From Daytona to Autocross, Part 1 of 2

After claiming his first Rolex watch after winning his class at the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mazda factory driver Kenton Koch recently tried his hand at autocross to continue improving his craft and technical knowledge, while having some fun. So, we asked him how it went and he shared some interesting insights.

Kenton Koch:
With budget in mind, I decided to build a car to compete in C Street (CS), a class with limited prep to allow cars to be competitive yet affordable. Good Car + Shocks + Single Exit Exhaust + Wheels and Tires = Affordable, Fun Car!

After dreaming of owning a rotary for years, I had my sights on a stock 2004 Mazda RX-8 Sport with 100k miles and a brand new Mazda re-manufactured engine. I did my research and found that the RX-8 had been a nationally competitive car in CS a few years ago. Curious to know why they were no longer at the top of time sheets, I dug deeper to find it was due to multiple reasons, but the gist was that the car is still very competitive in the class.

I purchased the car for a great price and decided to prep it myself in order to learn more about the mechanics while keeping within my budget. It took me a month or two to find the perfect car and another few weeks of bugging autocrossers I knew, browsing forums, and lastly “YouTubing” exhaust notes. In the end, it took a week, with school in-between, to fully prep the car. I thank my girlfriend Dani Ferrara for holding the light, handing me wrenches, and calming me down when the dang spring compressor was acting up.

With the car prepped, it was time to find out where to take it for its debut. It turned out that there was an SCCA Match Tour that fit right into my schedule. Going into the event, my expectations for performing well were low to say the least – considering the fact that I have never really done this before and entering a national level autocross, in a car I prepped myself, with zero testing. I am glad to say that things worked out better than expected.
I was not fully prepared, but will be the next time. In tomorrow’s part 2, I will share what I brought and should have. But in the end, the good news was the results were much better than expected! I managed to finish second on Saturday and ran the fastest run of the weekend Sunday against some tough competition. It wasn’t without the help of the autocross community. They were all very kind and more than willing to offer their advice and lend tools where needed. Although I brought everything I thought I needed, I still spent half the time borrowing tools because I either did not bring them to grid or at all.

More tips to come tomorrow in part 2.