VIDEO: How to Prepare for Your First Autocross: Part 1

Tamra Hunt Autocross Video
(Click picture above for video.)

2015 SCCA National Champion and Rookie of the Year Tamra Hunt walks you through her guide to preparing for an autocross event. In this two part series, she first takes you through her preparation before heading to the autocross course. Take a read or check it out in the video seen below. Next week, she takes you through what to do when you arrive at the event itself, in: “How to Prepare for Your First Autocross: Part 2.”

Autocross is generally easy on cars and low risk compared to other high performance driving events. The events are typically held in large parking lots or on old air strips and courses that are designed using traffic cones. Although you don’t typically exceed highway speeds, the combination of precision driving maneuvers where you can push your car to the 100 percent limit of its cornering capacity and your driving ability, leaves drivers with an addicting adrenaline rush. The hazards are low (typically only a few cone scuffs) and entry fees are some of the cheapest in the motorsports world.
You’ve heard of autocross and you want to try it out. If you are wondering how to find out about events in your area, I recommend the website Also, simply searching for autocross clubs in your area will pull up websites, with links on how and where to register.

So you’ve signed up for your first autocross. What’s next?
It’s always a good idea to ensure your car is in generally good mechanical shape before each event. In addition, there are some things that you need to prepare for as the driver.

Before the Event
Give your car a once over:
–    Check your car’s fluids. Do you have enough oil, and are you up to date on your oil change interval? Are the coolant levels sufficient? What about the power steering fluid, and clutch/brake fluid?
–    Are your tires in decent shape?
–    Do your brakes still have some life in them?
–    Don’t worry about buying anything outside of maintenance parts – buying new wheels or other “mods” for your car won’t make you faster, yet.

Assuming your car is in generally good mechanical condition, here are a few additional basic tips:
–    Increase your tire pressures to around 10 psi over what the door sill calls for. This will help prevent the side wall from flexing as much and will help the tires wear more evenly.

Advanced Tip: As you get more involved in autocross, tire pressures are a great tuning tool. But if this is your first time out, stick to the tip above!

–    Check your battery and make sure it is tight. (You’d be surprised how many people fail the safety inspection due to loose battery brackets!)
–    Torque your lug nuts, just in case.
–    Clean everything out of your car other than what you need at the event.

Now that your car is ready, here’s a good packing list of things to take with you:
–    Must haves:
o    Painters tape for numbers (or number magnets if you’re really prepared)
o    Basic tool set (you know, in case you forgot to tighten down your battery)
o    Ice chest with water and snacks
o    Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, etc.
o    Good shoes. I recommend against bulky boots and definitely no sandals. Flexible, lightweight shoes that permit you to feel the pedals are ideal.

–    Nice to haves:
o    Tire pressure gauge
o    Portable air pump
o    Chalk
Advanced Tip: You can put a chalk (or white shoe polish or a tire crayon) mark on the sidewalls of your tires to see how much they are “rolling over.” You can adjust tire pressures to get the optimal wear (higher pressures will roll over less).
o    Approved helmet (Novices – most clubs have loaner helmets available.)

Arrival (to be continued)
Make sure you get there early – a little before registration opens is a good idea, that way you can be ready ahead of time. Once you arrive at the event, there will likely be someone at the gate with a waiver to sign. After parking, empty your car of all belongings and loose items, including your floor mats.
Advanced Tip: For additional weight savings, people frequently remove the spare tire and OEM tool kit, if easily accessible.

More on what to do upon your arrival at the autocross course next week!