I have two new hobbies that take up a good portion of my free time.
The first hobby is golf, not many exciting pictures golfing so just use your
imagination. The next hobby also doubles nicely as a daily driving car.
Autocross (not motocross, that's dirt bikes) is the generic name for a type of car
racing. The SCCA, Sports Car Club of America, hosts autocross events called Solo
Solo II events are a type of single car timed competition which place
an emphasis on driver skill and precision. Solo II courses are usually laid out on large
paved areas such as parking lots and airport runways. Each driver gets several chances to
negotiate a twisting course defined by plastic marker cones while being electronically
timed. To win, a man or woman must be both quick and precise as there is a time penalty
added for each marker cone that is displaced, and victories are often measured in
thousandths of a second.
Best of all, you don't need a special racing
car, or even a sports car, to take part. With four categories of preparation divided
into 31 different car classes, including 18 classes for stock or mildly modified street
cars, each driver and car competes against other cars of similar performance, whether it's
a stock economy car, an all out racing car, or something in between. In our autocross
events there are separate classes for Novice competitors, as well as special Pro,
Street Tire, and Vintage categories where cars from different classes compete together
with their times equalized using a nationally recognized "handicapping" index.
The most common comment I get is, "you race your
BMW?!" Yes. Autocross does not put car against car so there is
no chance of banging it up and the courses are designed to be so twisty that I never get
out of second gear. Can the car handle the racing abuse? Don't get me
started on how wonderful BMW's are. Suffice it to say that there is a
reason it is call "The Ultimate Driving Machine." We are required to
wear a helmet but since we are "solo" on the course no roll-cage or five point
harness is required.
Some people always feel the need to point out the cones
that appear to have been knocked down in the pictures. These cones are called
directional cones that help show what direction the course goes. Since this is in an
open parking lot and not a dedicated track you would be surprised how difficult it can be
to tell which way to go. Especially when you are at speed and trying desperately not
to loose control.
The most surprising thing to me was something call
tunnel vision. When you are driving as fast as you can on a very twisty course as
close as you can to the point at which you loose control there are only so many things you
can focus on. This has very little to do with the ability to multi-task and
everything to do with your but wanting to save your hide.
It seems that when you are racing your brain is very
focused on the task at hand an your butt wants very much to stay alive. This
means that when it comes time the brain says, "We must look over at the person with
the flag to see if we must stop, continue or finish," your butt says, "ARE YOU
INSANE! YOU DO THAT AND WE ARE DEAD MEAT! YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING!!!" The
brain says, "Don't be silly, we have to know what color the flag is to
continue. Lots of other drivers do this all the time now please look over at the
flag," The butt replies, "LOTS OF OTHER DRIVERS AREN'T IN THIS CAR RIGHT
NOW!! I WILL NOT GAZE OUT THE WINDOW AT ANY STUPID FLAG, YOU'RE GOING TO KILL
Keep in mind this whole conversation takes place over a
time span of .001 seconds, yet seems to continue for much longer. Eventually the
brain wins out despite threats that the butt will loose control of its self and make a
mess. It's no wonder that I and up getting the shakes after my first run in every
race. This was my first season and the highest I placed was ninth out of 30 overall
but usually always won my car class. I'll keep you posted on the next season.