My faith in Lone Star State has been restored!

You drive up to the gate of the track at dusk… And instead of the usual shakedown for expensive tickets and smuggled beverages and vittles, you just show them the downloaded waiver app on your phone and you’re welcomed in! Pick a parking spot with a decent view of tomorrow’s races, in the second row because you’re driving a van and that’s just good manners. Too early to sleep, so you go for a walk… Is this the pits or a party? But come 10pm and it all quiets down, and so dark I didn’t even need to put the windows all the way up or install all the window covers.

Daylight in the Cones!

Woke up at first light to activity all around me, with a small army of volunteers putting the finishing touches on the “track” and timing while hordes of drivers took a more than ceremonial “track walk”- One of the two courses is over a mile long and both have dozens of turns to learn.

Running against the clock, but there’s at least 3 cars racing…

‘Bout 8ish the drivers started their races against the clock, and with near 1200 drivers getting 3 runs each over 2 different courses the action was as hot ‘n’ heavy as “wheel to wheel” racing. Heck, maybe more so with no passing needed! That’s 3600 runs on each course over 4 days, so to get done at a decent hour both courses ran with another driver flagged off every 30 seconds or so. At one point I counted 5 cars on the courses at once, and it damned near looked like and sure as heck sounded like a race!

Old Skool car lift…

Meanwhile back in the pits, hands grasped wrenches instead of last night’s microbrews as street tires were swapped for DOT certified track “gumballs” and the odd tweak was made.

But all was not sweetness, light, and blinding speed betwixt the cones…

Yup, a Corvair!

Having done my last autocross in a Corvair back in 69, I got a soft spot for them. So I chased this one down and got a talk with one of it’s drivers, a 70ish gentleman whose been driving Corvairs since 1963 and racing this one for a couple decades. Despite having not even 3 liters of engine that GM abandoned development of near 6 decades ago versus the 5 liters and up of the Fox body Mustangs and Camaros in the same class, this Corvair just like in the 60s was competitive against the V8 pony cars that couldn’t put their power to the pavement… Until the SCCA allowed 2 inch wider tires and made the V8s at least 10 seconds faster!

SCCA has a tire problem…

Thanks, Tire Rack!

No surprise that internet race tire emporium Tire Rack had the biggest tent and put on a feed for a thousand, would have partook myself but got there as the caterers were packing up. Biggest trailer award went to Falken tires, and looked like another tire purveyor took 2nd place. Now makes sense that a ‘Vette or 911 demands high performance tires, tire wear isn’t a big deal if you can afford six figure cars, and when the roads get slippery supercars cower in the garage. Being working class, any car of mine has to be able to haul home a Costco cart size load through a blizzard and the 200 Tread Wear “summer dry” tires required to be competitive in even the “Stock” classes in SCCA autocross wouldn’t get me outa my driveway half the year. Now SCCA could make everybody but the tire merchants happy by requiring the kind of All Season 400+ Tread Wear tires even GTIs come with and every competitor would be on a level playing field… But Nooooo! So add $1200 worth of tires and wheels to the new helmet needed to satisfy the SCCA.

Vendor row…

(Don’t get me started)

Besides some enjoyable race spectating, I came to the SCCA Autocross Nationals hoping to get some of my questions answered and decide if I want to go auto crossing. I’d considered entering just to get some experience, but chose not to risk the $195 entry fee as I wasn’t sure if my helmet or car would pass tech, never mind be competitive. My helmet is an EC approved motorcycle helmet that is well regarded by serious motorcyclists because of that certification, but because I bought it here in the U.S. it has a DOT rather than EC approval sticker, but the manufacturer’s website says every helmet they build meets EC and DOT standards. It gets worse- SCCA won’t allow EC helmets next year because they say they can’t date them, but my helmet was introduced in 2011 and SCCA is OK with 2010 Snell helmets. So I need to blow some $$$ on a “Snell Certified” sticker helmet to go SCCA auto crossing, good luck finding one within 150 miles of here, and I know better than to sizing gamble by buying a helmet online.

Then there’s my “daily driver” and potential autocross racer, a Golf 7 TDI with 150 roaring diesel horses trying to lug 3300 pounds around. That’s 30 less horses and 300 more pounds than the late model Honda Civic that dominates the H Stock class my TDI ends up in, and it’s the SCCA’s slowest class. Yup, you need less than 20 pounds for each of your horses to haul to be competitive in SCCA autocross, otherwise may as well stay home.

And does SCCA even let diesel cars autocross? Hoping for answers I looked towards tech inspection, who were either MIA or too busy to be bothered weighting every car as it came off the course. Come noon break I had no answers to my questions and global warming was making the shadeless slabs uncomfortable enough that a nice two lane drive home was more attractive and I left, for good.

Overheated drivers and helpers push overheated cars to SCCA’s sacred scales…

I had hopes of finding some new amusements in SCCA Autocross and cities haunted by street racing could use the SCCA’s experience to get the racers off the streets and into safe competition. But if the SCCA doesn’t have an autocross home for this old white lady and her diesel car, how are they going to welcome more diverse racers?