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MY FIRST INTERNATIONAL RACE REPORT
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In the run up to Christmas I was over in California to visit some family and as part of the holiday I got to race in an Autocross event in San Diego.

To break it down quite simply, the event is held in the parking lot of the San Diego Chargers Stadium(which is bloody massive) a course is devised and then marked out with cones, timing beams set up and then it is just a case of fastest through the stage wins. (although there are categories based on performance and mods)

Everyone is split in to four groups and then each group gets three sessions of 10 laps (two practice and one final) with the time in the final counting towards your overall result. Each group also does a stint of marshalling when they are not running.

The event was a “run what you’ve brung” affair and as long as your car passed a basic scrutineering and you had a helmet, you were good to go.

There was a great spread of cars at the event, from the high end, (Corvette ZR1 & ZR06, Ferrari Dino)

Highly modified, (stripped 924s and S2000s)

What you’d expect (lots of flavours of Porsche, Lotus Exige)

to the silly (VW Beetle, Ford Taurus)

and I was lucky enough to be handed the keys to a 2012 Porsche 911 GTS for the day.

The course itself was set up to reward precision and handling over sheer power, which helped to level the playing field. A full throttle left hander off the start led on to a second gear right, getting the corner spot on meant you were able to hit about 80mph before braking hard in to another second gear right. Another 85mph straight took you the start of the more challenging part of the course. The top section of the course was on quite a gradient and was set up with most of the corners being off camber. The first was a double apex left hander into a 90 degree right with a surface change where a big pot hole had been filled in, which upset the balance of the car. Next up was a section that was like taking Graham Hill bend and then Druids in reverse, great fun and just perfect for drifting round. After that was a downhill right and then flat out left (also downhill) into the slalom section which not only tightened towards the end but was also a corner is well which helped create a few spinners during the day, all finished off with a tight right and left to the finish. All in all a great course that really meant you had to be on top of your car all the time.

As this was my first Autocross event with the club, I was required to have an instructor with my during my first session and once I’d managed to translate what he was saying (“Grabbing”= Understeer, “Humping” = Going very fast and “Bitchin” = Jolly good show old chap) it was a useful addition to the day, especially the passenger ride in his car, a stripped out 924 on semi slicks, which helped with spotting of the course and not getting lost in all the cones.

First session of the day was in the wet. Which instantly put me at an advantage over the southern Californian guys who barely see rain. To be honest though I spent most of the session seeing just how far I could get the back end out and how smoothly I could drift round the Druids corner. As the day went on the track became bone dry and the serious driving took over. Given the most sold thing you would hit was a bunch of cones, you could really push to find the limit of your car without much risk.

The thing I took away from the practice laps was just how hard you have to brake in a 911 in order to get the front end to really bite. But once I’d mastered that, the car was a joy to drive.

So my times – Given that I’d never driven the car before, I had all my racing driver excuses ready (unfamiliar car, steering wheel on the wrong side, etc, etc) but my fastest time of the day was a 1.05.86 which put me first in category, in the top 20 overall (out of 114 registered runners) and most pleasingly 3 seconds faster than the owner of the car I was driving, which given he had just been on the GT3 Cup car course at the Porsche driving school at Barber, I was dead chuffed about. The fastest time of the day was a low 1.03 in a 2012 Boxster Spyder on full slicks.

Now here is where things start to get a bit depressing for us in the UK, first off the price of the event.
The entire day, with all the timing, organisation and instructor training cost…….

$50 (around £30)

Just compare that to how much a track day costs over here, it also begs that question that if you can do this sort of thing over in the states, the most litigious country on the planet, how come we don’t really have it over here? A day’s racing for £30 (even if it is only really charging round a bunch of cones in a car park) would be awesome and the low cost coupled with the ability to drive anything you want could take a lot of the racing off of the streets and into a controlled environment. (Part of the thinking behind the event in San Diego and why the stadium also has a two car drag strip for open events to be held on as well)

Updated January 3, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Nice write up. Does indeed sound like both a good day and bloody excellent VFM 8) Top marks for bagging a GTS too! :)

Updated January 3, 2013 at 12:31 PM

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BMW Car Magazine

8)

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Pilouil
Citroen C3 1.4 HDI 69.0424 bhp

Quality!

The nearest thing I've done here is a car control day round a coned course one at a time. That was about 70 quid for a day so less than a track day, and not timed (officially).

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That looked like fun. 8).

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I can only please one person a day. Today is not your day and tomorrow don't look good either.

30 quid because not many laps ?

_Mick_N said...

30 quid because not many laps ?

Laps to £ ratio worked out at this event to be about £1 per lap (I did 30 odd laps)

Is it way more expensive in the UK ? You can get openpit track days for under 100 quid and you could easily manage more than 100 laps in a day.

_Mick_N said...

Is it way more expensive in the UK ? You can get openpit track days for under 100 quid and you could easily manage more than 100 laps in a day.

Fair point but would that include full timing and Instructor training?

Matt Sketch said...

_Mick_N said...

Is it way more expensive in the UK ? You can get openpit track days for under 100 quid and you could easily manage more than 100 laps in a day.

Fair point but would that include full timing and Instructor training?


No but at least it's on a proper track

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Making pancake mix for your mums pancake tits.

Track day for less than £100? :shock:
In France I don't think you can get one for less than £250 :? ... and it will probably be crowded; for a limited number of cars you have to spend £300+

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Pilouil
Citroen C3 1.4 HDI 69.0424 bhp

bookatracks open pit at Oulton Park is usually something like 89 quid, cracking setting too.

Mito Man said...

Matt Sketch said...

_Mick_N said...

Is it way more expensive in the UK ? You can get openpit track days for under 100 quid and you could easily manage more than 100 laps in a day.

Fair point but would that include full timing and Instructor training?


No but at least it's on a proper track

Again a fair enough point but in this event the timing is the key thing and what made it a race rather than a blast about. Track days are fun, but for me, they lack the competitive element. What made the autocross event so enjoyable was the fact you were racing for the best time of the day, be it against others in your category or everyone else.

Are they any events in the UK where you can turn up in your road car and race full bore against the clock and other competitors? As far as I’m aware even Hillclimb and sprint events (which would be the closest format to this) you need a race license and car with a roll cage. And the cost of entry is alot more for less runs as well.

Matt Sketch said...

Again a fair enough point but in this event the timing is the key thing and what made it a race rather than a blast about. Track days are fun, but for me, they lack the competitive element. What made the autocross event so enjoyable was the fact you were racing for the best time of the day, be it against others in your category or everyone else.


Btw do you know how the insurance is sorted out for such an event? In France a carefully selected road car insurance will cover track days but never a timed competition.

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Pilouil
Citroen C3 1.4 HDI 69.0424 bhp

pilouil said...

Matt Sketch said...

Again a fair enough point but in this event the timing is the key thing and what made it a race rather than a blast about. Track days are fun, but for me, they lack the competitive element. What made the autocross event so enjoyable was the fact you were racing for the best time of the day, be it against others in your category or everyone else.


Btw do you know how the insurance is sorted out for such an event? In France a carefully selected road car insurance will cover track days but never a timed competition.

No idea i'm afraid, I doubt it wouldn't be covered under normal car insurance and i suspect quite a few of the runners wouldn't of had any special insurance for the day. One guy's engine let go on the day I was there and he just called a tow truck to get his car home, not sure what he was going to tell his insurer though.

How did you like San Diego - I'd have stopped by to say hello, my office overlooks the Qualcomm parking lot ;) Apparently it's the biggest parking lot west of the Mississippi river...

I didn't know the events were so cheap, I'd have done one in the RSX if I'd known.

The drag strip is 1/8th mile, not 1/4, but is still good for keeping the kids off the street - the police sponsor it.

Good effort with the times, bet the 911 owner was a bit grumpy!

We absolutely do have such events here in the UK. They're called sprints and hillclimbs.

A much overlooked branch of motorsport, but they're mainly on well known tracks, e.g. Goodwood, Castle Combe or proper hillclimb venues like Harewood, Gurston Down etc.

Against the clock and any type of car is eligible for most events.

The MLR organise some great sprints that the GTROC (and others) are invited to and I had a great day at Combe in the GT-R a couple of years ago.

They're usually less than a couple of hundred quid, sometimes a lot less.

Some of you budding Sennas should try one.

ETA, we also do autocrossing and other car park events too, but sprints are far more fun as you get to do them on proper tracks and get up to some decent speeds.

Updated January 3, 2013 at 5:47 PM

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Matt Sketch said...

Are they any events in the UK where you can turn up in your road car and race full bore against the clock and other competitors? As far as I’m aware even Hillclimb and sprint events (which would be the closest format to this) you need a race license and car with a roll cage. And the cost of entry is alot more for less runs as well.

Yes, but you have to be a member of a car club and its usually in a field on much tighter slower courses.

Saw the evidence of an autocross on of the casino parking lots in Las Vegas

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Ben
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"you don't look like a fussy eater"

David_Yu said...

We absolutely do have such events here in the UK. They're called sprints and hillclimbs.

A much overlooked branch of motorsport, but they're mainly on well known tracks, e.g. Goodwood, Castle Combe or proper hillclimb venues like Harewood, Gurston Down etc.

Against the clock and any type of car is eligible for most events.

The MLR organise some great sprints that the GTROC (and others) are invited to and I had a great day at Combe in the GT-R a couple of years ago.

They're usually less than a couple of hundred quid, sometimes a lot less.

Some of you budding Sennas should try one.

ETA, we also do autocrossing and other car park events too, but sprints are far more fun as you get to do them on proper tracks and get up to some decent speeds.

I've been looking into sprints and hill climbs for a bit as I've been to the Sprints they run each year at Crystal Palace for the past three years. They are a great entry rung to Motorsport, but as far as I'm aware, you do need a MSA competition license to run in them, link unlike the San Diego race which was a pure arrive and drive affair. Is this only MSA events only though and are there events run by clubs where you don't need a race license?

I'm looking at doing my National B race license a bit later this year so will hopefully attending a few sprints in the UK.

Updated January 3, 2013 at 7:14 PM

ExiledChris said...

How did you like San Diego - I'd have stopped by to say hello, my office overlooks the Qualcomm parking lot ;) Apparently it's the biggest parking lot west of the Mississippi river...

I didn't know the events were so cheap, I'd have done one in the RSX if I'd known.

The drag strip is 1/8th mile, not 1/4, but is still good for keeping the kids off the street - the police sponsor it.

Good effort with the times, bet the 911 owner was a bit grumpy!

San Diego is a great city, isn't it. I've had some great nights in the gas lamp district and Mission Beach, although this time I spent most of the time up in La Jolla.

Yep, the owner was a bit sore, but given that he was my Dad I'm sure he'll forgive me (unless I keep bringing it up of course):lol:

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