What is Autocross?

This is perhaps the cheapest and easiest way to go racing that won’t land you in the back seat of a police car.

Capital One

Article QuickTakes:

Autocross is a form of car racing where drivers navigate through a course defined by traffic cones on a large paved area such as a parking lot or airport tarmac. At these events, rather than face multiple cars in a wheel-to-wheel race, participants go through the course one at a time as a computer clocks them. The person with the lowest time wins, though hitting cones and/or going off course will result in a time penalty or sometimes even disqualification.

It’s fast-paced, adrenaline-inducing fun where even a thousandth of a second can make a difference. And unlike other forms of racing, you can go autocrossing in your own car with very little prep or expense. Best of all, it’s safe and open to all skill levels (with participants divided into classes based on things like vehicle performance and driver experience).

How to Find Autocross Events

The Sports Car Club of America puts on autocross (or Solo) races regularly, and the easiest way to find one is to visit MotorsportReg.com and search your area. You’ll use this site to register for an event too. (Regional SCCA membership costs about $10 to $20, and participating in a Solo race will likely set you back $25 to $45.) Be sure you read the posted supplemental regulations and schedule so you know what to expect.


How to Get Started in Autocross

While you can jump in headfirst and sign up to drive, we recommend attending an event as a spectator at least once. This way, you can get an idea of what’s involved in autocross, whether it’s something you want to pursue, and how to prepare for your first race. Simply find an event, show up early, walk around, introduce yourself, and ask questions. Most racers are more than happy to guide you and share their passion. You can also reach out to the organizers and volunteer to help. There is plenty to do, even if you have no experience.

When you’re ready to participate as a racer, it’s time to run through the requirements: First, you need a valid driver’s license. Second, you need an SCCA-approved helmet, which starts at about $170. If you aren’t ready for that investment, the event organizers often have loaners available, but you should check beforehand. Lastly, you need a car in good working condition. Someone will perform a basic tech inspection on it at the event. So, before you go, make sure to top off your car’s fluids, check the condition of the brakes, tires, and suspension components, and empty your car of anything you won’t need for the day. If you aren’t sure about your car’s mechanical condition, have a repair shop look it over in advance. If you need a shop recommendation or have other questions, ask  away on SCCA social media pages.

Is Autocross Hard on Your Car?

While spirited driving can stress some components of your car, it’s unlikely you’ll exceed your vehicle’s limits during an autocross event. Keep in mind that your car was not designed to hit cones; if you hit one, you may scuff or crack a bumper cover or fog light. You’ll also use up some tire and brake life when you drive fast, but chalk that up to the cost of fun!

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Jon Yanca
To say cars have been a lifelong passion for Jon Yanca would be an understatement. Obsession is probably more fitting. He brings over 15 years of automotive-industry experience spanning from top enthusiast publications, to advertising and marketing, to independent auto repair. When Jon is not writing about cars, you'll find him racing on dirt, pavement, and even ice, or with a wrench in hand maintaining his fleet of vehicles.