1.  I want to autocross, but I am a little intimidated. Where are they and is there any way for a novice to feel at ease?

There's no reason to be scared of autocrossing; it's generally a bunch of friendly people doing what they love to do, and for the most part they'll be very friendly and helpful. If you want an introduction, the best thing to do is just go and observe an autocross. See the current MWCSCC Autocross Schedule for dates and locations. One way to become more comfortable with autocrossing is to ride along with an experienced autocrosser. In the past, such runs were treated as "fun runs" and could not be counted towards championship points, which tended to discourage people who were running for points from giving rides. That rule has changed however (at least for MWCSCC events) and most folks should be willing to give you a ride.

Here's the basic flow of an autocross event:

The day is divided into 4 or 5 "heats", each heat is a group of 30 or so cars. Each heat has an advertised starting time. Be aware that you'll need some time to get ready (say 1/2 hour to change tires etc.; less if you're on street tires) and more time to learn and walk the course. The course is usually open for walk throughs for ~15-30 minutes before each heat begins. Walk the course as many times as you can!! You should not need to think about where to go next when you're driving. This is harder than it sounds. The more times you walk it, the better off you'll be. Follow some people the first few times to make sure you're going the right way. (If you learn it wrong, you'll be in trouble later :-) Memorizing the course can be the hardest part for some people, especially novices. You can walk the course during any walk-through; if you're driving in the 3rd heat but you arrive during the middle of the 1st heat, plan to walk both after the 1st AND after the 2nd heat.

The MWCSCC uses a split-heat approach to ensure that we have enough people to work the course throughout the day. This means that if you are running in the first half of your heat, you will be asked to work the second half of that same heat. If you are running the second half, you will be working the first half. Take this into account when you preregister (usually numbers 1-18 or so run the first half, the rest run the second half). Working the first half of a heat has the advantage of letting you watch other people run up close before you have to take the course, while driving the first half gives you the opportunity to run while the memories of your course walk-throughs are freshest in your mind. If you haven't worked before, just be sure to mention it when they are handing out assignements (at the drivers' meeting just before your heat) and they should assign you with someone more experienced to show you the ropes.

There are five "areas" to be aware of:

Note that you must have signed the waiver in registration (and be wearing a wrist band, if used) to be on grid or on the course, even as a worker. These are considered "hot" areas.

Ahead of time:

- Pre-registration: sign up to reserve your spot. You can do this through the MWCSCC Autocross web page at http://mwcscc-ax.org. Pre-registration usually opens three weeks before the event at 8 pm. You provide your name and the heat you want to run in. Pre-registration fills up quickly, so you may want to set your alarm! If the event is filled up when you do go to pre-register, sign up for the waiting list for the heat you want to run in. If you are lucky, someone will drop out before the event and you will get their spot. If you end up on the waiting list, but don't get notified that a spot has opened up for you, don't give up. If you show up the day of the event and sign up for the waiting list there (at registration), there is an excellent chance you will get in. If you're a beginner, you may want to avoid signing up for the first heat (though it is usually the easiest one to get in), as you won't have time to take everything in before you're put to the test.

The day of the autocross:

(This is not gospel; your preferred order may vary.)

Driving the course:

As you can see, autocrossers have a lot of little rituals that they go through. It helps them keep from making mistakes. But beginners WILL make mistakes and should not expect to be instantly competetive. However, starting your own little rituals early will probably speed that up. (That can take anywhere from months to years depending on the person.)

Words for the novice to live by: