Novice Guide to Autocross

Some of you may be asking yourself this, maybe you've never heard of autocrossing, or you have but don't know what it is, well hopefully this little write-up will clear all of it up for you.

What it is

"Solo II is a precision sport, much like, say, archery, riflery or golf. You must be precise and consistent, all the while driving so fast you can barely concentrate"

Solo II events (also known as autocrosses) are an all forward motion driving skill contest. Each driver is individually timed to the thousandth of a second, over a short, miniature road course clearly defined using traffic cones. Cars compete one at a time, hence the name "Solo", in a class with similar cars. An event can be held on any flat paved surface, usually a parking lot, or airport apron or runway.

At each event, if you race you will be required to work a heat. This involves standing at a station on course and getting one of three assignments. Cone person, radio person, or flagger. If you are cone person, you must watch each car that goes through your section of track carefully. If they do so much as even grace a cone you must run out and check it. Each cone has a designated box marked in chalk around it. If the cone is knocked over it's an automatic penalty, if it is still standing but touching part of the box, it is safe, no penalty, replace the cone back in the box properly, and if the cone is still standing but outside of the box it is a penalty. In all of these cases be sure to tell the radio person if it is a penalty or no penalty. As radio person, you receive commands from the trailer and radio in penalties on cars if they hit a cone. As flagger you have a red flag that you must wave in case of an emergency, i.e. a broken down car on course. It is your job to ensure the driver sees you and comes to an immediate halt.

Cone penalties:

Course of day
Show valid driver's license, and membership card, or get buddied in, and pay the fee. Then, sign the waiver and sign up for working.

-Clear your car
Take out the spare tire, jack, and any miscellaneous items in the cabin.

-Tech Inspection (Can be done at any time before you race)
Take your car to the tech area and have an official check it out. When they are done, they will sign off on your grid card. If you brought a helmet with you have it ready. (If you race in the first heat you tech on grid)

-Course Walk
Walk the course as many times as possible before the Driver's Meeting taking it all into your head and thinking about how you're going to drive it. Try to memorize it. First-timers might also want to take a novice course walk.

-Driver's Meeting
This is mandatory for all drivers and is held about a half hour before the first race. They will go over course conditions, how many heats, etc...

-Your Runs (you might work before you run, it all depends)
SF Region Solo 2 events normally give three runs per driver. Drive your car over to the grid and pull up in any of the lanes as far as you can. Put your grid card on your windshield underneath the windshield wiper blade. Once the lane next to you starts to move get in your car and start it to get it warm.

-Your Work Assignments
Report to work as the heat before your work heat is drawing to a close. As a novice, someone will go out with you to help you get used to working.

-Fun Runs
If heats finish early and the administrators feel there is enough time they will conduct fun runs. These are not counted for points but are simply just to go through the course a few more times and get some more experience trying to bring your times down.

-Course Clean-Up
The biggest thing they like is if you stack some cones, it really helps them out in the clean-up process, and anything else they may ask.

Solo 2 is a social sport, and most drivers are happy to give you advice and critique your runs. Ask someone with a similar car if you may follow them through a course walk. Maybe they'll even think aloud for you (don't do too much talking yourself, or you will be making them walk again). Ask if you can ride with them on a fun run, and offer to pay the $1-$2 for the run. If you're not sure when to line up, go ahead and ask. Ask someone to look at the chalk on your tires to see whether you need more air. Ask someone to watch your run if they have time, and tell you what needs changing. They'll be glad to.

There are a few bad times to ask for advice, though. Here's a quick list:

When they are walking the course. (They're trying to memorize it.)

When they are staring into space or have their eyes closed, they're probably going over their run or plan.

When they are in grid. They are only thinking about the course.

Sometimes events will conspire to keep a good driver from competing. It may be a broken car, it may be an injury that prevents them from being able to change tires. This is your chance! Offer that driver a ride (co-drive) in your car - make it free if you can afford to. So they use up $20 worth of tires. Not a bad price for a private instructor all day! I have gone to some of the big events, Tours, Divisionals and ProSolos and sent out an ad for a co-driver. It has been an enourmous benefit to have advice from these experts all day, and be able to walk the course with them.

Try to help out. There is more work to be done than the mandatory course-work. This is an all-volunteer organization, so help is always appreciated. Luckily, this also puts you in a position to talk to other drivers, because the veterans are helping out, too. If you share the work, they'll have more time to talk to you. Likewise, showing up early will help out the registration and tech crew, and give you more time to walk the course. Read the next section on how to help, if you're looking for ideas to lend a hand.

Everyone stays to help clean up the course and pit areas. Keeping the sites is important to everyone, so leave your pit area cleaner than you found it.


New Member
United States
What I Drive
2011 Sport
I did a couple of solo events when I lived in Atlanta many years ago. Fun but my cars weren't competitive(that' my excuse). One of the cars was a Pontiac Grand Prix with 2.8 v6 and mt. The SCCA put it in H class if I remember correctly. Right in there with the Corollas. The second car was a v6 mt Mustang and I forget which class it was in. I didn't think it fair that you paid to race and then had to work the corners too so I got away from it. Localclub could have hired some teenager from the spectators and paid them $10 to do it. I later decided the SCCA is Elitest and went onto something else.


New Member
United States
What I Drive
2020 Ford Fusion Hybrid
I've owned a few Porsches in my life and have auto-crossed my 914s, a great auto-crossing car! One bit of good advice is to keep your eyes "on the horizon" while driving. That simply means keep your view beyond the first set of cones. You will find that your entrances and exits along the course will be much smoother and, consequently, your times will be faster.