noddaz Reader
April 14, 2012 8:01 a.m.

Ok, so my driving for Auto-x is pretty bad and I would like to improve just a wee bit. So I was thinking about picking up some of those little orange plastic cones that kids ride their bikes around. I figure that these are cheap enough to buy and shouldn't hurt the car when I run over one. But the main question. If I set up something like a simple slalom with a U-turn at the end, how far apart should the cones be? My son and I will be running my 86 GTi and my 97 Jetta...

Curmudgeon MegaDork
April 14, 2012 8:20 a.m.

I don't have a lot of course design experience, but for some reason a minimum of 25 feet sticks in my head. I don't think that's an SCCA rule or anything, just a rule of thumb. If it looks like the speeds coming in might be a bit high, you move them apart to try to lessen the chance of cars swapping ends.

Duke UberDork
April 14, 2012 8:23 a.m.

Typical slalom is 60 foot spacing on a big lot, 45 feet for a tight one, in my experience. You can also vary the spacing or offset the cones a little for more variety.

T.J. UberDork
April 14, 2012 8:25 a.m.

Do you have your own parking lot or at least the permission of the parking lot owner to do this? Be careful just trying this out in any old place. Sounds like it may be a way for your local club to lose a site.

noddaz Reader
April 14, 2012 8:27 a.m.
Duke wrote: Typical slalom is 60 foot spacing on a big lot, 45 feet for a tight one, in my experience. You can also vary the spacing or offset the cones a little for more variety.

Thank you... I certainly was underestimating that.... I can see me now at the local airport... "Excuse me. Can I borrow your runway for about an hour...?"

Duke UberDork
April 14, 2012 8:42 a.m.

In reply to noddaz:

Heh, yeah, they come at you quickly when you're in the car. The openings in gates, if you have them, can be anywhere from 10 to 20 feet wide. Also, stay at least 25 feet away from anything you could have a glancing impact with, and 50 feet away from anything you're headed towards, just in case.

Also, as TJ says, I would ask first before just setting up at the WalMart RV lot or something, but I'm sure you've got that covered.

I will also recommend a novice school if your local club has one. You'll get a lot of practice and good advice. After being self-coached for a few years, it definitely helped me, and I hope to keep going to schools. It's worth a couple hours' round trip to get to one. Have fun!

kazoospec Reader
April 14, 2012 9:45 a.m.

Another plug for "rookie schools". There will typically be instructors available to ride with you and give you pointers or, more importantly, take your car for a drive with you as a passenger so you can start to learn what its really capable of. You can occasionally get people to ride along with you at regular events, but most of us have more on our mind and less free time when there's an event going on.

As for practicing in a private lot, I'm not sure plastic "bike cones" are going to work. They are kind of a hard plastic and will probably break if you hit them. You need the soft traffic cones that you can smack without doing damage. Be sure whomever gave you permission knows what you are doing. Even then, expect any passing law enforcement to be less than thrilled.

There are aspects of your driving that you can work on CAREFULLY in the street. You can work on smooth, quick hand work on the steering wheel. Work on consciously unwinding the steering wheel (rather than letting it return on its own) as this is especially important with front wheel drive cars. If traffic conditions permit, work on "threshhold braking" (braking as quickly and smoothly as you can without locking up the tires). Work on reading the road as you drive. Look ahead a try to anticipate bumps, loose gravel, grooves in the pavement and try to predict in your mind how they are going to affect your car.

There are several good books out there. Read as much as you can about high speed driving of any kind.

I also think there is a LITTLE benefit to driving racing simulators if used with a steering wheel. The key is to drive a fast car on a tight track, to get used quickly picking lines and making adjustments. Have fun and be careful out there.

ronholm Reader
April 14, 2012 9:51 a.m.

I feel pretty lucky after reading this. My state is constantly setting up practice courses for public use. I just wish sometimes they would use smaller or softer barrels..

(Ok not funny.. but ya'll all know you have all done it at least once.)

belteshazzar UltraDork
April 14, 2012 10:25 a.m.
ronholm wrote: (Ok not funny.. but ya'll all know you have all done it at least once.)

...a week

belteshazzar UltraDork
April 14, 2012 10:26 a.m.

i live in a neighborhood with a lot of roundabouts

noddaz Reader
April 14, 2012 10:50 a.m.
ronholm wrote: I feel pretty lucky after reading this. My state is constantly setting up practice courses for public use. I just wish sometimes they would use smaller or softer barrels.. (Ok not funny.. but ya'll all know you have all done it at least once.)

Wrong.. That IS funny...
But other drivers get upset for some reason...

jrw1621 PowerDork
April 14, 2012 2:24 p.m.
T.J. wrote: Do you have your own parking lot or at least the permission of the parking lot owner to do this? Be careful just trying this out in any old place. Sounds like it may be a way for your local club to lose a site.

Good advice given above.
Drag racing is easily practiced as well a lot of places but not really advisable.

Learn the theory as well. See the following training videos. http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/video-training-autocrossing-with-dick-turner/33988/page1/

Take the classes or travel to another region for their "novice" day. Here in N. Ohio that event was today and most regions hold that even early in the year.

motomoron Dork
April 14, 2012 3:11 p.m.

The #1 thing you can practice every minute you're driving (or riding) is your eyes. As a current club racer, HPDE instructor and occasional autocrosser, and ex motorcycle and kart racer, I have to continually work on keeping my eyes all the way up, all the time.

If you find the cones "coming at you too quickly" it's because you're not looking as far ahead as possible.

So do that when you're driving, all the time.

Practice deliberate, short firm brake applications so you carry the speed your're going as deep as possible to permit a swift, firm, braking event with a smooth release that results in the correct entry speed for the corner. Look at every turn from the perspective of braking zone - turn in point - apex - throttle - exit.

Be smooth. Now be smoother. LOOK UP! EYES UP!

Do track days! being accustomed to the pace on track will make a 60mph slalom feel like a cool-down lap.

There's lots you can do while you're driving that will improve your core driving skill set. It helps w/ autocross, racing, every kind of driving. It's like a musician practicing scales.

noddaz Reader
April 14, 2012 3:27 p.m.

Thank you all... I like it!

kazoospec Reader
April 14, 2012 8:48 p.m.

This: http://www.amazon.com/Winning-Autocross-Techniques-Speed-Secrets/dp/0760331561/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334454436&sr=1-1

will help also. Lots of good stuff in there. I've read it about 3 times.

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