So You Wanna Go Racing

By Ashford Little

autox.jpg (54319 bytes)

As I sat in line awaiting my turn to run the autocross course, Michael Campsmith walked up to me and asked if I was ready.  I replied that “I didn’t know”.  He asked if I had ever run an autocross before, to which I replied “No.”  He then asked if I had walked the course that morning to which I also replied “Um, No.” That’s when he said “I think you are in big trouble.”  By this time I was feeling rather small and sheepish, so when he asked if I wanted him to ride with me to show me the course, I almost leapt at the opportunity.  

While I may not have run an autocross course before, I felt that I had a few things going for me.  Living in Atlanta and navigating the highways and byways imparted me with a little confidence that I possess far greater talent than your average driver.  I am also a male, so naturally I think I’m a damn good driver.  Finally, I had tinkered with the suspension of my TR6. So if you combine those things then how hard can this be?  Besides you are only driving around a bunch of orange cones… right?

 Well, things got interesting REAL fast when I started down the course, with left and right directions being fired at me from my noble co-pilot. Despite this experienced veteran lending me a hand, I found it easy to rocket off in the wrong direction.  I think I was called off-course at least once during that first run.  With the first run under my belt one would think that I might have learned a thing or two, but I took Michael’s offer up to accompany me on the second run of the day.  

The second run went little better, and I thought it a good time to assess my situation.  With my confidence shaken and wondering if I possessed the ability to run through this course at whatever lowly speed without going in the wrong direction, I procrastinated for a half hour before getting back in the saddle.  Alone.  

I ran the next two runs on course at less than earth-shattering speeds, but managed to turn in a respectable 79 seconds including a one cone penalty.  By now my appetite had been whetted.  This was actually fun and it was not nearly as boring as my preconception of it was: how much fun can running through cones in a parking lot be?  

But since I have now been baptized in autocross, I also know that things need to change to be able to run well, and not look foolish doing it.  First, I need practice, but that I can get.  Secondly was that my car handled like a slug.  The car pushed, brakes were non-existent, all-season radials are NOT autocross tires and the carbs were acting up badly.  That guy in the Hyundai with an automatic probably posted better times than I did.  

All of these things can be fixed and all it takes is…. Money!  So thank you VERY much for introducing me to this evil sport.   

All kidding aside, it was tremendous fun as was the rest of the weekend.  A special highlight I will remember is when Gary, the autocross launcher and owner of the zebra-striped TR6, told me to watch JK’s car launch.  I have never heard a TR6 sound like that in my life; more like a Boss 302 than any TR6 I’ve ever heard before.  Excuse me while I disappear for a while to make some improvements.