After a COVID-induced absence for a couple of years, NER held its Autocross School again this year on May 7th. The event was sponsored once again by Conway Autoworks in Hanover, MA. (Thank you, Kenny!)
This year’s event attracted 45 students, all eager to see what Autocross is all about and to learn more about what they can do with their cars. Twenty-eight of our veteran autocrossers came to instruct and help out with the event.
We held the usual chalk talk at the beginning of the event, and students had been advised (prior to the event) to watch the 3-part NER Autocross Video produced by Richard Viard to get some background for the day. Most of the students complied, and during the talk, Ed Moschella proceeded to describe the finer points of oversteer, understeer, the friction circle, driving lines, as well as the importance of looking ahead while driving, and how to work the course.
We modeled our school event on the setup used very successfully by our fellow autocrossers in the BMW and Miata Clubs. The key difference for us was to pre-assign instructors to students for the exercise portion of the event, which greatly eliminated some of the logistical issues we had had in the past with different people jumping in and out of cars and slowing down the whole process. Three exercises were set up consisting of a series of offset clamshell elements which helped with course-reading, getting a line, braking, and turning; a kidney-shaped exercise which provided more braking and turning practice; and a slalom exercise. There was only one person (starter) running each exercise.
The students were assigned to two different run groups, and each group was divided into three color-coded subgroups. The first run group cycled through the exercises with their assigned instructors, while the members of the second run group worked (shagged cones) along with each exercise. Then the run groups switched, and group 2 had their chance to cycle through the exercises. By the time we completed the exercises and broke for lunch, everyone was ready to try out their new skills on an actual timed course.
Students were driven around the course in their own cars by their instructor at a moderate pace to get familiarized with the course and a driving approach. Then, each student was given a chance to do four timed runs with their instructor riding along. For the fifth run, instructors drove the students again, but this time at a full autocross pace. This opened the students’ eyes as to what they and their cars could be expected to do. In hindsight, we probably should have done that after the second run, then let the students take their last two runs after having seen that. Something to consider for next year …
A look at the posted times for the day shows most of the students managed to improve their times considerably over the course of their four runs showing that they must have learned something during the day’s activities. Full results can be seen by going to NER’s Live Timing site at https://porschenet.com/ax, scrolling down to the date of the Autocross School (May 7th, 2022), then selecting “Results.”
We wrapped up the day by reading everyone’s posted times and awarding the students with a Rookie (“I Survived Autocross!”) trophy glass for everyone to remember the event by. We trust that they all had a lot of fun and learned something about their cars, what they are capable of, and what the sport of Autocross is all about. Based on feedback we’ve received, we expect to see a number of these students showing up for an autocross event soon – in fact – for our first event this year, 10 of the 23 Novices that registered had attended the school. We hope to welcome even more of them to one of our upcoming autocross events soon!