Introduction to Solo by Andy Bell
So you want to go racing!
Welcome to the OVR SCCA region and our Solo precision driving competitions. Sometimes you will hear our sport referred to as autocross, solo or for a few of those who have been around, gymkhana. Solo competitions are simply obstacle courses set up in a large open lot with traffic cones. The object is to navigate around a course in the shortest possible time without hitting any of the traffic cones. This is one of the safest forms of motorsport because the courses are open and are designed to have nothing to hit (other than traffic cones). They are also designed to limit the overall top speed to those you would see in normal driving conditions. Sound like itís not fast enough for you? Check out what the view looks like on a course that never exceeded 60mph!
The skills learned in this type of competition are also very valuable on the street. Many times skills I have learned have allowed me to swerve away from a dangerous freeway situation without losing control of my car. A few of my friends have even used our competitions to supplement the lessons taught in their kids in driverís education classes. Where else can you legally push a car to its traction limit and see what it means to steer into a skid?
You will see action like this:
Visiting a competition
You want to come out and participate?† Letís look at the things you should do in preparation for a trip to an autocross.
Go check one out in your area without participating. Schedules can be found on motorsportreg.com or myautoevents.com. Admission is usually free for spectators. Something I should address right away is insurance waivers. This is the way SCCA and other groups protect themselves and you from anything crazy that might happen. If you are 18, you can sign on site, keep right on reading. If you are less than 18 you have to jump through a few legal hoops. Here are the guidelines:
This is a great way to check out the sport. Talk to a few people as you look around. Most are glad to lend a helmet and take you for a ride in their car.
Some things to take:
You like what youíve seen and want to drive but you donít know about bringing your daily driver? We have had everything from Go-karts to mini vans run at our events. (Sorry, no SUVís or raised trucks, the center of gravity is just to high to be safe!) Hondas and Subarus are popular but we also have Neons, Proteges, Saturns and have even had some family sedans that run with us. We also have had Porsches, Nobles, Vipers, and full race track prepared race cars. SCCA has a class for almost anything you can throw at us. Classes are made up of similar makes, modifications, and engine sizes. Therefore, Mustangs run with other Mustangs and Camaros while a Miata would run against MR2ís and Hondas of similar seat layout and engine size.
Our competitions are not too hard on cars, but if you keep at it, itís best to invest in some competition tires. Standard all weather tires will get eaten up pretty fast. Some classes now require a tire that does both. Falken and Kuhmo make good tires that can be used for both street and track.
The classes are also determined by the level of modifications you have done. If you have a lot of work to your car, you may find yourself up against similar prepared cars. Donít sweat it. Our competitors will help you get the most out of whatever you bring.
In addition to your car you should start gathering and preparing the following:
Your first event will be a bit intimidating. The following steps should make your visit to OVR go a bit smoother. Donít think that you shouldnít run a "regular" event as your starting point. Many people wait for a Test n Tune (TNT), driverís school, or fun run to try it out. While those are fun, low pressure events, if you can get a couple of regular events in first, it will give you a basis to improve and goals to work towards at these types of events. When you start out, there are two things to know. 1. Your ego will most likely get bruised! 2. EVERYONE starts out this way! In my case I was overly aggressive and went wide on 3 corners (wiping out about 6 cones) and then spun once. (All on my first run) My wife on the other hand took 70 seconds to complete a "40 second" course but missed everything and completed the course successfully. In this sport, success comes with Seat time. You will progress very quickly if you stay with it for a few events. There are very few naturals who get it right the first time. Concentrate on not getting lost and just improving your time from run to run in your first few events. Also remember that if you sign up for the novice class, you will also be judged against other dirvers at the same experience level as you rather than someone who is potentially a national champion driver.
Try to register ahead of time. With our online process through motorsportreg.com, it helps us get the classes and car counts evened out into run groups prior to the event. OVR only allows 30 walk in registrations the day of the event. As a driver, you can also see who else and the types of cars that you may be competing with. If you donít know which class to sign up for call or e-mail the solo chair or tech chief. They will give you guidance. We run at Cooper Stadium, OSU, and National Trail Raceway. The addresses can be found on our website.
Arrival at the event
Get to your first event early. The timetable is published as part of our supplemental rules. Park in the paddock area. Paddock is where you park when you are not racing. Grid is where you park when it is your turn to race. More on that later. When you get to the event, find the registration area and sign the waiver. For OVR the registration area looks like this:
You will check in with registration. Tammy, Tonya, Becky, Andrea and Diane all work that area but you may see others as well. Show your drivers license to them and be sure to sign up for the novice class. There are weekly awards and a year end trophy for the novice class. While there, check for a posting of the run/work order. It will tell you when you will have your turn to race. You also have to work one heat. A heat is what we call each "group" that is currently running their cars. For OVR the day is broken down into 3-4 heats depending on how many people we have running that day. If you race, you work, period. Itís just part of the game. As a novice you will be randomly assigned a work assignment unless you noted a physical restriction on your registration. Then we will find an appropriate work slot for you. Your work assignment will be done at the start of the heat in which you work. There are many worker positions and they include:
You may also hear the term "Chiefs" at an event. These are the folks that are picked by the chairman to head each of the work areas listed above as well as the safety steward positions. These volunteers work before and after events to help them run smoothly and if you have any questions, do not be afraid to go ask them. They will happily help you.
Tech inspection and Track walking
Next you will take your car to Tech to see Mike and Orion and their gang:
This is where they will check it for safety and your helmet if you brought one. As mentioned above, you must use a helmet that has either a Snell A or M rating and is a 95 or newer. Both open face and closed face versions are allowed. You must go through tech each race. Once you have passed tech, go start walking around the course. A big challenge the first few races is not getting lost in the sea of cones. Tag along with an experienced racer if you know one. Start listening for the novice meeting and drivers meeting announcements.
The novice meeting starts at the back of Moby (our Great White equipment truck)
Typically Jon, Tonya or Andy lead this meeting. They will go over the rules (knocked down cones are a 2 second penalty, etc) and talk about how the day will go, when to move to grid, and how to work a corner. They will also do a course walk with you. If you are still nervous, they will ride with you or find an instructor to go with you when you go out on course. If you are in the younger crowd, Tim will head up the Go-karters who will do the same tour.
The mandatory driverís meeting comes next. It coincides with the novice and kart groups completing their walk and gives out general announcements for the club events, general site safety and any adjustments to the run/work order as a result of walk in registrations. Because of the safety issues, you MUST be at this meeting. If you are working on your car or arrive late instead, you can get disqualified and asked to leave with no refund.
Grid and Worker assignments
Once drivers meeting breaks up, the first run group moves their cars to grid.
Depending on where we are racing, 2nd run group may also park in a Grid B. All karts always park in their own grid which is away from the cars. Workers for the first group will stay at Moby where they are checked off the registration list and sent to their work assignment. As a novice, you will be teamed up with a knowledgeable person to get your on the job training. If you are driving by yourself, in your run group, park somewhere in the middle of the pack. This allows you to watch others go first and learn from how they drive the course. The end of the grid closest to the track entrance is reserved for two driver cars. The first driver goes out right away and then about halfway through the grid, they will send the second driver out. This is hard to explain, but you will see how it works at the event. I typically watch the first 3 or 4 drivers and then go back to the car to drive the course in my mind. With about 4 cars to go in front of me I put on my helmet and start the car to make sure everything is working properly. Watch the grid workers to tell you when to go. The starter will indicate where to stop and then give you a go signal. When he does, take a deep breath, put the car in gear, and go have fun!!!
At the end of the day, we have clean up and awards. Everyone pitches in for the clean up. Stacking cones and packing Mobybecomes short work with many hands. At the end of the day we have awards for the class winners, fastest 5 novice drivers by pax (a handicapping system that equalizes car performances), fastest regular PAX driver and Fastest overall time of the day. The event ends at that point and we get ready to see you at the next one!