10 steps for the first time AutoX’r
#1 – Registering
Finding a local AutoX is the easy part. Signing up is easy. It’s when people start looking at all the different classes that people tend to get confused and fast.
Here’s the deal, if this is your first AutoX, chances are you have no clue what the classes mean and frankly, the classing system is a waste of your time on your first time out. Just pick ‘N’ for Novice class, run whatcha brung and enjoy the day. Don’t worry about other cars or what they are doing. Stick to your own pace and your own race, you ain’t wheel-to-wheel yet Mr. Andretti so slow your roll, yah-hear?
#2 – Come Prepared!
AutoXing comes with a unique set of challenges and unique set of thrills. You will be expected to come prepared for the event. The officials working that day are busy and don’t have time to hold your hand through the process. If you don’t find yourself completely prepared ask someone who looks like they’ve done this once or twice. Here’s a quick tip, you’ll see some people with magnetic numbers on their car, ya know, the prepared people… Talk to them. Chances are, this isn’t their first rodeo. Almost every car person at these things is pretty personable and easy to talk with. Letting them know this is your first time, they’ll most likely be more than happy to show you the ropes.
Here’s a quick run-down of the things you’ll need prior to being at your first AutoX:
- Tools (hey shit breaks, it happens). A simple set of hand tools usually does the job. If you have coil overs, bring the wrench. You’ll need it. For right now, if this is your first event, don’t bother with tire pressures, chances are you’ll need to focus on driving style first, then you can tweak your ride.
- Jack. Bring it. You may not need it, but trust us, you will.
- Spare parts, belts, spare tire, misc nuts and bolts..etc.
- A high contrast color tape. You’ll be given a number and a class (remember, pick NOVICE). You’re expected to put this number is BIG letters in a high contrast color on your car. Painters tape works great as it’s easy to remove after the event. You’ll usually find one or two people desperately seeking and asking for tape the morning of the event, don’t be that guy.
- Bring food and water, lots of water. Most of these events are held in large parking lots with ZERO shade. Bring water. Just do it.
- Hats, sweatshirts, towels… prepare for rain or cold weather. It happens and the events run rain or shine.
- Sunscreen, lots of shiny cars and pavement? Yea, sunburns are a mother.
- Helmet. Every AutoX requires it, bring it.
This is just the basic list, you’ll refine your basic kit once you gain experience.
#3 – Show up early
The course will be all set up by the time you arrive. Show up early to mingle with the crowd. People at these things are pretty cool and most likely have a similar car as you so talking how the car drives and handles is good fodder.
You’ll then be expected to sign in and chose a ‘job’ for the day. These things are run by the members (you) and everyone that runs is expected to work.
From there, you’ll be expected to pass through tech inspection. Showing up early allows you to dump everything in the car onto your small make-shift pit space. Space is limited so be thoughtful of where you put your gear. Tech inspection is pretty basic:
- Nothing loose inside the car that can become a projectile and/or distract the driver. AKA, no floor mats, no fuzzy dice and no hula-girls on the dash. GoPro’s and other cameras are fine as long as they aren’t obtrusive.
- Solid brake pedal. The tech will get in and jam on the pedal, if it doesn’t get hard (PHRASING!!) within a pump or two, you won’t pass.
- Nothing visibly leaking from the car. No oil, coolant, brake fluid…etc.
- No loose suspension. The tech will shake the car on all four wheels for loose suspension and steering parts. Get used to your car being violated in all sorts of ways, just relax and take it.
- Safety inspection. Your helmet will need to pass tech, most are 2010 or newer with a SNELL rating. Check with your local AutoX club for specifics. Fire suits and HANS devices are not required, but never a bad idea. Seat belts need to be in the stock location or better than what was factory installed on the car.
Beyond that, you should be golden. Tire choice? Don’t worry about it, you’re running NOVICE class. No one cares.
#4 – Work Assignment
Guess what, you get to work when you aren’t driving. Most good places will get your 5-6 or more runs in your car, which isn’t a great ratio of work/drive time, but considering how many other people there are, it’s the best that can be done. Everyone gets the same opportunity and work duties as you, you ain’t special princess.
When you check in, you’ll be expected to choose a work assignment. If this is your first time, pick “cone shagger” also known as a corner worker. Your job is to stare at a singular cone out of thousands and make sure it doesn’t move. If it does, you are to replace it safely and efficiently and notify the person with the clip board.
It sounds basic, but after watching a few hundred laps of the course, you’ll soon see what makes a fast lap and what costs you time. Being out there with the cars is pretty valuable information. Plus, you need your exercise.
#5 – Take an instructor!
The AutoX by me has this great sign and I chuckle every time I see it. Mainly because I’m easily amused and my ability to retain knowledge is about 15 second worth, so it’s always new and fresh to me.
If you are new to this game, you’ll be required to take an instructor with you. Mainly because they want to make sure you are a safe driver and aren’t going to kill anyone. But secondly, help you drive faster! I generally take one with me a couple times almost every event because it’s great ballast to even the car out and hell, I know I could always use some improvement. Instructors are free and can really be a wealth of knowledge, take them with you and listen to what they have to say. Chances are, not only have they been in faster cars that yours, they’re probably faster with a lot less car than you already have.
#6 – Walk the course
Before every event, you’ll be able to walk the course with no cars allowed. This gives you a great chance to look around and see what lines you may want to take, where you might want to brake and chances for serious acceleration. There will also be a “NOVICE” course walk usually given a guided tour of the course by one of the instructors or even by the course designer themselves.
#7 – Talk to people!
Cars are cool. People are cool. Car people are cool. Talk to them! Get to know people! Ask questions, ask how to make it through that one turn that everyone blows right through… Network, network network!! Hell, grab some random person who has a car similar to yours and invite a little healthy competition, it never hurts! Just by asking once, I was able to get a ride in a car similar to mine during one this guys runs and he showed me just how SLOW I really was driving. After jumping out of his car and back into mine, I chopped off nearly 2 second off my time. It really does pay to chat people up. Remember, car people love to talk cars and so do you!
#8 – SLOW DOWN!
We’ve seen it time and time again where the first time autox’r gets their first real taste of speed and adrenaline. Getting ‘hooked’ is the easy part, slowing down is something else entirely. You’ll learn pretty quick that you aren’t as fast of a driver as you thought you were. At least, that’s what we learned.
It’s easy to get caught up in the times, who’s faster than who and what kind of car they drive. Your first inclination will probably be to upgrade parts, because hey, better parts means faster times, right?!
Negatory Ghost Rider. The old saying is 100% true that a fast driver can make a mediocre car fast and a poor driver can make a fast car slow.
After your first AuoX, slow down, concentrate on the nut behind the steering wheel and learn to control what you have first before shelling out big bucks for parts that you probably aren’t ready for.
#9 – LEARN!
We honestly cannot emphasize this point enough. Since this is your first time, you’re going to be swimming with all sorts of information, adrenaline, ideas and the lot. This is about safe speed where you can learn the limits of your car and learn just how slow you really are. That’s fine! Work on it, refine driver error and learn to man handle your ride to the full potential. Good chances are that you aren’t EVEN close to the limit of the car.
#10 – Have fun. Period.
Let’s get real. This is a locally held event and there ain’t no Formula 1 scouts just looking for your talent, get over yourself. And no, this isn’t the place to play drift king either. This is a cheap, inexpensive form of racing that just gives you a taste of what it’s like out there with the big dogs. Trust us, they are a hell of a lot faster than you. So, set your ego aside, talk to as many people as you can, absorb as much data as you can, gain experience points and have fun with your ride. How many places can you honestly drive as fast and as hard as you want without watching your back for Johnny Law?
This isn’t the time to go rip-roaring out of the event either. As a group, AutoX will get the blame for any bad behavior, so be the poster-boy for the sport so we can get invited back to giant playgrounds of asphalt.