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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just saw a thread about Solo II (Autocrossing) and it reminded me of a question I'm usually too uncomfortable to ask. First let me say, I'm trying to ask in a I-really-want-to-understand-your-point-of-view sort of way not in a trolling my-racing-is-better-than-your-racing sort of way.

I tried Solo II racing in college as my first introduction to performance driving. I thought it was great, I went every month my junior and senior years, I was driving a beat up '87 MR2 at the time. I maybe have done 10-15 solo ii events in my lifetime.

Then I graduated college and got my first fast car, a '93 RX-7 R1. I took it to one auto cross and thought, wow, there's a whole lot in this car that I can get to on these short courses. That lead me to HPDEs and later to abandoning street cars and racing shifter karts.

So I guess where my question stems from is the people that take solo II really, really seriously. I think it's a great way to let someone dabble with their cars limits in a safe environment, but for me it ended up being a quick stepping stone as I learned about where I could pursue driving, it never really jumped out as an 'end-game' for driving to me. In particular the 'indexing' where a national formula was applied to adjust times that are recorded on a specific track seemed to be so silly as to undermine the competitiveness (at least across classes).

What attracted you to solo II from a time, money, effort-energy stand point to really want to compete at a high level in Solo II? Have you tried other types of racing and just really prefer the Solo format?

If it at all sounds like I'm poo-pooing auto crossing, again my apologies, there's room for all sorts of motor sports and motor sports enthusiasts and I'm not trying to pick on anyone. I just know when I see a car set up for auto crossing my two first thoughts are 'Wow, they make tires that wide?' and 'Man I wish I could get that car on a full sized racetrack' and just am curious to try to understand the mindset from someone who really just loves solo II.
 

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I don't do SCCA stuff since my local PCA club puts on AXs. I'd rather support them since I'm a member. AX allows me to test and tune, so to speak. Play with pressures, get to know my car, its behavior, and car control. What I learn here I take back with me to DEs. I also advise my students to do so since its a very controlled environment without the greater possibility of car damage. Plastic cones have a tendency to do a lot less damage than an off on the track; all it takes is a little elbow grease to rub out the marks.
 

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It's fun. It's cheap. It's local. Down sides (at least at my local SCCA club)- LOTS of standing around. Eight minutes of seat time if your lucky. They waste a lot of time and runs people off due to special rules for some people and difficult courses.
 

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It's fun. It's cheap. It's local. Down sides (at least at my local SCCA club)- LOTS of standing around. Eight minutes of seat time if your lucky. They waste a lot of time and runs people off due to special rules for some people and difficult courses.
Thanx for mentioning this; I forgot.

In my local club we get 10 runs in and we'll be home in time to watch the game at half or less the cost than SCCA. We actually have lots of SCCA guys support us because of this even so we charge them double.
 

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It's cheap, it's local, and it's low risk.

But what I really like is that to do well at autocross, you really have to be driving that hairy edge of traction all the time; driving within a hair's breadth of out-of-control is just really fun and really appealing.

I do (and enjoy) time trials as well, but any time you're on the track, you have to hold back; you have to keep that margin of safety because crossing the line is so risky and dangerous. Which is just frustrating. If I'm terrified I'm going to wreck my car, I'm not having fun. Straight-line speeds alone aren't all that exciting- I'd much rather drive 10/10 at an autocross than 9/10th at higher speeds on a track.
 

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Auto-x is a great place to test various suspension set-ups and tire combinations in as safe of an environment as reasonably possible before heading to the track. As a general rule, I will not try a set-up change unless I have run it in an auto-x event.

Our local PCA and BMWCCA events give 6-8 runs, and you get home by 3:00 PM or so. The SCCA thing is great for measuring against serious competition, but is a lot more of a PITA to put up with, and P-cars are universally classed badly there. So, try a PCA event for a good user friendly experience.

Personally, I started auto-x, then moved to road racing for about 10 years. When my daughter tuned 16, I went back to auto-x with her to let her have some advanced car control experience, and have some fun family time. Now I am still doing auto-x as well as track days. It is all good fun and experience. I sure am tempted to get back in a Sports 2000 car, but then I remember how much work it is to run your own road race car.

Auto-x can be a fun casual car hobby type experience - just try it again with PCA.149
 

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As said in previous post, autoX is where you can max out and DE you have to hold back. I generally tell people that autoX is more skills while DE is more guts.

I do do DE but I enjoy autoX more and it's a great social venue.
 

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AutoX is much lower risk. You spin out ... No biggie. Maybe just crash into a few cones and car stalls.

as you know, spinning out can cause pretty serious reck to the car. The "requirements" are also much lower. Chances are you can run your tires pretty thin, brake pads and rotates quite low, pretty standard brake fluid, no massive cooling/oil related mods, nor safety devices are needed. I used to take my car to autoX when some of these consumables run on the low side, and I wouldn't really worry about it. the wear and tear is so incredibly low compared to track days.

things could go very wrong on a track. If you have got a guy with lousy maintenance on his car, and the car starts to drop some oil on the track ... They good lord. Then add on top of that you may have silly drivers who just like to do unpredictable things while they are in front of you, and you are looking to pass. Sometimes it's not just you, but rather it has to do with other people messing you up as well on the track. None of that exists in AutoX
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
LOTS of standing around.
I think in hindsight that's probably my biggest complaint. The actual driving was a blast. But the seat time to time invested was really low, and I actually think from a seat time per minute its some of the most expensive seat time I've every spent money on.

It does sound like the PCA AutoX would be more fun as it sounds like double the seat time of the SCCA. I can also appreciate the point about car safety. When I got into karting I started taking full advantage of the low risk in terms of pushing my kart in races and practice. I did a HPDE for the first time in 10 years last year and I was definitely struck by the idea that I felt I could vastly out drive the safety features on my stock car.
 

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AutoX lets me learn to control my car in tight spaces at slow speeds and DE in open spaces at higher speeds. It's always good to learn what you will do and how your car will respond in both of these situations so you can transfer what you've learned to the streets and highways.
 

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High speeds don't do anything for me.

Sawing back and forth on the wheel in second gear is as much fun as you can have with your pants on, IMHO.

Being able to push at 11/10ths with no consequences is a big draw for me.

Straights are only there to get me to the next turn.
 

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I tried Solo II racing in college as my first introduction to performance driving. I thought it was great, I went every month my junior and senior years, I was driving a beat up '87 MR2 at the time. I maybe have done 10-15 solo ii events in my lifetime.

Then I graduated college and got my first fast car, a '93 RX-7 R1. I took it to one auto cross and thought, wow, there's a whole lot in this car that I can get to on these short courses. That lead me to HPDEs and later to abandoning street cars and racing shifter karts.
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Thats crazy! I had the same exact parallel path!

I did some Autox with my bro while in college in the late 90's with my 93 FD but hated standing around picking up cones lol!
My uncle was the SCCA President or VP at the time at his local region therefore inviting us to run AutoX which got us started. With not enough seat time and having real interest in openwheel racing since I was a kid and now able to afford a shifterkart, my bro and I started racing shifters in the early 2000's.

I think the main reason we stopped was just lack of seat time and too much standing around. I liked autox but just not enough track time especially here in socal where entries are over 100 cars, at least back when I did it.
 

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Interesting thread! I was actually thinking of doing some AutoX so I can practice my low speed car control at the limit! For those that do both, do you find that autoX has helped on the high speed stuff, or lets say mid speed stuff, 40-70 mile corners, do you find it is helpful there?
 

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Interesting thread! I was actually thinking of doing some AutoX so I can practice my low speed car control at the limit! For those that do both, do you find that autoX has helped on the high speed stuff, or lets say mid speed stuff, 40-70 mile corners, do you find it is helpful there?
Definitely. You can't really practice 10/10 driving on the track, just because it's so dangerous. That autocross experience helps you learn to control your car on the limit as well as improve your techniques. Lot safer to practice trail-braking at 45mph at an autocross with a lot of run-off than during an HPDE. The skills learned in autocross let you safely drive much closer to the limits of grip on the track than you'd otherwise be able to. Which is important as it's not just driver skill that wins races, but who's got the guts to drive closer to that limit. Learning a new course every event helps with looking ahead and refining driving lines, doubly so as the turns come much faster in autocross than on the track. Going from autocross to the track, the track just seems slow-motion with plenty of time to think things through.

My Boxster S handles a little differently on the track than at autocross, due in large part to tracks generally having larger radius corners which imparts different relative slip angles on the front/rear tires- our cars will tend to be pushier at autocross and looser on the track. Autocross driving lines also tend towards more shortest-distance when compared to the fastest track lines. But when you have the fundamentals down and the muscle memory ingrained, it's easy to go back and forth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Interesting thread! I was actually thinking of doing some AutoX so I can practice my low speed car control at the limit! For those that do both, do you find that autoX has helped on the high speed stuff, or lets say mid speed stuff, 40-70 mile corners, do you find it is helpful there?
I think for sure you should try it, I didn't start the thread to discourage anyone. I personally am starting my kids with karting and karting remains my preferred way of introducing people to performance driving, I haven't found a better driving experience than driving a kart, but that of course means you aren't driving your street car, which in the Porsche is a shame, because they are obviously fabulous. The driving in an autocross is for sure fun and the bench racing and story swapping in between runs is fun in a socializing sort of way.

As for transfers of skills, auto crossing doesn't really feel like driver's events nor do driver's events feel like wheel to wheel racing. And I doubt any of those feel like rally driving, so I'd take it as its own endeaver and enjoy it on its own terms.

You'll have a blast.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thats crazy! I had the same exact parallel path!
Well you are obviously a very smart man!

For me, I'm a first generation racer, nobody I knew raced and I started as a kid just reading car magazines. As such, I had no ideas where to start or what I should be doing, so auto crossing just ended up being what I found first.

But with my kids, they get to start out in karts first thing! They don't know how good they have it.

I think the main reason we stopped was just lack of seat time and too much standing around. I liked autox but just not enough track time especially here in socal where entries are over 100 cars, at least back when I did it.
Yeah ultimately that's just where I come out too, but I'm glad I asked, and hopefully I didn't insult anyone. I hadn't really thought of using it to shake down a car and there's no question you can get your car doing all sorts of strange things in a safe environment.


 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Julian Garfield did a pretty good writeup of Road Racing vs Autocross on blogspot today. He didn't mention it in the article, but he's a long time go-karter, too.

The Student Driver: Road Racing vs Autocrossing
I enjoyed the write up thanks! I think ultimately I'd agree that they are different (although clearly overlapping skill sets). In college I 'competed' on all season street tires due entirely to budget so I was there to develop my skills knowing that I wasn't going to compete with any of the people trailering in their cars. Ultimately the seat time issue is what undermined that driver development aspect as compared with HPDE, karting, or ultimately wheel to wheel racing.

But I totally agree that people who are good at it are demonstrating some serious skills. The ability to nail a turn you've only seen on foot a few times and in your car even less is impressive and maybe more akin to off road rallying where you have a pilot telling you what turns are coming up than normal road course driving skills.
 

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I don't know about other tracks, but all the tracks that are local to me have pretty high barriers of entry - what I want to do is to put my car out on the track and just drive, overtake and have some fun. But what I have to do is to go through run groups (and point-bys) over dozens of track days with the associated costs, in order to get to the sort of driving I want to do. Granted these are deemed necessary at these particular tracks and car clubs, and I don't contest their logic, it does keep more-casual people like me from going.
 
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