I ran in my second ever autocross yesterday. Wow. Take all of the excitement of rallye driving, pack it into 55 seconds, then do it 5 times within an hour. The result, when mixed with an hour of course-work, an hour of walking the course and memorizing it, and at least two hours of prepping the car and watching others (oh, yeah, and driving 45 minutes to and from the event), is utter fatigue. With a little sunburn.
Every part of my body wanted to crash when I got home, but I still had to take another 30 minutes putting the car back together for street driving. This stuff is exhausting.
The course, which was set up at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, was based largely on the North Course at this year's SCCA Nationals. A fun, fast, and complicated course ranging over a huge piece of tarmac, it featured slaloms, hair-pin turns, narrow channels (some that curved), super-fast straights, braking nightmares, and everything you'd (n)ever want to encounter on the street. In short: it was awesome.
I think there were close to 100 competitors, including 6 MINIs (7 drivers), a bevy of Porsches, BMW's, Subies, a Mitsubishi Evo, and a Ferrari Modena 360 Spyder. Nice. Some of the cars were trailered in, raced, trailered, and taken back home. I can't imagine having the financial wherewithal to trailer a 1983 Morgan Plus 8, or a custom-built race car.
Anyway, in the first heat (of four), Daniel Gohlke and I were assigned to the third safety station. Our job was to reset cones if they got knocked down, to call them in as penalties, and to red flag drivers if an unsafe condition presented itself. That turned out to be ironic, as the third station was in the most unsafe possible place. We were in a place that was responsible for traffic coming from two opposite directions, and once had a BMW M Coupe come sliding right at us.
During the second heat, I watched a number of great competitors, and watched as the bar was raised higher and higher. This enormous course was being run in less than 50 seconds, and some had it down to 43 seconds.
Finally, our time came. I went out and did my very best, each time learning a little more about the nuances of the course: where to apply power, where to shift, where to brake, and when to turn. By the last run, I had figured out how to drift slightly through some of the later gates, which allowed me to turn the wheel before getting to the gate, kick out the back end, and wind up pointed at the next gate. As a result, I wound up cutting just over 4 seconds off my time.
Run 1: 57.170
Run 2: 55.329
Run 3: 54.555
Run 4: 53.701
Run 5: 53.127
And I never hit a cone. This stuff is addictive.