Even though I have thousands of autocross runs underneath my butt, there is only a handful that are noteworthy. Of these, my most memorable would have to be one that was almost 30 years ago and didn't come from behind the wheel of a Camaro. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has their premiere Solo event each fall and, at the Nationals, the best of the best compete for that elusive Championship trophy, jacket, recognition within our sport, and the bragging rights that go along with it. I can tell you firsthand (actually I can tell you 11 times), winning your class against the top caliber drivers is pretty cool. My most memorable run? Well, it came deep from within and involved trust in myself, knowing the car and its limits, and feeling what those four corners were doing underneath me. I danced with the car and felt that it just couldn't put a wheel wrong that day. It's a rare "in the zone" run that brings that all together, and while it sounds a bit Zen-like with a hint of "voodoo," it really isn't.
I'm guessing that if you've gotten this far, you've run a couple of the Goodguys autocrosses and want more. While you may never compete at an SCCA Pro-Solo or National championship event, there are lots of regional and local club events where you can hone your skills and develop your car. If you compete for any length of time, you'll improve both. As for pulling the trigger and entering some higher level events, all I can tell you is this: Just do it and don't worry about the stuff you can't control. When you throw down some awesome runs, it will all be worth it.
Here's a course from a Northern California UFO event we ran with the '68 Bad Penny car. It
So how do you get to this level of competition and become that ace driver? Simply put, you work at it. Hard! Autocrossing isn't easy and it's pretty funny when people who haven't tried it tell you that driving tight courses at 35 mph max isn't that difficult and they could turn a quicker time at that Goodguys Autocross. If you've never tried autocross, it's easy to "arm chair" it, but the driving part is much harder than it looks. It's harder than driving on a racetrack as well.
Getting in the groove and putting the smack down on your competition starts with you. Not your car, not the course, but you, the driver. Your attitude can make or break your finishing position not to mention that peg-the-meter fun part. Each autocross run takes about a minute, give or take a few seconds. Some are longer and involve a lot more elements. You're talking huge chunks of concentration and focus as inches on the course translate into tenths and hundredth of a second for your time. Everything has to be precise and controlled with no room for error. While most novices see a parking lot sprinkled with traffic cones, I'm seeing small segments, or elements as we refer to them, all the while looking for any tidbit of available space to fit my big, fat '72 Camaro. It's saving precious real estate without losing length or traction that brings about a quick time no matter the type of course. When I return to my grid space after a run, I mentally replay it, focusing on what I did right and identifying areas on course where I can improve (we'll talk more about this later on). While it's hard not to do, don't beat yourself up about mistakes, as we all make them, myself included. The most important thing is to never give up and to keep attacking the course elements. While spectators think fast is lots of tire smoke and sliding sideways, that winning run will need smart, calculating precision coupled with smoothness behind the wheel. Realize, too, there is no such thing as a "perfect" autocross run, although some do come close.