VIDEO: How to Prepare for Your First Autocross: Part 2

Last week, 2015 SCCA National Champion and Rookie of the Year Tamra Hunt walked you through her guide to preparing for an autocross event prior to leaving your house, in: “How to Prepare for Your First Autocross: Part 1.” In this two part series, the focus turns what you should be prepared for upon arrival at the course.
Prep for Autocross
(Click picture above to play the video.)


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.
Registration and Classing
Next, find the registration booth where you will check in and get a work assignment. Everyone gets a work assignment at autocross, as the events are all ran by volunteers. Let them know you are a novice so they can make sure to get you in the correct class (most regions have a novice class). This is also a good opportunity to ask them questions to make sure your car is classed appropriately based on its modifications (or lack of). While you’re there, ask if there will be a novice course walk (more on this later).
Tech Inspection
Next up is the tech inspection, also known as a safety inspection. Make sure your car is emptied out, including the floor mats. Also, you’ll need to put your numbers and class on the car. If you don’t have magnets, some painter’s tape or shoe polish will work. Once your car is ready, you’ll pull into the line of cars being inspected. When it’s your turn, pop your hood and trunk, put on the parking brake, and step out of the car. They will check things such as:
–    The tightness of your battery
–    The wheel bearings (by pulling on your wheels to make sure they don’t have significant play)
–    That your car is emptied out
–    That the brake pedal feels normal
–    Fluid leaks
–    Tire condition (no cords or sidewall bubbles, etc.)
–    Anything else that they feel could be a safety concern
Now, you are ready to race. Or are you?
Walk the Course
Whether this is your first time at autocross or your thousandth, walking the course is a critical step in preparing to race. How can you be fast if you don’t know where you are going?  This is a great opportunity to get to know some people, so don’t be afraid to ask people if you can walk the course with them. Most people are more than happy to show you the course and even give you some driving line tips along the way. If there is a novice course walk, make sure you join the group – usually an experienced driver/instructor offers up a ton of knowledge.
Race Time
At this point, I cannot stress how important it is to ask questions of those around you. Every club has a different format – some send people one by one based on where they parked; others have “heats” where you park in grid during your scheduled time, and grid workers will tell you when to go. Once you figure out when it’s your turn to go to the line, I recommend requesting an instructor (all clubs have them, usually waiting around the “line” leading to the start of the course. If your goal is to be fast (or even if your goal is to not get lost on course!), taking an instructor is the #1 method. Any opportunity for free instruction should be taken. It’s also a great way to get to know some experienced drivers.
Advanced tip: Looking ahead will not only help you stay on course, but also be faster.
End of the Day
Awards time! Make sure you thank your competitors and anyone who helped you out during the day.
Before heading home:
–    Put your tire pressures back to normal
–    Remove your numbers
–    Check your fluids (especially your oil)
–    And finally, drive home safely and remember to obey the speed limit so that we can all continue to enjoy autocross and maintain our great sites.
Advanced Tip: Once you’ve attended one autocrosses, don’t forget to sign up (complimentary from Mazda) for the Mazda Motorsports’ Team Support Program here, where you will qualify for great prices on both OEM and performance parts for your Mazda, be able to earn contingency award ($), tech advice and more!
That’s it! The tips above are the most essential things you need to know for a successful first time autocrossing. Keep an eye for future articles on how to make the most out of your season!