View Full Version : Here's what I learned in my first year of autocross

Robert Nixon
11-14-2013, 10:07 PM
First of all I learned that autocross, or SOLO in SCCA talk is a lot of fun! This was all new to me this year, and with the Abarth it was a lot of fun driving in the G Stock class. At first I was trying to resist the urge to upgrade the car at all, but near the end of the summer I couldn't resist and bought some 17 inch wheels with high performance summer tires. Every event I entered was educational on either what TO do or what NOT to do, and I appreciate the advice from drivers I met, and especially this forum. When some of you started talking about what class the Abarth would be in this year I started reading those threads and had no clue what it all meant, but like I was told here the best thing to do is to jump in with both feet, sign up for an event, and go drive and learn all you can. What a blast!

Our South Carolina region had planned on 10 events, but the season just ended with only 8. To be honest there weren't a lot of folks running in this class, and really only the guy that won hit the minimum number of 5 events to compete for the season long points competition, so I'm very happy to end up in 2nd place after running only 4 events, having won G Stock in two of them.

The other big thing I learned was how important tires were, but still the most important factor is upgrading the skills of the driver!

Next year I plan to keep the car stock, but will be on the Dunlops for every event, so hope to keep learning and meet more folks in the new SCCA class that will not allow racing tires. This new class will combine this year's G and H Stock, and from what I can tell that is going to make life very hard for the H Stock guys trying to beat the G Stock cars.

If you are interested, Here are the points and car listings of our little region, so you can see the variety of cars. Overall I'm pretty sure that the fastest driver and car was Marcus Womer in the Nissan Sentra. While the Hoosier tires he had helped, he absolutely smoked the rest of us in the one event in SC.

The other thing I learned is that you have to show up and drive if you want to win, and showing up at every event helps too!

South Carolina Region 2013 final points standings, G STOCK

1 Robbie Solesbee 36 2004 Ford Mustang
2 Robert Nixon 34 2013 Fiat 500 Abarth
3 Alex Winkler 16 2011 Volkswagen GTI
4 Gregory Blanton 13 2011 Volkswagen GTI Mark VI
5 Eric Hecht 10 2013 Ford Focus ST
5 Brandon Lee 10 2007 Honda si
5 Keil Schmid 10 2012 Volkswagen GTI
5 Marcus Womer 10 2003 Nissan Sentra SER Spec V
9 Scott Birchfield 6 2006 Ford Mustang
9 Travis Fabel 6 Volkswagen Passat
9 Stephen Whitmire 6 2008 Honda Civic Si Sedan
12 Kenneth Bury 5 2013 Ford Focus ST
13 Will Birchfield 4 2006 Ford Mustang
14 Steven Grandsoult 3 2007 Honda Civic

11-14-2013, 10:41 PM
Be prepared for your next "lesson" from the high and mighty powers of "national":

Just when you are comfortable in a class, they will change the rules, invalidating any mods you made the previous season

11-15-2013, 01:52 AM
Congrats... That is impressive on street tires.... 2nd place!

11-15-2013, 05:26 AM
Congrats and great job...very impressuve to say the least! Great job!

11-15-2013, 08:29 AM
Next year I plan to keep the car stock, but will be on the Dunlops for every event, so hope to keep learning and meet more folks in the new SCCA class that will not allow racing tires. This new class will combine this year's G and H Stock, and from what I can tell that is going to make life very hard for the H Stock guys trying to beat the G Stock cars.

Good job! However, G and H are NOT being combined - it was a proposal that got squashed (along with camber bolts). Of course, trying to figure out where cars will be moved to with the new rules as time goes on makes it a moot point. I suspect that most cars will remain where they are since the major change is street vs R tires.

One thing I would suggest to all getting into the sport is to compare PAX rather than class positions. This is because the talent pool in any particular region doesn't necessarily give you a good comparison. You had only one consistent competitor so comparing is tough. PAX certainly isn't perfect but it does give you a chance to see how you stack up against the larger pool rather than a limited one.

In any event, glad you liked autocross and had fun learning. Personally, I drive the Dunlops all season - no changing tires for me! My back has spasmed a few too many times...

Robert Nixon
11-15-2013, 09:30 AM
Thanks for the tip on the PAX times. I looked at the events I entered and compared my PAX to the field, and saw a slow improvement from somewhere like beating 15% of the drivers to up to about 50% in the last event. The quality of the field varies, so that's not a perfect measurement either, but in fields ranging from 70-200+ drivers it's an interesting statistic to look at.

11-15-2013, 10:31 AM

11-15-2013, 10:33 AM
Nice that you like your 1st season of AX and that you want to continue. It was nice to meet you this year, I hope we can do some event together next year.
I used Pax and Raw to compare myself to the other, the hot shoe are always at the top and are usually pretty consistent. If your Pax time difference is diminishing
compare to them you are going in the right direction.
I want to stay in STC for next year, if Koni can come up with the yellow shock for the front I will go for Koni yellow on all 4 corner and maybe a front sway bar.

11-15-2013, 11:01 AM
Congratulations on a good 1st year!
I can't get enough autocross and track time right now - the folks here in Memphis in both SCCA and NASA are very friendly and helpful and they are all fascinated by the Abarth!
Looks like SCCA Street Modified F class for me next year because I changed my hood :sad: I much prefer the NASA classing system!

11-15-2013, 11:10 AM
Congrats on your success

11-15-2013, 04:37 PM
FWIW (not much), I PAXed in 17th out of 10r, 13th out of 80 and 15th out of 64 in the 3 SCCA events I ran this year...

Robert Nixon
11-15-2013, 05:27 PM
I ranged from 69th out of 85 (faster than 19% of the field) in the first event to a best of 42nd out of 96 (faster than 57%).

No special prizes for being fastest (only) Italian!

11-16-2013, 02:23 AM
That's awesome man. When I had my dart, I competed at the Chrysler nationals in my first autocross event and got 4th place out of 30 cars in the FWD class and I've just gotten better and better with each event. Now that I have the abarth, they better watch out next year

12-17-2013, 01:32 AM
I'm happy to see another autocrossing newbie! I started in Solo 2 for the first time this year and it was a great learning curve. There weren't a lot of GS cars entered out here but I managed to end up 2nd in two sections (Sacramento and Fresno) of the San Francisco Region SCCA. I tracked my progress against the perennial first place guys in each section and found myself gaining on them in each event. In the Sacramento Section I kept creeping closer but could never overcome the winner's experience and R-comp tires. Next year should be different since he either has to go to street tires or move out of class with his Celica. In the Fresno Section, I finally managed to scrape out a win in the last event of the year - a 5-lap enduro - that ended up being a night event by the time I got started. THAT was a trip... headlights and barely visible cones flying by!

I managed to get about 15k out of my original Pirellis before the tread wear made me nervous. I bought a set of Cooper Zeons for the last couple of events and will start the new season with them. It'll be interesting to see how all the changes fall out for '14, for sure.

Robert Nixon
12-17-2013, 09:35 AM
I'm still planning to remain stock and run in the new street class. We didn't have a lot of stock guys running on Hoosiers, so those are the guys that will have to decide if they want to stay in stock and maybe be the only one in their class, or join the competition with probably everyone else going to street.

The last event I did was just for fun driving a Miata on a cold day last month, maybe about 40 degrees when we were driving. Given that I was not used to the rear wheel drive, I felt the cold was really affecting everyone's tire grip. Regardless of the reason, I had a spectacular spin and broadsided three cones at once, so that was pretty funny!

12-18-2013, 07:39 AM
^^ +1 !!