Autocross Season Ends, Cones Everywhere Relieved.
Words: Richard Graves | Photos: As Watermarked
Hate pointy orange things and/or need to give your steering wheel a serious work-out? Try Autocross.
Polar opposite of drag racing, you do everything but drive in a straight line. Running flat out through a diabolically twisty course defined by nothing more than a sea of orange cones; no more pure an exercise of driver-concentration and grip-based car control exists this side of tarmac rally.
For those following from home, an autocross run typically lasts about a minute or less, and feels something like driving a 1+ mile section of the dragon, only without having to hold back on account of lanes, trees, cliffs, Harleys, or the po-po….just those pesky cones…and if you don’t hit one occasionally, you probably aren’t trying hard enough.
Ok, so we do occasionally see the Five-Oh out there as well, but only because they’re competing too
Nearly anyone can autocross.
It’s arguably the easiest motorsport in which to get started: Show up at an event with your battery tied down and nothing leaking, borrow a helmet, and go. Several of us at FM even compete locally.
So: very easy to participate…but very difficult to excel. Some manage to win events, but very few manage to win championships. It’s those few that we’ll be talking about today…in 2012 terms anyway.
As of November 4th, the East Tennessee region of the Sports Car Club of America (ETRSCCA for short), drew their 2012 season to a close and with it various championship races.
Autocross is serious business in East Tennessee and several hard-fought championships came down to the wire and/or hair-splitting margins. Many could be written down to a single bad day, or that one mid-season “hero” run.
- E-Mod (EM)* came down to the last event with a 1.11 point margin deciding the season.
- 1.85 points separated the top two in STS* after the final event.
- In STM*, a spead of 1.26 points covered the top three positions for the season.
- Finally, in “Pro”** class, the eventual champion never actually won an event, but won the championship by just 1.89 points.
To put those margins in proper context, a driver may accrue a maximum of 700 points in season (7 wins / 100 pts each). 2nd place and below are scored as a percentage of the quickest run’s pace. Do a little assumptive math you’d see that 1 point represents a time margin of about one-half-second (0.5s) on a 50-second course.
“splitting hairs” may be understatement…Even with 12 events, you can take no run for granted.
So, without further ado: The figurative podiums for these and other hotly-contested classes***.
E-Mod: This season long duel between two guys driving the same car came down to the wire and ended up going Mike Kelly’s way in the last event. I hear rumor that Jim (that’s him in the passenger seat) may bring his own car next season, so this could get interesting all over again.
STC: A Chattanooga transplant nipped this class, with Justin Ford repin’ for that other city in East TN.
STS: Walter Jones walked away with the 2012 crown in this class on the weight of a late-season run of wins. The last 4 events were “must win”…and he did.
STR: An FM contributor, our own Marcus Luttrell only ran 7 events in the class. Fortunately for him, he won 4 of those and secured his victory. He finished out the season in Pro class.
SM: JY Cox managed wrestle his GT500 Mustang through the season and rough up his co-driver enough to nab the season win in what is undoubtedly the most powerful car I’ve ever seen autocross.
STM: With three events left, three drivers had a mathematical shot at the championship. With two events left, it was down to two. Dave Disney made sure it didn’t go down to the last event, netting enough of a points haul in event 11 to leave Bradley Allen and myself to fight for second. In spite of landing on the bottom of the pile, this proved one of my most fun and memorable seasons. We should do it again some time…..except for that losing part.
PRO: If your name finds its way onto the ETR Pro-class trophy, odds are it’s also been engraved on a National Tour, Pro-Solo, or Solo Nationals trophy. If you don’t have skill, experience, and a car prepped to the limit of the rules, you’ve got but a snowball’s chance in this field. This year saw John Brown clinch his 3rd consecutive (5th all-time) Pro-Class championship just ahead of Kristo Kukk and Mark Pilson. Amazingly, John accomplished this without actually winning a single event during the season. Put one in the books for consistency.
Hardware accrued and records set, let the off-season plotting, scheming, bench-racing, and smack-talk begin. See you in March!
Special thanks to Chris Harp (Regional Executive), Dave Yoder (Unofficial charity event coordinator), and the rest of the ETR Solo board for organizing and running all of these exciting events!
See Everyone Next Season!
*A full description of SCCA Classes and acronyms is available HERE
**”Pro” class is scored using the PAX/RTP index
***Only Classes with 2+ championship-eligible participants have been covered, full listing available HERE