Who doesn’t want to become better at driving? Sure, there are some people who’re content to swerve back and forth between lanes while eating a jelly-filled donut and checking their email. But if you’re reading this, likely you’re not that person.
The better you are at driving, the more enjoyable it is. Excelling at something is fulfilling, especially if it’s something most others aren’t good at. Improving your driving skills will also keep you safer on the road. A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one, or so goes the saying, and the same is true with dull driving skills.
Learning to autocross well will result in your becoming better at driving on the street.
Getting involved in motorsports can be risky. The thing about Autocross is that you remove pretty much all the dangers of racing.
Since it’s done in big, open areas, you don’t need to worry about hitting a wall or barrier, like you do at a track. Sure, you might murder a few cones, but that’s all part of the learning process. They won’t damage your car, or endanger your life.
When you do autocross, it’s one car at a time. You don’t have to worry about crashing into other vehicles, or even swapping a little bit of paint.
Instead, the only real risk is that you overdrive and roll your car. As long as you don’t get too aggressive too quickly, that probably won’t happen.
What Autocross Teaches
You can learn many valuable lessons from autocross, which transfer over to how you drive on the road.
If you use your everyday car, you will learn its limits intimately. Of course, this may come with participating in a few autocross events. Over time, you’ll find if you push to go through a turn too quickly, or wait too long to brake, your car won’t respond the way you need, and you might hit some cones. It’s best to learn this in an environment where you’re not at risk of killing someone, including yourself.
You’ll learn more about understeer and/or oversteer than you could in many other ways. Short of going to a race track and dealing with the risks involved there, there are few other ways of learning how to manage understeer and/or oversteer with your vehicle. This has a real-world application, because you might find that you’re on a slippery road surface, or maybe on a dirt road, and start to feel the front or back end of your car break loose. If you autocross enough, you’ll know how to fix the problem immediately and effectively. Without that skill, you might be in for a big crash.
Autocross teaches you to not ride the brakes. If done properly, you learn the value of throttle control to slow your car down. You also learn to only apply the brakes when absolutely necessary. This helps to avoid brake fade, and it will make your brake pads and rotors last longer.
Instead of staring down the course in front of you, you must scan ahead with your eyes. Too many drivers on the road are guilty of staring at just one thing, when they should be concentrating on everything going on around them. This will make you more aware of dangers early on, so you can avoid bad situations with greater ease.
Overall, autocross teaches you to be precise in your driving maneuvers. You’re punished for being sloppy or rushing, because efficiency is everything. Too many people on the road today think they’re driving aggressively, when in actuality they’re driving sloppy, which is just downright dangerous. If you ever need to drive aggressively, autocross will give you the skills to do so, without being overly dangerous.
What You Will Need
Before you go autocross your car, you need to do a few things. First off, your vehicle needs to be in good shape, because you’ll be pushing it to the limits. Check all the fluids and refill anything that’s low. Look at your tire treads and ensure they’re not too worn, as well as the brake pads. Tighten all your wheel lug nuts to spec.
You can bring a helmet, although most car clubs provide them, but you might be a germaphobe and so will appreciate having your own. Definitely ask before you show up, just in case helmets aren’t provided. Some clubs might have specific rules, like how to mark your car, so ask about those as well.