(Words and Photo: Suzy Bauter) There are two types of autocrossers in this life; the ones who want to race and the ones who want to read and debate the rules, classes, event management and overall sport. Each year we see new organizations joining the ranks of SCCA and Goodguys with new types of autocross events. Each time a new event or series is announced the fans and the haters come out in force to debate the rules, the classes, the costs, the courses and the locations. It’s basically the same story every year: Admittedly, I join the fray. I make it clearly known what I like and dislike – probably to the detriment of my reputation, but I cannot resist a good debate. With today’s announcement of yet another new Autocross series called Drive AutoX, I had to take a step back. I didn’t want to like it; I didn’t want it to be another big-money-race-car-event disguised as a fun-for-all. I didn’t like the fact that it seemed to take aim at what SCCA was trying to do with the CAM class and CAM Challenge events. Some of the dates conflicted with the Autocross Guys schedule and I didn’t see how I could be competitive with the class structure. So, what does any self-respecting social media person do? I started a shit-storm. I brought up the new series in an SCCA CAM focused Facebook page. I knew this group loved to debate rules and they loved to cry fowl at any given opportunity. (All in the name of good dialog, of course.) As I watched the comments come in and added my two cents here and there, I came to some realizations. The more opportunities to race, the better. How can I not like an event that promotes autocross and fun? A two-day format with good locations and a decent entry fee was suddenly looking more like something I could get behind.
Competition is good, right?
In the Midwest and Southeast we have enough opportunities to autocross that we could race every weekend for about eleven months a year. Having multiple organizations step up and provide the locations, insurance and resources required to race is a tremendous opportunity. When you add the independent events to the club events that are always on the hunt for new and innovative ways to approach competition, it’s an awesome time to be an autocrosser. Why are we all complaining? Classes, entry fees, shagging cones, rules, wallets – you name it, we find fault. We can’t do anything about the high-dollar guys who many of us feel have an unfair advantage, except to choose another race. Why not have the most bang for your buck? If you want the highest level of competition, seek it out and find your game. If you want fun and low-stress racing, find that tribe and be your best. There is literally something for everyone when it comes to autocross.
High Class vs. Low Class
Classing racers and vehicles can go from overly simplified, to an encyclopedia of engineering. There are clubs who create classes and sub-classes that enable cars to be built just to win a class. One of my favorite moments as a new autocrosser in a 1968 Camaro was when I asked about how to class the car and was asked in return “What have you modified?”. Anyone who’s driving a vintage car can understand the frustration at being asked this simple question. It seems like the organizations that are forced to create, re-create and re-class cars and drivers are just diluting the actual accomplishment of winning. I realize that most racers are more competitive than I am, so I ask this question: If you have to shoe-horn your car into a class to win -even if it is a car you don’t particularly like – how is that winning? The events that seem to have high growth rates and consistent attendance, are those that have fewer rules and classes. Goodguys is a good example of keeping classes simple and their attendance rates are skyrocketing. Today’s announcement of Drive AutoX (a new series that emphasizes the social aspect of the meet in addition to driving) was quickly followed up with an announcement by No Limit Engineering that they were sponsoring a no-rules class within Drive AutoX, that will be referred to as the ‘Outlaw’ class. I have to admit, I was thrilled at this announcement because trying to class a ’63 widebody Rambler wagon is going to be a nightmare.
The choice is yours.
Given a perfect world we’d all be fortunate enough to run whatever we wanted and even be a part of the driving force to form events how we want them to be. How fantastic is it that the sport of autocross has grown so much that we can support (and sell-out) many events all over the country? We have stuff to argue about on Facebook. We have become the product of our own success. Bring it on Goodguys, Optima, FM3, , Motorstate, UMI, Autocross Guys, Racing Byrds, Hotchkis, SCCA, AAX, NSRA, NMCA, Orange Cone Racing, Holley and the many others giving up their time and energy to collect your money and clean up your killed cones and tire remnants.
You have choices. You can choose among the many events available to you – choose wisely. Choose events that you can get what you need. If you’re looking for fun and camaraderie or you’re looking for a place to compete with the best in the country, there is an event for you. If you don’t like something about an event, don’t go. If you feel you have information or resources that would make an event better, talk to the event organizers and see how you can help. Discussions and debate are healthy but be a part of construct not destruct and know when to opt out. Meanwhile, check out some of the new events being planned for 2018 and have a good time. Get your car running if it’s a project. Put some low-cost tires on your street car and give it a whirl. Encourage your friends and family to join you and make some new friends.
I, for one, can’t wait to see you at the track.