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Old 11-10-2002, 04:43 PM   #1
lushboy
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Default Major diff & similarities btw auto-x and track

This may have been covered before, but the search engine just doesn't run for me. Could anyone offer a good (or few) examples of what makes auto-x and track racing so different? Any similarities? In particular, I'm looking for the driving style/technique differences/similarities.

In another thread someone mentioned that on a track course, the instructor can tell an autoX driver on the first lap. What is that distinction?

Any books or sites that can help me with this understanding would be helpful as well. I've done autoX this past year and thinking to try track events in the near future. I just wanted to know what I should be expecting.. either good or bad.

Thanks.
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Old 11-10-2002, 05:14 PM   #2
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Autocrossers will tend to be way too aggressive and jerky. Autocrossers get used to jerking the car around because that's necessary to get around an autox course quickly, while you can't do that on a track and be efficient.
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Old 11-10-2002, 05:46 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally posted by ChrisDP
Autocrossers will tend to be way too aggressive and jerky. Autocrossers get used to jerking the car around because that's necessary to get around an autox course quickly, while you can't do that on a track and be efficient.
jerking the car around an autocross is the slow way around it.

sure lots of autocrossers do it, but not good ones.

I imagine if a Chris Ramey showed up at a track day the instructor would never guess he was an autocrosser.



anyways, differences between autocrossing and road racing:

1: road courses are bigger, speeds are higher
2. autocross track is new every time, so you have to learn quick


pretty simple =)


driving concepts really aren't all that different. Autocrossers do have the privledge of not having to worry about killing themselves or their cars should they screw up though.
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Old 11-10-2002, 06:47 PM   #4
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Didn't we already argue all about this in the other thread? Why bring this up again?

I'll answer that question about an instructor knowing if one auto-x on the first lap, though. I think it only applies to regular auto-crosser who showed up at a road course for the first time:

Because of the nature of the sport, you have to be pretty aggressive in the course, even during the first time out. You only get a few runs per day to get your best time, and you can afford to take it close to the limits, because you're unlikely to hit anything or kill anyone.

On the other hand, open trackers 1) have all day at the track to learn the line; 2) want to go home in one-piece. Therefore they will start off real slowly, learn each corner, and gradually bring up the speed.

I think an instructor can probably tell with that whether one is an auto-crosser.

For people that are smooth and are seasoned in both sports, it's really hard to tell on the first lap.

-Ray
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Old 11-11-2002, 04:13 AM   #5
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Basics are the same, drive a good line and be smooth to go fast.

In autocross there is a much heavier emphasis on the mental aspect of driving. You have much less time to process and execute things. You also have less opportunity to get an optimal run and it is far safer, resulting in a more aggressive attitude toward driving the course.

For example, if I started to get a little loose through some esses before a straight on an autocross course I'd just keep my foot in it and try to drive it out. I would most likely be going around 60mph and the risk would be minimal.

Contrast this to a track where I'm going 20mph faster, are looking at a change in surfaces if I go off course and have another 45 minutes of track time ahead of me. I'd sure as hell try to bleed some speed and keep it together. And the next couple times around I'd be a lot mellower.

On a track the stakes are higher and time is less precious. You can afford to take your time figuring out the fast way around the course. You can't afford to go spinning off the track into a wall, much less roll over.

So that to me sums up the difference between open tracking and autocross. Honestly I find autocross a lot more interesting and exciting. Road racing is a whole 'nother story though, which I've yet to experience
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Old 11-11-2002, 09:43 AM   #6
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I may have been the instructor "lushboy" is referring to...

BUT, I think all the previous posts in this thread have got it pretty much right. There are no absolutes.

I can't tell every auto-x'r. What I can usually tell are where some specific bad habbits have come from... and even then I'm not suggesting they were "good" habbits in another venue.

Really gifted drivers are the ones that understand the principles behind their driving (weight and traction management, etc.) and can apply that knowledge in lots of different situations... that discription doesn't hold for very many of us... myself included.
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Old 11-11-2002, 01:39 PM   #7
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In terms of driving style, I think there are major differences.

Autocross is all about transitions. Courses are short and tight and there is very little steady state cornering at max adhesion. It's all about getting the car to rotate quickly and smoothly into the corner, then be able to get the power on as quickly as possible to squirt out and set up for the next corner, which you have already entered in the time it took you to read this last part of the sentence.

The keys to being a quick driver in autocross is the ability to memorize and analyze the track to determine a fast route before you ever turn a wheel. To do this properly, you need to understand the handling strengths and limitations very well. You also have to be able to drive the route you planned exactly, then fine tune your performance over the next two runs in order to mimize your lap times. There is the added pressure that you've only got 3 laps to do your best.

Track driving is has an element that autocross is missing, which is steady-state maximimum adhesion cornering, where the car is on the absolute cornering limit for extended periods of time. The speeds are significantly higher, so the risks are greater. Due to the higher speeds and steady-state cornering, track driving is rather ballistic. Meaning, once you get the car turned in to the corner, you are following an arc that you planned and (if you are truly driving at the limit) there is very little you can do to change that trajectory without upsetting the car and losing speed. This makes corner entry very critical, because any small mistake made there will be magnified the farther the car tracks through the corner.

Track driving gives you the opportunity to drive many laps and slowly work your way into the fastest laps by slightly altering your lines and figuring out where your car wants to be to go quickly. To be a fast track driver you must have strong understanding of vehicle dynamics and you need to have very good car control. You also need to be able to analyze your performance on the fly and realize what changes must be made to go quicker. Then, you MUST execute those changes. This is easier said than done, because the speeds are high and there is a very real fear factor that will prevent your body parts from doing what your brain wants them to do. This fear factor is the greatest limiting factor in track driving. It's what prevents a driver from braking a foot or two later, or from trying to go flat through a corner where it may or may not be possible to go flat.

And track driving can kill you.

To the folks that said they find autocross more interesting than track driving, it might be due to the lack of competition. Autocross has lap times and it is all about competition and beating your comrades. Most track days stress safety, NO competition, and getting your car home in one piece. If track days were run like autocrosses with everyone trying for the fastest lap times, I think it would be far more interesting for some people. There would also be many more destroyed cars and injured drivers.

As someone else said, wheel to wheel racing is a whole 'nuther story...

Gary
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Old 11-11-2002, 02:53 PM   #8
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Track = test of balls, talent and car. How comfortable/competent are you at speed?

AutoX = test of car control.

You must understand car control for both, but bravery is important on the track. You must learn to control fear and discomfort.

In my opinion, AutoX is harder on the vehicle and not as enjoyable.
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Old 11-11-2002, 03:15 PM   #9
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Default Driving Techniques for Track and Auto-X

Quote:
Originally posted by GarySheehan
Track driving is has an element that autocross is missing, which is steady-state maximimum adhesion cornering, where the car is on the absolute cornering limit for extended periods of time...
That is a very thoughtfull post from Gary, which is worth reading twice...

Regarding Gary's point about a good driver understanding well their car's handling dynamics, Gary's crew chief, Joel Gat, just posted about the differences between auto-x set-ups and track set-ups. See http://forums.nasioc.com/forums/show...87#post2871387 In this particular post, Joel responds to auto-xers ideas for neutralizing the understeer which plagued Gary's car at the recent Vegas race. The point to learn in Joel's response is that on the track, the closer you are to the maximum available adhesion during cornering, the better.

Therefore, on the track, it is better to live with a little understeer, but be closer to the maximum possible adhesion available from the tires when travelling in a steady arc curve in the middle of the corner.

Whereas when auto-xing, as Gary said, the transition from travelling straight to travelling in a curve (corner entry), and from travelling in a curve to travelling straight (corner exit) are more important. Therefore, it is often better to give up some adhesion to so that the car can turn in more quickly at corner entry. So for instance it is fairly common for auto-xers to advise others on this bbs to over-inflate their rear tires so that the tire's contact patch is reduced. Reducing the tire's contact patch removes some of the available adhesion but it works (it reduces the overall time of the run).

Regarding books on driving techniques,
  1. for the track:
  2. Going Faster! Mastering the Art of Race Driving, by by Carl Lopez, Danny Sullivan (The Skip Barber Racing School)
  3. Speed Secrets: Professional Race Driving Techniques, by Ross Bentley
  4. The Technique of Motor Racing, by Piero Taruffi;
    Not that this book was written by a professional race car driver, who was also an engineer. It will appeal to you if you happen to desire and appreciate the math, and physics which underlie track driving.
  1. For auto-crossing:
  2. Secrets of Solo Racing: Expert Techniques for Autocrossing and Time Trials, by Henry A. Watts
  3. Solo II Novice Handbook
Hope that helps!

Last edited by OnTheGas; 11-11-2002 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 11-11-2002, 04:42 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by GarySheehan
If track days were run like autocrosses with everyone trying for the fastest lap times, I think it would be far more interesting for some people. www.teamSMR.com
If track days were run like autocrosses then they would be road races.... I think it's important to differentiate between the two...

Gary's a racer and clearly does... but I'm not so sure about everyone else here.

Track days are NOT about "balls". If your goal is to drive at 10/ 10ths (or even 9/10ths), pick another venue, like a real race school on your way to actual racing.

Those who don't see the difference are the ones more often than not, leaving the their track day in the cab of the tow truck (if not an ambulance) with their daily driver loaded on the back in a ball.
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Old 11-11-2002, 06:04 PM   #11
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Thanks for the responses!

I've actually read the Speed Secrets by Ross Bentley yesterday and he was talking mostly about road racing and some oval track stuff. It was a good 2.5 hours of reading and I've cleared up quite a bit about some questions I've had about driving. I'll read up on the more auto-x related books and see what else I can learn to improve my auto-x skills.

I guess the whole underlying goal is to be smooth on the track and car. It's just that some of the fast drivers here are pretty harsh on their cars (jabbing brakes, hard acceleration, throwing car around the course) and I thought to be fast that may be the only way. Then again, maybe my car just isn't up to par..

Would anyone suggest kart racing as an entry point to track/road racing?
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Old 11-11-2002, 06:16 PM   #12
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Yes, if you want to do competitive racing, karting is the way to go. It's much cheaper than cars, and in many series everybody drives the same one or two models of karts, so you really have to show your ability, and not hide behind a better car. The racing is also more fierce, which prepares one for door-to-door racing.

-Ray
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Old 11-11-2002, 06:29 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by HoRo1
Track = test of balls, talent and car. How comfortable/competent are you at speed?

AutoX = test of car control.

You must understand car control for both, but bravery is important on the track. You must learn to control fear and discomfort.

In my opinion, AutoX is harder on the vehicle and not as enjoyable.
harder on the vehicle???
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Old 11-12-2002, 02:17 AM   #14
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I think that being "smooth" is best for both worlds. If you arent smooth in autocross, your gonna hit cones or spin out or generally not do very well...

For me, I found out when I tried out Karting that I hate having other people on the track with me. Perhaps on a track day its not so much of a problem, but I spent 90% of my driving time worrying about the guy behind me and giving other folks room

That, and track days cost hundreds while an autocross runs ~$30...

Dont get me wrong, I WANT to race on a track (and I think I would do fine considering im a smooth driver who knows something about how to handle traction in long, hard corners, and how to take a line) but I just cant afford it

Note: I dont think you could tell I was an auto-x'er on a track my first time

Note #2: Hawk went to a track day recently in a car simular to mine albiet I have a slightly better suspension set up and a handful more power mods, and he was passing like everyone in the corners, so yes I am encouraged by that, despite the fact EVERYONE will pass me in the straights...
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Old 11-12-2002, 02:58 AM   #15
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Thumbs up Karting

Quote:
Originally posted by lushboy
Would anyone suggest kart racing as an entry point to track/road racing?
Yes, I do.
This might be helpful... http://www.norcal-karting.com/ If you're curious about karting, check out the schedules of the local tracks, and then drive over and check it out. Also, kart racing schools can be very affordable...
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