Not sure what to expect at autocross events? Check out this video — courtesy of member Russ Addie — that will give you a good feel for the way the day typically flows when you autocross with Susquehanna Region SCCA.
During the day you will, of course, get to drive your car through the course, typically four times. You’ll also be required to help work, either at a corner, the registration table, the grid, timing truck, or other position. If you are new to the sport you’ll be teamed up with some veterans, so don’t fret what position you work! You’ll also have ample opportunity to get to know other drivers, hang out with friends, ask questions of other competitors, compare cars, swap stories, and have a fun day outside!
Participants should bring their valid driver’s license. Those under 18 will need to obtain a form from event officials with a parent’s signature indicating consent.
Important notice for all autocross participants: National SCCA requires all participants to either be National SCCA members, or purchase a weekend membership at the event (or online when registering). The Susquehanna Region has little control over this. We must charge an additional fee if you are not an SCCA member. You must show your SCCA card at the registration table/check in, or purchase a weekend membership. You may fill out the form at registration, or download the form, make three copies of it and bring it to registration with you.
Here’s What to Expect at Autocross
It is recommended that you preregister for events online to ensure a spot. Registration opens at least one month in advance for each event and usually closes Thursday evening before the event. When registering online, you will specify your car’s class and number. You can find out what class your car is in by checking the SCCA rule book. If you need some assistance, other members may be able to help in the Region’s Facebook Group, or by contacting one of our Novice Chiefs. Remember, even if you preregister, you’ll still need to check in at registration the morning of the event. Make sure to bring your National SCCA membership card with you to registration, along with your valid driver’s license.
After registration, your car will need to pass a brief technical inspection. The tech inspector will visually check over your car for any loose suspension items, excessively worn tires, leaking fluids, loose interior items, or other potential hazards. The tech inspector will also check your safety equipment: the car should have seat belts, and you will be needing a helmet. Loaner helmets are often available.
You must also indicate your car number and class on your car so that event officials can read it from a distance. Magnetic numbers are a great option. If you’re interested in purchasing a set, make sure to check out our sponsor, Slow Sally’s Stickers & Things. Your numbers must be on the car before going through tech inspection.
Before you run, make it a point to walk the course, preferably several times. In an autocross, you do not get a practice run, so the more familiar you are with the course, the better your initial run will be. You will get three runs, sometimes more. Generally the number of runs is announced at the driver’s meeting before the event begins.
Susquehanna Region offers a novice walk through at all autocross events… and it’s good for everyone, not just new drivers. Novice Chiefs will take you on a walk of the course, talk to you about cone penalties, the best line to drive and a lot more. Make it a point to ask at registration when and where the novice walk through will begin.
A drivers’ meeting is always held at autocross events prior to the first car off the line. All entrants and anyone else on site are required to attend. The event chair and safety steward will cover any relevant announcements, the day’s schedule, standards of conduct and cone rules for working the course. Once the meeting is over, you will either be preparing to race or work, depending on how you were signed up at registration.
Course Working & Volunteering
No one at an autocross is getting paid to do their job or be there, so every event requires that everyone help to keep things happening. We require that if you are there to drive, then you will take a turn working or doing some task during the day. It’s only fair, as there are a lot of folks that spend a lot of their time to get an autocross scheduled and setup and running, and none of it is ever paid by any one or any company. (If we were paid, we’d be doing this 7 days a week!)
Generally, when you register at the event, you will be asked or assigned to work at one of several stations during one of the heats you aren’t driving: on a corner (flagging cars, fixing downed cones), at the registration desk, in the timing/scoring truck, announcing, watch the start line, coordinate cars in the grid, teching cars, etc. We also need help with morning setup or after-event take-down. If you are an earlybird, help with setup, as it will get the event started sooner. If you arrive later, help put things back in the truck (and of course get your trophy!).
Without the help of everyone there, our autocross could come to a standstill. Even if you’re at your first event, ask what you can do to help and someone will gladly explain how the event works and make sure you feel welcome.
Driving the Course
There are many schools of thought over what to do for your first run. However, the most important thing for a novice to do is to try not to get lost. The course moves a lot faster in a car than it does at walking speed, so try to keep yourself prepared by looking ahead as far as possible. On your subsequent runs, you can increase your speed, but it is most important to be smooth and maintain control. If your car has street tires, they will make noise as you corner, but a constant howl likely means you’re exceeding their stopping/turning/braking capabilities. Lots of tail sliding, burnouts, and e-brake turns may look cool, but it’s not the fastest way through the course. You don’t want to wrestle the car, because your car will react better to smooth inputs. Unlike World Rally or ice-racing, you can use the available surface traction to your advantage, so you want to try to avoid sliding when you can. Don’t get stressed about your time, you’re there to have fun!
Hopefully your time improves with each subsequent run, if not, help is all around you: Don’t be afraid to identify yourself as a novice, autocrossers are a friendly & helpful bunch who want to share their love of their hobby with you. We want you to enjoy yourself so that you will come back and see us again and again! And, if at any time you’d like a little help, we have instructors available to ride shotgun with you and give you a few tips along the way.
Minors (Under 18)
Minors must have a Minor Waiver Form completed and signed by BOTH parents (unless you have only 1) to be able to drive/ride along. They are available at the event, and can be signed at the event, but can also be completed in advance (recommended). As of 2018, the minor waivers are annual
End of the Day
Once all heats have completed their runs, the day is not yet over! Extra help is always appreciated as cones need to be stacked, driven back to the trailer and loaded up. All registration and timing equipment also needs packed into the trailer. After all cleanup is complete, results are announced trophies are awarded.
Before you leave, remember to get back into “street” mode! Burnouts, donuts, street racing and speeding near the autocross venues can attract unwanted attention and threaten our ability to continue using the venue.
This is roughly the time table of events at Susquehanna Region autocross events. This is only an estimate. Events may have a different exact schedule. Find individual event details on the event calendar or on the registration pages on MotorsportReg.com.
6-8am: Early help arrives to setup
8am: Event venue open for participants for car setup, parking, etc.
8:00-9:15: Registration open
8:00-9:15: Tech open
8:30-9:30: Course open for walking
8:45: Novice walk-through
9:30: Drivers (and all persons on-site) mandatory meeting
10am: First heat starts, first car off
End of event: Awards ceremony
There is usually a 15 minute break between heats for grid change over and walk-throughs. At events where time is constrained, walk-throughs may be limited, at the event chairman’s discretion. Hersheypark is one event where we are limited on time and may not allow walk-throughs. Also, Hersheypark (big lot) events start earlier by 1/2 hour.