As someone who autocrosses regularly, I often get the question, which is better? Autocross or Track Days? There’s often a lot of confusion between autocross and track days, and the short answer is that it purely depends on the person. Both are great ways to enjoy your car. Both are great ways to drive your car at speeds in a controlled and legal environment. And each have their advantages.
Let’s start with debunking some stereotypes.
1. Autocross is a rip-off compared to track days. I only get 3 minutes of seat time.
This really depends on the club you are autocrossing with. Some clubs have events where attendance is 150-250 competitors, while some clubs cap attendance to 50 or 60 people. It just depends.
When I autocross with the SF Region SCCA, I get 4 runs. Keep in mind that there are another 149 competitors that get 4 runs also. The competition is fierce. The company (fellow competitors) is good. And the roach coach food is half decent. Usually wrap up all my runs and work assignment in half a day. $40 per an event to play. I have the rest of the day to take care of any other responsibilities.
There are clubs like Lotus club where $75 will get you a whole day worth of runs and lunch! Expect to commit a whole day, but can’t beat $75/day to autocross. Lift tickets to ski or snowboard are more expensive and you are on your own for the overpriced lunch and alcohol.
2. Autocross is slower than track days.
Again… this depends. On the track, you’ll generally average higher speeds than on an autocross course. An autocross course average speed is about 45mph, with a top speed of about 60-65mph. You are comparing apples to oranges, though. The emphasis is different. Autocross has a greater emphasis on handling. An autocross course has more elements than a track does. Getting through the course is requires quite a bit of finesse to put down a fast time.
It’s like comparing someone who is running a race versus someone running an obstacle course. You can’t really compare.
3. Autocross isn’t really racing.
This is debatable. I certainly think it could be. There’s a timing system. You are trying to put down the fastest time possible. There are penalties if you go off course or hit cones. You get season points depending on your performance in your class. In a very basic sense, it is racing. Just not head-to-head racing like we typically think of.
Now, Why I Like Autocross!
1. Local. There are several sites around the SF Bay Area. I don’t really have to go out of my way to go autocrossing. And autocross is very carpooling friendly. I carpool and co-drive with Dennis. Just that saves money on gas.
2. Accessible. Autocrossing is accessible. All you need is a road safe car and a driver’s license.
3. Cost. It’s really not that expensive to go autocrossing. Entree is $40. More than reasonable for a half day of fun.
4. Half-day Commitment. This depends on the club, but for the club I autocross with, I only have to commit half a day. I have the rest of the day to do whatever else I need.
5. Low chance that the car will get damaged. There’s almost no chance. Courses are designed with the idea that people may spin out or lose control. Worst thing that can happen, you can get some cone marks on the paint, or lose a fender lining. All very inexpensive to fix.