Chip Witt

Autocross #1   2015 Autocross Season Begins...Finally!

by Chip Witt
, Redwood Region Secretary

Every March for the last couple of years I seem to come down with the same mysterious bug. I find myself in a half-daze digging my helmet, driving shoes and number decals out from the back corner of my closet where they've remained hidden through Winter. When others are struck by Spring Fever, they usually dream of beaches or picnics. Me? I start dreaming of orange and green cones carefully laid out in twists and turns on an unused airport runway, beckoning me to drive "Sasha" the way she was designed to be driven...but in a safe and controlled environment.  Once March rolls around, I need to autocross...NEED. No small word. By the turn-out at the Santa Rosa Airport on March 14th, it was clear I was not alone; forty-three of my fellow PCA members and Porsche owners were ready too, and we all had a blast.

The proof of the fun is in the stats. Ace Robey and his 2015 BMW M3 entered in the "Fun" class, and absolutely killed the course with the top men's time of the day in 32.441 seconds. Trevor Ridgley turned in the top men's time of the day in a Porsche, driving his AX5 classed 2004 GT3 through the course in 32.840 seconds. Vern Thomas earned the top ladies' time of the day in 34.985 seconds, lighting the cones up in her 2002 Porsche Boxter, a registered AX4-L entry. It was great to see both familiar and new faces at the event. Sharon Neidel in her beloved 1972 Porsche 914, Craig "Iceman" Steele in his 2006 Porsche Cayman and Brenda Hinton all made their ways back for the first event of the year after breaks from autocrossing of varying lengths. Brenda had so much fun in her new (to her) 2006 Cayman S that she has committed to attending the upcoming zone autocross school. Sandy Steele joined in the event as a non-driver with "A Taste of Autocross", where she got a couple of rides around the course with one of our instructors, Mac Cranford, at the wheel.

After all that information, you may still be sitting there wondering, "What is autocross?" Autocross is a timed motorsports competition in which drivers navigate one at a time through a course (usually) laid out with traffic cones in an open space, like a parking lot or, as in the Redwood Region's case, an unused airport runway. As with other forms of racing, there are different competition classes defined based upon capabilities of the cars (read: modifications) and their drivers. For our club, this also includes a "Fun" class for those coming out just to enjoy the experience.

"Why would anyone (in their right mind) want to autocross?", you might ask. It's simple. Driving your car aggressively in a safe environment (not on the public roads) helps you to understand exactly how it handles at the edge of control, while putting you and the car at very limited risk. You'll probably quickly note that I didn't say "zero risk", but operating your car to pick up the groceries doesn't come with any guarantees either. I digress. Understanding how your car handles in various situations makes you a better driver in your day-to-day life, and I believe it helps prepare you...makes you more confident and decisive...for the unexpected scenarios where the right reaction could make the difference between safely navigating a hazard or winding up in a ditch...or worse. Autocross can make you a better driver on the road. Period.

In the uncertain world of bad, inattentive, and inexperienced drivers, everyone could stand a little extra driver's ed. Especially since it is becoming increasingly rare for people to be able to easily acquire positive, practical experience with defensive driving or advanced control techniques. Understanding the physics by feel and under the guidance of an instructor (yes, easy-going, approachable instructors attend events, and are eager to share their fact, if you're new to autocross, spending a little quality time with them is required), and not just by theory (or bad experience), is invaluable. So, I advocate autocrossing for drivers at all levels of experience. Who knows? If you come out for our April 18th autocross, maybe you'll catch the bug too.

NOTE: Drew Powers loves autocross. Drew also loves video. To that end, he is compiling a video from all of this season's events in order to, in his words, "make an edit of what we are all doing out there and how much fun we are try to turn more people on to it". He was unable to participate on March 14th as a driver in the 1964 Porsche 356 he usually "wheelies" around the course because it is undergoing some repairs right now, but he came out to capture some video by mounting GoPro cameras on the cars of willing drivers. He is asking anyone that captures video from their own in/on-car mounts throughout the season and is willing to share to please send him raw footage via a Dropbox link (or similar...please don't try to email a large video file as an attachment). His email is


The Starting Line

Taking down the times

The police in on the action

Photo's courtesy of Chip Witt and Will Campbell.