The Midfield Report: Observations from an Autocross Apprentice

mike hinton headshot 2011



by Mike Hinton, Redwood Region Member July 2011

I would like to start this report with a little background on my autocross experience to date. At the Two Bird Café Breakfast Run in February 2010 (my first PCA event), Greg Maissen persuaded me to come out and try autocrossing. With much trepidation, I began my autocross career at the Zone 7 event on April 17, 2010 (maybe not the absolute best group to run with your first time, but what the heck!). Since then, I have participated in six more autocross events (hence, the "apprentice's" point of view). I'm hooked now!

On June 11, the Redwood Region hosted its first "Porsche-only" autocross of the 2011 season (click here for event results). The previous two events were shared with ESCA (the Empire Sports Car Association). As you may know, ESCA members drive a very diverse array of cars (and pickup trucks, too!). Although all Redwood Region autocross events are held at the same venue, the atmosphere of the Porsche-only events feels completely different to me. The group seems to be a bit less intense, and the cars are much cooler to ogle (at least for us Porsche freaks!). 

Once all cars passed tech inspection and the drivers had some time to walk the course and try to plan the best line to take through each turn, Autocross Director Tom Strobel rounded everyone up for the required driver's meeting. First-timers were asked to identify themselves, and there were many of them, which is encouraging! Seeing the new folks reminded me of how apprehensive and intimidated I was at my first event. As you may know, beginners generally will ride as a passenger in an instructor's car for a couple of runs before tackling the course themselves with an instructor giving directions. If you're like I was, you were probably astounded (and terrified) at how quickly an instructor can negotiate the course! After your "instructed" runs, you get to go solo (when you are ready). Attacking that course with all of your ability will certainly get your heart rate up! It's a good thing that there's some time between runs to analyze your performance and exchange go-faster ideas with other drivers. I've found that everyone (not only instructors) is happy to share ideas about improving your time. After all, faster = more fun!

Of course, there's work that goes with the play, and when you aren't driving, you're filling a job out on the course. Course assignments include picking up cones that have been massacred (maybe many cones, depending on your station - ask Chris Harrell about this!), handing out time slips, lining up cars at the starting grid, and various other duties. The working part of your day allows you to watch other drivers and learn from what they do, and let me tell you, there are some talented pilots out there. Watching Tristan Bayless hurl a 912 around the course 7 seconds faster than I could manage in my Carrera was amazing! The cycle repeats itself after the lunch break, and all too soon, it's time to call it a day.

If you're like me, you don't need to save space in your car for trophies (check the results: I was a solid 29th!), but you will need to increase your tire budget! If you haven't already, check out Chris Harrell's video link under the Autocross Results on the Redwood Region website for a driver's-eye view of the action. All I can say is that if you enjoy driving your Porsche quickly, you owe it to yourself to participate in a PCA autocross. You'll be amazed at how much fun you've been missing, with the added benefit of learning how to control your car at the extremes of traction. See you on the course!


I'd like to thank Mike for his contribution, which will hopefully be the first installment of an ongoing column here in der Riesenbaum. And yes, I got a SERIOUS workout chasing cones at the 6/11 event, so much so that I'm still trying to figure out how I mustered up the energy for a 20-mile run the next afternoon.--Ed