The company that I work for release a news article quarterly and this time they decided to add a little piece about me autocrossing my Mazda Rx8. Here is the article they published.
After gaining permanent residency in America I purchased my Mazda Rx8 and very quickly found that at there we very few enjoyable roads in and around Sarasota. Not wanting to waste a nice sporty car I looked into cheap ways to legally race it, I discovered Autocross
Autocross is an individual time trial event where each driver takes it in turns to race around a cone course as fast as they can. It is usually located on an old airstrip or in a large parking lot. It costs $20-$45 which includes plenty of driving, instruction where needed and lunch. After going to the first event I was hooked and have been going at least once a month since.
Since starting I have modified my car to make it faster doing all the work myself, learning what to change how to change it and tuning the set up a car to make it as fast as possible. Over time my driving has improved as has the Rx8. I am at the point where I am one of the fastest drivers at each event and my car is relatively competitive especially considering it is a daily driver and also instruct at the Gulf Coast Autocrossers novice school which I really enjoy.
2012 has been a great year for Autocrossing, I have made lots of new friends all over Florida while racing in Orlando, St Petes, Zephyrhills, Sarasota, Ft Myers and Florida Keys I have won about 10 trophies from various events, including being given the cone killer award out of about 300 drivers I hit the most cones in 2012, the yearlong STX class champion in Ft Myers and the year long open class (non-Porsche) champion with the Porsche club.
After gaining permanent residency in America I purchased my Mazda Rx8 and very quickly found that at there we very few enjoyable roads in and around Sarasota. Not wanting to waste a nice sporty car I looked into cheap ways to legally race my car, I discovered Autocross
Autocross is an individual time trial event where each driver takes it in turns to race around a cone course as fast as they can. The cars are broken up intro Autocross PAX classes which is like a handicap in golf, based on car an modifications. Autocross is usually located on an old airstrip or in a large parking lot. It costs $20-$45 which includes plenty of driving, instruction where needed and lunch. After going to the first event I was hooked and have been going at least once a month since.
Modifying my Mazda Rx8
Since starting I have modified my car to make it faster and staying withing the SCCA Autocross Car Class Rules, I do all the work myself learning what to change how to change it and tuning the set up a car to make it as fast as possible. Over time my driving has improved as has the Rx8. I am at the point where I am one of the fastest drivers at each event and my car is relatively competitive especially considering it is a daily driver and also instruct at the Gulf Coast Autocrossers novice school which I really enjoy.
2012 Autocross Trophies
2012 has been a great year for me Autocrossing, I have made lots of new friends all over Florida while racing in Orlando, St Petes, Zephyrhills, Sarasota, Ft Myers and Florida Keys I have won about 10 trophies from various events, including the also given the cone killer award for 2012 out of about 300 drivers I hit the most cones, the year long STX class champion in Ft Myers with Gulf Coast Autocrossers and the yearlong open class (non-Porsche) champion with the Porsche club.
The PAX is a handicap system used in Autocross to allow all cars to compete against each other on a level playing field. For example if you drive to the event in your daily driver stock Miata, you are going to have a hard time beating a fully prepped Nissan GTR on race tires. The PAX system allow you to multiply your RAW time to get a PAXed time. All the PAXed times can be compared to see who performed the best in the car they drove. The system is not perfect but it is a good gauge of how well you are driving your car. Every year it is recalculated to try to keep the Autocross PAX system as accurate as possible.
The 2013 Autocross PAX results have been released and it seem like most groups have taken a hit with the average PAX score being raised by approximately 0.25% Which is will relate to around 1-4 tenths on most autocross tracks depending on length.
2013 Autocross PAX for Rx8
Originally from NASIOC forum
What does that mean for the Rx8 drivers? Well if you are in C-Stock, RTR (Race Tire Rear wheel drive) or SM (Street Modified)this is great news. If you are in STX (Street Touring Extreme) or the newly allotted DSP (D-Street Prepared) Then this is bad because the hit it one of the highest of all the classes at 0.005 and 0.004 respectively.
2013 Autocross PAX – C-Stock & RTR
C-Stock only took a 0.001 hit which I would class as positive because it is lower than most. This of course also benefits the RTR class which allows any rear wheel drive car compete with the Stock PAX on street tires as long as they are legal for all Stock rules. A 0.001 hit equates to approximately 0.07 Seconds on a 60 second course, which shouldn’t lose you too many positions over the year.
2013 Autocross PAX – STX
STX is one of the most popular classes in the USA like most ST classes the main reason in my opinion is that you invest money in mods rather than tires (Hoosiers are expensive). STX allows you to drive to the event in your daily driver car, race, be very competitive and then use the same car to drive to work every day. This is what I have been doing for the entire 2012 season, quite well might I add bagging 8 trophies for the year.
The 2013 Autocross PAX has been harsh for STX with a massive 0.005 hit or 0.6% which on a 60 second course will be approximately 0.3 seconds and 3 tenths can be several places on the PAX list in a competition.
2013 Aurocross PAX – DSP
That’s right folks the Rx8 has now been dropped into the DSP class which is good news as the PAX is better than BSP which was the Street Prepared class for the Rx8 last year. However the changes are not as good as we would like seeing as BSP’s PAX was actually one of two classes that were lowered. DSP on the other hand say an increase of 0.004 (0.47%) which although not quite as bad as STX it is still a big hit. Resulting in a 0.24 second slower PAX time on a 60 second course. However still better than the previous year where the Mazda Rx8 was in BSP therefore the actual PAX compared to last year is 0.24 seconds faster, if you managed to follow the maths.
2012 Autocross PAX – SM
For those of you lucky enough to have forced induction and be in SM (street modified). The PAX has been kind with the same change as C-stock at just 0.001 (0.12%) increase. Which again relates to a 0.07 Seconds slower on a 60 second course. Generally SM did better than most so they should be slightly higher up the PAX list in 2013.
How to class your car
If you are unsure which class you should be in then you can view the entire SCCA Autocross Car Class Rules, but here is a basic outline. Please make sure you check all the rules very carefully before you buy any modifications for your car, some modifications will put you straight into SM and not give you any significant advantage.
RTR (Road Tire Rear wheel drive) – If your car is completely stock then this is the class for you. The only mads allows in this class are the C-Stock allowances with Street tires
C-Stock – This class allows DOT approved race tires, aftermarket shocks, front sway bar, light weight CAT-back exhaust and that’s about it.
STX – Here you are allowed coilover suspension, front and rear sway bars, strut braces, lighter brakes, 9″ wide wheels and up to 265 wide tires for the Rx8, induction kit, high flow cat, a light engine tune (Cobb Access Port) all of the C-Stock allowances other than DOT approved race tires and a few other changes.
DSP – All the STX and C-Stock allowances plus flared fenders to allow any sized wheels and DOT approved race tires, any steering wheel, remove aircon and stereo components, lightweight clutch and flywheel, CAT removal and a few other modifications.
SM– All modifications from C-Stock – STX and DSP with the addition of bigger brake kits, any suspension (original mounting points), light weight body panels, aerodynamic parts such as wings and splitters, rear seat removal, forced induction such as turbo or supercharger and lots of other modifications.
Hopefully you have gained some insight about the 2013 Autocross PAX system and what to expect in 2013. Please leave a comment and share this information with your friends. I hope you enjoyed learning about the 2013 Autocross PAX.
Driving fast is all about seat time, setting up your car and learning how to get the most out of your car. When you get to the track there are 3 main things you want to concentrate on to drive fast they are the driving line, looking ahead and driving smooth.
1. Know the driving line
Getting the right line is key to driving fast. It is very important to make sure you have the car in the right place facing the right direction. The correct line on an autocross track is nearly always the shortest line between the significant cones on the track. Prior to racing the course you should perform a course walk, when doing so pay attention to which cones force you to drive around them and which cones can be ignored, typically only about 10-20% of the cones really get in your way. Once you have established which cones you need to drive around start visualizing the route that your car needs to take around the important cones. Visualize getting the car as close to the important cones as possible and which directions the car should be facing as you pass each cone so you can carry as much speed though each element as possible.
2. Look ahead to know where your going
It is very important to look ahead when you are driving fast the further ahead you look, the more time you have to get the car in the right position enabling you to drive a quickly as possible. When you are driving fast you need to set your car up for each element be it cones in autocross or a corner on a race track, look ahead and imagine the ideal racing line then put the car where you imagined that line to be. Once you have the steering wheel turned and the car is loading up the tires you need to be concentrating on the next element and then the next and so on. As you get more experienced you will look 2 – 3 elements ahead, enabling to take the current element faster and easily setting yourself up to drive faster through the next element.
Like many sports it is very important to look where you want to go not where you don’t. If you have played Golf you know that thinking about water when you take your shot, will likely result in hitting the ball into the water. Same thing with applies with driving fast, you will naturally make the car go where you are looking subconsciously, so make sure you are not looking at the run off area or the cones. Always look ahead and envision getting your tires exactly where you want them to enable you to drive fast.
3. Driving smooth is driving fast
Driving smooth is on of the most overlooked parts of driving fast especially when you are inexperienced. Everything should be smooth when you accelerate you need to press the gas pedal with enough force to get maximum power without losing traction, you should never stamp on the gas pedal rather apply the power gracefully over a few tenths of a second. When you need to brake you apply pressure and as the weight transfers to the front wheel you increase that pressure up until max grip of the tires this allows you to brake much harder without locking up the front tires. When cornering you should turn the wheel progressively loading up the tires, the longer it takes to load up the tires the easier it is to reach maximum grip allowing you to corner as quickly as possible..
Driving Fast at the Bay Bottom Crawl
This video is me driving fast in My Mazda Rx8 at Bay Bottom Crawl in Florida Keys. Now I don’t claim to be an expert driver as you can see in the video. However if you look at my hands they move relatively slowly and smoothly and when I change gear I do it with relaxed hands. It is difficult to tell how fast I am going so a good reference is that every time I change gear to 3rd I am going 70 mph and by the time I hit the brakes for each element I am going between 70 and 100mph. I look ahead and try to take the elements as smooth and quickly as possible. This track is quite dangerous, you may also notice that there is no run off on this track so I was driving about 95% through the elements. The track is amazing and so exhilarating allowing you to drive very fast.
If you are looking to get into Autocross then visit up your local club most of which offer some type of instruction. If you are in Florida then check out Gulf Coast Autocrossers in Ft Myers which is a great place to start driving fast legally.
Gulf Coast Autocrossers hold 10 events per year, one per month with a 2 month break for the summer. The events are split up into 2 days, Saturday has a 2 courses set up, a Novice school in the morning for new drivers (I’m one of the instructors), then the Test and Tune track which is open all day for everyone and the new drivers race there in the afternoon. This was the first week back to autocross after a long summer in Florida, most clubs don’t run to avoid the excess heat.
This is my Mazda Rx8 and 2 others which are both driven by National level drivers.
Saturday Novice School & Test and Tune
It is always an early start when I go Autocrossing, I was up before 6, then made the 1 hour 15 minute drive to Ft Myers from Sarasota. When I arrive its time to unload the car, place the car numbers on the doors and pump up the tires (40psi Front and 37psi in the rear). Once that is complete I go through Tech inspection, where someone checks the car over to make sure it is safe to run, then pay my registration and I’m good to race. We then socialize, talk about cars and how our summer went before we have the mandatory drivers meeting. Once that is complete I head up to the Novice School to teach the new drivers.
I am one of the instructors at the Novice School so once all the new drivers have been through a briefing to explain the format we jump in the cars and get started. This week we split up into 3 groups so I had 3 students rather than the usual 2. The first 2 were driving my friends white Miata and the last one was driving a 400HP Cadillac. Part of the instruction involves us driving the students car so I usually get a rear wheel drive car and the lighter the better.
The format of the school is each student does 5 laps getting progressively faster until they are going as fast as they can. Then the instructors jump in the car and show them how to really drive it. After that the students then do about another 5 runs trying to get faster and faster. Every run is with an instructor so they get constant feedback and tips on how to drive cleaner and faster.
The Cadillac was a lot of fun, it is really heavy car but very powerful. The driver was having fun but not going nearly as fast as the car could go so I really wanted to show him how to use the power of the car and took it on a pretty quick lap. He then got in the car and really started to use the power and managed a nice doh-nut when exiting the hard braking zone. He then proceeded to get faster and faster as the day went on. His smile was amazing I don’t think he had ever been so happy.
After we have done the instruction we take the new drivers out in our cars, which is always fun because we all have fast cars that are setup for autocross. I think I must have take 10 different student for a ride in my Mazda Rx8. After the fun runs we break for lunch and it is time to head down to the test and tune course.
Test and Tune
The test and tune course is the same course each week which gives you the opportunity to come back each month and tweak your car to see how the setup and modifications affects the cars handling and if it improves your times. As the name suggest you can test and tune, trying different tire pressures and suspension settings. I also enjoy car swapping where I will let people drive my car so that I can take theirs out for a spin.
The 1st video is me driving Eric’s beast, which is basically a Miata with everything non essential removed and up to 250HP at the rear wheels. The second video is Eric driving my Mazda Rx8.
The Gulf Coast Autocrossers test and tune track is always a fun day out where you get to spend a lot of the time socializing and talking about cars and everything else that is going on in peoples lives.
Sunday – Race Day
Sunday at Gulf Coast Autocrossers is race day, no more bragging about how fast you are and how powerful your car is it is time to prove how quick you are on the track. Typically the drivers are divided into 3 groups, the early birds get to decide which group they want to run in and the people who arrive later get stuck with what ever spots are available. We usually have 4 to 6 runs, typically 6. We run in 2 sessions and work for one. This is one of my favorite formats from the multiple venues that I visit.
Hurricane Isac looming
This Sunday Hurricane Isac was looming on the horizon and scheduled to arrive around 1pm, so we changed the run schedule up a little bit. This time just having 2 quickfire run groups where we would run twice, then work twice and hopefully repeat the whole process to get a total of 4 runs each. As it turns out everything worked out well and we all managed to get 4 runs and although it was raining most of the day it was a light rain and didn’t get the ground wet so the track was in good shape until we finished when it started to rain heavily.
My Mazda Rx8 was feeling great, over the summer I installed some Hotchkis Sway Bars and they have really stiffened up the car making it feel much crisper during the turns. The car currently has a tendency to over-steer a little bit when pushed hard so I still have some tuning to do. The Hotchkis Sway bars are 3 way adjustable front and rear so I will be able to tune the car to get it close to neutral with just a touch over over-steer, this is the ideal setup for racing especially for a Mazda Rx8.
The track way a really fast layout which doesn’t favor the Mazda Rx8 and gave the high power cars like the Corvettes, Imprezza and Evolutions a huge advantage. The Mazda Rx8 is not overly powerful but what it lacks in HP it makes up for in handling and drive-ability. My first run was clean with a time of 59.090 and I really felt that I was losing a lot of time in the tighter elements so I knew there was lots of room to improve. The second run was a 58.328 which was a much better time but unfortunately I clipped a cone which comes with a 2 second penalty. Then it was time to work.
During the work session at Gulf Coast Autocrossers one person has a radio to call in cones and Off Course (OC) and a red flag to warn drivers of danger on the course ahead such as a spin car that is still on the track. Everyone else working just runs to pick up cones that get knocked down and call out the car number to the radio man who calls in any cones and OC as the cars drive past. Working is a great opportunity to meet new people and talk to them about there car and get tips on how to drive fast. It is also a time to watch and learn from other drivers as they navigate the difficult parts of the track, if you pay close attention to the fast drivers you can usually learn how to shave a few tenths off your time. Once everyone had there two runs it was out turn to drive again.
Time to take my last two runs, typically just as I was on the line to take my first run phone, which I use to record the run start playing up so I end up sitting a few seconds while its green and had to rush to get started which is never a good thing. My time was not only my slowest at 59.168 but I also hit a whopping 3 cones giving me a 6 second penalty. I parked the car after the run, checked my tire pressures and let out a little air to get back to 40 front and 37 rear and lined back up. This time I composed myself and managed a fast clean run of 57.168 I was really happy with my time and ended up finishing in the top 10 and also beat the other Mazda Rx8 which is going to Nationals in a couple of weeks.
Gulf Coast Autocrossers Results
Here is a screen shot of the first 15 positions from the 7th Gulf Coast Autocrossers event of 2012. All in all a very good weekend out which gave me the fastest time in all the Touring classes which is basically all the cars on street tires and my highest overall finishing position of 8th with the Gulf Coast Autocrossers. Not bad considering I drive my 2007 Mazda Rx8 to work every day.
Thanks for reading my post if you managed to get this far. If you enjoyed what you read you might enjoy my Mazda Rx8 post or feel free share this post with your friends by clicking on one of the buttons below. Please add comment below and let me know what you think of the site and include any ideas of things you would like me to add to the Mazda Rx8 website and if you are local please come and race with the Gulf Coast Autocrossers.