Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

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latonnelier
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Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

I'm in the need for some advice.
I have my old 2001 Beetle Sport that I just cant get rid of. It runs great, no oil leaks, but isn't worth much. I bought it new in 2001 and it's served me well. Also done some modifications to it over the years. So I started thinking it might be fun to autocross once all this lock-down BS is done with.

So my big question is: what do I need to do to get this party started (in the near future, hopefully)? What's going to be my biggest concerns or considerations as I start. Also, what's it gonna cost me to get started and running? I've looked into some of these things on the inter-webs but I'd like to hear from anyone with some first hand knowledge.
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Last edited by latonnelier on Sat Sep 05, 2020 10:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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David993S
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by David993S »

My advice is be prepared for Autocrossing to lead to HPDE's, then racing, then bankruptcy. ;)

You really shouldn't need much to start Autocrossing your VW. The best advice is watch, listen to other experienced Autocrossers (you'll find most will be very open to share advice), and keep and open mind for the learning curve.

I think you want to make sure things like suspension components, brakes and tires (many options there) are in good condition. Get some advice from the folks at the Autocross regarding tire pressures. In time, and with some experience, you'll start to learn about apex's and proper lines around the pylons.

Autocrossing doesn't really put a lot of strain on components provided they're in good condition to start. Don't worry about making lots of modifications at the beginning - just learn the car and have fun. As you progress, then you may want to do some performance modifications. Of course you'll need an approved helmet. There are lots of good beginner helmets on the market for around $300-ish. Spend more if you want a better helmet, but a "beginner" helmet is fine for Autocrossing. I suppose you'll be using the stock seat belts, so don't worry about HANS device, although there is a Hybrid HANS that works with stock seat belts. But it's unlikely it's needed for an Autocross.

Autocrossing can be loads of fun. It's a great way to learn how your car handles and a great way to begin learning car control.

I can tell you I started Autocrossing and it led to nearly 20 years of SCCA racing. You have been warned. :)
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latonnelier
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

That's what I'm looking for, lots of fun on the track and pushing that little car to the edge.

Those are definitely some items I've been considering. I figure things will get going again in the not too distant future and that will give me time to sort out items like helmets. I rode murdersickles for many years and definitely prefer certain brands for fit but I wonder if I need a full face in autocross or if the open-face helmets will be fine.

I do have a confession...I've pretty much modified every system on my car over the years, larger displacement, bigger turbo, complete Audi TT front-suspension, TT brakes, chip, full exhaust, short shifter, blah blah blah. I couldn't help it, I'd get bored and have to tinker with the car. That's one reason why its not feasible to sell. I'm making fairly good horsepowers but I haven't been on a track in 24 years. I'm not totally sure now but it looks like I'll "begin" with the car in street modified :o
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NCporsche
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by NCporsche »

It has been several years since I AX. Remember being told about checking the year of the helmet before purchasing. The year is under the padding at the crown.

While not mandatory for the PCA AXing I participated in, it was mandatory for track time. The helmet must be within a certain number of years of the current date to be allowed. Hopefully someone can verify.

The local PCA has a non-Porsche class at it’s autocrosses. Starting there might be a good place.
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Scott at Team Harco
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Scott at Team Harco »

NCporsche wrote: Sat Sep 05, 2020 7:46 pm It has been several years since I AX. Remember being told about checking the year of the helmet before purchasing. The year is under the padding at the crown.

While not mandatory for the PCA AXing I participated in, it was mandatory for track time. The helmet must be within a certain number of years of the current date to be allowed. Hopefully someone can verify.

The local PCA has a non-Porsche class at it’s autocrosses. Starting there might be a good place.
Correct on the helmets. All (US) sanctioning groups require a Snell (Foundation) rated helmet. Typically if it's not more than 10 or 15 years from its certification year (usually on the 5s) it is permitted. Many groups allow M (Snell) Motorcycle)) rated helmets. Some "serious" forms of racing require an SA (Special Application) rated helmet.
You'll see these designated as SA2005 or M2005, for example.

Often times clubs offer loaner helmets. This may be less likely with current covid measures. Select one that fits properly. It's hard to be sure when ordering online. Try to find a shop that deals in safety equipment (or motorcycles ).

Get out there and have some fun!
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fpena944
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by fpena944 »

latonnelier wrote: Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:40 pm That's what I'm looking for, lots of fun on the track and pushing that little car to the edge.

Those are definitely some items I've been considering. I figure things will get going again in the not too distant future and that will give me time to sort out items like helmets. I rode murdersickles for many years and definitely prefer certain brands for fit but I wonder if I need a full face in autocross or if the open-face helmets will be fine.

I do have a confession...I've pretty much modified every system on my car over the years, larger displacement, bigger turbo, complete Audi TT front-suspension, TT brakes, chip, full exhaust, short shifter, blah blah blah. I couldn't help it, I'd get bored and have to tinker with the car. That's one reason why its not feasible to sell. I'm making fairly good horsepowers but I haven't been on a track in 24 years. I'm not totally sure now but it looks like I'll "begin" with the car in street modified :o
One thing to consider given all the mods that you have made on the car...Make sure to tune it so that you get instant response time compared to higher horsepower. Not sure if that makes sense or not but I remember a lot of guys in 944 Turbos having a difficult time controlling the power and achieving better times because the turbo lag would keep them from being able to fully take advantage of the power they had.

Keep in mind most autocross courses are tight and technical, often times you don't leave second gear and if you do hit 3rd it's for a short period of time. So you need power available to you instantly so that you can hit the corner and GO!

The great thing is compared to DE it is very cheap to get started. The helmet is all you really need, after that you need to perfect your technique. I remember believing I was stuck because of my car in an eternal 2nd place finish for the season because I thought my car was flawed. Had one of our top dogs take my car out and he shaved 3 seconds off a 35 second course. He even raved about how stable and predictable my 996 was. I knew then the biggest improvement is the driver more so than the car.

Enjoy!
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by NCporsche »

Make sure you have your battery locked in. Part of the pre-race inspection, give the battery a good shake.
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David993S
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by David993S »

You don't have to have a full face helmet for Autocrossing.
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latonnelier
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

David993S wrote:You don't have to have a full face helmet for Autocrossing.
Thanks, I didn't want a full face now. I've been looking and the SA2015 helmets seem pretty reasonable.
NCporsche wrote:Make sure you have your battery locked in. Part of the pre-race inspection, give the battery a good shake.
Good to Know :D Its not very secure as it is>
fpena944 wrote:One thing to consider given all the mods that you have made on the car...Make sure to tune it so that you get instant response time compared to higher horsepower. Not sure if that makes sense or not but I remember a lot of guys in 944 Turbos having a difficult time controlling the power and achieving better times because the turbo lag would keep them from being able to fully take advantage of the power they had.

Keep in mind most autocross courses are tight and technical, often times you don't leave second gear and if you do hit 3rd it's for a short period of time. So you need power available to you instantly so that you can hit the corner and GO!
That is some great advice, My turbo is not too big (K04) but I can make the turbo get on the power earlier...I've done a fair amount of that just for street driving but if I'm gonna be running 2nd'ish in the gearbox that would be prudent.
Local club has an event in three weeks, I'll reach out to them today.
After fighting with some recent health issues, I want to get on the track sooner than later.
Heck, I might even rallycross the little beast.
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NCporsche
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by NCporsche »

Back to helmets. Get a 2020+ year model. 2019 will have five less years of use if dates are checked.
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Scott at Team Harco
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Scott at Team Harco »

NCporsche wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 7:39 am Back to helmets. Get a 2020+ year model. 2019 will have five less years of use if dates are checked.
I don't think 2020 helmets are available yet. They should be available sometime in October. There is no way a 2020+ version would be out there.

Helmet certifications per the Snell foundation occur every five years (typically). There is no such thing as a 2019 helmet, for example. Your information about five years or less, if not true. Most groups allow helmets rated up to 15 years old. Therefore a 2005 helmet would still be permitted (check with your group).

All groups have slight variations, it's best to check with your group. Finding a 2015 certified helmet is the current best bet and will be good for many years.

SA2020_cover.pdf
(71.71 KiB) Downloaded 101 times
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by NCporsche »

Thanks for the clarification, which I was hoping for.

As previously stated, been out of the game for several years.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by fpena944 »

Scott at Team Harco wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 9:12 am
NCporsche wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 7:39 am Back to helmets. Get a 2020+ year model. 2019 will have five less years of use if dates are checked.
I don't think 2020 helmets are available yet. They should be available sometime in October. There is no way a 2020+ version would be out there.

Helmet certifications per the Snell foundation occur every five years (typically). There is no such thing as a 2019 helmet, for example. Your information about five years or less, if not true. Most groups allow helmets rated up to 15 years old. Therefore a 2005 helmet would still be permitted (check with your group).

All groups have slight variations, it's best to check with your group. Finding a 2015 certified helmet is the current best bet and will be good for many years.


SA2020_cover.pdf
That's good to know as I have a 2005 and it still looks brand new. Although once I get serious about the track again I'll likely be looking for an upgrade.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

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fpena944 wrote: Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:19 am One thing to consider given all the mods that you have made on the car...Make sure to tune it so that you get instant response time compared to higher horsepower. Not sure if that makes sense or not but I remember a lot of guys in 944 Turbos having a difficult time controlling the power and achieving better times because the turbo lag would keep them from being able to fully take advantage of the power they had.
Yup, I used to beat a very modified, big-turbo Subaru STI in my wife's stock Passat W8 for that very reason.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

I think I'm gonna be stuck with getting a SA2015 helmet if I want to get out there at the end of this month but that still gives 10 years of use. I might not even be around that long :lol:

I've been driving a bit faster through the corners lately with the VW and am noticing a new issue; the seats don't have much in the way of bolsters. So what can I do (on the cheap) to keep myself planted in the seat while cornering?
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

Also, how much is rallycross gonna beat up my little car.
Yeah, I know I keep using "gonna" but I'm a whole lot of redneck.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Scott at Team Harco »

latonnelier wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 10:41 am Also, how much is rallycross gonna beat up my little car.
Yeah, I know I keep using "gonna" but I'm a whole lot of redneck.
A lot more than autocross. It depends a lot on how rough, or smooth, the courses are in your area. I broke more RallyCross cars, probably 5:1, versus autocross cars.

Rule #1: select a race car that you can afford to write-off.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Luigi Vampa »

I started with autocross with a 2000 Audi A4 with a very tired 1.8 engine with over 200k miles. It was my daily driver. I'm pretty certain I still had the baby seat in the back when I did my first autocross.

I then started DE with the same car. Over the winter I got new wheels and tires, ripped out the back seat and anything else I could, added my own custom brake coolers, and did a few other "stupid" performance modifications which didn't really increase the performance at all.

My advice is to see how much you like this, and if you really want to move ahead, get yourself something more suitable. If you spend a lot of money on a pig, you still end up with a pig. That is what I did with my Audi when I should have just bought the 944 once I knew I was serious. I put thousands into the Audi and bought my 944 for about $6500.

BTW - in the intervening 13 years I have bought two Ford F350 tow vehicles, two open trailers, and one enclosed trailer.

My favorite quote on this subject:

“Racing Makes Heroin Addiction Look Like a Vague Wish for Something Salty.” — Peter Egan
1987 Porsche 951 - Street legal DE car
2011 Porsche Cayman S - PCA #806 GTB1 Class
2020 BMW X7
2017 BMW X3
2019 Ford F350 Super Duty Diesel
1953 MG TD
1952 Bentley Mark VI
1982 Land Rover 88 Series III
1988 Ferrari 328 GTS
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latonnelier
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

Scott at Team Harco wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 11:12 am
latonnelier wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 10:41 am Also, how much is rallycross gonna beat up my little car.
Yeah, I know I keep using "gonna" but I'm a whole lot of redneck.
A lot more than autocross. It depends a lot on how rough, or smooth, the courses are in your area. I broke more RallyCross cars, probably 5:1, versus autocross cars.

Rule #1: select a race car that you can afford to write-off.
I can afford to write this car off but I want to make it last a bit:) So autocross it will be.
Luigi Vampa wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:05 pm I started with autocross with a 2000 Audi A4 with a very tired 1.8 engine with over 200k miles. It was my daily driver. I'm pretty certain I still had the baby seat in the back when I did my first autocross.

I then started DE with the same car. Over the winter I got new wheels and tires, ripped out the back seat and anything else I could, added my own custom brake coolers, and did a few other "stupid" performance modifications which didn't really increase the performance at all.

My advice is to see how much you like this, and if you really want to move ahead, get yourself something more suitable. If you spend a lot of money on a pig, you still end up with a pig. That is what I did with my Audi when I should have just bought the 944 once I knew I was serious. I put thousands into the Audi and bought my 944 for about $6500.

BTW - in the intervening 13 years I have bought two Ford F350 tow vehicles, two open trailers, and one enclosed trailer.

My favorite quote on this subject:

“Racing Makes Heroin Addiction Look Like a Vague Wish for Something Salty.” — Peter Egan
Why you gotta scare me like that ;) So you're saying Heroin is gonna be cheaper in the long run?
Now I'm thinking about trailers...
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by NCporsche »

I trailer my 944 to autocrosses.

It is a 34 year old Porsche with 189k miles being driven HARD.

Stuff breaks.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Luigi Vampa »

latonnelier wrote:
Scott at Team Harco wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 11:12 am
latonnelier wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 10:41 am Also, how much is rallycross gonna beat up my little car.
Yeah, I know I keep using "gonna" but I'm a whole lot of redneck.
A lot more than autocross. It depends a lot on how rough, or smooth, the courses are in your area. I broke more RallyCross cars, probably 5:1, versus autocross cars.

Rule #1: select a race car that you can afford to write-off.
I can afford to write this car off but I want to make it last a bit:) So autocross it will be.
Luigi Vampa wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:05 pm I started with autocross with a 2000 Audi A4 with a very tired 1.8 engine with over 200k miles. It was my daily driver. I'm pretty certain I still had the baby seat in the back when I did my first autocross.

I then started DE with the same car. Over the winter I got new wheels and tires, ripped out the back seat and anything else I could, added my own custom brake coolers, and did a few other "stupid" performance modifications which didn't really increase the performance at all.

My advice is to see how much you like this, and if you really want to move ahead, get yourself something more suitable. If you spend a lot of money on a pig, you still end up with a pig. That is what I did with my Audi when I should have just bought the 944 once I knew I was serious. I put thousands into the Audi and bought my 944 for about $6500.

BTW - in the intervening 13 years I have bought two Ford F350 tow vehicles, two open trailers, and one enclosed trailer.

My favorite quote on this subject:

“Racing Makes Heroin Addiction Look Like a Vague Wish for Something Salty.” — Peter Egan
Why you gotta scare me like that ;) So you're saying Heroin is gonna be cheaper in the long run?
Now I'm thinking about trailers...
My friend, a track addiction makes hookers and blow look cheap!
1987 Porsche 951 - Street legal DE car
2011 Porsche Cayman S - PCA #806 GTB1 Class
2020 BMW X7
2017 BMW X3
2019 Ford F350 Super Duty Diesel
1953 MG TD
1952 Bentley Mark VI
1982 Land Rover 88 Series III
1988 Ferrari 328 GTS
PCA National Instructor

?erutangis rieht ni tihs driew gnittup enoyreve si yhw
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Scott at Team Harco »

latonnelier wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 10:26 am I think I'm gonna be stuck with getting a SA2015 helmet if I want to get out there at the end of this month but that still gives 10 years of use. I might not even be around that long :lol:

I've been driving a bit faster through the corners lately with the VW and am noticing a new issue; the seats don't have much in the way of bolsters. So what can I do (on the cheap) to keep myself planted in the seat while cornering?
When I first started autocrossing, my first car (Plymouth Arrow) had a 3-point racing harness. The next car was stock (Shelby Charger). I had the same problem so I bought a torso belt. It was a big help. Since then, all of my high-G cars have racing harnesses.

https://www.soloperformance.com/Harness ... _c_11.html
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latonnelier
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

Scott at Team Harco wrote: Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:33 am
latonnelier wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 10:26 am I think I'm gonna be stuck with getting a SA2015 helmet if I want to get out there at the end of this month but that still gives 10 years of use. I might not even be around that long :lol:

I've been driving a bit faster through the corners lately with the VW and am noticing a new issue; the seats don't have much in the way of bolsters. So what can I do (on the cheap) to keep myself planted in the seat while cornering?
When I first started autocrossing, my first car (Plymouth Arrow) had a 3-point racing harness. The next car was stock (Shelby Charger). I had the same problem so I bought a torso belt. It was a big help. Since then, all of my high-G cars have racing harnesses.

https://www.soloperformance.com/Harness ... _c_11.html
That's perfect.
Thanks Scott.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

After seeing Scott's new hat in the New Purchase thread, I went ahead and picked up a helmet. Ron at DiscoveryParts.com got me set up.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by NCporsche »

Entering into a turn, tap your brakes, not enough to slow you down but enough to drop the front end.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Scott at Team Harco »

NCporsche wrote: Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:55 am Entering into a turn, tap your brakes, not enough to slow you down but enough to drop the front end.
Better yet - learn how to left-foot brake.
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

That shouldn't be too hard, as I've already got two left feet :lol:
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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by Scott at Team Harco »

fpena944 wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 10:20 am That's good to know as I have a 2005 and it still looks brand new. Although once I get serious about the track again I'll likely be looking for an upgrade.
I just ordered a new helmet (took my own advice). Did a size confirmation on one of my old Bell helmets. Did a half-assed inventory of my helmets and realized my latest one is SA2005 (with Hans). It may still be good for another year or two but, it's time for a new one. Looks as though I've been on a 10-year cycle for the most part. The hats I still have around are SA1995 and SA2005. Now I have a 2015. And I also have something to put in my latest helmet bag.

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Re: Advice for a beginning Autocrosser

Post by latonnelier »

Quick update...Still waiting. Our local SCCA group had to switch tracks and the current track only allows 50 participants due to COVID crap, so they aren't letting novice racers until things loosen up. I'll be attending my first meeting with them on 11/4 (virtually) and hope to get a bit more insight into how things are set up.

In the meantime I've been going through the drivetrain of the car to make sure everything is taught and solid. I have a Heim joint to replace on the front anti-sway bar and its getting about time to flush the brake lines but everything else seems copasetic. I even aligned the car...kept it where I normally have it set for street driving, I'll make any changes after I put her on the track a bit.
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