The Golden Gate Chapter Autocross Series is the place for all levels of driving enthusiasts to come to learn about themselves and their cars capabilities by exploring limits in a safe and controlled environment. Our program is competitive, but well known as a welcoming and friendly atmosphere where everyone can come to learn the fine art of autocrossing.
Autocross is a form of racing where competitors navigate an obstacle course of traffic cones laid out on a generally flat surface at an airport or open parking lot. Participants race against the clock to see who can run the course the fastest without knocking down any cones. Autocross focuses on car control over flat-out speed and course speeds generally don’t exceed legal freeway speeds.
Nervous? Apprehensive? Not sure you can do it? Not to worry! For folks joining us for their first time, we pair you up a few days before the event with a buddy. Our buddies are your welcoming committee – a group of friendly volunteers who love our program as much as we do. They will answer your questions, meet you at the event and introduce you around, and make sure you are psyched and ready to race!
All first timers and novice drivers will have a trained coach to ride along to help you feel comfortable and guide you as you navigate the course. We use a consistent teaching style that ensures you will get the most out of your day with us. Anyone can request a coach and we find that nearly 40% of our monthly attendees request coaching. They’re awesome!
Your autocross team recognized a few years ago that our members wanted more than 8 events in a year, so we introduced some new events that happen before the series officially starts in April. January is when we usually hold our Course Rewind fun-run event where the staff selects a favorite course from the previous season to run for fun. In 2015 we held our first ever Autocross School, which went so well that we’re adding it as a regular pre-season event in February. Come March, the month before our first competition event, we hold our special Test & Tune where we set up a figure-8 and a short course for you to experiment with your car’s setup and dial in the handling. It’s also a great day to practice your driving or swap cars with your friends!
Our regular season includes monthly competition events starting in April and ending in October. Each month a new course is designed and members compete against each other to accumulate points towards trophies awarded to the top three finishers in each car class. We wrap the season up on the first Saturday of November with our Top Driver Shootout (TDS) featuring a catered BBQ lunch.
TDS is a special event where everyone has an equal chance at taking home the Fechner Cup! Participants select a random run group during sign-in the morning of the event. A two run group format is used where the course is run in one direction in the morning, then again in the opposite direction for the afternoon. The top five finishers from each group move on to the final shootout round where the course is reconfigured again to loop back on itself resulting in a course that’s almost twice as long as the qualifying rounds. Each of the nine drivers runs the course three times. The winner of this round is Top Driver and earns the honor of holding the coveted Fechner Cup until next year’s TDS.
Who can participate?
We welcome any BMW CCA member to participate in our autocrosses. No prior experience is necessary; in fact, we specialize in first-timers! Only BMW or Mini drivers are eligible to compete for trophies, but we welcome anyone to come join the fun regardless of the make or model of your car. Please note: We do not permit SUV/SAV type vehicles to participate in our autocross program, but convertibles with stock rollover protection are allowed.
Only licensed drivers age 16 or older may drive at our events. If you’re under 18, your parents or guardians must complete and sign a minor waiver for you to participate. We encourage parents to join their kids, and kids to join their parents, at these family friendly events.
All participants must wear a helmet with Snell 2010 certification or newer to drive or ride. If you don’t own one, we have a limited number of loaners available to you free of charge.
You want in, now what?
Before you can sign up, you’ll visit our online classification system to select a driver number and classify your car. This easy to use website will ask you questions about your car and modifications and calculate a point total. Based on your points, you will be classed in one of seven different classes so you can compete against similarly capable cars within your determined class.
Sharing a car? We’ve got you covered! The system will allow you to copy another driver’s car data as your own. On race day we’ll be ready for you in your assigned run group.
With a driver number in hand, you’ll sign up for the event at motorsportreg.com. This is a simple process where you’ll tell us a bit more about you, your experience level, and enter your payment information. Our events have been selling out, so be sure to register early!
Once registration closes, usually the Wednesday prior to the event, we’ll confirm you as a participant. A detailed confirmation e-mail is sent to everyone with all the information you need for your day with us. If you still have questions, just fire off an e-mail and we’ll get back to you.
It’s finally race day and you’re up early and ready to go. You’ve washed your car so it will look good in photos and you’ve studied the course map posted on the forum earlier in the week. You arrive at the venue, sign waivers at the gate, then park in the paddock and make your way to the registration trailer to sign in and get your run sticker. Here you’ll find out which group you’ll drive in and what job you’ll do. You grab a donut and head back to the paddock to install your numbers and catch up with old friends and make new ones too.
Typically we split drivers into three run groups. You’ll drive in one group, work in another, and have the third group as down time. Each participant under 65 will work a job at our events. You may be out on course as a cone shagger, in the trailer doing timing, or working the grid, start, or finish. When you’re not working or driving we encourage you to take rides with experienced folks so you can increase your learning, or just to go out and have more fun as a passenger.
A typical day goes something like this:
7:00am Staff and equipment trailer arrive on site
7:10am Donuts are consumed, course setup begins, tech inspections begin
7:15am Registration opens
8:15am Registration closes
8:30am Mandatory Attendee meeting
8:45am Course walk
9:30am Run Group 1
12:30pm Run Group 2
2:30pm Run Group 3
4:30pm Fun Runs?
5:00pm Site Cleanup and pack equipment trailer
6:00pm Site closes
Every event starts with a mandatory attendee meeting where we cover important safety information, explain the schedule for the day, field any questions, and make announcements about upcoming Club events. After the close of this meeting, all participants are invited to walk the course and chalk cones. The course designer will provide a personal walk-through for anyone who wants to join. It’s a great way to learn the course and get tips on how to drive it best.
After the course walk, drivers in the first run group are instructed to line up and get ready to race. Workers gather at the trailer, put on a stylish reflective vest, and attend a brief meeting to cover their roles and responsibilities while working on course. Once everyone is in position we send the first car!
Depending on course length and other factors, each driver will drive the course up to 7 times during their run group. The first run is timed, but considered practice only. All other runs are official and the times are recorded in our computer system. Your fastest time is used to calculate the points you’ll receive for this event. Every participant receives at least one point for showing up. How cool is that?
We rotate through the groups until everyone has had their runs. If time permits, we will offer up the option of fun runs to anyone who wants to participate. Fun runs are just what you think: additional timed runs on the course, just for fun. We split the group in half, flip a coin, and one half heads out on course to work while the other drives. Half way through we swap and do it again. Use this time to try out a buddy’s car or get more practice in your own.
The day ends with everyone stacking cones and packing up the equipment for the next event. Those who stay late usually go to dinner together at a restaurant nearby. This is the time for storytelling and boasting about your mad driving skills, or to fire up that excuse generator to explain why you drove so slow. It’s all in good fun!
Come join us!
Hopefully at this point you’ve got a vivid picture of what our Autocross program is all about. Our Club forum is active and we invite you to join up and participate in the dialog. Page through the photo and video threads from past events to pass the time until your first event with us. We’re there to help make your first autocross the best time ever!
We usually limit the events to 100 drivers, but depending on the venue, this could vary somewhat. Events fill up fast (and often sell out), so if you want to join us, don’t wait too long to register. Registration for the next event opens at noon on the Monday after the current event.
Regular season event cost is $50 per driver and an optional sandwich lunch is offered for an additional $5. Drinks are free to all participants. The TDS event price is higher and includes the catered BBQ lunch as a thanks for your continued support of our program.