An autocross can be technically defined as a form of motorsport emphasizing safe, competitive and active participation. It is a timed competitive event in which drivers navigate one at a time through a defined course on a paved surface. Autocross differs from road racing and oval racing in that generally there is only one car on the track, racing against the clock rather than other cars.
Autocross courses vary in length and tend to place demands on car handling and driver skill rather than on engine power and outright speed. Courses may be temporary and marked by traffic cones or be permanent tracks with approval by a motorsport body.
Events typically have many classes that allow almost any vehicle, from economy sedans to purpose-built racing cars, to compete. Due to the nature of a typical track, speeds can be slower when compared to other forms of motorsports, usually not exceeding highway speeds, but the activity level (measured in discrete turns per minute) can be higher than even Formula One due to the large number of elements packed into each course.
Doing an autocross is the perfect opportunity to see just how much oversteer it takes to get your car pointed in the wrong direction. You can put your Andretti self-image to the ultimate test by diving into those corners at uncompromising speeds, without worrying about the closest curb—or the watchful eyes of law enforcement. But remember, those evil orange cones are waiting for you; they look innocent enough, but every one squished will add two seconds to your time. Ouch!
Our timing-and-scoring crew will get your times posted as quickly as possible. Your fastest run will determine your final autocross standing. Trophies will be awarded for each class, with the number of trophies per class determined by the number of entries. Finally, be prepared for the after-math. In the days following the event, you’ll be wearing a grin. You’ll have made some new friends. And you may just be carrying home a trophy.
Oh, yeah—and you’ll definitely be looking forward to your next autocross and O’Fest!
Please review the classes to know which group you will run with.
The above video was filmed at our 2013 Oktoberfest Autocross at the 44th Annual Oktoberfest in Monterey, California.
What is an O’Fest Autocross?
When we asked San Diego Chapter Autocross Chair Kim Schwarz, she said it was a familiar question with a straight forward answer. “We set up a bunch of cones in an empty parking lot, mapping out a miniature road course, and then, one car at a time, we drive through the cones— and frequently over them —as fast as we can, all while having great fun!” Stripped down, that’s the essence of an autocross: drive quickly through that forest of cones, while trying not to smash the poor things. Autocrossing is truly an addictive hobby—the anticipation of that first lap, the adrenaline rush that kicks in when your foot mashes the throttle, the exhilaration you feel when you run a fast, clean lap and, of course, the teasing and smiles among your rivals. You’ll leave the O’Fest Autocross with a grin that will last for days!
On Being a Novice
You’ll remember your first event for a long time. The adrenaline that makes you shake at the start-line before your first run, and the even bigger surge of adrenaline you feel when you finish. That excitement is part of the sport, and it’s why we all do this.
Don’t let being a novice overwhelm you! Every driver, including national champions, had a first day and a novice season. Autocrossing is a skill that requires instruction and practice to see improvements. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be so competitive, or so fun. In fact, when experienced road racers come to autocross for the first time, we often put them in Novice Class. It’s not like falling off a log for them, either. The great thing about this sport, though, is that even when you’re going ‘slow’ it’s still fun driving.
The course may seem ‘busy’ at first, because it’s tighter than what you see on the street, and you’re trying to attack it faster than you could in traffic. You’ll have fun learning the sport and learning to keep the car in control as you get faster and better with more seat-time.
With that said, here are some tips to give you the right novice attitude, so you don’t become discouraged:
Your goal is to have fun! That’s why everyone is here.
Your goal for the first run is to avoid getting lost on course (see course-walking tips).
Your goal for the rest of the day is to improve your time on each run.
On the Day of the Event
Plan to arrive early so you have plenty of time to prep and tech your car, walk the course, and meet your fellow autocrossers. A mandatory drivers’ meeting will detail how the day will unfold, review the schedule and safety items, explain timing-and scoring— beware the penalties for cone carnage!—and gently remind folks that some auto-insurers will not cover timed events. At the end of the meeting, you’ll be given instructions on what to do next.
Helmets, if required, must be rated to the following Snell, SFI or FIA standards:
184.108.40.206 Snell-Rated Helmets.
220.127.116.11.1 Either Snell EA (Elite Application), SA (Special Application), or Snell M (Motorcycle) helmets may be used. Chapters may at their discretion choose to require the more stringent SA rating for high-speed events such as driving schools.
18.104.22.168.2 Helmets must be rated to the current or prior Snell standard, with the exception that a helmet may be used until the end of the eleventh year of its standard’s release.
Example: If the current standard is Snell 2015, then helmets meeting either Snell 2015 or the prior Snell 2010 standard are allowed. In addition, Snell 2010 helmets could be used through the grace period (the eleventh year) until the end of calendar year 2021.
Recommendation: Any older helmet used during the grace period should be replaced as soon as possible with one that meets the current standard.
22.214.171.124 SFI or FIA Rated Helmets. Helmets that meet BMW CCA Club Racing eligibility rules at the time of the event are also allowed. These presently include SFI 31.1 for FR (Flame resistant)/SFI 41.1 for non-FR and FIA 8860, subject to change.
Recommendation: Use of a full-face helmet with a face shield attached is strongly advised.
Any external visor above the eye port should be removed. Other than a slight venting of the face shield to avoid fogging, it is strongly advised that all full-face helmets with face shields affixed should be worn with the shield in the closed position. If the face shield remains open, or if an open-face helmet is used, eye protection should be worn. Contact lenses worn alone are not considered appropriate eye protection.
Vehicles used to autocross must be in acceptable mechanical condition such that they do not present unacceptable hazards to participants or to the facility. BMW CCA and/or the Chapters reserve the right to reject any vehicle for any reason.
Technical/Safety Review Items
All vehicles must pass a safety review prior to each event. Safety inspectors may identify defects in the vehicle, but should not attempt to fix them. Below are examples of items that could be checked by an event staff worker familiar with the safety and mechanical systems of vehicles. Beyond checking that the required safety equipment is present and that the vehicle is not leaking fluids, the extent of the safety inspection is at the discretion of the event organizer, keeping in mind that the primary consideration is to minimize hazards for all individuals at the event. The ultimate responsibility for the condition of the vehicle rests with the participant.
- Wheels must be safely attached and exhibit no cracks. Wheel nuts/bolts should be tightened to the manufacturer’s recommended value.
- All loose items must be removed from the vehicle. If a video camera is employed, it must be securely mounted.
- Tires must show no cords, belts, or cracks in the tread or sidewall.
- Seat belts and/or harnesses must be properly installed and in good condition. Note: Due to their special safety considerations, karts are exempt from requiring seat belts.
- Brakes must be in good working order, have no leaks under pressure, and have adequate fluid in the master cylinder.
- No fluid leaks (fuel, oil, coolant, power steering fluid, transmission and differential fluids, brake fluid) are permitted while the vehicle’s engine is running.
- Wheel bearings, steering mechanism, suspension, and shocks must be in good operating condition.
- The exhaust should be in good working order.
- Helmets for all occupants must meet the minimum standards.
- Competitors driving karts of any kind are required to wear a collar type neck brace designed for motorsports use, as well as gloves, jackets and full length pants made of leather, vinyl, abrasion resistant nylon or equivalent.
- Closed-toed shoes are mandatory for drivers. No open-toed shoes, sandals or “flip-flops” are allowed on course.
- Roll bars, if installed, must be properly and securely mounted.
When it is Your Turn
- Have fun—that’s mandatory!
- If you get lost in Cone Land, try to get back on course— but check for oncoming cars before you do.
- This is your opportunity to explore the limits of your car and your abilities, so do it!