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Autocross vs. Track Days: Benefits and Disadvantages

Old 3/19/19, 02:28 PM
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Autocross vs. Track Days: Benefits and Disadvantages

Autocross vs. Track Days: Benefits and Disadvantages
By Christopher Hurst

Here is what you need to know about these formats of high-performance driving.


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Old 3/19/19, 03:11 PM
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first thing to know, is that picture is NEITHER!

drifting is a completely different animal all together, LOL
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Old 3/20/19, 10:47 AM
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Bert is soooo correct !!

Autocrossing , imho, is a great way to start , as it teaches you many basic techniques of running a road course, but in a very studied and quick manner. It involves a lot of mental preparation, because remembering an autocross course often defined only by pylons ( chalk is often not used in some SCCA Regions ) means that walking the course set up is a huge benefit . Concentrating on your turn in points, acceleration areas, and of course the best spots to aggressively brake , means one has to stay quite focused. Learning to do all these things , and running through a course in 30-50 seconds , means the rapid fire placement of your vehicle can win the day for you if you can master car control.

Stepping up to a road course is a logical choice after autocrossing first , because you literally feel like you have days to make a decision, even at much higher speeds, but you have learned many basics of car placement that will carry over from your success autocrossing. The key to getting both in either though, is simple --plenty of seat time!
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Old 3/25/19, 08:23 AM
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Something that was kind of alluded to, but not really mentioned is the fact that in autocross you can generally drive at 10 tenths of both your ability and the car's without much physical or financial risk. With track days you have to remember that even with a basic bolt in type roll cage you don't have the same level of protection as you would have in a true purpose built race car. Often times all you have are your factory seat belts, air bags, and factory gas tank. If you start adding a lot of true race car safety equipment [ fuel cells, full certified roll cage race seats and belts, etc. ] you also start to seriously compromise the every day usefulness of the car. Basically with track days you have vehicles capable of race car speeds with out race car safety equipment. This isn't intended as an argument against doing track days, I am simply saying that personally I would never try to run at more than 8.5 to 9 tenths of either my personal abilities or the car's ultimate capability on a road course, where as I am comfortable running all out in autocross.
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Old 3/26/19, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by SilrBult View Post
. . . Basically with track days you have vehicles capable of race car speeds with out race car safety equipment. . . . .
Yeah that is an important point and it does worry me sometimes . . . when I was doing a lot of track days a couple years ago, I was starting to really push for quicker lap times; which means pushing closer and closer to the limits of the car and my ability. I started to realize that I might be going beyond my skills; if I got sideways at 100+ MPH, I doubt my ability to save it. I started looking into better safety equipment; such as a real good helmet and HANS device for starters; and realize that stuff gets expensive quick -- close to $2K just for HANS-compatible helmet and a universal HANS device; and that does not include a harness or roll bar.

But the road track is just SO much fun . . . I don't know if I will like autocross anywhere near as much, but I think I'll give it a try.
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Old 3/26/19, 08:11 AM
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I realize that my original post might be misinterpreted as being anti track day. That is certainly not my intent. I was simply trying to point out a potential problem that shouldn't be ignored. In fact as events like this have become more popular there have been some unfortunate and preventable incidents, sometimes fatal, involving both participants and instructors. There are of course some real positives regarding track days. While the upfront costs of doing a track day are higher than autocross, the time spent on track is much greater so your fun per dollar value is generally quite good. The speeds are a good deal higher and few if any autocross courses have any real elevation changes which are common on road courses. This allows you to develop a wider range of skills, although most of what you learn doing autocross does transfer pretty well.
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