Why should I autocross? Autocross allows you to drive your Porsche the way you’d like to drive it all the time but know you can’t! Foot on the floor, cornering at the limit, getting a little sideways –all in a safe setting. You will learn car control skills and the limits of your car in a fun, competitive setting.
I haven’t done it before, isn’t it only for experienced drivers? Ah, that’s the beauty of AX (that means autocross, get it?)! AX is a great introduction to spirited car driving. Sure, there will be some very experienced and skilled drivers at our autocrosses. But learn from them, don’t be intimidated. We will assign a mentor to first time attendees – someone in a car similar to yours who will be available to answer questions and help you through your first event. We also provide instructors who will ride with you when you request it and coach you to improve. Finally, you can ride with more experienced drivers to learn from them.
I don’t want to get hurt or hurt my car or wear it out. There are no guarantees in life but you are more likely to get in an accident driving to the event than at it. We take safety seriously. Please see the “Safety” page in the Rules section under Autocross on our website. And as to wearing out your car, this is what your Porsche was made to do! If your car is healthy (we do a tech inspection that covers safety items) then you won’t do it any more harm than you would driving it on the street. You’ll put a little wear on the tires – get over it! Worried about hitting a cone? Even the worst whack is easily waxed away.
I only have so many weekends I can do “car stuff” and I want to do Driver Education, I may not have time for AX! Hold on cowboy! Talk to the DE regulars – I think they’ll recommend that you practice your car control skills at a nice deserted airstrip before you attack a track with guard rails and tire walls.
Yeh, but you don’t get to go as fast at autocross as you do at the track. No, that’s true – but try finding your way through a tight sequence of cones at 60 mph and tell me how fast it feels. Also, at autocross you can safely drive your car right up to the limit. And remember that autocross, unlike DE, is a competitive event where you are trying to go as fast as you can.
I’ve gone in the past and we sat and waited while the timing lights were fixed. Fair point. But good news: our new timing equipment has been fairly reliable of late; We won’t guarantee that there will never be a problem but give us a try!
OK, OK, maybe I should give it a try. Who is eligible? Anyone 18 or older can come. Teenage children of PCA members who are under 18 but have a full license (not a learner’s permit) are able to participate via the PCA Junior Participation program. This requires that a waiver be signed by both parents and one parent must attend the event. Contact the Registrar for further details. It’s a great way for new drivers to learn valuable, life-saving skills!
What cars are allowed? As mentioned previously, we are a Porsche based Club, but any cars are welcome (not a truck or SUV, let’s not be silly!). All open cars must have rollover protection: newer open Porsches with built in roll bars are fine, older Cabs are allowed to run without an aftermarket roll bar only if they are on street tires. Cars do not have to be street licensed.
Can my husband come too? Sure, and we’ll even let him drive. Two people can drive one car. If a spouse or friend wants to just come and watch, that’s great too. Children and pets are welcome but kids must be under adult supervision at all times and pets must be on a leash.
Well, OK, now I’m serious, how do I sign-up? Sign up online before each event at www.pcaner.motorsportreg.com. Registration will open in March for all events, and closes Wednesdays at midnight just before the event (except to the Autocross School registrations which close a week before the event). When your registration has been confirmed, we will send out a confirmation email to you and you will be asked to sign an e-waiver at that time with a link to do so provided.
What do I need to bring? You need a car and a driver’s license. While you don’t technically need anything else, the items below will undoubtedly make for a more enjoyable day. With the exception of a lazy-boy, all of them will fit into even the smallest trunk…
- A Snell 2010 or later M, K or SA helmet. We have a limited number of loaners but we strongly urge you to buy or borrow a helmet for the event.
- Water. It gets hot and thirsty on unshaded tarmac. We have some water (and offer a sandwich for $8 you can order online when you register) but bringing some extra water and maybe a snack is a good idea.
- Protection from the sun and rain and cold, hooray New England! A hat and sunscreen are a fine idea for sunny days (don’t forget sunglasses), rain gear and a tarp to put over your stuff are good for rainy days (an extra pair of dry socks are wise), and a (thick) sweater and jacket for springtime events. The weather at Devens can be unpredictable; don’t spend your day cold and wet!
- Tire pressure gauge. You’ll get plenty of advice about tire pressures if you ask so you might want to be able to measure it. Bring something to put air in if you have it. (You can bring a bicycle pump – don’t laugh, it works a lot faster than those silly things you plug into the cigarette lighter that come with your new Porsche.)
- Shoe polish or masking tape to make a number on your car. You can borrow some if you forget. Just be sure that the masking tape color contrasts with your car color.
- Chair. You will have some down time (not much) and it’s nice to be able to sit outside and chat with your new friends.
When do I need to get there? Gate opens at 7. Please do not come before 7 unless you are on the setup crew. You need to be there before 8 to register. If everyone shows up exactly at 8 we’ll have a logjam and be late starting so aim for no later than 7:30.
What happens after I arrive? When you drive in, the check-in team will ask to see your driver’s license and check that you have signed the waiver. They will then affix a sticker to your windshield indicating your registered car #, class, and work assignment. You don”t even have to get out of your car. Drive to the paddock, pick a spot and unload your car. You must take out all loose objects, including non-permanent floor mats. Put your number on your car and then drive it to the “Tech Line” where it will be checked for safety. Other than making sure that the car is empty the main checkpoints are: suspension tight and lug nuts secure, no leaks, and nothing loose in the engine compartment (batteries are the usual culprit). When your car has been successfully checked it will get a sticker. Also – leave your helmet in the car so it can be checked and stickered.
And then the drivers meeting! Everyone must attend. Yes, there is a little pro forma stuff that will sound like the speech you get from a flight attendant – but it’s there for a reason and particularly important for newbies. At the meeting you will be told the run order and what to do if you are a “dual driver” car. Novices will have the opportunity to be paired with a mentor: an experienced driver in a car similar to yours who will be available to answer your questions all day long. We will also identify instructors (who will ride with you if you wish) and explain the passenger policy (you can ride with experienced drivers).
Do I get to drive now? Hold on hoss, you are getting close. After the meeting you’ll have you should walk the course. There will be a special walk for novices, led by an instructor – highly recommend if you are new. You will probably have time to go around twice if you hurry (remember, it’s a mile each time).
Did you say work assignment? Everyone has to work at an autocross. We divide the cars into two “run groups” and one group works while the other drives, then vice versa. If you are new, your work assignment is likely to be as a course worker: putting cones back when they are knocked aside. Working is an important part of the day: the event depends on everyone going to their assignment quickly and doing their job right. People who dodge their assignment are disqualified and may not be allowed back. (Note: if for some reason you can’t work, need to leave early or are limited in what you can do, see the AX chair and make an accommodation.) And here’s a little secret: when you are working the course, study the better drivers. You’ll be amazed how much you learn that you can put to use when it’s your turn to drive!
Now do I get to drive? Well, yes, some of you do. Remember, half of you now go out to work. The remaining half will be driving. (All of these divisions are made based on what class your car is in. All cars in the same class run at the same time.) If you are a dual-driver car (for example, husband and wife sharing a car) you may run in separate run groups. If one driver is experienced and wishes to “coach” the other, let the Autocross chair know and we can keep you in the same run group. So if you are driving, you move your car to the staging area and follow the instructions of the Stager. When you are directed into the start queue (about 3-5 cars are always lined up and waiting to go) you should put on your flashers if you want an instructor.
Hot damn! Turn me loose! Almost ready, calm down. You will be directed to the starting line by the Starter. Cars start about every 20 seconds. The Starter will tell you when it is OK to go. You don’t need to go immediately – your time starts when you break the plane of the lights – so compose yourself for a couple of seconds and then, off you go!
SCREEEEEEEEECH, VRROOOOOOMMMM, RRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right, don’t forget to shift. For most courses and most cars you will do the whole run in second gear. Make sure you can find the course (what looks obvious at walking speed is less obvious at 55 mph) before you add too much speed. (If you are constantly off course you will be required to use an instructor.) If you spin, gather up the car as quickly as possible and keep going – remember that a car started 20 seconds behind you. And since occasionally a car doesn’t keep going, stop immediately if a red flag is displayed and wait for instructions. Otherwise, drive as fast as you are comfortable and have fun! Oh, and please don’t try to be a hero right at the finish line: our new timing equipment is expensive. After you cross the finish line, slow to 5 mph and exit the course. You can look over and see your time on the display but don’t stop (remember that car behind you). Go back to your staging position and wait for your next run. You can check your times on your phone using the link porschenet.com/ax
Boy that was fun! How many runs do I get? We try to do at least 8 runs an event and usually get in 9 or 10: half in the morning and half in the afternoon. Sometimes weather or circumstances prevent that but we rarely get fewer than 8.
Did I win? Yes, this is a competition. Your finish is based on your single fastest run. So a good strategy is to learn the course and experiment a bit on your first runs, try to get a good “clean” run by your 6th run and hope to do even better on the one of the last two. A small trophy will be awarded– if you are one of the top three in your class. There are also special trophies for all the first-time novices and the fastest novice.
Wait, what’s a “clean” run – this isn’t a Concours is it? No, thank god. A clean run means you didn’t hit any cones. There is a two second penalty for each cone you hit. And if you are “off course” (failed to follow the correct path through the cones) you are disqualified and you get no time for that run. With typical course times of 60 – 70 seconds it is very rare for someone to win using a run that had a cone penalty.
OK, so when do I collect my trophy? After everyone has done all their runs, at the course workers will stack up their cones and make their way into the timing tent area with their buckets and radios. The registrar will run the final report for the day, and we’ll gather to do awards as soon as that’s been completed. You get your trophy, a round of applause and we take a group picture of the winners that will get posted in the Nor’Easter on the website.Then you can go put your stuff back in your car and head out.
And now I’m done? Well maybe. It’s now probably 4 – 5 pm and some folks have commitments that make them head home. But there is likely to be a pretty large contingent that has worked up enough of a thirst to require a stop at a local watering hole. We like to patronize the Ayer business establishments! And, of course, you need to explain to your new friends how you managed to come in third and how you will do even better next time!
OK, I’m in. Give me the big finish. Online registration will open for all events in March. You can register as early as you wish, but will not be billed until registration has closed the Wednesday before the event. The cost for the day is $55 for PCA members, $65 for non-members. Additionally, you may sign up online for all 5 NER Autocross Series events in advance for $220 (PCA members) or $260 (non-members) (a $55-$65 savings). And if you register for the Season you get a free NER Tee-Shirt! We encourage all newcomers to attend our Autocross Schoolheld at the beginning of each season for $65, which includes free admission to your first regular series event. Online signup is at: pcanermotorsportreg.com.
Who do I call if I have a question? For general questions contact AX Chair Chris Ryan. For registration information contact Autocross Registrar Jeff Johnson.
How do I get to Moore Airfield (Devens)? From I495 or Rt. 128 take Route 2 West. After you go under Route 495, travel another 3.6 miles. Take Route 111 North toward Ayer & Groton for 2 miles. At the rotary, follow Route 2A West toward Ayer. Stay on 2A as it turns right in downtown Ayer. After the right turn stay on Route 2A by bearing left at the fork by Tiny’s Restaurant. After the Shop & Save grocery store, the entrance gate will be on your left after crossing the railway lines. There is a large sign saying “MA State Police Driver Training Facility”. Once you enter th main gate, go LEFT up the hill (follow the “Autocross” sign). The google map address is 90 Fitchburg Rd. Ayer MA