Mary Carter shares her experience at her first autocross
In 2003 my husband, Robert, went to watch our neighbor drive his Porsche 944 in an Autocross at Turner Field in Atlanta. Brian took him for a ride around the course, and Robert was absolutely transformed by the experience. When he came home he couldn’t stop talking about the amazing acceleration, braking, and cornering he’d experienced. I urged him to get a high performance car and get involved in Autocross, thus earning the title of World’s Most Wonderful Wife. He bought a car and took a two-day driving skills class, but missed the next three events because he was worried about performing poorly and being embarrassed. When Brian finally got him to his first event, he had such a good time that he kicked himself for letting three Autocrosses pass him by. He’s rarely missed an Autocross since.
My introduction to Autocross was much like Robert’s. He’d been after me for years to get a ride, but I think things like roller coasters and race car rides are terrifying, not fun. I finally agreed but secretly hoped I wouldn’t have to do it. Last fall, Robert asked an instructor named Steve if he would take me on one of his runs. His first response was “Is she a screamer?” Steve’s next comment was “I’ll get back to you later.” Steve finished his runs without ever saying any more. I thought I was safe, but fun runs were announced at the end of the competition and Steve said he’d give me a ride. Darn!
Steve has been autocrossing for 33 years. He drives a GT3. If I was going to die, it would be with the best. I promised him I wouldn’t scream, but I didn’t tell him about the time Robert drove me around the Malibu Grand Prix track in Atlanta and I kept my eyes tightly shut the whole time.
My first ride was amazing. The speed was exciting and the cornering didn’t seem possible. It felt like the car was stuck on rails. I was blown away! All I could say when it was over was “Wow!” Finally, I could understand why autocross is so addictive! I once saw Warren Beatty at a bakery in LA. The thrill does not compare to the chills I got going around the 180 sweepers in that Porsche. My adrenaline starts flowing just thinking about it.
Steve’s first fun run improved his best morning time, so he invited me on the remaining 3 runs. Robert was a corner worker and he was shocked to see me going for ride after ride. It was soooo much fun!
I decided right there that I would love to do autocross! Especially if I could drive a cute little Mini Cooper. But I was worried that I would be a terrible driver. My eyes are so weird that I’ve passed my glasses around to amuse people at parties. I asked Steve if they gave a prize to the driver who knocked over the most cones.
I decided to take a Driver Skills class so that I could give AX a try. I showed up in my new 2008 535ix which, upon serious reflection, seemed much better suited to our needs than a MINI. The class was very well done. I learned many new things about car control as well as about attitude. As I looked forward to my first race I gave myself daily lectures about keeping it fun and about not being hard on myself if I made a mistake.
BMW CCA Puget Sound Region Club members are invited to participate in the local Porsche Club’s Autocrosses. Earlier this year I had been to several events as a spectator. It was the friendliness I’d found at those events that lead me to be willing to take a ride with Steve and to try driving in an Autocross. I think of auto racing as a predominantly male sport, so I was glad to see so many women participating.
When we arrived on a Saturday morning last September, I was quickly taken in to the kind and enthusiastic community which is Porsche Autocross. When a female driver learned that this was my first time, she offered a ton of support and encouragement. The ladies running the registration table very patiently explained the whole process to me.
Gary, an instructor I’d met on previous visits and who had agreed to be my instructor, greeted me with a big hug. He rode along with me, providing clear, gentle, positive instruction. He also let me ride with him on his early runs.
Michelle Miller offered support, enthusiasm, and encouragement. She gave me a ride in my car to show me what my car could safely do. I knocked another three seconds off my time after Michelle’s demonstration. Michelle, who had never driven a BMW station wagon, used it to beat my husband’s best time in his 335i by a second, thus showing what an experienced driver can do, and giving me bragging rights about having the faster car in our family.
The announcer during my runs offered praise for my improvements and several times said “We hope you’ll come back.” It’s nice for a novice who is not very fast to hear that. I was amazed by the large number of people who welcomed me to Porsche Autocross.
That morning, I’d arrived at Bremerton knowing that I had a lot to learn, doubting my ability, and warning Robert that I might not like Autocross. Being joyously welcomed into this supportive community was a major cause of my running up to him after my second run and loudly proclaiming “I’m just loving this!”
If you been wanting to try Autocross but have been afraid to get started, jump in! There’s a world of fun waiting for you and a whole community of very nice people to help you on your way.
– Article submitted by Mary Carter
Check out the full schedule here: http://www.bmwpugetsound.com/events/autocross/