Autocrossing Corvettes - Autocross! Part 1

In The First Installment Of Our Performance-Driving Series, Our Man Shows You The Ins And Outs Of Cone-Dodging

Chris Endres Feb 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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One of the biggest advantages of owning a Corvette rather than a musclecar is the Vette's outstanding handling prowess. Pretty much everyone who drives one for the first time emerges from the experience with a goofy grin and an exclamation along the lines of, "Wow, does that thing corner!" And while taking your favorite freeway on-ramp at 15 (or 30) over the posted speed limit can be entertaining for a while, chances are good that you will eventually wish to seek a legal way to push your car, and yourself, even harder.

Autocross (AX) events, also known as SOLO, are timed, precision-driving skill contests that emphasize the driver's ability and the car's handling characteristics. The event pits one driver at a time against a demanding course defined by cones or pylons on a large, low-hazard location such as a parking lot or inactive airstrip. Most events allow each driver six attempts at the course, each one timed to a thousandth of a second. Though speeds are usually no greater than those encountered in highway driving, a run around the AX course makes for an exhilarating adrenaline rush, thanks to the combination of concentration and car feedback.

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You don't need to have the latest techno-marvel Corvette to enjoy autocross. This C2 corners hard enough to induce brain slosh.

What most people want to know when they first learn of autocross is whether it is dangerous to the driver or the car. One of the virtues of autocross is that you get to push yourself and your Corvette to the absolute limit with very little risk to anything but your ego. Because of the fairly low speeds and lack of hard obstacles at most event sites, the odds of damaging an out-of-control car are remarkably low. In fact, you're far more likely to wad it up in a collision whilst driving for ice cream on Saturday night!

Many autocross events are sanctioned by regional chapters of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). Additionally, countless Corvette clubs and other sports car clubs put on their own events, most of which are open to any make of car. Because AX doesn't require a specific venue like drag racing or open-track events, it can be held almost anywhere. This has made the sport very popular. In fact, SCCA says SOLO is second only to drag racing in terms of grassroots participation.

One benefit of this popularity is that, on any given weekend, you can find an autocross within a few hours' drive of nearly anywhere. A Google search will almost certainly get you pointed in the right direction; otherwise, take a look at SCCA's Web site, www.scca.org. Once you've identified an event and pre-registered, it's time to turn your attention to your machine.

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The C5 Z06 is one of the most competitive cars in autocross, even at a national level.

Prior to being allowed to run, your car will be subjected to a technical inspection by event staff to verify that it's safe for competition. Nothing is more irritating than spending the money and time to pre-register and travel to an event, only to be turned away because your car doesn't pass tech. Save yourself some frustration and perform your own pre-event tech inspection. It's easy and should take you no more than 30 minutes.

Start your car prep by removing everything from the interior that isn't bolted down, including floor mats, garage-door-opener remote, and radar detector. Even something as seemingly benign as a ballpoint pen can become a dangerous projectile when you start hustling the car around the course.

Assuming you will be running the event on your normal street tires, it's a good idea to add some extra air to minimize the amount they can roll over. Tire roll-over occurs when the tire flexes in a corner to the point that it allows the sidewall to contact the ground. Obviously, this is not ideal in terms of traction or tire life.

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