time to walk the track.  Next, there is a driverís meeting, which is where they answer any questions, and you find out the schedule of the runs. Then the actual runs take place.  It is a relatively low-pressure, fun group.  They have helmets for you to barrow (if you don't have one) and if you want, you can take a passenger with you during the run.  If you ask, the SCSCC will have one of its members ride with you as a sort of instructor to give you some pointers.  After every few runs, the times are posted so you can get an idea if you are improving (or not). After all of the runs, everyone gets together and the awards are given out.

If you are interested in trying autocrossing this coming season, feel free to call me with any questions (630-690-0324) or check out the SCSCC web page ( ) . If you want to just show up, look for where the Fieros are grouped together and come on over.  I will be happy to show you around and help you out.  If you still don't know if autocrossing is for you just come and watch, and ride along once.  I'm warning you though; it may only take one ride to get you hooked.  As you can tell, I really enjoy autocrossing.