The Midfield Report: Observations from an Autocross Apprentice

mike hinton headshot 2011
by Mike Hinton, Redwood Region Member, March 2012

I had hoped to be able to report on our first autocross event of 2012 in this column, but alas, the reality of publishing deadlines dictated that this report be completed prior to the first event. The bright side is that at the time of this writing, there are only 4 more days to wait until the fun begins again.

This season promises to be different from my autocross experiences thus far, as there are several "new" things happening. First and foremost, all of Redwood Region's 2012 autocrosses will be PCA-only. Those of you who have read (or suffered) through previous Midfield Reports may recall reports on other PCA-only events. I have observed that the PCA-only events have a more relaxed atmosphere than other events I've attended. I'm sure that part of that feeling stems from the fact that I know far more PCA members than ESCA members, but there's more to it than that. At the PCA-only events, I've observed our more experienced members go out of their way to assist and encourage fledgling autocrossers. Maybe because we all own and enjoy driving Porsches, we like to help others do so as well. It's always great to see the smiles on the faces of the newer drivers, and that holds true even when they circulate faster than you do (that would be you, Chris!). In short, a PCA-only autocross feels like a family reunion, with friendly competition thrown in to add to the fun.

Another difference from prior years may not apply to everyone, but there will be at least a few of us that will campaign a new (to us) car in autocross this year. After driving my trusty (and heavy) 1987 Carrera for the last two seasons, I decided to drive my 1972 911T this year. In a way, it will be like starting from ground zero again, since I've only owned the car for four months, and frankly, I haven't had the opportunity to drive it that quickly yet. The 1972 does feel nimble and seems to have relatively good grip, but we'll see. Given that it only has 125 horsepower, I believe that the key to decent times will be to conserve momentum at all costs (just like you'd do in a 912 or 914), which will be a change from driving the 1987.  This change will be a good thing, given that one of the objectives of autocrossing is to improve and expand your driving skills. I just hope I don't embarrass myself out there!

I've also had the opportunity to talk to our Autocross Director, David Bunch, about the format of this year's events. David told me that one of his objectives is to increase the number of runs that each driver gets during an event. Any driver will tell you that more runs equal more fun, so I'm anxious to see if David can accomplish his goal. Personally, I'm going to lobby for more "enduro" (multi-lap) events, because I believe that running three to four laps consecutively allows you to make "real-time" improvements to your techniques. A further benefit is that an enduro will certainly get your heart racing!

I almost forgot one other important change for the 2012 autocross season. In 2011, the airport entry gate was not manned throughout the event, which prevented folks from coming in to watch after registration had closed. I'm pleased to report that this year, the gate will be manned throughout the event, so if you'd just like to spectate, feel free to come to the gate, and we'll let you in! I'll caution that you should be prepared to be recruited to drive in future events!

So, mark your calendar for March 10! Even if you don't plan to drive, come on out anyway and socialize with all of us "hard-core" racers. That being said, I strongly encourage everyone to come out and give autocrossing a try. Regardless of how fast or slow you are, you'll have fun, and learn a lot about your car, and your driving. See you on Saturday!

Mike

Click here for detailed results from all Redwood Region autocross events.