First Timer Preperation
Congratulations on making your first step towards participating in the world of autocross. You’ve probably already seen the videos, pictures, read some articles, and looked up the closest event to you but now it’s time to get ready. There are some things you need to take care of before you head out for your first day of Autocross. There are many levels or preparedness for Autocross which you’ll see at your first event but this will serve as a suggested list of things to do for a easygoing first day of fun on the course.
Before you head out to the event you’ll usually want to take some time, ideally the day before to go over your vehicle to ensure that it is in good working order and in a safe condition.
Mechanically you’ll want to check that there aren’t any obviously damaged or broken parts that would prevent you from regularly operating your vehicle especially during spirited driving. You’ll want to make sure that your battery is properly secured without any play in its mounts. Also be sure to check that the terminals won’t have the opportunity to make contact with anything. If your vehicle hasn’t had a recent service check be sure to check that the fluid levels for your engine oil, transmission, coolant, differential, power steering, clutch, brakes, and windshield washers, are at the correct levels and have been recently changed at the appropriate intervals.
Also be sure to check that your wearable items such as brake pads and rotors, tires, engine belt, engine hoses, and suspension components such as shocks, ball joints, tie rods, and springs are in good working order. Failure to ensure that these components are properly working may result in a minor vehicle breakage or worse extreme damage or injury to the driver.
After you’ve checked your vehicle for the first time you might be thinking that you’re in over your head. Don’t worry, regular inspections and maintenance of your vehicle will become second nature just like you take care of your own self. During a day of Autocross you will usually spend a large portion of the day standing out on an empty pad or lot of concrete or asphalt without any shade. Be sure to keep this in mind as your pack your things the day before. Things to consider bringing along would be sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, appropriate clothing for the expected weather, a cooler for water, sodas, snacks, and lunch, and an umbrella or rain gear. It’s important to note that an Autocross event will continue on if there is rain. The only time an event will be delayed or cancelled is if there is lightning or if the rain interferes with the timing equipment.
Now that you’ve gotten ready here are a few things to consider bringing along;
Tire pressure gauge and pump- being aware of and being able to adjust your tire pressure is a big part of ensuring you get the fastest laps possible. When participating in most motor sports it’s usually recommended that you run at a higher pressure then what you’d run on the street. An ideal pressure to start off on is 42psi. This higher pressure is necessary for most tires to ensure that they don’t roll over onto the sidewall during heavy cornering causing damage. If these things are currently not available to you stop off at a gas station on your way to an event and use their pump to get your tires right.
Helmet- whether you’re the driver or passenger it is required that you wear a helmet during your lap. All helmets must be SNELL SA or M rated. DOT ratings are not enough. Full face and open face helmets are allowed. If you don’t have a helmet loaner helmets will be available free of charge.
Shoes and gloves- just like any other sport your footwear is important. Just as cleats serve their purpose on grass and dirt it’s important to be mindful of what’s between you and the pedals. Be sure to wear something closed toe and comfortable to stand in all day. Make sure that they allow for a familiar feel and grip with your pedals. Sandals, heels, and boots would not be recommended for this. Gloves are another thing to consider. Depending on your steering wheel you may want to get a pair of driving gloves to ensure a proper grip as you make your way around a course. A single lap of less than one minute can easily have more than fifty steering inputs.
With a well inspected vehicle in good working order, properly packed necessities, and a basic set of items you’ll find yourself well prepared for a day of exciting Autocross. Be sure to also bring a good attitude with a open mind ready to learn and you’ll quickly find yourself fully immersed in a fun and competitive sport.
See you out there and drive safe!