Autocrossing with Andy Smith

by Chip Witt, Redwood Region Secretary

I had the pleasure of running into one of Redwood Region's newest members, Andy Smith, at the Marin Cars and Coffee in Novato on July 5th. Through the course of our conversation, I learned that Andy had not only heard about our region's great autocross events, but had already been invited out by several of his friends that regularly autocross with the club. Despite multiple invitations and lots of encouragement, it seemed like Andy might have still been on the fence about coming out to AX #6 on July 11th when we parted ways, but I remained hopeful. 

Well, I'm happy to report that Andy did make it out and, by all accounts, had an amazing time. He graciously gave us a few minutes for an email interview about his experience.


dR:  How long have you been a PCA member? How long with the Redwood Region?


Andy:  I have been a member for only about six months, Redwood and PCA.


dR:  What Porsche(s) do you (or have previously) owned? How long have (did) you had it (have them)?


Andy:  I started slowly! I currently have the 1989 Targa (Baltic Blue) which I have owned for about a year and previously had a 1999 all-black 911 (996) which I had for a little more than a year before that.  I have been previously (and continue to be) an Alfa Romeo fan as well, although I am just down to the one 1988 Spider Veloce at this I need to make garage space for the Porsches!


dR:  What originally led you to join the PCA?


Andy:  I have three or four friends who are longtime members, and super-knowledgeable about the club and the brand. They invited me to a tech event at Hi Tec, and I enjoyed the group so much I joined right thereafter.


dR: Have you attended other club events, and if so, which ones? Did you bring a guest (your wife/significant other) with you for any of them? Did you have fun?


Andy:  So far, I have been to two tech events, one tour (Oktoberfest), several Cars and Coffee Sundays in Novato, and a few non-official events like Dick Gale's "One Lap of Marin".  Of course, I had fun!  Any time I'm learning more about the marque, about sports cars in general, or about how to become a better owner/driver, I am living the dream! So far, just me for those events but working on other family members!


dR:  How did you first hear about autocrossing with the club?


Andy:  Somebody made an announcement at the Tech Event which piqued my interest. Then my Porsche Club buddies had told me about how great it is for learning about your car and learning about performance driving.  The low cost and the frequency of offerings made it very easy for me to decide to "take the plunge"!


dR:  When you first heard about autocrossing, what were your thoughts? Were you immediately interested? Did you have any concerns that gave you cause for hesitation?


Andy:  Well, I think that I am like a lot of people; I don't want to embarrass myself too badly. I figured that there would be people there with a LOT more experience and with a lot more specialized cars.  I guessed that there was the potential for me to look very bad!


dR: Did you have any preconceived notions of what autocrossing was or the types of Porsche owners it catered to?


Andy: The above types. Not necessarily bad, but potentially intimidating for the newbie!


dR:  What did you get out of the day? Learn anything specific? Did anything about the day surprise you?


Andy:  First of all, I found everyone to be extremely helpful and supportive. I had to "learn the ropes" (e.g. everything) when our group was assigned the track/marshall duty, and Joe Lee was very helpful in explaining everything.  Then Bob Schoenherr acted as my instructor when it was my turn to drive, and because his style is very Cool, Calm and Collected, I began to improve almost right from the start.  I learned the limits of my car (yes, one spin!) and I learned some good techniques.  Both helped me shave seven seconds off my time by the end of the day. Fun!


dR:  Did you have fun? Will you come out again? Would you recommend autocrossing to your friends and family? Why?


Andy:  Yes and yes! I will definitely be back. I also have some friends who are very curious about the process but a bit afraid to take the plunge. I can happily tell them that there is nothing to worry about and everything to gain!


dR:  Sounds like you had a great time! We're glad to hear you plan on coming out again. Now that you've had your initial experience, what would your "elevator pitch" be to friends that you think might benefit from coming out to an autocross event with you?


Andy: I would tell them that there is no better or more cost-effective way to learn both about yourself and your car in a very short time frame. All is very organized and safe, yet as much fun as I have ever had driving a car!

We asked Andy to provide the picture you see of him with his car. With it he provided a little editorial commentary: "It's kind of an idiotic picture, but Essy Fariab took this and I get a laugh out of it!"

 Andy, thank you for answering our questions, providing the picture and for your participation in our events. You seem to fit right in, and we're happy to have you. Welcome to the Redwood Region of the Porsche Club of America!