How do you determine where autocross events are held in your area? Do what I did, and take advantage of the internet. Simple internet searches of autocross and Solo II driving events, followed by the state you live in, will provide a good start. Before going to the event, be sure to determine if the club has any unique rules that you need to be aware of. For participants who are under 18 years old, check to see if they need a minor waiver form signed by a parent or guardian.
So what do you need to do to prepare your car for an autocross? This is the nice thing – very little. Make sure that your brakes are working well and the car is in decent overall shape by doing things like checking the oil and coolant levels. Basically, these are the types of things you should be doing routinely even if you are not autocrossing. (Yeah, I know, not all of us check these things nearly as often as we should.) You also need to make sure that the battery is secure and does not move around easily. If it does, go to your local automotive parts store and purchase a battery tie down bracket (approximately $10). You also need to clean out the car. I am sure we all have friends (or maybe you are guilty of this) who seem to bring their whole life with them in their car. It always cracks me up to watch one of my friends get to an event and start unloading his car. I look over and see a large pile of stuff on the ground next to his car. If you are one of these people, do yourself a favor and keep most of this stuff home.
One important thing you will need is a driving helmet. Fortunately, most clubs have loaner helmets; you should check with them prior to the event to determine if they do or not. If you have the ability to borrow a motorcycle or automotive helmet from someone you know, all the better. If you decide that you would rather purchase your own, a new motorcycle helmet can be purchased for about $180. While a motorcycle helmet can be used for autocrossing and high performance driving events, it won’t be allowed for competitive wheel-to-wheel racing, which requires the helmet to have an automotive rating.
White shoe polish will also be helpful. Not black, but white. I went to my local grocery store and found it there; many other places carry white shoe polish as well. Maybe you will be able to borrow someone else’s white shoe polish while at the event. You may be wondering what in the world is up with white shoe polish? I know it sounds strange, but I will explain this to you soon.
On the morning of the event you will most likely have to increase your tires’ air pressure. If it is not necessary, then you are probably running your pressures too high for day-to-day use. Why increase your tire pressures? The reason is to keep your tires from rolling onto the sidewalls during the severe cornering that the car will do during the event. If your tires roll over, you can cause damage to the tire, and you also will not get the most traction possible. Many factors go into determining the optimum tire pressure, such as how heavy your car is, the weight distribution, tire type, your personal preference, and the weather conditions. A good starting point is the maximum recommended tire pressure as stated on the sidewall of the tire. If you have low-profile performance tires, you may be able to start at a slightly lower pressure. While this serves as an approximate starting tire pressure, what is most important is the tire pressure right after the run. If you plan to go to a gas station for air on the way to the event, I would suggest leaving a bit early, just in case. I remember one event which a few friends and I attended. When we got to the gas station where we typically get air, it was out of service. No problem, right? There is another gas station on the way. When we got to that gas station, we found out that they did not have air. After some more looking around, we ended up going to the event to register and then had to leave again on a mission to find air for our tires. Needless to say, it was a real pain in the butt! You should also have a decent tire pressure gauge to measure and make adjustments while at the event. It is not necessary to buy a very expensive gauge, but it should be something better then the $1.50 convenience store air gauge. Refer to the Basic Recommended Tools section in the Repairs and Maintenance section for information on air gauges. Oh, and while you are at the gas station, don’t fill the car up all the way with gas. You should try to arrive at the track with between a ¼ – ½ tank of gas, depending on how far away the gas station is to the event. The purpose of this is to keep the weight of the car as low as possible and thus increase the power to weight ratio. Of course, keep in mind that you do also need to get back home or to the gas station after the event. Believe it or not, I have seen people not able to make it to a gas station after an event. If you have a full tank of gas, don’t worry about it. If you are 0.1 second slower in the beginning, it really does not matter as you should first be focusing on learning as much as possible.