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Autocross Newbie

Discussion in 'Autocross' started by speedrasa, Jan 10, 2009.

    speedrasa guest

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    Long time BMW driver here, wanting to finally try autocrossing. We have an E36 M3 in the garage and from the posts it looks like it's a great car to autocross. Any thoughts on the E46 M3 for use in autocross? Anyone try an E39 530i? It seems like the later model 3ers and 5ers aren't as optimal because of the overall weight/size gains and use of less robust materials.
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    MGarrison

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    If you've never autocrossed before, it probably doesn't matter that much which car you do your first couple of auto-x's in, relatively speaking. However, courses are always tight, so weight and bulk are a bit of a disadvantage compared to anything smaller & lighter. I'd think either M3 would be at an advantage to a 5'er for weight-to-hp ratio, and transitional handling.

    You can get swamped in details before getting anywhere near an auto-x course, worry less about that type of stuff (at least initially) than getting a feel for what your car is capable of, and when you do it, following the course.

    speedrasa guest

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    Good thought. Just do it and get a feel. I asked about the 5er because I'd like to get a four door that can double as a people hauler on occasion. Looking at a '01 530i manual to fit that bill. Thanks.
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    steven s

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    But you are generally classed with similar cars.
    Just because a 530 may not get FTD, it doesn't mean it will be last in class.
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    MGarrison

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    True -

    Since you have an M3 already, wouldn't the easiest thing to do be to try an auto-x or two with that and see if it's something you really like & want to pursue? After that, you can worry about what you want to use for autocrossing; Just starting, you don't have to do anything to auto-x the car you have, except make sure it's mechanically sound (suspension, bushings, wheel bearings, etc.), and bump up your tire pressures.

    You'd need a helmet of the required specification unless there's one you can borrow.
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    Satch SoSoCalifortified

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    Just do it. . .

    . . . they're right: You should be classified with similar cars, so you're just running against your classmates. Otherwise, you need to buy a Lotus Elise!

    Anyway, your first autocross is such a huge learning experience you should just show up and have some fun. Only if you find yourself coming back for more should you think about tires. . . and then suspension. . . and then power. . . and then---

    Well, it's a slippery slope, isn't it?! If I hadn't won E Production at my first autocross in. . . um. . . 1970?---then I would have saved a ton of money over the years. But I wouldn't have had as much fun---or learned what my car could do at the limits---and what those limits were.
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    Satch SoSoCalifortified

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    By the way. . .

    ...the San Diego Chapter puts on autocrosses at QualComm Stadium. Sometimes the course is a mile long! Think of a fourth-gear autocross course!
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    MrAdventure

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    Do yourself a favor, and spend a some time autocrossing before you go nuts with the mods. They will only hinder your learning. I'm not saying you should wait too long, but it's best, IMO, to spend time learning what the limits of your car are before you go down the mod path. As Satch said, it's a slippery slope!

    I'm reminded of this one SCCA event where I was shucking cones with another driver. We got to talking, and I found that he had a heavily modified RX-7, and was not doing well. In fact, he was turning in times that were a second or two slower than my lightly modded Z3! It's clear where the deficiency was, and I started feeling bad for the guy. I tried steering him towards asking for instructors to ride with him, and in the end, it was clear he'd rather blame his car than himself. Just don't be that guy! Ask for help, ask to ride along with other drivers. You can learn a LOT that way.

    Heh, I do remember that year...I finally did put in some mods to bump me into A Street Prepared, and ended up winning the class for the year, not because I was good, but because I'd shown up to enough of the events that I got up more points than everyone else.
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    CRKrieger

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    Man, this should be a separate THREAD! I cannot tell you how many times I have seen that happen! Completely new rookies do not do it as much as those who have a little experience (A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.). Once they recognize that there are some deficiencies, their immediate response is to look for a way to have the car compensate for it instead of looking at their driving.

    That is when you should be taking along someone who's more accomplished. A riding instructor will have a feel for the car's capabilities and whether you're getting the most out of it. Do not tempt them by asking what to change about the car! This is a subtle thing that even some of them will not recognize and they'll start talking about tires & suspension stuff when what you really need to know is how you can change your driving. So ask: "What can I change about my driving to get more out of the car as it is?"
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    Jeff Gomon

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    +1 to Mr. Krieger's comments.

    I am not an autocross instructor, but have been a HPDE instructor for years. If found that a lot of Auto-x newbies are simply driving too damn fast on the course. I know that might sound odd since speed, and a low time is the point here, but they are simply overdriving the course. They scrub off speed by overshooting corners, exceed the grip of the tires and have to correct for this costing time and momentum. There are places to be fast, and places to be slow and controlled. Only experience, and guidance, will reveal those opportunities to you.

    The smartest thing I did was attend, along with several of the instructors in our chapter, an Auto-x school. We had National Champion drivers show us, and others, how to navigate specific "components" that are in most all SCCA courses. At the end of the day, we put them all together and ran a full out course, over and other. The next day, we all ran the full event, different course, and I was shocked at how many of my fellow "students" were placing at the top of of their classes.

    The point to be taken away from this is, fix the driving first, then the car. Believe me, the car is much more capable at its first Auto-x event than the driver is. There are very few people that can just hop in and absolutely tear it up right out of the box, but there are some that can, I have seen it. Unfortunately, there are many that feel they are one of these "chosen ones."

    Mekihead guest

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    I was going to post something to the effect of just do it, but everyone else said that as well, then I thought I'd tell you not to mod your car, but to just drive it, but all the other guys got that too.

    So let me try this: Modding your car will take you out of the stock class and probably put you in STU if your going by SCCA rules. You really don't want to do that at this point. That puts a 10-15yo car up against AWD turbo cars capable of putting down 50-100 more hp than you. Plus, at your skill level, you won't appreciate the upgrades in regards to faster times. Take that money your were going to spend on replacing perfectly good and operational componants and spend it racing what you have. When you sell a car, you start at square one with a stock car. You can't sell skill. Spend it racing and gaining experience.
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    mattm

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    Best bang for your money is an autocross school. Many BMW Clubs, SCCA, and PCA set a Evolution Driving Schools through their own regions. Go here for more info and locations. http://www.evoschool.com/ The owners/operators have a ton of National Championships in their résumés. Nice folks, too.

    Disclaimers: I've raced against these guys for years.:D

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