Autocross or Autoslalom is an extremely inexpensive and safe way to participate in competitive motorsports. In general, most safe, street legal cars can compete with or without any significant modifications. There are various classes based on the car and the level of modifications, so a stock Honda won’t have to compete against a fully prepared Porsche.
What Is Autoslalom/Autocross?
Autoslalom (aka Solo II in the US) events are “Time Trial” style competitions; there is no wheel to wheel racing involved, as cars are sent out one at a time, or at least spaced out so that they will not come into any contact with each other. These events are derived from the original Gymkhana competitions from 50s and 60s. Today, an event called a Gymkhana is usually a “fun” event, with slow speeds and silly tricks. Today, an event called an Autoslalom is a timed competition, with speeds perhaps as much as 100 km/h in large lots or on airport runways.
What about the Course/Track?
The course is laid out on a large chunk of asphalt or concrete (or sometimes a mixture of both.) The course is lined with cones. A box is drawn around the base of the cone; this box is to allow the cone to be replaced correctly if it is disturbed, and to allow corner workers to determine if a driver has disturbed it enough to acquire a 2 second penalty. The rule of thumb is that a cone on its side is a 2 second penalty, as is a cone that has hopped completely out of the box. However, a cone that still touches the box is OK (but the course worker does need to put it back into place.)
Can I participate with my own car?
Most sedans, coupes, and wagons are eligible for entry, provided they’re in sound shape, have enough meat on the brakes, and that the tires are in decent condition. SUVs, CUVs, trucks, and other vehicles with higher centre of gravity are generally disallowed for safety reasons. If unsure, feel free to shoot us a question at our classing forum (see below).
All Autoslalom clubs do a technical inspection; they don’t like to let cars out on course with loose batteries, loose wheel bearings, or bad ball joints (to name a couple of things that might be checked). Cars can also be rejected that have loose wheel bearings, or tires that are showing the cord underneath the tread.
What’s my class?
Just post your car details on the forum and club members will help you figure your class.
What do I need?
- A safety helmet (If you don’t have one, we have loaner helmets)
- Extra air in your tires. Stop at a gas station and fill your tires to approximately 45psi-Front/35psi-Rear for a front-wheel-drive car, or 40psi all around for a rear-wheel-drive car.
- Suitable shoes for driving. The best are light-soled, with a narrow sole which does not stick out past the side of the shoe
- Clothes appropriate for the weather forecast, plus a change for when the forecast is wrong.
- Rain gear / umbrella
- A hat
- A folding chair
- Snacks and Water
Where do I go?
The majority of autocross events in the Lower Mainland take place at Pitt Meadows. You can get directions here on how to get there.
When do I show up?
A typical schedule looks like this but can vary so make sure to check the specific event details:
- 7:30am – Gates open
- 8:30am – Tech closes
- 8:30am – Registration closes (sharp!)
- 9:00am – Drivers’ meeting
- 9:30am – First car on course
Besides registration and tech, you will also want to spend some time walking the course, so it’s recommended to be there at opening time.
What’s “walking the course”?
Since the course is laid out with cones, it changes at every event. So armed with a course map, competitors walk the course a number of times to familiarize themselves and strategize before driving it.
Where do I go on course?
There are two layout philosophies which are common. One is from the SE US, where they use lots of cones to wall off the course; these are relatively easy to learn to drive. It is much more common to see “gated” courses, where pairs of cones are scattered over the course and you need to trace the path from one gate to the next. If the course designer is good, these are not too hard to follow, but if he makes the mistake of setting the cone spacing so you can’t tell a gate from another gap between two cones, these courses can be tough to learn. It helps if the boundaries of the course are marked with lime, which is becoming more and more common.
What’s “working the course”?
Nearly every club that puts on Autoslalom events requires that drivers also work stints in various jobs. If you want to be a well rounded driver, you should try and learn all of them. Tasks include timing & scoring, starting, and course working (aka cone shagging.) The most people are needed to work the course, so expect to become expert in this first. Different clubs do things differently; some use a shift system where you might take 2 or 3 runs, then go work while other drivers take 2 or 3 runs. Many clubs just alternate; you drive, then you work, then you get a little time off, then you drive, then you work, and so forth. Be sure to report promptly for your work assignment. Working the course gives you the opportunity to watch different drivers and start to see what some are doing that makes them consistent winners; look at the lines they take through corners, look at how they brake and when they get on the gas.
If you have any more questions please ask on the forum or any VCMC staff on the day of the event.
VCMC Motorsports Club hosts many Autoslalom events throughout the year. Beginners are most welcome, and senior drivers will always lend a helping hand, offer driving tips, and offer a ride in their car. Don’t be afraid to ask. Also, please feel free to stop by at any of our events to observe. This is a good way to get to know what we do.
For more detailed beginners information, please visit our introduction to autocross thread