Autocross offers thrills for drivers, spectators

Published 1:02 pm Thursday, May 5, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

As a self-proclaimed car and racing fanatic, I was very excited recently to learn one of the purest forms of auto racing recently found a new home in Pelham.

A few months ago, the Sports Car Club of America began holding its autocross events in the parking lot of the Verizon Wireless Music Center in Pelham. During autocross, event organizers arrive in the wee hours of the morning to create a race course with orange traffic cones.

Event participants then drive or haul their vehicles to the venue to have them inspected for basic safety equipment, such as working brakes and functional seat belts. The vehicles are then split into several different categories based on factors such as performance potential and level of modifications.

Once the prep work is taken care of, the event participants then line up and take turns driving as fast as they can through the course. At the end of the day, the fastest driver in each category and the fastest driver overall are recognized and rewarded.

If you’ve never been to one of these events, it may sound mundane to watch cars take turns navigating a sea of orange cones. But speaking from experience, I can assure you participating in, or even just watching, an autocross event is at least as exciting as any other form of motorsport out there.

Drivers are penalized for hitting a cone anywhere on the course, which gives the sport an aspect not seen in any other form of racing. The courses are usually very technical, and include hairpin corners, slalom sections and sweeping corners.

Because the car classifications group vehicles of similar performance characteristics, autocross is primarily a test of driver skill. Anyone can participate.

It’s also interesting to watch, because some drivers are competing for the first time, and others have been racing for years. On any given race day, you may see cars ranging from the family Honda Accord to purpose-built Porches and Corvettes.

Every driver out there is participating because of their love for the sport, not because they are getting paid to compete.

If you’ve got some free time on May 14, head over to the Verizon Wireless Music Center and catch some of the action. You’ll be glad you did.

To find out more about autocross, visit