Hi gang. By the time you read this we will have completed most of our events for the year with 1 or 2 left. While I was contemplating about what to write for this article, I starting thinking about where and when did Autocross start and I wonder if Autocross is the same around the world? Well, a little bit of research led to more and then some more… You get the picture. So here is a very condensed version of what I was able to find out thus far.
Well, why not start with a definition of Autocross from Wikipedia – the source of many truths and non-truths.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A Mini Cooper participating in an autocross event. The HS stands for H Stock.
Autocross is a form of motorsports that emphasizes safe competition and active participation. An autocross is a timed competition where drivers navigate one at a time through a defined course on either sealed or unsealed surfaces (sealed or unsealed? Hmm something to consider for NNJR?). Autocross differs from road racing or oval racing in that generally there is only one car on the track racing against the clock rather than other cars. As an entry level motorsport it provides a stepping stone for drivers looking to move into other more competitive and possibly expensive forms of motorsport including rally and circuit racing (….. and DE and/or both DE and AutoX).
Autocross courses are typically 1 to 2 kilometers (.6 to 1.2 miles in length – obviously they don’t have a Lot E available to them!!) in length and tend to place more emphasis on car handling and driver skill rather than on sheer horsepower. Courses may be temporary and marked by traffic cones or be permanent tracks (that would be sweet!) with approval by a motorsport body.
Events typically have many classes which allow almost any vehicle, from economy sedans to purpose-built vehicles, to compete. Due to the nature of a typical track, speeds can be slower in absolute terms when compared to other forms of motorsports, usually not exceeding highway speeds, but the activity level (measured in discrete turns per minute) can be higher than even Formula One (somebody keep this article from Robert Ida) due to the large number of elements packed into each course.
Well that sounds OK, let’s get a closer look at what it is in various countries.
A Swift GTI participating in an Australian Autocross event.
Australian is type of motorsport sanctioned by the Confederation of Australian Motorsports (CAMS) and defined as a speed event on dirt (time to rip up Lot J and bring it back to dirt – maybe they can also find Jimmy Hoffa while they are at it) and less than 2 km in length. Eligible vehicles can range from standard road going vehicles, purpose built buggies (buggies? They allow baby buggies??) through to Full Race and Rally prepared vehicles. Drivers may begin competing at the age of 14 (bring on the kids and we will sell out every event) and must hold a recognized racing license which is usually obtainable on the day through the hosting club.
In the UK, autocrosses are typically held on a grass or stubble surface (now we need to rent the actual MetLife stadium to get on some grass. What is stubble??). In fact the attraction is the challenge of driving quickly on challenging and difficult surfaces. Cars compete individually against the clock, although more than one car may start at the same time if the circuit is long enough and wide enough. Because the course is usually bumpy and there is a risk of contact with other cars, most competitors use specially prepared cars (which vary from very inexpensive to specially engineered racers) brought on trailers. Events are usually held on a region-wide basis, with the RACMSA (sniff…. Royal Automobile Club) Motor Sports Association, now often called MSA overseeing rules and regulations.
Some people choose to start singularly, particularly if they compete in a rally car. The sport is relatively low risk as there is or should be nothing to hit. However, if you wish, you may do double car starts. Most people opt for this, although some competitors choose to do 3 and 4 car starts whilst still competing against the clock.
USA (SCCA’s view)
SCCA was created in 1944, and some of the first events produced under the club’s name were local time trials. Initially courses were laid out on public roads, but shortly these courses gave way to event configurations set out as groups of markers on asphalt, or concrete parking lots, or on abandoned airfields. The goal was, and continues to be, to run a competitor through a course, and establish the best time.
SCCA Grew And So Did Autocross
As SCCA grew its local chapter program, the number of autocross competitors grew as well. Between 1944 and 1958, the club and its events attracted 10,000 members who were afforded an opportunity to compete nearly every weekend. Between 1958 and today SCCA now manages over 114,000 members, and well over 300 events yearly
I could not find anything on the history but I did find an announcement of a July 14, 2012 National Championship event. Their events are more like rural off road racing. Nonetheless, here it is:
National autocross in Coimbatore
The second round of the FMSCI Indian National autocross championship will be held at the PSG Ganga Naidu Charities Trust grounds, behind Jenney Club, here this weekend.
Organized by the Coimbatore Auto Sports Club (CASC) and promoted by Wynnsport with An Open Mind (AOM) as its Principal Associate, the two-day racing bonanza promises exciting entertainment.
The championship features seven classes and is open to vehicles manufactured in India. About 100 drivers are expected to contest in the championship which carries attractive prizes and trophies.
Team R3A of PGA Motorsports, the overall team and driver championship leader in two classes, have fielded eight entries in four classes for the Coimbatore round.
An all women’s class will also form part of the championship. For the local drivers there will be an exclusive novice class.
“It will be a safe second round,” said J. Prithviraj, Clerk of the Course and Secretary of CASC. “The track has been designed to make it an exciting round for all,” he added.
The scrutiny will be held on July 14 followed by the practice rounds and qualifying and finals the next day.
I could not find anything on the history but I did find an announcement of AutoX kicking off in the Yunnan Province. Their events are also more like rural off road racing as well. Here it is:
Autocross to kick off in Baoshan, Yunnan Province
An autocross will kick off in Baoshan, Yunnan Province in March.
Dozens of well-known motorcades at home and abroad will participate in the autocross. The racing route includes a track race in Tengchong and three race stages in Longyang, Longling and Tengchong. The main route is on Stilwell Road.
Some racing motors will set out for Myitkyina of Myanmar after the autocross, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Stilwell Road’s construction.
Nearly 80 mainstream media of China will give reports of the autocross.
The autocross aims at building up Baoshan’s city image and tourism brand. The city has beautiful landscapes, rich historical cultures and fold customs. Besides of the game, audiences can enjoy the cultures and customs.
Stilwell Road, originally named Ledo Road, was built during World War II so that the Western Allies could supply the Chinese as an alternative to the Burma Road which had been cut by the Japanese in 1942. The road was a strategic military route during the war. It passes through Burma towns of Shingbwiyang, Myitkyina and Bhamo in Kachin state. Baoshan, located between the border of Myanmar and the River Mekong, is a prefecture-level city in western Yunnan province, China.
And finally, let’s finish with a definition of Autocross from a real expert source; “Uncyclopedia” (edited for a PG audience):
The primary attraction of autocross is that it is a relatively inexpensive way to meet girls brought to the races by their baseball-hat-on-backwards, Honda CRX driving boyfriends. Many clubs use this aspect of the sport to try to attract new members by featuring condom giveaways for novice drivers.
Often seen as an entry level motorsports racing event. However, the race is between drivers of street cars and a clock, and as anyone that has done this before knows, the clock always wins. Autocrossers are a strange breed, willing to pilot an open piped import car in a parking lot for 35 seconds of second gear heroisim, then spend two more hours standing in said parking lot to stand up cones knocked over by other crazed car geeks. Afterwards they can be seen gathered together to collect various items such as cups, can coolers and widgets during the “trophy” presentation while they regale tales of that cone that almost got the…”dude, it was like RIGHT THERE….I almost got it….”
National Competition is fierce and hotly contested. One not only needs great skidpad skills, but the ability to read the SCCA rulebook and interpret ANY rule 3 different ways (in which at least 1 interpretation will result in disqualifying someone ahead of you during protest and moving the competitor from 30th to 29th for the event).
Hope to see all of you at our next NNJR event. Tom Iervolino