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What Is Autocross?

Kevin Cassar
April 20, 2020

For some time, you have been asking yourself the question, "how can I get myself and my Mustang involved in a sanctioned racing event without breaking the bank?" The answer is clear: autocross events are some of the best ways to get into racing even if you are a novice driver; all while being at an affordable price that any enthusiast can afford. Autocrossing is defined as a form of racing competition, in which high-performance cars are driven around a circuit that is formed by cones around a large parking lot or airfield.

No matter if you just bought your Mustang or have had it for several years, you can get involved at any time. There is a level for every skill of driver out there, from novice to pro-racer, autocross events are designed to be fun, competitive, and challenging. You will find that most sanctioned autocross events are held all around the country, usually by an authorized body such as SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). Below you will find a comprehensive guide to how you can get involved in autocross and what steps are needed before you hit the track!

Shelby GT350R SCCA Autocross

Autocross Is The Perfect Gateway To Racing

If you're a die-hard Mustang or racing enthusiast, chances are you have been or seen an autocross at least once or twice. But if you have not, you might be asking yourself, why would anyone want to do this? The answer is simple: autocross events are as much about the performance of your Mustang as they are about the participants. Unlike a road course where you will have lap times ranging anywhere from three to six minutes depending on what track you are on.

On an autocross course, you will see lap times in less than two minutes; this is due to the close quarter track that drivers have to navigate their way through. Each autocross course is negotiated one at a time, as quickly as a driver can. Every single vehicle is timed; the driver with the lowest time usually takes home the checkered flag. Autocross events are like every sanctioned racing body; each has rules, regulations, and safety criteria to meet.

The significant part about autocross events vs a road course track is they challenge the driver's eye-hand coordination to the extremes. You start from a dead stop, accelerating as hard as possible down the front straight away, then hitting a hard sweeping corner, and then a tight section of hairpin turns, all while controlling the steering, throttle, clutch, brakes, and shifter while focusing on the course ahead of you. What makes these events so much fun is the number of challenges you must endure, but for most enthusiasts, it is smiles all around.

Fox Body Pro Touring Autocross

What Do I Need To Autocross?

From novice to an experienced racer, the regulations are still the same no matter what class of autocross you choose to participate in. While getting your Mustang dialed in is excellent, in the handling and power, confirming you meet all the requirements before you head to your local autocross event is vital. Here are some of the guidelines you will see no matter what event you are at throughout the country.

Approved Snell Helmet

  • No matter what autocross event you attend, you will need a helmet. At every sanctioned racing event, safety is the number one priority; autocross is no different. Before every race, a tech inspector will confirm you have the proper helmet, which is at least 2005 or newer, to ensure the quality and acceptability before going out on track. Most tech inspectors will need to make sure it is an approved helmet or have standard certifications such as Snell "M" and "SA."
  • If you do not have a helmet, most SCCA regions offer a loaner helmet to use.

State Issued Valid Driver License

  • SCCA states that if you are not entering a full-on race car or karting class, you must have a current driver's license issued by any of the fifty states. It is required across the board, especially if you enter an SCCA Solo event. In some cases, a racing license will be required by the sanctioned body. Before every race, you will need to have your driver's license with you to show to the working registration staff; after this, you will be all set to race on the track.
  • NOTE: If you are under the age of eighteen, you will need to have your parents sign a minor waiver before going out on the Autocross.

Mustang In Great Working Order

  • As for most racing, safety and proper equipment are the cornerstones to having a great time out on the track.
  • Before any track time, you must verify your Mustang is in good working order such as:
  • Ensuring your car battery is securely fastened to the body.
  • Engine or transmission doesn't have any leaks.
  • Your tires do not have any significant wear or metal showing.
  • The braking system is working in proper order along with ample brake pads.
  • Confirming your seatbelts are not worn and in correct working order.
  • NOTE: the tech inspector will be the one to verify your good to go for the Autocross. It doesn't hurt to check things beforehand to speed up the process.

Ford Focus ST Full Send

Autocross Levels

In autocross, there are many levels of competition and driver skill. You will see this no matter what area of the country you are. Sanctioning bodies and events such as SCCA, Optima Street Car Challenge, and Goodguys, have different levels to ensure they cover every type of driver skill. Here are some of the levels you might find around your local Autocross.

Beginner Level Driver School

  • A body like SCCA will have a beginner startline line school to have a professional driver take you through the concepts that will introduce you to autocross. These concepts will give you the tools you'll need to be successful out on the track. With the focus being solely on helping you for success on the autocross, you will develop performance driving attributes such as rev-matching, car control, turn-in, and brake zones with the professional driver.
  • Steeda recommends enrolling yourself in one of these full-day track schools with a professional driver to get you started.

Local

  • Depending on who is hosting the autocross event, the size in the competition can be very diverse. You will see a lot of different classes of cars competing in the Autocross.
  • Hosted sanctioning bodies will sometimes say, you do not need to be a member to participate, the only thing you have to do is pass the tech inspection and register for the event.

Regional

  • Each of these events is a significant step up from your local autocross event. They consist of much stiffer competition, not only from a driver skill level but the performance of each vehicle.
  • Regional is where you can test your driving skills, to see if you're ready to take on the veterans of the sport!

Championship Level

  • Championship is where the pros and veterans hang; if you want to be recognized as one of the best in the sport, this is where you take your craft.
  • Unlike a full-day autocross, these can consist of a full weekend to see who brings home the checkered flag.

Hard Cornering Shelby GT350R

Autocross Classes

Your Mustang or vehicle class will depend on the modifications and potential of what it is capable of doing. Each class is limited to the changes your Mustang can have. When these variables are determined, the field is divided up into equal levels of competition. Honestly, it wouldn't be fair to put a Ford GT against your base level Mustang EcoBoost, would it?

Below, you'll find some of the common classes for Mustang owners to get their feet wet when it comes to autocross. Be sure to check out the official SCCA Autocross Rules on the SCCA website for more information.

Street Category

  • This class is for the entry-level of competitors. Most of the competition consists of base-level factory cars. For example, if you just bought your Mustang from the dealer and you want to break it to hone in your skills from factory form.
  • It is the most restrictive of all the classes as drivers are not allowed to make much of any modifications.
  • You will find most stock vehicles in this category.
  • Tire minimum UTQC treadware grade of 200.

Street Touring Category

  • The next step up from the street but still 200 treadwear minimum.
  • You are allowed more bolt-on modifications to your Mustang, but you are still restrictive on what you can have.
  • Engine modifications are not allowed.

Street Prepared Category

  • For all the Mustang enthusiasts who want to prove their modifications are superior to the competition, this level is where you strive to be!
  • In street prepared, you are encouraged to have more modifications due to the level of competition out there.
  • Unlike the previous two classes, this is where you are allowed to have slight engine modifications.
  • DOT approved race-like tires are used in this class.

Street Modified Category

  • Are you looking to go full-send with any modifications such as a turbo, supercharger, upgraded aero, or an engine swap? Then this is the class for you.
  • Modified is for the very hardcore racing enthusiast who is at a very high level of driving skill.
  • Tires must still be DOT street approved race-like tires. Example: Nitto NT01 Road Course Tires or slicks.

Ford Performance Racing School Mustang GT

How Do I Participate In Autocross?

Autocross racing is some of the most fun you can have behind the wheel of your Mustang! For years, enthusiasts have enjoyed learning the skill it takes to be at the edge of what your Mustang is capable of. It is all about fun and competition, who wouldn’t want to go fast and thrash their Mustang they’ve worked so hard to build. Among your fellow enthusiasts, who wouldn’t want to see who is the king of autocross and which Mustang reigns supreme.

If you talk to anyone who has or is currently autocrossing, they will say that beating someone else has little importance vs. having a great time, pushing their Mustang to the limit, and testing their driving skills. The comradery, fun, and experience are indeed what makes autocrossing so great.

Everyone at Steeda looks forward to getting out as much as possible to the next autocross event. We look forward to seeing our fellow customers, fans, and enthusiasts on track!






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