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Home » Bay Area Autocross Forum » New to Autocross/New to the Forum » The AutoX n00bie Post
The AutoX n00bie Post [message #5954] Fri, 25 August 2006 12:59 Go to next message
tjZ06 is currently offline  tjZ06   United States
Messages: 873
Registered: October 2005
Location: San Jose, CA

This post is intended to be a "primer" of sorts for Newer AutoXers. Please give it a read as it may answer a lot of your questions and help you enjoy AutoXing even more.



What to bring…
  • Valid Driver’s License – All Sanctioning Bodies I know of require it.
  • Helmet – Most Sanctioning Bodies require a SNELL 95 or better Helmet. Many of the series have loaner helmets available. Make sure you either have a helmet, or there will be loaners before you head out. Some series/venues may not have loaners.
  • Sunscreen – You will be out on the tarmac all day, and even if it’s cloudy out you will get a sunburn if you don’t prepare. Bring water-proof sunscreen, as you’ll probably be sweating. Remember to reapply since you’ll be sweating it off, taking helmets on and off etc.
  • Sweatshirt/Windbreaker – Even on a hot day some of the venues can be really breezy.
  • Warm Jacket – Okay, so you won’t need this at Atwater in July, but you’d be surprised how cold it can get in Marina all year. It doesn’t hurt to pack it.
  • Large Umbrella – If there’s even a chance of rain this will make your day much nicer. And even if it’s just sunny this can be used for shade (we won’t laugh too much missy).
  • Full-Brim Hat – Along w/ the Sunscreen you’ll be glad you did when you don’t look like a cherry tomato.
  • Sunglasses – Choose a pair you’re comfortable driving with (and fit under your helmet).
  • Cooler – Bring a cooler with plenty of (non-alcoholic) drinks. Some venues have a food vendor on site, some don’t. It couldn’t hurt to pack a lunch and some snacks. But whatever you do make sure you have plenty of water.
  • Tire Pressure Gauge – Even on street tires it’s a good plan to keep an eye on your tire pressure (see further explanation below)
  • Air Pump – A small cigarette lighter pump will do the job (slowly, but it’ll do it). Even if you show up to the event w/ more than enough pressure you may well need to add some before your second set of runs (if applicable).
  • Painter’s Tape – You can use this to make numbers, or tape printed up numbers onto your car and it doesn’t leave sticky goo.
  • Tools – If you’re just coming out to run on street tires you may not need a single tool. However, it never hurts to have some with you just in case. IF YOUR VEHICLE HAS WHEEL LOCKS MAKE SURE YOUR KEY IS WITH YOU WHETHER OR NOT YOU INTEND TO CHANGE WHEELS.
  • Jack/Jack-Stands Etc. – If you’ll be changing tires/wheels make sure you bring these with you. Also, any wood or ramps you need to get a jack under your car, any special need items (like lifting pucks for ‘vettes) etc. If you plan to change tires/wheels make sure you’re self-sufficient. Bring wheel-chocks for safety.
  • Spare Fluids – Have a quart or two of motor oil, a gallon or so of coolant/water mix, some brake fluid, and some power steering fluid with you at a minimum. Having tranny/rear-end fluid with you couldn’t hurt as well.
  • Old Blankets – They’ll come in very handy for setting stuff you take out of your car (see more later) on, as well as laying on when you do any work on the car.
  • Fold-Up Camping Chairs – You’ll be standing/walking/running a lot at the AutoX, you’ll be glad you have a chair to sit down in when you get the chance.
  • EZ-Up – If you have one, bring it. But don’t worry about going out and buying one if you don’t already have it. This is just nice to have, but a necessity by no means.

Vehicle Prep…
  • Air Up the Tires – If you’re on street tires bring them within 1-2 PSI of their max pressure rating. For most vehicles you’ll want to run some sort of stagger, depending on how nose-heavy the vehicle is and it’s handling characteristics. You can work on that as your skill improve though, just make sure you have plenty of pressure heading out. After your runs check your tire pressure (it will go up as the tires get hotter) and keep them at the same pressure for all of your runs. This will help to make the car more consistent so you can learn its limits and characteristics. If the tire pressure is ever-changing on you it will be harder to learn the vehicle. Once you are comfortable with your car you can use tire-pressure as a tuning aid, but this is a more advanced topic.
  • Remove All Loose Crap – CD cases, change, hula dolls, etc. You will not pass the Tech Inspection with loose items in the vehicle that could fly around on-course and distract you, or fly out of the car and injure somebody. Items you still want to have for the drive out to the venue (such as CD cases) you’ll want to take out once you get to the course. That’s where the blankets etc. come in. Also, most AutoXers race w/ the T-Tops/Targa off where applicable.
  • Check All Fluids – Prior to the event check all the vital fluids in your car (motor oil, trans fluid, rear-end/diff fluid, coolant, powersteering fluid, brake fluid, clutch fluid) etc. Make sure they are all full, but not over-full. Your power steering will get hot and push out some fluid and this will only be exaggerated if it is over-full. Some people do advise running the oil about half a quart high on LS1s to make sure you don’t starve the motor under high Gs. I never did and never had a problem.
  • Check for Leaks – Your vehicle will fail Tech. Inspection if it has obvious leaks. Be aware of this and check over your vehicle ahead of time.
  • Check Your Battery Hold-Down – If I had to guess I’d say this is the most common reason for Tech. Inspection failure (especially for Fbodies). Double check your hold-down and make sure your battery is good and secure. I broke two stock hold-downs on my Z/28, so for Fbodies I recommend making a custom hold-down. It’s cheap/easy, PM if you have questions.
  • Make sure you have ALL of your Lug Nuts – You cannot be missing ANY Lug Nuts for Tech. In additional they all need to be 7 full turns on for most Sanctioning Bodies. If you have closed-end Lugs be ready to remove one for an Inspector to verify it goes on at least 7 turns.
  • Remove loose hub-caps/center covers. If they pop-on they should be taken off. Only center caps that are either screwed on or retained with some sort of fastener, or go into the wheel from the back (meaning there is no physical way they can separate from the wheel when the wheel is on the car) will be allowed on-course.
  • Check for Bad Wheel Bearings – This is also part of the Tech. Inspection. They will grab each wheel firmly (with the vehicle on the ground) and give it a good shake. The wheels should be solid, with very little play.
  • Make Sure your Steering is Tight – The inspector will take the steering column lock off (aka turn the key to “on”) and make sure there’s not excessive slop in the steering system. Make sure your car is good to go.
  • Check your Brakes – If it’s been a while since you looked make sure your have plenty of pad life left and everything is in good working order. If it’s been a while a good flush and bleed of the full system would be in order. Use a high-grade brake fluid (such as Motul) if possible.
  • Check you Suspension – If you haven’t in a while now is a great time to run through the major suspension components on your car and make sure everything is in order. Check key fasteners for torque. Check bushings/ball-joints/tire-rod ends/bearings for wear/slop. While your under there check the caliper mounting bracket and caliper bolts for torque.

The Event…

Get there early! It’s worth going to bed a bit early the night before so you can get up nice and early the day of the event. If this is your first time out you’ll have plenty to absorb without rushing around worrying about being late. I like to pack my car up the night before, I highly recommend this.

Get to the venue with fuel! If you have an F-Body you’ll want at least 2/3 of a tank of fuel. F-Bodies are known for starving for fuel under high G-loads with a low tank. A full tank helps with weight distribution as well, though there is open debate between the advantages to weight distribution versus the disadvantages of more overall weight.

Get registered first, unless you get there before registration has opened. It’s just one more thing to get out of the way and done with so you can focus on final prep of your car and walking the course. Make sure to sign up for your work group while you are there. The person working registration will help you determine what work group to sign up for if needed. While you are there make sure to see what group your car runs in as well.

Now that you’re registered, WALK THE COURSE. Walk it 2, 3 times if you were a good little AutoXer and got there early enough. You cannot look at the course too many times. Try and get an experienced AutoXer to walk with you. Some sanctioning bodies/series do a Rookie Walk… go on it! Even if you’re not a Rookie, go on it and listen. Just keep in mind what the person giving the walk drives. If they drive a Miata you might not want to “go flat” where they do. Just pay attention to their line.

Now get back to your car and prep-it. Remove any of the items still left in it that aren’t bolted down, right down to the floor-mats. Put your number on your car. They generally have printed numbers you can use at the registration table, use the painter’s tape you brought to put that on. If not, just make numbers out of the tape. Just be careful because 1, 11, 111 and other easy to make w/ tape numbers might be taken. Make sure you put your numbers on the car in a way the folks in the trailer will be able to read them when you're at the line! Most groups will request you have numbers on BOTH sides of the car (so all coures workers can see your numbers). Also, please make sure your numbers contrast your car's paint color well.

If your car has not been Tech’ed yet find out what you need to do to get Tech’ed. Some series will have you bring your car to a specific area for Tech. Some Tech. on-grid only. Some will Tech. in the “paddock.” When you leave your car for Tech. leave it unlocked with the keys in the ignition and the hood and hatch popped, and leave your helmet in the car. It’s best if you’re present with the car when it gets Tech’ed, but that might not be possible due to work scheduling and course-walks.

[Updated on: Mon, 04 June 2007 08:51]

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Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #5955 is a reply to message #5954] Fri, 25 August 2006 13:00 Go to previous messageGo to next message
tjZ06 is currently offline  tjZ06   United States
Messages: 873
Registered: October 2005
Location: San Jose, CA


When it is time for your group to grid bring your vehicle promptly to the grid. Be aware there is always one (or more) 2-Driver line. Make sure to use this line if, and only if, your vehicle will have 2 (or more) drivers.

If your vehicle has still not been Tech'ed please make sure the Grid-Worker is aware of this.

Have your Tech. Card with you, and filled out. Place it under your windshield wiper or on the dash, somewhere easy for them to collect.

I like to bring a large water up with me, as well as my hat, torque wrench, tire-sprayer, and tire pressure gauge. Whatever you bring carefully set it somewhere where it will NOT be in the way of cars puling through grid. In general, the best thing to do is to set it right next to one of the grid-cones.

Stay with your car while it is on Grid. Don't wander off. Pay attention to the cars in front of you and the Grid-Worker . Know when your line is about to run. Be in your car, buckled up, with your helmet on by the time the Grid-Worker starts running your line. Pay attention to the Grid-Worker, and follow his/her instructions. Do not pull forward towards the start line until the Grid-Worker has instructed you to do so, even if there's no cars at the starting line and you "think" it's your turn. Once the Grid-Worker has given you the signal to pull forward proceed towards the starting line, falling into-line behind the previous car the Grid-Worker released. When it is your time the Flagman will motion you forward until you are at the Starting Line, and then ask you to stop. Never under any circumstance proceed onto course before the Flagman gives you the Green. And even when you are given the green (or just before) take it upon yourself to scan the course briefly and make sure it is clear. Some course setups will have an overlap at the Start-Finish. Make sure to observe the function of the overlap and take it upon yourself to know when the Finishing car is too close for you to start, regardless of the Flag. Remember, the Flagman might not see everything. I can't think of when it's ever been a problem, but when it all comes down to it you are the driver, you are behind the wheel: take responsibility.

Once on course take it easy for your first lap or two. You have nothing to prove. I guarantee you will end up with a faster "best time" by taking the first few laps slow, learning the course and your car, and then speeding up as you go for the last few. Going out too-hard off the bat is just going to frustrate you when you spin, nail cones, or lose the course because you're just trying TOO hard.

Driver and Passenger need to remain fully inside the vehicle at all times, arms/hands included. Do not rest your hand/arm on the windowsill and/or the A-pillar.

There are a few clichéd sayings that hold true: "Slow In – Fast Out" and "Slow Down to Go Fast." Take it easy, look ahead so you know where the next turn is and gain speed through your runs. It's always better to brake a little early, give up a little entrance speed to a corner, but cut a nice clean line and give yourself the best approach for the next turn. Once you've gotten into a turn too hot you'll end up wasting much more time than you realize, and most likely be out of line for the next section of the course.

Ideally you'd never be "coasting" in a straight-line in AutoX. The only time you'd maintain a constant speed is a steady-state corner. If you're going straight you should be WOT or hard on the brakes. But work up to that. Just don't cruise around the course at one speed though. If you find you're not using your brakes much... you're not pushing the car hard enough. Use the throttle on the straight sections, but remember to leave yourself room to slow down and get your braking done in a straight-line before you have to begin the next turn. Turn-in smoothly towards your Apexes and accelerate out of them. AutoX is a mix of carrying the most Corner Speed through the turns as you can while taking the Shortest Line possible. You have to give up one for the other, and the best compromise wins.

In Slaloms and Lane-Changes begin your turns before you might think you can. In a Slalom you should be turning the car when the cone is still in the middle of the car. It takes time for the car to react to your inputs, and by the time it does the tail will be clear (if you have a very sharp handing car, and are very tight to the cones this may not be true...). If you wait until your entire car is physically past the cone to turn the vehicle you will be behind. In a Slalom (and on an AutoX course in general) when you get behind on one turn, you'll be even more behind on the next, and it will add up until you have to slow waaaay down to correct your line. AutoX is all about being ready for the next turn, and on-line.

Know the finish section of the course. Know exactly where the timing lights are. There is no need to be on the throttle after the timing lights: DON'T DO IT. Once you have passed the timing lights slow your car down nearly to a stop, then roll slowly up to the person giving you your time-slip. Generally there is a straight section after the timing lights for you to slow down, then a 90* turn where the time-slip person will be. I repeat: fully slow your car down in the straight section before you turn towards the timing person. Always take your time slip, even if you had a bad run. This is AutoX Etiquette, and it is greatly appreciated if you follow this rule. There is no reason for being out of control coming up to the time-slip person.

Once you've gotten your slip pull back into the same line on grid you were in before. You will have plenty of time to hop out, get a quick drink of water, check your tire pressures etc. If you are part of a 2+ driver team you will need to act quickly to switch drivers while checking tire pressures etc. Now is a good time to take a quick look at all of your gauges. In general your car will stay coolest if you pop the hood and leave it running, though every car is different.

Rinse, Repeat.

[Updated on: Sun, 26 October 2008 10:53]

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Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #5956 is a reply to message #5954] Fri, 25 August 2006 13:01 Go to previous messageGo to next message
tjZ06 is currently offline  tjZ06   United States
Messages: 873
Registered: October 2005
Location: San Jose, CA

Working The Course…

If you Race, you Work. If you have health needs that might limit your ability to work talk to the organizers of the event and accommodations can be made. Though there are work positions such as announcer, working the gate etc. that aren’t physically taxing and in the case of announcing are in the trailer out of the sun.

When you are standing out on course be ever-vigilant. Never have your back turned to a car that is in your area of the course. If you are working a station that will have two racing vehicles in close proximity to your station make sure your work station is manned with enough people that you can “watch each other’s backs.” Specify who is watching which section of the course and stick to it. If you turn to watch the “cooler” car and abandon your section of the course nobody will know if something happens and a car is coming.

There will be a Red Flag, a Radio, and a Fire Extinguisher at every station. One worker at each station will be designated for the Red Flag and the Radio. If it’s your very first time working volunteer to just be a “runner” if possible. If there aren’t enough folks working the station take the Red Flag and/or Radio as necessary.

If a car hits cones it is the workers’ responsibility to replace them, and report them AFTER THE VEHICLE IS SAFELY CLEAR OF YOUR SECTION OF TRACK. Replace cones exactly as they were, in the chalk boxes provided. For every cone that either a) falls over b) is moved completely out of its chalk box report via radio back to the timing tower. When you report cones state the number of cones knocked over/out of their box (DO NOT COUNT “POINTER CONES” THESE ARE THE CONES THAT ARE ALREADY LAYING ON THEIR SIDES), the car that hit them (you should be paying plenty attention to the cars to catch the car’s number, but if you missed it report the model and color at a minimum) and what course worker station the cones were knocked down at (to avoid double reporting).

At any time when it appears that one car is getting too close to another (for whatever reason, a fast car following a slow car, the previous car spun or stopped on course etc) use your Red Flag. Wave it high and clear and don’t stop waving it until the car(s) you are Red Flagging stop(s). Radio in to the timing tower the number(s) of the car(s) that you Red Flagged so they can get their re-runs.

At any time when course workers are on-course and a vehicle is approaching Red Flag that vehicle. It is always better safe than sorry in these situations. Again, wave the flag high and clear until the car(s) have stopped.

In either case only wave the cars on to continue their lap once the course is fully clear. After being waved on, Red Flagged cars should continue their lap at a decent pace, as to get things going again quickly but NOT FULL RACE PACE. They will be awarded a re-run and there is no call for them to knock over cones etc. because they are driving at Race Pace. However, they should not proceed so slowly that they cause unnecessary red flags to be given to the vehicles behind them on course.

When you are not using the Red Flag hold it to your side, with the flag itself pulled tight against the stick and the end of the flag held in your hand so it is not waiving or visible to drivers. DO NOT ROLL THE FLAG UP OR HOLD IT IN ANY MANNER THAT WOULD IMPEED PRESENTING THE FLAG QUICKLY AND CLEARLY WHEN NEEDED.

[Updated on: Mon, 04 June 2007 08:55]

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Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #5957 is a reply to message #5954] Fri, 25 August 2006 13:04 Go to previous messageGo to next message
tjZ06 is currently offline  tjZ06   United States
Messages: 873
Registered: October 2005
Location: San Jose, CA

Aware driving...

If you are on-course and there is a cone down you may stop and point out the cone. This will grant your a re-run. Once a course worker acknowledges you stopped for a downed cone they will wave you on, proceed like you would after a Red Flag.

Also, if you are on course and feel a course worker is in an unsafe position, is still on course etc. please stop. You will get a re-run for this and everybody will be thankful for your caution.

The same can be said for other vehicles on course. If you feel you are catching another car too quickly, see a car off course (or navigating the course improperly), or if you come across any other unsafe condition please stop. Chances are you will given a re-run, and again your caution is appreciated.

[Updated on: Fri, 25 August 2006 13:08]

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Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #5958 is a reply to message #5954] Fri, 25 August 2006 14:14 Go to previous messageGo to next message
BRIAN is currently offline  BRIAN   United States
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Registered: October 2005
Location: Stockton, Ca.
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I went ahead and stickied this. If anyone has something to add, feel free to comment

Brian Jacobson
98 ESP SS Camaro #3
75 CP Monza (under construction)
Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #5959 is a reply to message #5954] Fri, 25 August 2006 14:22 Go to previous messageGo to next message
gotzoom? is currently offline  gotzoom?   United States
Messages: 2439
Registered: September 2005
Location: Silicon Valley, CA
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Forum GOD

Awesome! Thanks guys. Smile

99 Mazda Miata CS #194
85 Toyota Corolla GTS Drift Machine
72 Honda Z600 good FSP car?
Avitar credit: Zyrano
Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #66240 is a reply to message #5954] Fri, 11 June 2010 01:14 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Bensdubb is currently offline  Bensdubb   United States
Messages: 1
Registered: June 2010
Location: Fairfield
First Gear

ive always wanted to give this a try but the only car i have is a passat and im considering the purchase of something cheap. what vehicles are acceptable for this?

Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #66253 is a reply to message #66240] Fri, 11 June 2010 12:58 Go to previous messageGo to next message
solonut is currently offline  solonut   United States
Messages: 1674
Registered: September 2005
Location: Spanish Springs,Nv
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early RX7
vw golf

Any bad day of racing is better than a good day @ work
Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #81366 is a reply to message #66253] Sat, 09 July 2011 03:34 Go to previous messageGo to next message
benny_ng is currently offline  benny_ng   United States
Messages: 2984
Registered: January 2007
Location: Nor Cal
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From: *
you'll have fun in the passat.

Benny | Racing Fluids - motul, eneos, AMSOIL, RedLine, swepco Total & Torco Fuels

Craftwerx Concepts, Genitrix Motorsports, Radix Motorsports
Re: The AutoX n00bie Post [message #81370 is a reply to message #81366] Sat, 09 July 2011 12:15 Go to previous messageGo to previous message
mr.parker is currently offline  mr.parker   United States
Messages: 196
Registered: July 2010
Location: Elk Grove
Third Gear

From: *
Yeah don't buy anything until you've raced a little. A passat can be fun, I have one.
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