Autocross Performance Handbook

Autocross Performance Handbook

by Richard Newton


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Autocross Performance Handbook by Richard Newton

Autocross is open to just about anyone with a helmet and a car. Aimed at all those autocross drivers who race the cars they drive every day, this thorough and easy-to-follow handbook covers everything from choosing the best class and car for competing to tuning, modifying, and racing that car. Richard Newton, an ASE-certified Master Technician, talks in a reader-friendly fashion about what can be done, why it should be done, and what might need to be altered when conditions change. He discusses the rule book and driving techniques used in autocross events.

Featuring helpful full-color illustrations, this guide covers all engine/drivetrain combinations, and focuses on car subsystems, including engine, suspension, wheels and tires, and brakes, among others.

The book includes drawings of course set-ups, as well as a complete reference appendix.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760327883
Publisher: Motorbooks
Publication date: 07/15/2007
Series: Motorbooks Workshop Series
Edition description: First
Pages: 160
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 10.63(h) x 0.31(d)

About the Author

Richard Newton is an ASE-certified Master Technician who spent 15 years in the automotive service industry before becoming an automotive magazine editor and freelance writer. He has written five books to date, including Corvette C5 Performance Projects, 101 Projects for Your Corvette and Ultimate Garage Handbook. Newton lives in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents



Section I                     Autocross Events

                                                Your First Event

                                                            Arrive Early

                                                            When You Arrive

                                                            Once the Event Starts

                                                The Course Walk

                                                High Speed Autocross

                                                            High-Speed Events and Track Days

                                                            Safety Requirements

                                                            Licensing for High-Speed Autocross

                                                            Typical Event Format



Section II                    Classes and Choices

                                                Some Class Strategies

                                                            Buy a Winning Car

                                                            Pick a Class for Winning

                                                            Forget About this Class Nonsense

The SCCA Classes

                                                            Stock Category

                                                            Street Touring Category

                                                            Street Prepared Category

Street Modified Category

                                                            Prepared Category

Modified Category

                                                How Fast Are the Classes?

                                                The BMW Classing System

                                                Porsche Club of America Classification

Section III      Tuning and Modification


                                                Tire Pressures



                                                Sway Bars

                                                Shocking Facts

                                                            Adjusting Your Shocks

                                                Chassis Braces




                                                Quick Hints


Section IV       Driving Your Car

                                                Five Basic Rules

                                                The Basics of Driving

                                                            Proper Seating Position

                                                            Steering Techniques

                                                            Heel and Toe

                                                The Circle of Traction



                                                Finding the Line

                                                            The Basic 90-Degree Turn

                                                            The Late Apex Turn

                                                            Decreasing Radius Turns

                                                            Hairpin Turns

Slow Turns


                                                Putting It All Together

                                                            Linking the Turns





How Much Traction Do I Have?

How Much Power Do I Have?

How Fast Is This Turn?

Is My Car’s Handling Really Neutral?

Do I Like to Slide My Car?

                                                Back to the Basics

                                                            Set the Suspension During Braking

                                                            Beginning the Turn

                                                            Always Hit the Apex

                                                            Always Look for the Next Apex

                                                            Driving Is Important

Section V                    Glossary

                                                Basic Terms

                                                A Few Final Things to Remember

                                                Comparison of SCCA Permitted Modifications

                                                Basic Cone Arrangements

Cone Rules


What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

SportsCar Magazine, September 2007

“Author and autocross addict Richard Newton has covered every aspect of autocross from car and class selection to setup and driving.”

“This book should be in every autocrosser’s passenger seat. If you are an autocrosser you need this book” – Blau Rain

“The experiences autocrosser will certainly be inspired by all the trick setups shown in the illustrations. But the meat is in the detailed descriptions, explanations and suggestions made in the body of the text.” –Bruce Herrington, Unsere Gedanken

 “Written for the beginning autocrosser, this book is 160, very readable, pages long. The experienced autocrosser will certainly be inspired by all of the trick setups shown in the illustrations. But the meat is in the detailed descriptions, explanations and suggestions made in the body of the text.” Bruce Herrington, Unsere Gedanken


An autocross will be the most intense experience you'll have in your car. An autocross is roughly a minute when you simply drive as hard and with as much intensity as you can gather together. The hope is that you'll demonstrate that you have more driving skill than other people who are doing the same thing. Make no mistake about it-autocross is about driving skill. When we lose, we blame the car. When we win we feel we're the best driver on the planet.

Autocrossing is low-budget automotive competition at the most intense level. No other form of motorsport is quite as intense as autocross. The only comparison is a qualifying lap at a place like Indy or Daytona. It's one car at a time flat out. There's no holding back at an autocross. You have to be aggressive to be a winner. Most importantly, though, you have to use that aggression in a highly skilled manner.

The best part is that any car is eligible. Hell, I had a friend who used to autocross his Suburban. I think he had more fun than almost anyone else at the events. If it's a vehicle, and you have a driver's license, you can participate. Some people have even learned how to drive their cars better by participating in autocross events. The one thing about autocross events is that driving skill will always beat expensive modifications. That's why autocrossing is fun.

Every car club I know of has an autocross schedule. You don't have to drive all day to find a racetrack. Clubs only need to find a big parking lot (and a cooperative parking lot owner) to stage an event. Oh, the club will also need about a hundred orange traffic cones.

The other point to consider is that while anyonewith any sort of car can participate, you can also carry your autocross activities to very intense levels. There are national events where the most fanatical (and best) autocross drivers meet every year. The good part is that it's still all about driving skill.

I remember one year GM brought a 48 of various GM products and a whole engineering team. They got smoked by a bunch of weekend hobbyists. All of the GM engineering in the world couldn't make up for driving skill, or lack of it.

I've been running autocross events for a number of decades. Every few years I walk away, only to be sucked back into the competition. It's nice to go for a Sunday drive at Sebring or Summit Point, but the intensity is lacking. You can drive around the track for several hours and never go as hard as you go in an autocross.

Once you start to get involved, you're going to spend a lot more time thinking about your car. What you really want to do is think a lot about your driving. Forget about changes to your car during the early stages of this hobby. Buying more things will never get you the little plaques. Learn to drive what you have. Confront the harsh reality that you can always learn to be a better driver.

As I wrote this book, the phrase that often came to mind is "It takes a village." In the case of this book it literally took just such a village. Actually, autocross competition across the United States really is a village. I think when the tens of thousands of people across the country who participate in autocross are added up, there are only about three degrees of separation. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. That may be what makes it so much fun. We're just one giant family.

I couldn't have written this book without a whole bunch of help from this family. Several decades of competing and writing about autocross only provided me with a start. It took many other people to get this book across the finish line. A big thank you to the following people:

Kent Weaver, Bill Wagner, Ken Buck, Mark Shaw, Burt Foschini, Rick Kase, Steve Schmidt, Bruce Kosakoski, Geoffrey Bartelmes, Bob Tunnell, Chuck Garcia, Chris Shenefield, Lynn Combs, Jeff Harmon, David Leong, Gail deLeon, Don Johnson, Jon Payne, David Wilson, David Schnoerr, Mark Pilson, Ernie Anderson, Rita Wilsey, Peter Varga, Danny Shields, Greg Kovacs, John Guarnera, James Ink, Bill Headlee, Jason Hull, Jerry Wilcox, Julias Ashley, James Flaumenbaun, Mike Turner, Sam Cosmano, Tom Kubo, Larry Dennstedt, Mike Contour, Bob Haugland, Jack Matthews, Dennis Hale, David Siegler, Steven Rankins, Russ Baumeister, Tim Reardon, Jeff Yeattes, Dave Whitworth, Joe McCormick, Soren Loree, Dave Harriman, Byron Nemy, Fred Turner, Chang Ho Kim, Steve Burger, Steve Landstria. And a special thanks to Tom Gauthier who read several early versions of the book in an attempt to help me make sense with this book.

Then there were some special people who have helped me over the years such as Roger Johnson and Vern Lyle. I think Vern Lyle and I started out in autocross at roughly the same time. Vern was driving Porsches at the time and I was in a Fiat. The frustrating part was that I never even approached his level of driving. Then again, I never worked at it as hard as Vern did. The same with Roger Johnson. Both of these guys spent years developing their skills. Any number of us may have the actual skill, but none of us have polished and honed our skills to the level that Roger and Vern have.

If you're just starting in autocross, take some time and talk to the people who drive really well. Then try to emulate them. Not just the way they take a corner, but in the way they approach one of the most competitive automobile sports you'll ever find. Hopefully you'll also find a few good ideas in this book. Have fun.

-Richard Newton

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