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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The local SCCA is finally able to hold events again, and this weekend they held an autocross in the small ”vehicle dynamics” area at the city’s public safety training center. There were races Saturday and Sunday mornings, but we were only able to attend the Sunday event. We’ve had an unseasonable cold snap, and today it was windy with temps starting out around 38 degrees and ending in a high in the low 50’s with brief squalls of graupel (!).

I last autocrossed when I was in college, running an ‘86 VW GTI. So my Cayman was very different in both horsepower and handling—but in a good way. Even better, I convinced my wife to try autocrossing for the first time. She did great, overcoming some serious jitters (and nausea after her first run from all the adrenaline) to place sixth in the novice class. I managed second in novice, ¼ second behind the first place Tesla, out of 19 competitors.

We each got five runs, which I think helped get and keep heat in the tires. (I talked with one competitor who used his A/S3s instead of his RE-71Rs because of the temps!) I definitely noticed more grip in the later runs, and I managed to drop about a second over my previous time with each run. What struck me the most about the handling was how I could feel the PTV help sharpen my line around a couple of the corners. That, combined with the mid-engine balance made the slalom portion of the course almost simple. I’m able to get about -1.5° of camber in the front, but I could still feel the car push a bit in some places; I’d go for -3° if the stock suspension would allow it, but I don’t want to get into upgrading the LCAs quite yet. (I’m still running the stock PS4Ses, and had them at 30 PSI for the day. They wore evenly, so no real complaints with them.)

We both had a blast and can’t wait to run at the next event they put on—but hopefully with a little warmer weather!
 

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Sounds like a fun day - and pretty cool that then, as now, you were autocrossing in one of the best handling production cars of the day!

I spent many years (and ruined many good cars!) in the search for every tenth at my local autocrosses. I'm very interested to see how the 718 would feel between the cones... Maybe later this year, if all goes well.

Thanks for the inspiration!
 

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@sobiloff - My buddy who has an Audi TT does autocross here in Reno. He's been on me since I got my 718 to come out and try it. I've thought about it, but don't know what is needed, and the costs associated with this type of activity / event.

Where was the event yesterday? It was windy and cold.... I think we even got some snow yesterday. :D
 

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@sobiloff - My buddy who has an Audi TT does autocross here in Reno. He's been on me since I got my 718 to come out and try it. I've thought about it, but don't know what is needed, and the costs associated with this type of activity / event.

Where was the event yesterday? It was windy and cold.... I think we even got some snow yesterday. :D

Short answer: DO IT.

Longer answer: DOOOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTTTT. ;)

Very, very, very long answer: It is fun, safe, and inexpensive. You will love it!
  • You truly need ALMOST ZERO prep:
    • Wear sunblock and a hat.
    • It's nice to have an approved helmet (which it would appear you do) but if you don't, most organizations have loaners.
    • That's it.
More details from my many years of experience:
  • Costs are usually between 20 and 75 bucks for a day.
  • For newbies, there is typically some kind of "novice class" - be in this class.
    • It doesn't mean you are a novice driver, or slow, or whatever. You could be the fastest person there! It means:
      • You don't have to worry about what tires, mods, brakes, etc. you have
      • You don't throw off the people earning points over the course of a season
      • You "arrive and drive" instead of filling out a bunch of stuff beforehand
  • You'll never get out of second gear, unless you have a HUGE space, and the designers are insane.
    • Typical max speed is 50-60mph, and that is usually seen once on a course.
    • AX is way more about hand speed, car placement, and car control.
  • Some people say that AX is "hard on cars" and freak out about VIN and Warranty
    • That's all BS.
    • Anyone who has used launch mode has impacted their drivetrain harder than an autocross start.
      • In fact, most clubs put the start timing lights far enough away from the start line that wheelspin has extremely minimal advantage if any at all.
    • Anyone who has used full throttle acceleration through 3 gears down a freeway onramp has done more high-revving than you will do at an AX.
    • Hard braking is hard braking - you will wear tires a little, and brakes a little.
      • But remember, you will be driving for maybe 10 minutes total throughout the day. (It will feel like way more!). The impact to your car is so low, it's not worth even considering it.
  • The only foreseeable downsides are extremely low, and only cosmetic:
    • You WILL get loose, and slide both ends around if you push it.
      • You may loop the car into a cone, or plow the front into a cone at, like, 31 MPH.
    • You may spray some road debris onto your rear fenders, as you would on the street if you were spinning the tires a little, or had super warm tires that picked up bits.
      • Any impact from the above can be mitigated with judicious application of blue tape the night before, if you care. I usually don't care. :)
  • If you want to get the most from the day and/or be more serious about it:
    • Ask lots of questions.
      • Ask who the fast/experienced folks are, and ask them to ride along with you to give you tips.
    • Be humble!
      • Even if you are the fastest driver to ever drive, there is still something to learn out there, and someone who can help you learn it. :)
    • Bring a tire gauge, a pump, and some gloves, so you can check pressures between runs as tires heat up, and then bring your cold pressures back up at the end of the day for the drive home
    • Bring your own helmet.
    • Bring some blue tape for making numbers on your windows, and protecting any paint you're worried about
    • Bring a cooler with some drinks/food
    • Clear out any unnecessary weight (and certainly anything that will move around or rattle (inside of glove boxes, door pockets etc) as you drive
    • Come with only half a tank or so of fuel to save weight. (Each gallon is 6-7 pound or so! Heh.)
I used to run the local BMW club Autocrosses in my region. I have driven with BMW, Porsche, Lotus, SCCA, and too many other small clubs to remember (I have even done a few events up in Reno!). I have probably driven 1,000 courses. I have designed a few dozen courses myself.

I have watched thousands of cars, and thousands of drivers, from 15 year olds to 85 year olds, and I have seen thousands of HUGE smiles on all their faces. It's safe, it's fun, and it's the BEST way IMO to learn what any car does at the limit, and what you can do as a driver to approach that limit safely, and correct things if you cross it.

I wish every driver in the world HAD to autocross every year to renew their license. We'd all be safer on the roads. :)

I know this is a novel. But legitimately, all you need is a car, and inflated tires, and you are ready to go. And if you're humble and ready to learn, you may find yourself looking forward to an autocross every 2 weeks for the rest of your life. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Awesome answer, @TK718!

@xhyphenx : It's $30 per driver. The next ones are July 11 and 12, and are held at the Public Safety Training Center on Spectrum Blvd. See Reno SCCA for all the details, but @TK718 steered you straight.

Is your TT buddy named Dan? There was an Audi TT raced by a guy named Dan on Sunday.

Your MX helmet is probably allowed; check the list at https://www.scca.com/downloads/48190-2020-solo-helmet-certification-labels-2019-11-08/download.

I found that blue painter's tape wouldn't stick very well to my car, probably a combination of the temperature and the CeramicPro coating. Maybe a vinyl tape would work better?

The only contrasting opinion I might have with @TK718's response is on the fuel level. One of the coaches suggested a full tank in the Caymans helps put more weight on the front wheels, thus reducing the amount of understeer they can be prone to experiencing. I ran with ¾ of a tank and only felt a little understeer on occasion; I might try a full tank just to see if it changes things.
 

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I found that blue painter's tape wouldn't stick very well to my car, probably a combination of the temperature and the CeramicPro coating. Maybe a vinyl tape would work better?

The only contrasting opinion I might have with @TK718's response is on the fuel level. One of the coaches suggested a full tank in the Caymans helps put more weight on the front wheels, thus reducing the amount of understeer they can be prone to experiencing. I ran with ¾ of a tank and only felt a little understeer on occasion; I might try a full tank just to see if it changes things
Excellent points! Hadn't considered the front weight/balance issue - super interesting to consider the trade-off of handling to acceleration for any given course. Definitely something new for me! Previously all my gas tanks were in the back.

Now you've got me checking my calendar for July 11 and 12...
 

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@TK718 , Great advice, and I think you are spot on! I've autocrossed for 20+ years, even went to several divisionals and Topeka Kansas for the Nationals.

Autocross is really a blast, and quite intense. IMO, its one of the only ways you can really get a sense of a cars handling in a safe manner.

You know the intense feeling you get from doing a drag run, or hard launch? Autocross is 10x that sensation as you are acceleration, braking and turning using the full capability of the car. There is just no way to safely experience this on the street.

Most times they have experienced drivers who are available to ride with you and give you pointers... take them up on it. Then offer to let them drive the course in your car with you as a passenger, it will be an eye opening experience!

As mentioned autocross can be very humbling, not unlike Golf. If you have experience racing karts or have done a lot of indoor karting, that will help considerably. Its not uncommon for someone new to show up in there (Insert fast expensive sports car) and think they are gonna teach some folks a lesson... After the first set of runs, they are slower than most of the Civics and Miatas. :D

We ran in Nor Cal in both the Bay Area and Sacramento region and over the years they have had one of the highest concentration of SCCA Solo II National Champions of anywhere in the country and the bar was/is really high around here. Its been our experience that most of the people are super helpful and friendly and happy to help and give advice to anyone that is open to it.

Another thing that most people dont know, is autocross is one of the best forms of driver development. There is a reason that some of the best drivers in the world start with either Karting or Autocross. Things happen so fast, and you have to be so precise, that once you get enough experience to be fast and consistent, you have developed the muscle memory that will transfer to the big track.

Most classes require street tires with a tread wear of 200 or above, so if you get serious, get some Bridgetone RE-71R tires, increase your camber and you can have a reasonably competitive car.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Most classes require street tires with a tread wear of 200 or above, so if you get serious, get some Bridgetone RE-71R tires, increase your camber and you can have a reasonably competitive car.
Heh, I just ordered a set of these for my 18" Apex rims. Tire Rack should have them heat cycled and ready for pickup next week. I was planning on using them at HPDEs because the PS4Ses I run on the street apparently don't do too well on extended track sessions, plus the 18" rims would bump me up to Street Touring if/when I leave Novice. But who knows, maybe the STU class is in my future?

I'm lucky I have my own tire business—that'll help with the tire costs a bit!
 
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