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!
Another year, another Monterey Car Week. Like a good Scotch, it never gets old. Besides the usual car shows that engulf the Monterey Peninsula, there is one jewel that seems to grow in popularity each year: The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. What is it? Historic racing at its very finest. All the famous racing cars you read about or see pictures and videos of head to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to prove they’re not just museum pieces. Sure, some do cruise in their prized collectibles, but some truly are there to race.
BMW is built upon its storied racing heritage, so of course a legion of Bavarian bombers take to the Corkscrew. We’re talking 2002’s, CSLs, and M1 Procars. These are simply the best of the best. Seeing them in person, to be brutally frank, is SO much better than a YouTube video. Compressed audio and even HD can’t come close to capturing the magic of one of these beasts. Here in person, the sound alone of the screaming ‘sixes raises hairs all over.
Competing with the BMW’s on track are period-correct models from Porsche, Ferrari, and even Chevrolet. And this is only one small group out of the dozen that runs over the weekend; That’s how much the Monterey Motorsports Reunion has to offer. The classes are diverse enough that, when coupled with short 30 minutes races, boredom is literally impossible.
The BMW CCA has a large presence as well, with a lavish camp overlooking turns 4 and 5. The car corral is equally impressive, with examples of the most desirable BMWs on display. Truly a show on its own.
Almost as good as the racing itself is the paddock. Here, no special passes are needed to wander through the garages and racing cars while they’re being prepped. It’s a brilliant chance to see all the legendary cars up close. Owners and drivers are of the utmost friendly nature too. Vendors are out in full-force too with racing memorabilia and apparel. I even bumped into sportscar superstar Marino Franchitti and his wife Holly, a racer of vintage cars herself, at the Nicolas Hunziker tent.
The facilities at Laguna Seca are world-class, being very clean and the access to almost any part of the circuit is tremendous. With it came perfect weather too, settling at about 70 degrees on a sunny, August day. Further highlights included seeing Mika Hakkinen race Emerson Fittipaldi’s McLaren M23 for demonstration laps and Mazda’s shrieking 767B.
The best part, though, is the price. While events like the Concours D’elegance, Italiano, and Quail run hundreds of dollars, the Historic’s are only double-digits. How’s that for bang for your buck? And this is more exciting. The racing resumes next year August 23-26.
Okay, so maybe not complete royalty. That one Duke nobody has ever heard of, but still retains the title. Gerion Lannister, for example. Bet you didn’t realize there even was a Gerion Lannister in Game of Thrones lore. Anyways, that’s what this monumental event felt like: being Royalty among the Royal.
The Quail has been an event during Monterey Car Week since 2003, hosted at the eponymous Quail Lodge and Golf Course. I had never been, and what a mistake this had proved. This might lack the established pedigree and formality of the Pebble Beach Concours, but it makes up for it in so many ways and, in my humble opinion, even surpasses Pebble. Put it this way: I didn’t want to leave. Checking my step-counter app and I had walked over 5 miles, just circling the show and every car over and over, such as the ambience of the event. The Quail is not just about the cars, but everything. It’s a royal tournament and everyone wants to be there.
Let’s see, who did I meet. Sir Jackie Stewart, Jay Leno, Horacio Pagani, Christian von Koenigsegg, John Hennessey, Bruno SENNA, Gil de Ferran, Marino Franchitti, and Magnus Walker. I also saw Michael Strahan walking about as well as Amir Khan and Roger Penske. I’m sure I saw many other famous peoples and hadn’t even realized who they were or just perhaps missed them. I mean, where else would you expect to see and bump into such automotive and racing elite? Maybe Monte Carlo.
Inside the Quail on the beautiful, lush fairway, you’ll find several (I think I counted five?) large tents sporadically about. Your entry includes what really is an all-you-can-eat buffet, of whatever variety of food you desire. I chose to go to the Hong Kong tent to try the exotic delicacies of the far East. I’m not sure what I ate exactly, but it was delicious. Next, I headed over to another and enjoyed lamb meatballs, also exceptional, as well as some seafood. Yep, that’s right, jump in line and grab however many oysters and caviar you’d like. I had never had either before. Caviar, eh, it’s okay; a most interesting fish byproduct. The Oysters were wonderful though, asking myself, “Why haven’t I had these sooner in my life?”
Oh, and there’s also drinks: Wine, champagne, cocktails, you name it. Lots of alcohol. Though it is wise to control one’s self in such an environment. I had some kind of fruity, colorful concoction. I don’t even know what was in it. Not exactly masculine, but damn was it good.
This is what makes the Quail so special: even if you’re a nobody there, just another Joe, like myself, there for the sights and cars, it makes youfeelspecial. Here I was, on a green surrounded by tens of millions of dollars of cars, talking to a Senna. As it turns out, Bruno is a most humble and charming man, clearly a racer out to make a story for himself and not to live in his uncle’s shadow. Racing at Le Mans this year for Rebellion, his car was 1st or 2nd for most of the race before mechanical calamities struck. Bruno was consistently the fastest driver in his squad and the whole LMP2 class. We must’ve chatted for 10 minutes when, oh who’s that? Is that sports car superstar Marino Franchitti dropping in and joining the conversation? And oh snap! Here comes Indy 500 winner and legend Gil de Ferran joining the fray.
Talking to these elite drivers, having them around you and hearing their stories and talking about their same passion for cars that we share is just mega. You become part of this celestial circle. These were guys you could easily have a beer with and not worry about a lack of good banter. I’m disappointed I had not recommended it!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot: The cars. Now, I know this is Bimmerforums, but we are all car people; We just like cool, interesting cars. So let hit this right off the bat: Koenigsegg. Holy heck are they cool. After all the times seeing them in the magazines and on YouTube, here I was finally next to not one, but maybe 7 of them? They’re simply monumental to behold in person. Founder Christian von Koenigsegg is a car guy through and through too, being the utmost friendly and relatable man. Another beer-worthy gentleman indeed.
The barrage of Paganis present were dreamlike as well. I have seen them before but they never fail to dazzle with the level of detail that Horacio incorporates into his rolling dreams.
Ferrari’s, Bugatti’s, Porsche’s, McLaren’s…the list of desirable cars on display was not lacking in the slightest.
Were there BMW’s? Heck yes! Well, I mean, not many- pretty sure I could count them all on my hand, but there was one that was very, very important on the pedestal: the new 8-Series. I’ll say it, the car looks good. The creases and flowing sheet-metal envelope a thoroughly handsome car. I love the rear the most, it’s slim lights that flick up on the ends flank the tapering, chiseled arse and large air ducts. It’s almost odd, as the whole car is both round and sharp. It engages the eye tremendously with a common design language used throughout. Nothing looks out of place. maybe except the cheap black plastic used for all air ducts, but that’s it. If BMW keeps it as close to the concept as possible, this is a huge win for BMW in putting some dramatic tension into the lineup.
So there you have it. If you have the means (let’s just say it’s not cheap), I highly recommend it. Even if not, it’s so worth going still. The experience is what you would consider a good dream, but it’s real life before your eyes. The Quail has become one of the staple events of the Monterey Car Week, and with that, it has become one of the best shows in North America. The combination is unbeatable in what makes it a truly memorable event. The cars, the people, the food, the drinks. It has everything. King for a day, as Green Day said.
A video highlight reel will land soon, but for now, please enjoy the attached photos of motoring paradise.