Sunday, February 26, 2017

Autocross: The Great Equalizer

There are many different ways you can build a car.  Shiny or rusty, SEMA or Symco, stage rally or road course, they all are trying to achieve a goal.  Often people want more power when they build, and while power is fun, they don't always add it in a usable way.  I've seen plenty of cars with added power and either too poor of tire or too lame of suspension to get that power to the ground and do something with it.  It seems to me that of you spent thousands of dollars on a fancy engine, you would want to be able to enjoy the power it can make in more ways than a burnout (not to discount the juvenile joy of burnouts; I love those too).  If only there was a stage on which you could drive your car enthusiastically and enjoy it without fear of hitting other competitors or going off into a ditch or wall and ruining your museum piece of a car.

Because that would really suck.
But wait!  There is!  Autocross is a wonderful type of racing that puts you at odds with the clock and yourself with nothing to hit but cones.  Normally autocross races are held in large, unused parking lots.  These big flat areas have nothing to drive or off of and seem to be the safest way to enjoy an expensive build quickly.  The cars basically do individual time trials and try to speed up every time they go.  It's supposed to be a race against yourself, but I always find a couple of cars I feel I should be able to do better than.  I mean, it's never worked, but you gotta have goals, right?

This guy was really getting after it, and that was surprising to see with a car that expensive.
This thing you could tell was built for this.
My absolute favorite part about autocross is that it doesn't matter what you bring just as long as you're there.  This is the kind of racing where a $600 beater with the right modifications can hang with expensively built cars, especially the ones that are a little too much form over function.  It doesn't matter how good it looks so long as it's fast and corners well.

No.  This guy was not fast, but he had fun.
This shows a good cross section.  My friend is finishing his run with his stripped out V6 5-speed Camaro while a first gen Monte Carlo and a fast third gen Camaro are waiting to run.
Of the few times I've participated, my favorite "underdog" story I've seen was the kid in the late '90s 4-cylinder 5-speed Ranger that was slammed on sticky tires.  I said, "I'm sure I can beat him. I've got twice the engine!"  Unknown to me was the fact that those Rangers have plastic fenders and hood and a fiberglass bed and his suspension seemed pretty dialed in.  My best was a 39-second pass, his was 34, and the quickest car there was 29.  It's all about the right modifications and knowing how to best use your vehicle.  Then the next year he V8 swapped it, but if I'm honest, I think he needs to change his front spring rates because it leans more now.  It's still really quick.

This was after the V8 swap.
I wish I lived closer to where these events happen because they always start so dang early, and I'd be leaving the house at around 6am to get there in time for the driver's meeting and walk through.  Maybe when my car becomes more competitive I'll be more enthusiastic about the early mornings.

I don't have the right car, but it sure is fun!

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