May 16, 2009

Beginner Autocross School

Every year, SCCA NER holds two autocross schools that club members are enabled to attend; beginner and intermediate. Today was the beginner class, and though I have prior experience, I still learned a lot!

The event started off with tech inspection as usual, but was followed by a good hour of sitting down and going over a packet that included various terms of how to take turns, sit properly within your seat, proper hand positions on the steering wheel, etc. Shortly after, we were all split into 3 groups to tackle 3 different exercise courses.
Exercise 1 was a slalom course. There were two slaloms, one set up equal length apart, while the other was set up with different lengths between the cones. As you go through one slalom, there was a sharp turn at the end that allowed you to turn around and go through the other slalom.

Exercise 2 was a clam shell course. For those who are unfamiliar with what a clam shell is - imagine a curve, like a turn, with a cone on the other side...so it's a gate you have to go through at a angle. There were 5 clam shells, followed by a quick 6 pack of cones, and then a long sweeper to go backwards on the course. It was really to teach you to not only look ahead and how to take clam shells, but to learn how to position your car for when you're looking ahead, visualizing where you want to be at the end of each turn, and so forth.

Exercise 3 was what is called a Kidney Bean. In this case, imagine if you were looking down at a kidney bean, and that is how the cones were setup. Sort of like an oval, only with a pinch. Another exercise that focuses on looking ahead and setting your car up for upcoming turns. Once I got the hang of this, this was a really fun one.

In the end, they threw together Exercises 2 and 3, and threw in a slalom to connect the two, creating a small autocross course to put everyone to the test. We had people from high level, to very beginner attacking this course, along with some people with R compounds. I managed to rank 9th out of 36. The instructors for the day said I looked really good out there, and that 58' wasn't a bad time at all. I guess plenty of room for improvement as well though.

I definitely recommend this class to all beginner autocrossers though, as I learned many things. I'm sure regardless of how much you are interested in autocross, you'll find some enjoyment out of taking this course.
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