56 OCTOBER 2019 scca.com
My wife Meredith usually works as a starter at our Regional autocross events
and, after a recent event, she mentioned
something that only starters seem to notice:
Drivers at Regional events can be amazingly
careless about how they stage. Since this
is the simplest aspect of an autocross run
to get right, let’s dive into this topic, and
we’ll end the column with, err, the end.
At events with a tight corner between
staging and the lights, drivers often line up
anywhere along the width of the staging
line, yet those not lined up at the outer
edge are failing to maximize the radius of
that first turn. Meanwhile, at events where
a launch is possible, Meredith says she sees
drivers not paying attention and staging a
foot or two past the staging line. Once again,
those drivers lose speed (and therefore
add time) once they hit the course.
Discussions with those drivers back in the
grid reveal that they have not been thinking
about how they staged but given that there
is no particular urgency in the drive from grid
to the start line, this seems like something
that warrants a few seconds of thought.
When I have the opportunity to ride with
other autocrossers, I always seem to need to
discuss how they’ve staged, and they usually
say that’s the first time they’ve thought about
it. When I’m walking a course, I always want
to know where we’re actually being staged,
and where the start beam is located and
then, whenever I approach the start line,
I work to get the car in the optimal position.
Now, at Tire Rack Solo Championship
Tours and Tire Rack ProSolos, this isn’t an
issue – everyone pretty much stages where
they ought to. Consequently, it’s curious that at
local events this is not necessarily the case. We
are timed to the thousandth of a second at both
Regional and National events – why are people
so willing to give up tenths at a Regional for
no reason? Now that this is foremost on your
mind, take an extra moment to make sure you
get the best start to every autocross run. With
that resolved, let’s jump to the end, as there
are mistakes aplenty to be made at the finish.
Let’s assume the course is set up with
adequate runoff space so that drivers get
to accelerate through the finish lights. I’ve
driven more than a few courses that had
us on the brakes before the finish. For that
matter, I’ve been responsible for such a
layout at least once. Let’s be clear: this is
not a driver error, it’s a design error.
On a course not featuring such a gaffe,
we’ve all seen drivers lift, or even brake,
before the finish trips. All that work to get
to the finish so quickly, and now you give
up a second or two with a premature lift?
This error dwarfs any mistakes made at the
start. I’ve admonished my share of student
drivers about this – don’t quit early!
Getting the finish right requires knowing
where the finish line is found, which is
something to learn on the course walk.
Most Regions have cones of different
colors that make finding that essential
line easier – a pair of big green cones is
easy to see in anger, even for a new driver.
The flip side is that once you pass those
cones, slow down safely and immediately.
There’s time to be lost everywhere
on course. Before the start is one of the
easier ones to correct. Before the finish
isn’t much more difficult. The stuff between
those, however, is a touch harder.
BEGINNING TO END
Presenting two simple tips to knock a few tenths of a second off your
time during your next autocross run | WORDS Paul Brown | IMAGE Jeff Loewe
One of the easiest ways
to set yourself up for a
successful autocross run
is to stage correctly.