It might not be the fastest race in the world, but autocross is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door — so to speak — in the world of racing. Autocross is an amateur race where all you need to enter is a driver’s license, a vehicle and a helmet. If you’re interested in auto crossing your BMW, here are all the tips and tricks you need to know to get started.
First, Pick up a Helmet
Bicycle helmets won’t cut it for an autocross race. Your helmet has to be DOT rated, but only class M for motorcycles or class SA for special applications are allowed on the track. You can take the visor off if it interferes with your vision, but you have to keep your head covered. If you don’t have your own helmet, show up early — most tracks offer a limited number of helmets for rent, but they’re first come first served, so you need to show up early to make sure you can get your hands on one.
Pick the Right Class
There’s a variety of different classes of autocross races, so it’s important to make sure you pick the right class. Street category requires street tires and limits the number of bolt-on modifications allowed. Street Touring still requires street tires but allows more bolt-ons. Street Prepared allows racing tires and bolt-ons, while Street Modified allows more internal engine modifications. Prepared and Modified categories have higher allowances for mods.
There are also classes for classic American muscle cars, vintage cars and karts.
Walk the Track
Autocross isn’t just a race — it’s an automotive obstacle course. The nice thing about autocross races is that you don’t have to have a dedicated track for a race. As long as you’ve got enough space, you can set up an autocross track in a parking lot, an empty field or anywhere that’s flat and open — as long as you have permission, of course. Grab some cones or some easily removable parking lot paint, and you’re good to go!
Once you’ve arrived, take a few minutes to walk the track and figure out where the curves and tricks are to give you an advantage once you hit that starting line. If you need some help, ask — chances are, you’ll make a new friend in the process, and you may even learn something that gives you an edge.
Before you can take the track, you’ll need to get your car inspected. Make it easier for your inspector — open the hood and take all loose items out of the car. You’ll also need to take the driver’s side floor mat for safety reasons. The inspector will check things like the lug nuts, wheel bearings, suspension and battery, as well as the seatbelts or harnesses, brakes and accelerator. The goal is to make sure your car is safe and ready to race, whether you’re racing in the street class or one of the modified ones.
Once the inspection is complete and you get your numbers, it’s time to get into the lineup and race!
If you want to try your hand at racing but don’t have the skills to get into a professional racing circuit, autocross is a great place to start. It’s competitive, but in a casual sort of way, and if you’ve got a helmet, a driver’s license and a car, you’ve got everything you need to enter. Make sure your car is in good shape, learn your track and whatever you do, don’t forget your helmet!