How Autocrosser Turned Road Racer Prepares for Road Racing

Julian Garfield has had a year of firsts. He just completed his first year in college and is the first Mazda Solo Advancement Scholarship recipient. With the SCCA June Sprints this weekend, Mazda Motorsports turned to Julian to learn how he was preparing for the event, and how that compares to his preparation in autocross.

By Julian Garfield:

Ever since the successful practice weekend at Blackhawk Farms, I have been very excited to make my SCCA Majors debut at Road America. It has been nearly four years since I’ve been on the track in a session exclusive to Miatas, so you can imagine my excitement to see a class of 58 registered for this weekend’s event. The Hoosier Super Tour at Road America will be my most significant road racing event to date, so of course I wanted to make sure I am properly prepared for the weekend. And unlike the SCCA Solo events that I am most experienced with, I actually get the chance to prepare.

When preparing yourself for an Autocross, there is much left to be desired. Since each Autocross course is unique, there is not a specific way to prepare for the course you are going to encounter. Although most of the competitors attending already know that an Autocross course always consists of slaloms and sweepers of all shapes and sizes, there is no way to know what it’ll look like until you get there. Part of the skill to Autocrossing is preparing yourself to be unprepared, and learning as much as you can from the instant you set foot on the pavement. The first turn you make on course is a part of the competition.

On the flipside, road racing has many resources that allow you to familiarize yourself with the layout ahead of time. I dusted off the PC computer and renewed my membership on iRacing, and just like that I’m lapping the MX-5 Cup car around Road America. By my side is a couple pages worth of notes on my laptop from driver coach Danny Bender, walking me through the track turn-by-turn. Once I was content after long sessions of consistent lapping, I pull up YouTube videos at the June Sprints from previous years that are readily available to watch the inputs, passing zones, and strategy of experienced drivers. While a simulator and videos are still far from the real thing, beginning to develop the visual and muscle memory before even leaving the house is far better than any way to prepare for a Solo event.

Despite having more material to practice, there will still be a lot to learn from my first session on Friday morning. Many of my competitors have competed at Road America many times before, so I will be doing my best to get up to speed in the sessions preceding my first Hoosier Super Tour race. I will be looking to my “lack of preparation” preparation skills from Solo to help me quickly adapt to the track this weekend, and put it together with what I have gathered from simulation and videos to hopefully get a pair of solid finishes!

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