It's fast, it's jarring, it's nerve wracking and it's ... almost addicting. I thought long and hard about how I would most eloquently discuss the virtues of autocross and here it is. If high speed road course driving is like ballet, autocross driving is like twerking. I'm no expert in ballet or twerking, but I have seen both up close (a long time ago... cough cough) and I have some completely opinionated opinions about both, which allow me to draw some semi useful comparisons.
In my previous blog, I discussed the amount of preparation, balance and finesse it takes for both car and driver to drive, dare I say survive on a road course at speed. Power and control don't hurt either. In a previous life, when I was living like a bohemian artist, I was also working as a massage therapist. I was lucky enough to do a stint of preparing Seattle's Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers to take the stage and to relax between performances. What I saw was staggering. These people had bodies that were honed, strengthened and exercised to the limit and beyond. The musculature and precision of their physiques were second to none. Sadly, their injuries weren't either. Foot and ankle joints pushed to the breaking point and shoulders and spines that had seen a lifetime of duty within a few short decades simply left me in awe. The parallel is this. It takes that kind of power, precision and resilience to last on a road course as well. And the end result is simply beautiful and breathtaking.
Autocross couldn't be more different. The first parallel is this. Anybody can twerk, level of fitness and experience be damned. But anyone who has seen the internet in the last 10 years can clearly see that some folks are much better at it than others. Autocross is abrasive, and reliant on hard acceleration, cornering and braking. With the average run lasting about a minute, there really isn't a lot of time to let the car settle and find balance and speed. Instead, you focus on quick weight transfer exercises, trying to get the poundage to rest over the correct axle or wheel long enough for the car to dig in and do your bidding.
Autocross is every bit as thrilling as high speed road course driving and depending who you speak to, even more so. To keep your times down, you have your technique solidly in place. I did autocross as a build up to high speed track days and I must say, getting to the track was almost a relief, from the sea of cones and demanding footwork every other millisecond. It was on an autocross course that I first used a proper heel-toe in anger and might I say, it was vastly rewarding.
For a serious driver, there is no replacement for grinding out your skills and timing on an autocross circuit. It's a very real way to put in the work, to see how your car and your brain react to stress. Best of all, most of your spin outs, won't land you in the hospital or your car in the bodyshop. You simply get to head home with a bruised ego and a head full of lessons. As you get better, you'll replace the bruises with bragging rights and trophies. I won't lie to you. I don't personally think autocross is as fun or invigorating as high speed road course driving. It just doesn't have the same magic. But I still think it's worth a go or ten. You absolutely will push your car and yourself to the limit. And you'll gain some smiles too.
Last note. Autocross builds are insane. Aiming for pure bursts of acceleration and grip will do amazing things to the looks of a car. I've never been a Porsche Boxter fan, but when this 4.0 liter 911 engine swapped Boxter emerged from its cage, I was smitten.