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Simple Tips for AutoX

Old 11-28-06, 10:20 PM
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Simple Tips for AutoX

I've never AutoX'd but I'm looking for some basic tips and tricks to get into it this spring. I plan on running strait distilled water/water wetter to keep the engine cool as I want an ultra reliable car, also doing clutch flywheel as mine are shot.

Anyway, should I get a lower degree thermostat, its a summer only car, or would that prevent complete combustion from being too cold? Would a roll cage really help that much or no?
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Old 11-28-06, 10:27 PM
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For autox, you shouldnt have to worry about your temps to much, unless your cooling system is on the outs. Roll cage is not needed, just learn your car, talk to the experienced guys, walk the course. Just get some decent tires, and go have fun. Dont expect to place top ranks first event.
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Old 11-28-06, 10:48 PM
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A stock cooling system is more the sufficient if its in good working condition.
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Old 11-28-06, 11:03 PM
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Get some good tires, if you really want to and have the cash, maybe some tokikos or something. But mostly tires. Id go with RT-615s, just for the bang for the buck. And then its all about seat time and practice. talk to everyone, learn theyre setups, watch everyone, see who goes fast and who goes slow and try to see what theyre doing different. But really, its all about seattime.
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Old 11-28-06, 11:03 PM
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Also see if someone, experienced, will let u ride with them on one of their runs. This helps u see the course full speed. Go to a few to get the hang of it. Start reading the rule books when you can to understand the classes and the system. Watch when u can. You should stick with the recomended coolant mixture (50 50 IIRC). Stick with the stock Mazda thermostat. Have fun.
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Old 11-28-06, 11:45 PM
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As far as tips...

-Seat time
-Seat time
-Seat time

Also, if possible after the day is over and there are fun runs...let the fastest rear wheel drive guy run your car on the course...see what kind of times he gets...see what your car is capable of.

Other simple tips

-Tilt your rear view mirror sideways so you can't look behind you
- Mark your tires with a little bit of white shoe polish so you can judge the roll over and add or subtract air if the roll over is to little or to much
-Get there early so you can walk the course as many times as you can stand. Bring graph paper so you can draw it.
-Make sure when you work its on the course so you can watch others.
-Constantly tell your self out loud while on course to look a head ... look ahead....
-Squeeze the controls like you want to be squeezed
-Always attend the novice walk through....never know what you can learn. But it is important to find out what he/she drives. If they drive a rabbit the advice might not work well for you.

Good luck!

James

Last edited by Wankel7; 11-28-06 at 11:54 PM.
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Old 11-29-06, 03:04 AM
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Try to minimize your control inputs. Dont jerk any of them. And look far ahead enough so that you can optimize the line. That means as much as 4-5cone pairs ahead. Feel good with the car - that means practice, practice, practice....
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Old 11-29-06, 07:46 AM
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Slow into a turn, Fast out. Its better to go slow into a turn so you can rotate the car and get it pointed where you want to go next. Stand on the gas as you unwind the steering.

Do the basics on maintenance and just drive the car.
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Old 11-29-06, 08:28 AM
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Contact the local club you plan to run with. Tell them you're new and you'd love to find out all you can about getting started. Most likely they'll have some local instruction that will be of great help to you.

For now don't do anything to the car except make sure it's in good mechanical condition. Resist the urge to start modding the car, just drive it.

http://www.autocross.com/autoc/clublist.htm
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Old 11-29-06, 08:46 AM
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DO NOT buy true AutoX tires, IE Hoosiers/Kumhos V710/Victoracers, etc. They don't give feedback the same way street tires do. I suggest run a whole year with street tires, but at least run a few events.

The #1 upgrade is seat time followed by tires, then suspension, etc.

And the cooling system will be fine for AutoX just like it is.
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Old 11-29-06, 10:44 AM
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In addition to the great advice above,

Be humble, don't take it personally when you're getting beat by 'slow' cars. Autocrossing is 90% driver, and many of those people have been racing for years. Focus on improving, not on competing.


The most common mistake I see new drivers make is trying to go too fast through the corners, and being too rough on the steering wheel. Be smooth on the wheel (hold it gently and transition smoothly), and try to brake a little earlier than you think you need to. If your tires are screaming mid-corner, you're doing something wrong.



As everyone else mentioned, you'll learn a lot from seeing it done correctly. Find someone who's fast (even if they're not driving a RWD car), and ask to ride with them, or let them do an 'instructor run' in your car. A good driver should feel smooth, and the tires will be pretty quiet mid-corner also. Notice that they use full throttle often and early, but don't jerk the steering wheel very hard. Ask them what they think of your car's setup, if they would change anything. They'll probably say 'tires', but don't buy new tires for at least a year, because you'll learn to drive better on cheap tires (the lower traction available will let you know when you've made a mistake).


As you get more serious about driving, you might want to keep a notebook. Before driving, decide what you want to focus on for that lap (smooth steering wheel, or looking ahead, or braking earlier, etc...). After driving, write down your time, how well you acheived your goal, and what you could do better.

-s-
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Old 12-02-06, 12:45 AM
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All good advice. All I will add is to clean everything. Under the hood especially, because that will pay off every time that you have to work on the car. It also shows that you care about your equipment. Also, don't wait until you feel your car is perfect, just get out there as soon as you can and get started. Worry more about the driver, and less about upgrading for the first year...
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Old 12-02-06, 01:53 AM
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Another piece of advise that I experienced last weekend... Dot be afraid. A few of my freinds decided to come out with me, but once they got to the track they all made excuses for why the just wanted to watch that day. **** that. They were just scared, of being slow, of having people make fun of them, of spinning and embarrassing themselves... Just get out there and do it. Your gonna be nervous as hell your first time at the line. I still get really nervous the first run of the day. But, noone is going to make fun of you, who cares if you hit every cone (except the course workers), spin out, get lost on the course, understeer every where, put down the slowest time.... Dont worry about any of that. Just drive, and learn.
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Old 12-02-06, 01:29 PM
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Have fun. Public roads are for babying the car, closed courses are for beating the crap out of it. The worst thing that can happen on an autox course is you hit a cone and have to wash a scuff mark off at the end of the day. Don't be that guy who shows up in a Viper and gets DFL (Dead F***ing Last) because he won't push the car.
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Old 12-02-06, 01:57 PM
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Expect to be slow. Nobody starts fast .
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Old 12-02-06, 03:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Jabberwocky
Expect to be slow. Nobody starts fast .

BUT I KICK ***! I KNOW IT AND THERE IS NO REASON WHY I WON'T BE TEN SECONDS FASTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE ON MY FIRST TIME OUT !!!!

....yeah.

Those old guys kicking your ***? They have been getting seat time since before you were born. They have forgotten more about driving than you currently know. They could probably order Chinese for the post-event party while doing their runs and still be faster than you, because the acts of extracting 100% from the car and extracting 100% from the course are deeply embedded into their subconsciouses, so they don't even have to think about what they are doing.

A rule of thumb I saw is that it takes five years before you really start to be competitive. Not dominatory, just competitive. A lot of that is building the muscle memory and subconscious calculus that gets you to that point. The rest is trial and error, mostly error early on.

If it sounds like I have an issue with this, you'd be right. I have friends who won't go to a rallycross, autocross, or even a trackday because they don't want to get their egos bruised *when* they get their asses handed to them. Meanwhile, some of my *other* friends and I get our asses handed to us, and like it. Because we're learning. (Oh yeah, and making lots of noise and tire smoke and all the other fun stuff... )

In the nutshell, *seat time*. Get behind the wheel and practice, practice, practice. What you are driving is not important, so much as *how* you're driving. And the important things to get out of practice are effective weight transfer (smooooth), effective braking, and picking a good line to link the corners together. And being smooth, that is important too.
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Old 12-02-06, 06:31 PM
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Let's all thank peejay for the authentic midwestern reality check.

I will promise you that some middle aged guy with a few extra pounds on him and thinning hair will absolutely hand you your own *** time wise. He will probably do it in a car that is classed slower than your's as well. Go talk to that guy even if he doesn't look cool enough to hang around with, he loves cars just like you and can probably teach you a thing or two. You'll meet all kinds of great people.
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Old 12-03-06, 05:51 AM
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It depends on your past experience with driving cars at their limits (be it track days or "twisties"), but in a nutshell, you can be competitive from the very beginning.

I actually managed to win the stock class championship this year in my first season with my ITR
So there obviously are exceptions to the rule. Next year I'm moving up to modified class with my FD and hope to finish at top3 at the end of the season.
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Old 12-03-06, 08:45 AM
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No body else ran enough events in your class?

Just kidding, good job! Good luck in the new class.
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Old 12-03-06, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Prod
Have fun. Public roads are for babying the car, closed courses are for beating the crap out of it. The worst thing that can happen on an autox course is you hit a cone and have to wash a scuff mark off at the end of the day. Don't be that guy who shows up in a Viper and gets DFL (Dead F***ing Last) because he won't push the car.

Yeah, but don't be the guy that thinks he can drive above his abilities in a fast car. I have seen 4 Corvettes and 2 Evos hit solid objects, in my 8 years of autocross, that had no reason to be off course that far. Walk the course, imagine you are driving your car through the line, and walk the course some more. Look ahead and be SMOOTH. Hit a cone in the slalom on purpose so you know how close you can get to it. That is pretty much what I tell drivers during novice walks.

Have fun and go to as many events as you can.
Go to a National level event even if your equipment is not best in class just to see how the best drivers race.
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Old 12-03-06, 10:27 AM
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Having a competitive car in a lightly attended class helps you win for sure. ITR's are pretty good autocross cars.

I remember when I first started out, there was this unassuming looking guy in his early 40's who ran the events, he drove a stock 99 Miata 10AE and regularly beat EVERYONE. That included many other Miatas that had far more power, better suspensions, and what not. It is a rediculously small lot, but even when running with the Corvette club in larger lots he'd still spank most of them and sometimes win the event with FTD. It was amasing to watch, his car control skills were incredible, he could get that thing to do some amasing things. I later learnt that he'd been autocrossing for longer than I'd been alive and that he is a former national champ. There's usually at least one superhuman driver in each region, find them and learn from them.

I've never been competetive, but my car's also hopelessly outclassed (SM2), which compounds the problem.
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Old 12-03-06, 03:59 PM
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AutoX

Like the others said, seat time and patience will do much more than all the fancy parts you can buy. I just started doing autox and track days this fall. I've learned a ton from people who LOVE to help you get better. At the 1st autox event I went to I just asked if there were any experienced people who could give me some tips and right away a father and son team let me ride with them and then rode with me. The one piece of advise I had a hard time with was "don't try to go fast". Natural instinct to finish quicker is to go faster, in fact to go faster you must be smoother and in control, that often invloves going slower than you think you should in some sections. I just did a track day a couple of weekends ago and shaved 5 seconds off my lap time by slowing down in a couple of the corners I had been pushing too hard in, slow in, fast out. You'll hear that alot if you get involved in these events. Go with very few expectations other than to have fun (that's what it supposed to be about) and see if you can improve a little each time out. Sometimes you do some times you don't. My 1st autox run was my best of the day, I was just trying not to go off course. the next runs I was trying to go faster and didn't. Next time I'll just concentrate on staying on course. Good Luck and have fun.
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Old 12-03-06, 04:15 PM
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Wow, some outstanding advice here
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Old 12-03-06, 04:41 PM
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Handling. The best advice I can give you is when you are entering a turn do you all your braking before the apex then gas out of it. Also, driving in canyons is a good way for your 'seat time' experience to increase, as you'll find out the limits of your car (not saying you should push it to the limits). It's free as well, just becareful.
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Old 12-03-06, 04:45 PM
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I just got done with my first season of autocrossing my stock FD.

First, everyone's advice is spot on. You will not be fast, unless you have significant experience carting or something like that. Everything you know about intelligent street driving, and any of that "spirited driving" bs is going to be of absolutely no use to you. Some people do better than others on the first couple times out, but if you follow the advice on how to learn and improve you will get faster no matter what your first day is like.

For your first event, arrive with your tires up to 40psi all around and make sure it's in good mechanical condition. You can let down the pressure as required, but stock+10psi is a good starting pressure. No oil leaks, no coolant leaks, no new mods, just a good solid stock car. If you already have mods of any kind, make sure you're entered in the proper class and remember the mods will be of almost no help right now. Your tires should be in good shape - but I don't suggest investing in any kind of tire that isn't truly streetable until you spend a year autocrossing on street tires first.

Day one, your job is to figure out how to navigate the course and not miss any gates. Don't worry about time, just worry about getting a feel for the car, the pace of the course, and properly navigating it. It's not easy when you're new, so don't underestimate the confusion of kicking thru the sea of orange-hatted gnomes. Do everything you can to understand the layout of the course and how fast the sections are. Don't go so fast that you'll make car control mistakes, but don't go too slow either since that makes it very hard to develop a feel for the course. It helps a lot to compete in a later heat, so you can observe drivers during your work assignment, do ride-alongs, or find an available person to help instruct you.

Also pay attention to any autox schools put on by your local chapter or any other nearby chapters. You'll want to do a mix of actual autox's and instructional events, and like the others said, seat time is golden.

Dave

Last edited by dgeesaman; 12-03-06 at 08:41 PM.
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