I was a teenage autocrosser!

Today was my first ever autocross competition. I left at about 7:00 am to get into Illinois in time for registration. Unfortunately, I got lost somewhere in the unpleasant part of East St. Louis, and showed up approximately half an hour late. It's really cold here--it was supposed to be 75. Such an auspicious beginning.

Registration was uneventful. I had spent more than enough time studying classing rules on the internet, so I already knew that I'd be running Street Touring S. I got my first choice of number, which was good, because I'd already made magnetic numbers for it. I begged directions to the Tech area. The people working tech gave me a friendly reminder that the enormous dead weight in my hatch had to be removed before they could pass me. After taking care of that, I found a nice parking spot (next to some SVT Foci) and calmed my nerves.

The novice course walk was extremely helpful. I wish I had shown up with more time to spare, though, as I didn't remember the final chicane very well. The driver's meeting was more of a trophy presentation, and I'm afraid I didn't get a lot out of it. The Subaru drivers gave me some odd looks; their SWRT hats did not go well with my Ford Rallye Sport hat. After the meeting, I was assigned to work Corner 1 during Heat 1. Corner 1 was a short straight leading into a tight 180, and then onward into a smooth chicane. Standing in the middle of a parking lot in shorts and shirtsleeves on a cold, windy day would not be worth it without such cool cars. During the heat, only one cone was hit on our corner (a Street Prepared Mustang 5.0 spun out and struck an inside cone). I was mildly nervous as I walked back to my Focus to grid.

I sat in my grid position for about three minutes when I realized that I had never aired up my tires. I borrowed an air compressor and filled up to 45/front 35/rear, hoping that it was a decent guess. I took a deep breath, pulled on my loaner helmet, and started the car. Five minutes later, I was staged at the starting line.

Rev to 4000, smoothly release the clutch. Straight. Sharp 180 into a gentle chicane. Hard right. Left hand sweeper, then a long straight. Another leftward sweeper, then a pair of S-turns. Then just a right turn, and... Oh, hell. Where's the finish line? Final result: 74 seconds, but Did Not Finish.

My next run went better. Smoother, faster, and oh: there's the last corner. 64.589 seconds. The next run? Did Not Finish again. I haven't figured that out yet. I finished the day running 59.027 seconds. I was the slowest of the day, but I was also a raw novice. Far be it from me to sound cliched, but this was the most fun I've ever had with my pants on. I heartily recommend autocross.

Give it a try. Just don't trust the weather man.

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