Jordan J writes:

I’m going to be racing in about two weeks and I need to learn to drive. Fast that is.

I've never raced a day in my life and I was hoping to get some advice and some driving techniques, or anything else anyone has to say, as I said this is my first time I’m racing my 91 240sx le with hicas, the only mods I have is a k&n filter. But I’m out to have a good time.

thanks alot

jordan j


Jordan, welcome to the world of competitive racing. It's a sickness... as you'll get hooked really quickly. !!!

O.K., there's a bazillion things to go over, but I'll try to cover them.

First, make sure your car is in sound shape. Make sure the brakes are fine, tires aren't bald, front bearings are not worn etc. There SHOULD be a technical inspection on the morning (some events hold them a day or 2 earlier) and they should check for things like tire/bearings, battery tied down, catch cans, brake pedal... etc. Do yourself a favour, and make sure these things are checked prior to the event.

For MOST solos, you'll need a decent tire gauge, and you should pump up your tires ahead of time (unless there's air on site) For stock tires, maybe up them to around 40 psi in the fronts, and around 38 in the rears. For aftermarket..........that depends. A small electric pump is nice, but not necessary, unless you see yourself staying with the sport. I shoe polish the sides of most (I say most, cuz the new generation R1's can't be "read" with shoe polish) tires so that I can determine how much it's rolling over... rub the shoe polish off too much, and you need more air pressure. Consult a senior experienced soloist for this technique. I also read tire temps. with my Pyro too. That's a lot more advanced.

Make sure you take all your excess stuff out of the car at the event...... spare tire, jack, loose stereo stuff, floor mats (they can bind your throttle foot and cause panic in a slalom), Clubs and radar detectors etc. You don't want anything rattling/slamming into you while you're on course. A large Rubbermaid container works nicely to stick all this stuff in and keep it orderly in your pit space.

Show up early for the event. Get a good night's sleep... don't party the night before.... I've been autocrossing for 15 years... and tried once after a University graduation party to run a solo..... it didn't work very well. Take a lunch.... don't depend on the organizing club to supply food. If it's gonna be hot, take LOTS of fluids... and keep them in you. You will be required to work the course during the day. Take adequate clothing. Shorts if you're gonna work the course and it's sunny. Take rainy clothes for possible showers... solos run rain or shine. Remember sun-tan lotion too. (when we autocross... we generally buy food the night before, cuz there can be 12 of us that go.)

On the day, look for Registration, (if you're not already entered) and make sure you have your driver's license, and money ready for joining the event. Depending on your area, (SCCA I think doesn't require full membership to run one of their events.... up here in Canada, you must be a member of a CACC affiliated club to run..... we can buy day licenses) you may have to join the host club. Find out ahead of time, so that there's no surprises or disappointments. Get your car teched asap, cuz you want a course map.

If you're going there without any friends who have experience, tell the officials. Senior driver's love an ego boost, and would graciously guide you through the course. Don't fool yourself.... course walking is the "make or break" time of the day. Walk the course as many times as allowed. Study the map in between walks, and talk to your guide as to what you should be doing. Try to stick your car into 2nd gear asap, and you'll more than likely run the entire course in 2nd. (Unless it's a SUPER SUPER fast slalom, for a 240 SX to get into 3rd, that's Solo 1 territory.)

Hint: Walk the course as if you were in the driver's seat. Don't hug the cones, or walk cone to cone..... walk the course envisioning that you're in the driver's seat, and try to "feel" what your car is doing. Think about where you need to "apex" the corners, and think about braking points. Don't underestimate how fast things happen, and don't think you'll kill that 1978 Yugo sitting in the lot........ chances are he's damn fast, and will kick most of the other cars out there. Solo is not dependent on hp.... it's suspension, car set-up, and DRIVER SKILL !! Your first time out at a solo, can be a very humbling experience. 9 times out of 10, cocky Mustang owners get taken to "school" as to how to drive. If they come back to learn properly, they usually stick with it.

There should be a driver's meeting before the event gets under way, so you must attend this. There should be discussions about run groups (Stock, Street Prepared, Prepared, Modified) so pay attention. Also they should cover the cones. Knocking a cone over and out of it's chalked line around it's base is 2 seconds. 2 seconds is a lot of time, so that's where being slower, but clean is more important than "fast" and mowing down the cones.

If you don't have your own helmet (try to get one from a friend if you don't already have one.... loaner's get pretty slimy at the end of a 100+ degree day after 16 different people have been using it....) find out from the hosting club what regulation they like... Snell 85, or Snell 90. MA, or SA.

Keep your course map in your back pocket, so that you can go over the course, and try to "envision" where you are. If you're allowed passenger.... find a willing senior to go out with you. This will help a ton.

 Anyhow, have fun, and as Terry said, drive the course slowly at first to feel at home. You will be nervous, you will see an ocean of cones... but stick with it, and ask, ask, ask questions all the time. That's the only way you'll learn properly. And above all, have fun!

Don Nimi

Autocross tips for solo 1

If you have a stock car and want to enter into solo 1 (or 2) look at the rules for modifications before you start doing them. or you will end up in a class of cars that could wipe you off the track. ie. add a header and some suspension mods, and you will be up against acura type r's( in solo 1 anyway). it is a hard way to learn when you arrive at the track and find that you are outpowered  (not out handled) by 50hp, and at the tracks i run at (mosport and shannonville in canada) you need the hp. example on the back 1/4 mile straight of shannonville, i will hit 145kph at the radar trap, while the type r's are at 155-160. big difference!! and i am even 1 class higher than they are! (c street prepared vs c superstock) so read the rules before you dive in and make modifications that will make you less competitive against other cars.   another tip, get R rated tires, on most solo 1 tracks it will drop between 2-3 seconds off your time, i use 225/50/15 bfg g-force r1's , these work very well on the 240sx.  another tip, make sure all of your bolts are properly tightened. (or parts will rattle and fall off)   the best tip, it is mostly driver skill that wins, spend your money on practice time on the track vs car parts, it will give you the most return. also watch and go out on the track with the quickest drivers, you will notice that they take some lines on the track that you did not think of and these small differences in lines and shift points can make a world of difference. 

adam hutchinson
Email: [email protected]