10 steps to fulfilling your motorsports dreams | Column

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Dec 2, 2022 | Motorsports, Getting Started | Posted in Shop Work | From the June 2015 issue | Never miss an article

Like many of us, the first vehicle I proudly owned was my bicycle. Sometime around my 13th birthday, I had finally saved up the money to buy a real BMX bike. 

One of our local shops had a pretty sweet deal. For about $300 they’d build up a pro-quality frame with decent components–not quite top-shelf parts, but they sent you out the door with a great foundation. 

I spent the next three years honing that chrome-plated MCS frame into my dream bike. I’m a researcher by trade, so each component purchase was preceded by agonizing analysis–or, as we called it back then, reading BMX magazines. Plus, working at a bike shop had its perks.

Sometime before my 16th birthday, I ate it hard at the Shoreham BMX track. My left arm broke my fall, but the fall also broke my left arm. The bike was parked while I was in a cast, replaced by a Honda scooter. 

Up until that X Games-quality shunt, how would I describe my bike skills? Not great. Slow, actually. I once did a backflip on a guy’s backyard ramp–not on purpose, mind you. One of my shoes flew off in the ensuing wreck. The dude’s golden retriever ran off with my checkerboard Vans sneaker. 

My attitude, though? Totally loved the sport, and I still support it with every fiber of my being. I built up Dream Bike 2.0 for my 30th birthday, and I think the next one will be done in time for my 45th. 

Last weekend I watched a skate park contest with Super Dave, my BMX riding buddy from 20 years ago. He still rides, and his day job places him as international sales manager at Sparky’s Distribution, one of the biggest names in the BMX world. And he autocrosses, too. 

From the sidelines we watched kids–and adults–do things that the 14-year-old versions of us never thought possible. We enjoyed some cold drinks, he introduced me to new friends, and I shot photos and video. The biggest thrill for me: sharing those videos and images with the guys and girls riding the bikes. 

My other passion? Guitars. That one PRS I purchased three or four years ago has since been joined by more: six-strings, basses and even a baritone. How many? Yes. 

My skills? I am way better at purchasing gear than playing it. I admit, though, the hobby has opened up an entirely new world and introduced me to some amazing people. 

How does this tie into cars? A while ago, a friend mentioned that he’d like to autocross but didn’t have the right car. As he lamented, he only owned a six-speed Acura TSX. 

That is all the car he needed. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. No matter what, Geddy Lee is always going to sound at least a zillion times better than I do. He is a real musician, and Rush can fill any arena on any day. I can barely make it through a three-chord punk song. 

I am the duffer who at least realizes that he’s a duffer. But like the duffer who craves that 19th hole, I’m always up for more people at the party. 

So back to the popular question: How do I find the best car for my first forays into motorsports? Listen to David the editor, not David the hoarder. First, the car you have is likely good enough. See, we’re already on the homestretch. 

Step 1: Find a local event. How? Flip through the newest issue of Grassroots Motorsports or check out websites like motorsportreg.com. Many of these same organizations host autocrosses and rallycrosses as well, which are also fine points of entry. 

Step 2: Find a club that hosts events in your section of the country. In this day and age, most have websites featuring their schedules. There are so many great clubs out there, and each has its own vibe. Whether it’s NASA, SCCA, PCA or one of the many others, you will be in good hands. 

Step 3: Pick an event that’s near you and mark it on your calendar. If registration is required beforehand, might as well do it.

Step 4: Bring a buddy. In fact, I should trademark that: Bring a Buddy™.

Step 5: Follow our beginner’s guide regarding car prep and stuff.

Step 6: Go.

Step 7: Have the time of your life.

Step 8: Tell your friends. Remember to use #grmphoto for all of those Instagram photos. (And since you’ll be so excited, yes, go nuts with all of the filters and effects.)

Step 9: Make plans to go again.

Step 10: Email me a note. I want to hear about all of the fun you had, all of the friends you made, and all of the things you learned. 

While we all like to fuss over the latest tires or fastest Speed Widget™–see, I’m not the only one–really it comes down to the nut behind the wheel. Duffer or not, go out and play. Don’t let that next track day or autocross intimidate you.

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BA5 GRM+ Memberand Reader
11/13/20 8:41 a.m.

The "I need to do x/y/z to my car first" was always the hurdle I found most difficult to get people who want to participate (or at least say they want to participate) over.

No, you don't need that fancy clutch/brake/suspension/exhaust to go autocrossing.  You could show up in a Camry with a blown suspension and it'll still be a faster car than a brand new driver.

dxman92 Dork
11/22/20 1:49 p.m.

If I had a dime for every time I heard that about they needed to do stuff to their car before hand.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/24/20 1:47 p.m.

In reply to dxman92 :

Yup. Just go out and do it. 

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
12/6/21 9:47 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to dxman92 :

Yup. Just go out and do it. 

DO IT!!!!!!!

ddavidv UltimaDork
12/6/21 10:21 p.m.

Do it. But bring money, because racing will burn through that stuff like fall leaves in a bonfire.

Sparkie New Reader
12/7/21 8:44 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

Off subject but, do you think your friend super Dave could possibly help me get a Sparky's Distro shirt? That's my nickname, and I would gladly buy one, but their site is wholesalers only. :( I'm a long time BMX'er, SCCA flagger, sometimes autocrosser, and I even used to work in the cycling industry for DeFeet.

YoursTruly New Reader
3/8/22 12:25 p.m.

Fun fact, I had more fun autocrossing my floppy daily BMW than my dedicated Miata track car. 

So, not only do you not necessarily need mods to show up, mods may make it less fun once you get to a certain point. You can work so hard to go fast that it kills the joy.

The_Jed PowerDork
3/9/22 3:36 a.m.

Step 5b:

Have a job with normal hours/day(s) off, i.e. 7am-3pm and sat/sun off or something like that.

DaleCarter GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/18/22 12:43 p.m.

After almost a decade of autocrossing and track driving, the best advice I can give is to not spend a dime on parts until you have spent at least as much on coaching and good safety gear as a set of tires and coilovers will cost.  A comfortable SNELL 2020 helmet is a minimum and, if on a track, a HANS.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/18/22 12:50 p.m.
DaleCarter said:

After almost a decade of autocrossing and track driving, the best advice I can give is to not spend a dime on parts until you have spent at least as much on coaching and good safety gear as a set of tires and coilovers will cost.  A comfortable SNELL 2020 helmet is a minimum and, if on a track, a HANS.

Do not spend money on go-fast parts.  *DO* spend money on stuff that makes the car reliable.  Going home early on a tow truck sucks.


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