GRC Personalities // Geoff Sykes: Taking The First Step
Recently I’ve been asked this question a lot “How did you get started in racing?” So I’ve been thinking a lot about my journey up to this point.
GRC Lites is made up of a wide variety of different drivers, all of us trying to get to that next level ourselves. Some of us come from off road racing, like rally and short course, while others come from road racing, like oval and road course. My first step into racing was autocrossing in my dad’s street car with the San Diego chapter of the BMW Car Club of America.
The BMW CCA holds weekend events in stadium parking lots, with basically a small track laid out with hundreds of cones in a wide open space. The course layouts are usually about a mile in calculated length and take about 60 – 90 seconds per lap. Drivers are evenly spaced, cars are categorized by class and laps are timed.
There are so many benefits to autocrossing, also known as SCCA Solo; it’s cheap, you can do it in your street car, it’s safe, it’s technical, it’s social and, did I mention, it’s cheap! All it costs is a membership, a small entry fee for the day, a helmet which you can buy or rent, and access to a car.
You burn up some fuel and maybe some tires, but if you drive smooth and efficiently, you’ll save time on the track and money in your pocket. The total I would typically spend on an autocross day would be about $100 for a full day of fun and usually a trophy at the end of the day.
It’s safe because the courses are set up for a wide variety of drivers, from first timers to seasoned veterans. You typically won’t get into any trouble; the course is set up away from walls, light poles and other possible hazards.
The courses are very technical; they have to be so as to fit inside a parking lot, generally more than 20 turns. Good courses will have a variety of on and off camber turns, increasing and decreasing radius turns, hairpins, chicanes and slaloms. It’s a lot like driving a go-kart course in a car, you have to master patience, car control and awareness… three things any driver will tell you are critical to being a successful driver.
If you get a chance, walk the course. It will teach you to focus and look for racing lines and surface changes, while you’re not controlling a 3000 lb. car. You’ll find your times are decreasing every run and you always seem to want more laps by the end of the day. Learning the course before you drive it for the first time is clutch.
The events are social; you have a group of people who all share the same interest in cars and racing as you do, and a lot of the people I met autocrossing years ago are still close friends of mine today. You spend a majority of the day meeting new people, comparing cars, BBQ’ing and strategizing with competitors on the fastest way through the course.
Once you’ve mastered autocrossing and car control, check out your local track. Chances are the same car club you autocross with, also puts on track days and high performance driving events (HPDE). The only difference is the speeds are much higher, as well as the danger factor. Don’t get over your head; learn from the instructors.
Also, SCCA has added Rallycross to their event list (same thing as an autocross, only it adds dirt to the mix). But, you probably know a thing or two about Rallycross if you found this article 😉
Check out the SCCA website or look for a specific regional and/or national car club in your area. Chances are there’s a specific event that’s exactly what you’re looking for. Hit me up on Facebook or Twitter if you have any questions about getting involved, I’ve got some time before Round 5 at Charlotte, NC.
GRC Lites photo credit: QBA/QNIGAN.com
Autocross images via Geoff Sykes