We are going to talk tires. First off, FORGET everything you think you know about what sticky tires are. Is it gone?? Ok good! When you are getting into autocross, tires should be the first big investment you make for improving your car. One of the biggest mistakes new drivers can make is to listen to hype on a car enthusiast forum. This is one of those “the proof is in the pudding” things. When you look at national results, they will show you what tires everyone is racing on. Take a look at the class you plan on running in and see what most of the racers are running on. I promise you, you will see a pattern.
The tire manufactures are always working on improving their tires. It the Stock and Street Touring classes, you have a tread wear rating to 200 you have to stay at or above. As of this article, there are 4 players in that category. The Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec and the new Hankook RS4 are number 4 and 3 respectively on the list. Both are good tires, and will be a good tire to start on. Right now, the 2 top tires on the market are the BFG Rival S, version 1.5 and the Bridgestone RE71R. The recently released Rival S 1.5 is a great tire, but not the best when it’s cold, or chilly out. And the tire you will see on cars the most is the Bridgestone RE71 R. The Bridgestone is a great tire, but don’t expect long life out of it, especially if you intend to daily drive the car and tire. A great option, if your budget allows it, is to invest in a second set of “race only” wheels for your autocross tires. Keep in mind, you want them as light as you can find. The major thing you need to watch when looking at wheels, is to make sure the size and offset specs will not bump you out of the class you intend to run in. In stock classes, you may go up or down in wheel diameter 1” only. And you may not go any wider than your stock wheels. This is one rule some racers might overlook. So make sure you are staying in that rule limit when looking. With so many tires on the market, don’t let yourself get talked into getting something that a tire shop says will be fast. 99% of them have no idea what works best in our type of racing. Know what you are buying before you buy it! And know what size tire you are looking for. Ask around at a local event. See what sizes other in your class, or in a car like yours. Never be afraid to ask your fellow racers questions. We are always willing to help!
Last month, it was about the cars, this month, lets talk about the best way to get started once you have your car picked out.
The 2 best improvements you can make to a car are:
A) improving your driving skills. As a driver, you should never stop improving, and pushing yourself to find ways to go faster. With a great group of racers here in our region, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for one of them to go for a ride along, and get some pointers. We hope to be offering some instruction at the tail end of our PIR events, so keep a close eye out for that info to come.
B) TIRES! Most people want to go right for throwing parts on your car, Sway bars, intakes, and exhaust are all great options, but these could throw you into a new class. Tires are the BEST modification you can add to your car right off the bat. With a handful of great options out there, you will notice a HUGE performance increase when swapping out your stock tires for a set of good race rubber. If you can afford it, picking up a second set of wheel s for your race tires is a great investment as well.
Please if you have questions please feel free to send them to us, and we will try and cover them here in the next issue. Remember, you may not be the only one with that question, so please ask!
With that, we head out into the 2017 season later this month! Look for an event recap, and the next installment of “Starting to Autocross” in April. Until then, have a great month, and Lets Race!
If you have not tried autocross, I know some of the thoughts you may be having. Is it worth my time? I love lapping, how can this be any fun after running at 100+ mph? It may not have the long drawn out effect of a lapping day, but for your time on course, you are being pushed to the limits every second. While you have time to relax running down the front stretch at PIR, or take a slower lap to catch your breath, in SOLO you are on the edge of every cone, pushing your car through every slalom, looking for every thousandth of a second to improve. It’s a competition like no other. Only your first 3, out of 5-7 runs, count towards competition points, so you don’t have a chance to practice or take your time. You can walk the layout before the event, and you can do so as many times as you want. But once you hit the start line, your adrenaline skyrockets knowing you only have 3 runs to get it done! We average between 5-7 runs at every event, so you have the chance to continue to improve on both your car, and your driving style. If you do not want to run for points you can still enjoy 5 to 7 runs so you can learn or polish those driving skills. We even have senior drivers that are willing to help you polish those skills.
Most of our events take place at either Portland International Raceway (PIR) or up north in the town of Packwood, Washington. If you have never had a chance to visit Packwood, you are in for a treat. Once we are done racing, there is always something going on. Whether it is a group lighting up the BBQ grill, heading out for an evening hike up on Mt Rainer, or going to the local pub for dinner, drinks, and karaoke, you will never be lacking for fun times to do! With racing on both Saturday and Sunday, it makes for a great weekend out of town. You can choose to either camp onsite or stay at one of the local lodges. Elk viewing in Packwood is easy since you can see them walking through the middle of town every day. Its just great family time.
I'm sure by now, you have already outlined your game plan for changes and improvements on your current “steed”. And hopefully you have already begun to work on the list. But for those of you who will be going into your first season, let’s talk over a few things. There are a few things to think about before starting your racing path.
If you already have a car to prep.
What class does your car fit into? What mods have you done to the car, and how will that affect your classing?
What do I want to add to my car, and how will that affect your classing moving forward?
Do I want to be competitive in my class, and what will that look like?
What is my race car budget for the year?
If you are looking at picking up a car
What is my car budget?
What class do I want to compete in that fits the kind of car I want to purchase?
How competitive do I want to me and what will I need to do to a car to facilitate that?
What will I need to do to the car I choose to allow me to get to where I want to be?
Getting these questions answered will help you get started in your autocross racing career. And we are available to help you get those answers. You can reach out to us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/groups/orsccasolo) or drop an email at email@example.com. Now all you have to do is ask!!!
Dan Bullis - Winner of 9 local Autocross championships, 4 National tour wins, 1 PRO Finale win (first year), Runner-up SCCA Nationals (first year), multiple SCCA national event trophies, 1 drag race championship. Road course instructor since 2001, current Oregon Region Solo Director and Oregon Region Novice steward.