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S197 Help with Autocross driving

Hey everyone I have been autocrossing for a few years and I feel like I'm no longer making progress with my driving. I had a two day event this past weekend and my first day felt great was a rain day so I'm not really counting that but still placed first in Cam-C. The second day I Didn't improve at all first run was a 66.123 and my last after 6 attempts was a 66.044. all clean laps and the car feels great and I cant push it much more. Car is fairly modded but my weak link is tires (working on this currently). but I want to focus more on my driving then the car. I feel like I am leaving a lot on the table but am not sure where to improve. I'm usually off pace from the faster cars by a lot (fastest car was a 58.527 16 VW GTI) I'm not aiming to be the fastest but would like to be closer to the top ten (I was 23 out of 60 cars)

here is the video of my second run, thought I DNF'ed halfway threw the Third Slalom sill ran a 66 lol

 
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Nice driving and nice car. It looks like you are getting some clean runs, have good control, and are in the mix in the top third or so of the field. Good job.

Full disclosure, I'm not an autox guy and hopefully the true expert cone killers will chime in. But since you asked, one thing I see is that you are consistently a little late and abrupt with your inputs. Not horrible but you're needlessly tightening corners, blowing off traction, and slowing yourself down. I think you're abrupt because you're late, and you're late because you aren't looking far enough ahead. Look at .14, .22, .34, and .55 seconds of your video, you are either done or almost done with a feature before you even begin looking towards the next one. By which time it's way too late and your brain and arms are racing to try to catch up. You want to be driving the feature you're currently on using your peripheral vision with your eyes and brain looking at and thinking about on the next one coming up. This will give your brain more time to process, de-stress your thinking, smooth out your inputs, and speed up the car.

Same with the slalom sections, look way far ahead, trust your peripheral vision, and try to get the car to come across the back side of the cones.

One more thing, a lot of people will look way far ahead, do it perfectly, but then lock in and focus on that apex or whatever it is right up until they get there. By which point their eyes have totally dropped and they are late again. You have to keep looking up, up, up. I've never heard an instructor say someone was looking too far ahead. It's basic but hard. The car goes exactly where you are looking.
 
52
41
Exp. Type
Autocross
NE Ohio
That course looked tricky to remember and difficult to maneuver, which is what I typically like! The events around me have been relatively short courses lately. Also, I'm jealous of the headers and h-pipe sound! It's hard to judge autocross runs unless the person giving feedback was at the event and could see the course shape and surface condition. That being said, take everything that I say for what it's worth.

I agree with @stevbd's comment about being late which might be causing you to not be smooth. It looks like a complicated course on video so I understand why you might be more focused on going through the course correctly instead of being smooth and fast. It looked like you could have saved some time if you turned into the thing (very technical term) at 0:22 a little earlier. You can see 2 different lines of tire marks where some turned in early and were already pointing out of the box by the time they went by those 3 middle cones and the other line is where drivers were late and would push through the turn and hit that pointer cone on exit. You handled it well for being late, but I don't think that was the fastest.

There were a few turns where it looked like you could have taken a wider line to be more smooth (like exiting the turn at 0:17). It seems like you made a lot of inputs on the 0:35-0:41 curve. You turned in well but it was a little sharp which caused you to straighten out for half a second and then turn again. Is that something that could have been turned into one smooth turn?

I went to an event on a staggered set of NT555s right after I got my car and...oof...it was bad. It seems like your car is set up much better than mine was for that event, but you did really well for having those tires. Nice job!
 
27
21
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
3-5 Years
Dawsonville, GA
I don’t have anything to add to what already has been stated, but when I see courses like that it makes me so grateful for the site we have in Atlanta.

I’m not the greatest driver by far but atleast I have a good chance of knowing where to go without much thought processes

 

PatientZero

@restless_performance
716
721
Exp. Type
Autocross
Exp. Level
10-20 Years
Kansas City, Missouri
I agree with what has been said. Instead of looking at a course like a series of elements, try to think about it as one big track. Think about how you can enter an element to put you in the best position for the next element. Kinda like playing pool, when you take your shot you want to leave the cue ball in the best spot for your next shot. Sometimes slowing way down and taking a slalom or tight turn slower than you know you can will put you on a better line to be significantly faster somewhere else. Just remember that the shortest line is usually the fastest. Carrying a ton of speed feels fast and looks cool but doesn't always show up on the timer. Just work on connecting your elements together and I think you can pick up a bunch of time. This starts in the course walk for me. I'm looking at my angles and thinking about where I'm gonna brake to exit in the best spot for the next turn.
 
Nice driving and nice car. It looks like you are getting some clean runs, have good control, and are in the mix in the top third or so of the field. Good job.

Full disclosure, I'm not an autox guy and hopefully the true expert cone killers will chime in. But since you asked, one thing I see is that you are consistently a little late and abrupt with your inputs. Not horrible but you're needlessly tightening corners, blowing off traction, and slowing yourself down. I think you're abrupt because you're late, and you're late because you aren't looking far enough ahead. Look at .14, .22, .34, and .55 seconds of your video, you are either done or almost done with a feature before you even begin looking towards the next one. By which time it's way too late and your brain and arms are racing to try to catch up. You want to be driving the feature you're currently on using your peripheral vision with your eyes and brain looking at and thinking about on the next one coming up. This will give your brain more time to process, de-stress your thinking, smooth out your inputs, and speed up the car.

Same with the slalom sections, look way far ahead, trust your peripheral vision, and try to get the car to come across the back side of the cones.

One more thing, a lot of people will look way far ahead, do it perfectly, but then lock in and focus on that apex or whatever it is right up until they get there. By which point their eyes have totally dropped and they are late again. You have to keep looking up, up, up. I've never heard an instructor say someone was looking too far ahead. It's basic but hard. The car goes exactly where you are looking.
Thank you for the feedback! I thought I have been looking far enough forward but maybe I haven't been? Best description I can give is in my eyes when I hit the first slalom cone I am already looking at the last cone in the group/ next feature. Is that not far enough forward? also you say I am late with inputs but if I was to turn sooner I would clip a cone with the back tire, is this because I'm not going wide enough to fallow the proper line? Also this video is only my second run of the day so i did clean up some stuff. i will also have outside car footage later today or tomorrow to better help with idea's!
 
That course looked tricky to remember and difficult to maneuver, which is what I typically like! The events around me have been relatively short courses lately. Also, I'm jealous of the headers and h-pipe sound! It's hard to judge autocross runs unless the person giving feedback was at the event and could see the course shape and surface condition. That being said, take everything that I say for what it's worth.

I agree with @stevbd's comment about being late which might be causing you to not be smooth. It looks like a complicated course on video so I understand why you might be more focused on going through the course correctly instead of being smooth and fast. It looked like you could have saved some time if you turned into the thing (very technical term) at 0:22 a little earlier. You can see 2 different lines of tire marks where some turned in early and were already pointing out of the box by the time they went by those 3 middle cones and the other line is where drivers were late and would push through the turn and hit that pointer cone on exit. You handled it well for being late, but I don't think that was the fastest.

There were a few turns where it looked like you could have taken a wider line to be more smooth (like exiting the turn at 0:17). It seems like you made a lot of inputs on the 0:35-0:41 curve. You turned in well but it was a little sharp which caused you to straighten out for half a second and then turn again. Is that something that could have been turned into one smooth turn?

I went to an event on a staggered set of NT555s right after I got my car and...oof...it was bad. It seems like your car is set up much better than mine was for that event, but you did really well for having those tires. Nice job!

The Headers and and boss 302 h-pipe are the perfect sounds for these cars in my opinion! have the perfect raspiness and quite going down the freeway! as far as car setup i have tried to keep it the same and just focus on my driving, I do know for a fact that my tires are holding me back but i still feel like there is room to improve!
 
That course was painful, but you run what you are given :)

You look late basically everywhere. Late to brake, late to turn in and late back on the throttle. It adds up. Brake earlier (and possibly less), get the car turned up early and start feeding throttle. And remember to think of the steering wheel and throttle being connected with a string, so when the wheel is turned, the string is pulled tight and you can't put the throttle down. As you unwind the wheel you can add more throttle. And you want to be opening the wheel and adding (light) throttle as early as possible.

The other thing I saw is that you looked crazy wide in the slow turn arounds. Even on large courses, it almost never works out to cover extra distance, and on a course that tight, there is only two ways to do turn arounds like that: slow/tight or wrong. Any extra distance is fatal, you are driving further, at a slow speed. Not good.

Hope this helps. And the most important thing, if you watch my videos, do what I say not what I do :)

DaveW
 
I second what Dave said about being late everywhere - especially slaloms and that chicago box - you turn before the next cone instead of right after the cone you pass - you basically drive by the cones and don't backside them.
Like Vivek says in his course - car placement above everything else - especially on the tight course it's everything.

If you have a chance to do a school - like Evo, I highly suggest it.
 
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264
Thank you for the feedback! I thought I have been looking far enough forward but maybe I haven't been? Best description I can give is in my eyes when I hit the first slalom cone I am already looking at the last cone in the group/ next feature. Is that not far enough forward? also you say I am late with inputs but if I was to turn sooner I would clip a cone with the back tire, is this because I'm not going wide enough to fallow the proper line? Also this video is only my second run of the day so i did clean up some stuff. i will also have outside car footage later today or tomorrow to better help with idea's!
It's hard to answer your specific questions just from looking at video. As mentioned that looks like a really challenging course. I think all I was trying to say is that obviously the car follows your inputs and your inputs follow your eyes. There's a lot going on at once out there and keeping your eyes up gives your brain more time to process and makes lots of good things happen without having to specifically think about each of them in the moment. Which is impossible to do in any event. You have a cool video setup where you can compare your hands and your eyes, see where you are looking at any given moement and see if you like it or not.

As @DaveW said, do as I say not as I do! :)
 
Looking ahead is an indication that you're doing it right but driving ahead is the real key. The most telling thing is the happy throttle foot especially in the slalom. You want to be much smoother on the gas, brake and steering - then work on getting the speed up while staying on line. Tight and tidy line is always best and roll on the power as you unwind the wheel. Don't try to brake and turn at the same time. As you practice these fundamentals you'll feel like you're going a lot slower but when you really find how much more grip there is when you're not shocking the tires with sudden inputs you'll learn where the limits really are and end up a lot faster. I've been doing this for nearly 30 years and still trying to figure it all out.
 
Not much to add here that Dave and Gearz didn't already bring up.

Eyes up and ahead
Turn before the cone and not at the cone
Set yourself up for speed entering every possible element
Smooth inputs (quick inputs can still be smooth)

This is a picture of me backsiding a cone to set myself up for the following corner. I could be closer with the driver's wheel but I would likely clip it with the rear wheel. I've turned in on this corner in such a way that my rear tire is going to trace a line right next to the cone. I accomplish this by turning early but not targeting that cone with my front tire. My eyes are already looking to where I want to place the car before turning into the next right hand corner.

52882775450_9579619fe1_o.jpg ATLSCCA_Pts3_2023_3167-(ZF-7523-01466-1-001) by Kyle Mavis, on Flickr

By the following photo my eyes have moved from the area I wanted to be in for the turn in, towards the actual apex.

52882560024_e3689c8018_o.jpg ATLSCCA_Pts3_2023_3169-(ZF-7523-01466-1-002) by Kyle Mavis, on Flickr

A tricky course like the course you're on makes all of this challenging so you really have to be on your A-Game when it comes to memorizing the different elements.
 
JD - look at Sam Strano's videos for example = compare his car placement at the entry cone into a slalom of any course he had driven - yes - different than yours but it really doesn't matter as that car position should be the same at pretty much any reasonable autocross slalom, what will be different is speed. Pause the videos at the same point (car having the cone at lets say front wheel) and you'll see the difference between car placement - what that changes is how quickly he turns for next cone and effectively how much faster he goes through it. Chicago box is a three cone slalom really with bunch of extra cones - you basically stopped inside it.

Note Sam represents the very very best of this sport, he also raw timed entire CAM-C at Nats except for the winner (generalizing, different day but same conditions roughly) in a stock FS-legal Mach 1 (which my conclusions always is to not get too hung up on the building the car but on driving it).
 

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