Q: “I have a dumb question: What tips do you have to help me become a quicker autocross driver?”
A: Wow, “quicker autocross driver” is a huge topic! I’m trying to think of the top 3 things… and here’s my first crack at them:
- Attack. Sure, smooth is fast… until it’s too smooth. Autocross rewards attacking the course more so than driving a road course. Because the turns are usually fairly tight, you need to make the car change directions quickly. If you’re too smooth, and especially if you brake even a tiny bit early, you don’t have enough load on the front tires, and you can’t rotate the car enough. So, try attacking corners more by braking late, trail into the apex, and make the car rotate. Of course, you can go too far with this advice (and I’m giving you advice without any knowledge of how you’re driving now – you could already be attacking the corners…), and if you load the front tires too much, you could just get too much understeer. So, find the right balance, but don’t be afraid to attack a bit more.
- Visually, focus on the gap between the cones. Because you’re human (see, there I go again making assumptions – you might not be human!), your eyes are attracted to objects, especially bright orange ones. And where you visually focus, you go. Practice focusing on the “nothing” in between cones, and visualize the line through the cones without actually looking at them.
- Mentally prepare so you know exactly where the course goes. After you’ve walked the course, and especially after you’ve driven it once or twice, take some quiet time to mentally rehearse where you want the car placed, the line, and how you’re going to drive each turn. Even watching other cars/drivers will help you fine-tune your mental movie of the course. Even the smallest of gaps in your mind about where the course goes and how you want to drive it will slow you down.
Bonus round… Quick hands. Yes, it’s still important to build up cornering grip with the tires, but if you turn the steering wheel too slow, you’re not attacking the course.
Extra bonus round… Have fun!!
P.S. – That was not a dumb question.
P.S.S. – If you want more advice, I did write a book all about autocrossing – Winning Autocross Techniques.