Intro to Cone Crushing (5 min read)
An Intro to Cone Crushing
Autocross is a great way to scratch the performance itch with minimal cost and preparation. If you’re looking for a way to do some aggressive driving in a legal and safe manner, this is the perfect answer. Autocross courses are coned-“tracks”, with speeds usually no greater than 55-60mph. Each “run” typically takes around 30-40 seconds to complete.
I can’t drive 55, why so slow?
Although speed is key to getting a good course time, it’s not the most important factor. Rather, autocross focuses more on technical driving than going fast. It offers a great way to hone your cornering, braking, and hand/eye coordination skills. If you’re looking to get started in motorsports, or just simply curious to see how well your Focus ST handles, autocross is the answer.
What’s great about autox (that’s short for autocross to you newbies), is that it’s quite mellow compared to other forms of racing. To clarify, it's not mellow in terms of lax rules or management, but mellow in terms of worry-free intimidation, low participation costs, and you don’t need a race car to participate. In addition, race licenses and prior experience are not required. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday (or both!), with plenty of stories to share at work on Monday. In fact, telling your work buddies you went “racing” over the weekend is sure to trump anyone’s “how was your weekend?” story.
In terms of preparation, as I mentioned, it’s pretty minimal for both you and your car. A Snell-rated helmet is typically all that’s required for the driver. If you don’t own a helmet, some organizations will rent you a loaner. HOWEVER, I’d highly recommend investing a few bucks and getting your own. There’s something quite nasta about wearing someone else’s sweat, and smelling the prior guy’s pastrami sangwhich on the chin guard. Oh, and take my advice, please don’t get an open face helmet. Reason one: it doesn’t look cool, and two: it offers the least amount of protection, and lastly: you pretty much screwed yourself if you want to do any other type of driving, as many organizations are shunning them for reason two. Invest in a good, closed face helmet, that will allow you to progress in the sport. No one likes having to buy things twice. Aside from a helmet, everything else is optional. Some drivers will opt for a good pair of driving gloves and shoes, but that’s really as far as driver equipment goes. Because speed is minimal, the potential of damage is on par. At most, you’ll probably get a cone scuff on your bumper. However, it does leave for a pretty cool battle scar story.
Some drivers will invest in a dedicated set of tires, like the Toyo R888, Falken Azenis, or Potenza RE-11. It’s really up to you. Autocrossing will wear out your tires quicker than you drive on the freeway, so be prepared to replace your tires a little quicker than you’re used to. If you’re new, I’d hold off on messing with tire pressures just yet. Tip: if you’re new to autox, this a great conversation starter to meet people at the track. This isn’t F1, so no one’s really keeping their tire pressures top secret. If you are, you’re an ass.
In terms of acceptable cars, you’re pretty much open to anything. There is a very wide range of car classes for anything ranging from a stock CRX, a slightly modified S2000, Lotus Elise’s, and even PopPop’s Lincoln Town Car.
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My recommendation? Everyone’s gotta do it at least once. It’s good fun, and you’ll learn valuable car handling and basic driving skills, that will allow you to progress into other areas of the sport. Autocross is a great starting ground, but quite honestly, you’ll probably catch the speed bug and want to go even faster. Once ready, I’d highly recommend getting into track day driving, which allows you to drive on a full-sized, dedicated racetrack. But for now, get the hell off the couch, and crush some cones!
If anyone has anything to add, or advise on where to participate, I welcome your comments below..