The year was 2008. I was working the course at the SCCA Toledo Pro Solo during the Ladies’ class runs. For those of you who don’t know what a Pro Solo is like, I’ll try to explain quickly. It’s a mirrored autocross course with two competitors, one on each side. Instead of being waved onto the course by a flagger, like in a regular autocross, there’s a drag tree that starts the drivers. It’s the closest thing to “racing” that you’ll find at an autocross.
As I watched one particular pairing of cars leave the line, I noticed that one of the cars, a Mini Cooper S, was getting up on two wheels in the first 3-cone slalom. As the car rocked back and forth from the left two wheels to the right and then back to the left, the front left wheel bent and caught the cement, tripping the car and causing it to flip forward. It bounced off of its roof, and ended up landing on its wheels, facing back toward the starting line.
Smooth is Fast.
Slow Hands on Corner Entry.
Slow In, Fast Out.
The Holy Trinity of proper racing technique is completely wrong — at least if you want to be a champion driver. Onboard videos from F1, WRC and the various touring car series show there is so much more to it. The racecar is thrown into corners with supreme confidence and caught with the deft but quick hand movements that seemingly defy all laws of physics, running completely counter to the smooth is fast dogma.
So why do modern ultra-competitive racing techniques look nothing like what you were taught in driving school or read in a book?
The answer lies mostly in reducing the transition times between maximum acceleration and maximum cornering.
Porsches and drugs are similar vices. They’re expensive, rather addictive and always fun to try — at least once. But there’s always a “gateway” drug, a low-risk and easily accessible drug to just get a sniff of what the air smells like outside of the box. To the Porsche Club of America, whose events mostly comprise of High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) and track days, they needed a gateway race to warm Porsche owners up to the idea of exploring their car’s potential. What was needed was an autocross, a low-risk and affordable taste of motorsport.
I currently drive a 2007 G35S that works great and has been dead nuts reliable since I bought it lightly used a couple of years ago. It also works just fine for my duties of pickup/drop off of my toddler at daycare. Despite being plenty quick, it’s kind of dull. I really miss having a daily driver that doubles as an autocross/occasional track-day car.
A few weeks back I attended a ford ecoboost event and got to hustle a Fiesta ST around an autocross course. I was pretty impressed and now I’m strongly considering switching over. I also like that it gets ~50% better fuel economy and the 17″ wheels mean cheaper replacement tires than the staggered 18″ setup on the G35 (plus, I think I may be harder on tires than most). Lower running costs wouldn’t hurt my feelings one bit. (Read More…)
Please welcome Ryan Patrick Murphy to TTAC. A college professor and automotive enthusiast, he’s owned two E28 BMWs, a couple of M3s, and an old 911. Lately, he has been nursing a Land Rover Discovery back to health with the aid of a local junkyard. His first contribution is a tribute to those low-eyed, Tilley-hat-wearing, steering-wheel-jerking parking-lot rats known as autocrossers — JB (SCCA autocrosser since 2002!)
I’ve been participating in a form of motorsport called autocross for about three and a half years now. It is in some ways an odd and unfamiliar sport to the general public. Broadly speaking, there are two ways of describing it, and I’ve noticed that avid enthusiasts are very particular about the language they use when explaining it to others. Let’s imagine a hypothetical conversation:
Her: “So what do you do for fun?”
Me: “I race old BMWs.”
Me: (casually) “Yep”
Her: “Tell me about it!”
There was some mild consternation among the Best&Brightest when I admitted to left-foot braking the Focus SE in traffic. To a man (or woman), our readers were not pleased at the thought that I might be bumbling along a freeway at ten miles per hour or so, alternately pressing the brake and accelerator with one foot per pedal. One wonders what they might have made of LJK Setright’s famous assertion that he occasionally drove cross-footed, pressing the accelerator with his left foot and the brake with his right, “to ensure that driving is a conscious, not unconscious, activity.”
In any event, I would suggest that there is one scenario where you may left-foot brake, one scenario where you should, and one where you absolutely must not, and I’ve detailed them below.
You guys know that I want all of you to go autocrossing, right? Perhaps this video will help.
Your humble author has usually struggled as a National Solo driver, but I’m not ashamed of losing to these guys; some of them are the finest technical drivers in the world and even the worst National Solo driver is usually pretty decent. If you’ve ever wondered how you would stack up, now’s the time to find out.
Apologies for the delay in getting the next article to ‘press,’ a few matters including a misbehaving back were needing my attention! Too much sitting, not enough exercise!