So, you’ve decided that it’s time to give autocross a try, huh? You haven’t? Well, why not? You’re welcome to come watch an event if you like, but everyone who ever does that ends up saying “wow, I wish I’d registered as a driver!” So… read this page, and then do it!
Congratulations on choosing FAST to do your first event with! We have a very thorough novice program, and lots of friendly people who will help you learn how things work, and eventually how to be fast. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t prepare for your first event. This guide is designed to walk you through every step of what you’ll likely see and do at your first FAST event, as well as the things you should do to prepare. It is lengthy, but if you take the time to read it your surprises will be very few at your first event.
At some point, you’ll want to print a copy of our Safety Inspection Checklist and do a pre-check on your car. You might also want to review our Exhaust Sound Level policy if you think your car might be loud. It would be a good idea to also read the Safety Rules page of this website, and the rest of the pages in the Novice Tips section.
ONE TO THREE WEEKS BEFORE
- CHOOSE A CAR – Seems obvious, and many of us only have one vehicle in our stable to choose, but is it a car that is appropriate for autocross? We’ll generally allow almost any typical car or standard pickup truck to compete. Where we draw the line is with vehicles that are very top-heavy in relation to their wheelbase. SUV’s and Minivans, for example, are almost universally disallowed. “Crossover” type vehicles can be a grey area. But, generally if a vehicle has the term “SUV” in its description, we’re not going to allow it. If you want to register in a vehicle that isn’t a standard “car” and isn’t specifically classed on our Stock Class List, please contact us before you do so, and be prepared for us to say “no”.
- PRE-REGISTER – Check the schedule, choose a “FAST Open” event (first-timers aren’t allowed at the “FAST Classic” events and most special events) and pre-register online. Pre-registration is required for ALL of our events. For most events, it closes 5 days prior to the event. Sometimes our events fill up quickly, so be sure to register early. If the event is full, it’s full! If you waited until after pre-registration is closed, we can’t let you in!
- GUESTS – If you plan to bring guests to watch, or to come as a guest yourself, be aware that even guests must pre-register for events at secure locations, such as airports, and they must do so before the close of pre-registration. For other sites, guests may not need to pre-register, check the specific event info.
- MINORS – We have strict restrictions on minors under the age of 16. They are not allowed in “hot” areas. At most sites, we do not allow minors inside the marked perimeter of the event. At airport sites, we don’t allow minors on site at all.
- PREPARE YOUR CAR – On event day, your car will have to pass a safety inspection. It’s pretty straightforward and simple, but if you have any issues, you’ll save yourself some stress at the event by taking care of them beforehand. Use our Safety Inspection Checklist to pre-check your car.
- CLASSIFY YOUR CAR – Our classing rules are very simple. First you’ll need to determine which category your car fits into. It will be Stock, Modified or Race Tire. Stock doesn’t necessarily mean “showroom stock”, as we actually allow considerable modification in our “stock” category. So, a few mods doesn’t mean you’re automatically in Modified, it just depends on what those mods are. Have a look at our Stock Category Rules to see if your car fits there. If not, then proceed to the Modified Category Rules. And if you happen to be competing on race tires (that’s anything with exceeds our street tire treadwear limit), have a look at the Race Tire Category Rules.
- PREPARE YOUR STUFF – It’s a good idea to come prepared for sun, rain, and in the winter months, even for cold. FAST will provide you with water and beverages, but you’ll need to bring your own sunscreen, a chair, and anything else you feel you need. It is best to travel light, because EVERYTHING must be removed from your car when you drive. So, bring what you need, but leave what you don’t.
- PRINT A COURSE MAP – If you watch the FAST Forum, there will be a topic discussing your event. (which is a great place to ask questions, if you have any) Usually about a week before the event, the course map will be posted there. It will also appear in the Course Map gallery here at the same time. It’s a good idea to study that map a little (you don’t need to memorize it, just be familiar with it), and bring a printed copy with you. The course will always be set up slightly different from the map due to the scale of the cones on the map and other issues that come up, but we try to set it up as closely as possible.
- CHECK YOUR REGISTRATION – Go back to the registration website, log in and click your “dashboard” link to see the events you are registered for. Click the “attendee list” to view the list of all attendees. Be sure that you are in the correct class, that all of your info is correct, and that you know what your car number is. If you need to make changes, click the “event dashboard” link next to any event and you can view full event information, and have options to view or edit any of your information (as long as pre-registration is still open).
- IF YOU NEED TO CANCEL – Do so before the close of online pre-registration if at all possible. Full Cancel Policy here.
- IF YOU NEED TO SWITCH – From Early to Late session or Late to Early, you can do so before the close of online pre-registration by editing your entry, and changing your selection to the other session. You will have to go through payment confirmation and you will get another confirmation email. We do not bill your credit card until after the close of online pre-registration! So, you will only be billed for whatever your registration status is at that time. No changes are allowed after pre-registration is closed.
- CHECK THE SCHEDULE – For every event, there will be a schedule published in the event information on the registration page. It will tell you things like what time to check-in (if the site is closed, this may be your only opportunity to ENTER the gate), what time the course is open for walking, and when the driver’s meeting is.
ON EVENT DAY
- ARRIVE ON-TIME – We try very hard to stay close to the published schedule, so be sure you’re on-time! Better still, be a few minutes early.
- CHECK-IN – The first thing you’ll do when you arrive is check in with registration. For events at closed sites, like Brooksville, this may be at the gate when you arrive. They will check that you and your guests have valid Driver’s Licenses. (this is required, don’t leave home without it!) They will have you sign any required insurance and liability waivers, and for most sites you will recieve a wristband. They can tell you your car number and run group. They may have some extra copies of the course map if you need them, and they can answer any questions you may have, such as “where do I go”.
- TECH INSPECTION – Your first priority will be to find a place to park, empty your car, and prepare for your safety inspection. You’ll hear people use the term “tech”, that’s what they’re talking about. We normally do a “roving tech” where the inspectors come to you rather than you going to them. They will have a list of all the cars and car numbers, and they’ll be looking for you. You can aid them in finding you by having your car ready with the hood and trunk open (unless it’s windy!) and all of the doors unlocked, and by having your car number clearly visible on the side of your car. For your first event, unless you’re 100% certain that your car is ready, you should stay with your car until tech inspection is complete. Otherwise, as long as your car is ready and completely accessible for tech inspection (don’t forget to remove any covers over your battery!), you may go walk the course while your car gets inspected. It will only take them a minute or two to inspect your car once they get to it. When they are done, your car will either get a colored dot sticker on the driver’s side corner of the windshield or a note under the wiper stating that your car failed inspection and why. If your car failed, fix the problem as quickly as possible if you can, and find a tech inspector to recheck it. Don’t skip the driver’s meeting, and if you’re in the first run group, proceed to grid (unless your problem is a major one) and they can recheck you there.
- RUN/WORK GROUP, SCHEDULE & COURSE MAP – The latest information will always be posted on the side of the FAST equipment trailer. Sometimes things change, so always check to be sure your run group hasn’t changed, car number hasn’t changed, that you’re classed correctly, etc. If there are any significant course changes, they should be marked on the map that is posted.
- NOVICE WALK – We do a guided novice walk at every FAST Open event. It is led by one of our very experienced members who will take the time to explain everything from what the lay-down cones mean, to how to set up and apex a turn. For a first-timer, and anyone who’s done less than 6 events (and often those who have done more), a lot of really good information can come from the novice walk! They will tell you things that you might not have noticed or thought about. For a first timer, you should consider this mandatory. You’ll be glad you did!
- COURSE WALKING – A big part of autocross is the course walk. Every course is different, and we get a limited number of runs at it. Even though we print a map, the only way to really know a course before you drive it is to walk it. Of course, at your first event, you won’t be adept at the skill of “reading” a course. But, you should still walk it a few times to try to familiarize yourself with it. Ideally, you should do the Novice Walk before you try to walk the course by yourself. Otherwise, find someone who looks like they know what they are doing to walk it with, or “shadow” some of the more experienced guys as they walk and talk their way around the course.
- DRIVER’S MEETING – After the course-walking period, we’ll hold our driver’s meeting. It is mandatory for all drivers. We’ll go over a bunch of standard autocross stuff that you’ll eventually know by heart, but that we all need to hear. We’ll also cover any special details of the event or the course, the number of runs we expect, and other information. So, be there. Camp out up front so that you can see and hear what’s being said. And listen.
- YOUR DRIVING RUN GROUP – When your run group is called up to drive, you’ll go get your car and park it in the “grid” area. (If you know that you are driving in the first run group, you can actually move your car to grid before the driver’s meeting as long as it has been through tech inspection) It’s a good idea to park near the end of the grid, as that will give you the opportunity to hop a ride with an instructor who’s at the front of the grid before you go out. If you’re using a loaner helmet, now is the time to claim one.
- DRIVING YOUR RUNS – Watch as the line makes its way to you. When the car that is 4-5 cars ahead of you leaves, you need to start getting ready with your helmet, seatbelt, passenger, car started, etc. As a first-timer, you are required to have an instructor on your first run (after your first run it’s optional, but still a good idea). If you don’t have an instructor by then, let your grid worker know that you need one. DON’T PANIC. Keep breathing. For your first run, your goal is to be sure that you know the course. You won’t drive at 100%. Drive at about 80%, keep looking ahead, listen to your instructor, and you’ll do fine. Remember to brake HARD as soon as you pass the finish line and get your car slowed to a walking pace before returning to the grid. (some courses will require you to make a full stop for safety) After you finish your last run, move your car back to the parking area. If you didn’t work before you drove, don’t dawdle, you’ll be called up for your work assignment very soon!
- YOUR WORKING RUN GROUP – When your run group is called up to work, find the person who is doing work assignments and check in as soon as possible. They will confirm where you need to go and check you off. Sometimes we end up short on people due to no-shows or a lightly-attended event and your assignment may change at the last minute. Always check in so that we know where you are and you know that you’re where you are needed. As a first-timer, you will most likely get a course work assignment. Every course work station will be assigned a “corner captain” who is experienced and will teach you how to work the course safely. So, relax. Be sure you’ve got your sunscreen on, grab a few bottles of water, put on your hat, and go watch the show! If you’re lucky, you won’t have to run after too many cones. If you have a legitimate physical limitation that would prevent you from working the course, be sure to let us know WHEN YOU REGISTER so that we can plan accordingly.
- SO, WHEN ARE YOU DONE? – Every registered driver is expected to complete their work assignment (usually course work). Lots of people will notice if you don’t! After you’re done working for one run group and driving for one group, you’re done. You can hang around* and watch, have lunch, find people to ride along with, help work the event, help with teardown, cheer at the awards presentation, or whatever… but you have fulfilled your obligation and are free to leave after you’ve done your work assignment. (* For FAST Open events at Brooksville, if you want to be on-site during the session you aren’t driving, we need you to register as a guest for that session. The airport has a strict limit on how many people we can have on-site, so we need to know who’s going to be there.)
- LUNCH – Depending on which type of event you’ve registered for and where it is, there may be lunch provided. (the only events we normally don’t do lunch at are the FAST Open events at Brooksville because the airport restrictions prevent us from having 100+ people on-site at the same time for a group lunch) If there is no lunch, we do provide some snacks like chips and cookies for people to munch on. And, of course, we’ll always have enough water and some soft drinks on ice to keep people hydrated. Enjoy! We all like to eat, and autocross is a very social sport. That’s why we try to provide lunch at most of our events and stop and chat with each other for a bit.
- TEARDOWN – If you drove in the Late session, you’ll be there for course teardown. We try to assign some dedicated people to the task if we have enough extra workers that we can spare some from course work. Regardless, we need all the help we can get to get everything packed up as quickly as possible. For events at SPC, we mostly use cones that belong to the college, and after our event, we’ll have to move all of those cones back to the law enforcement course configuration. (there are permanent marks on the pavement, so it’s not too hard) For other sites, we use our own cones and we’ll have the course workers from the final run group stack the cones in their area before they come in. Then we’ll send a truck out with a few people to pick them all up and load them in the trailer along with the rest of our equipment. If we’re on the ball, it only takes about 30 minutes to get everything packed up.
- AWARDS – At the end of the day, the last thing we do is pass out awards. We give out award stickers that are all-weather capable, so you can put them on your car. Many people will back them with magnetic material so that they can temporarily put them on their cars. We give 1st, 2nd and 3rd place for each class (regardless of the number of competitors), and we give out an FTD (fastest time of the day) award for the fastest car, and usually a second FTD award for the fastest car on street tires.
- POST-EVENT GIG – Keep your ears open and you’ll likely hear of one or more post-event gatherings. Different groups of people like to go to different places, but all are very welcoming of anyone who wants to show up. If you don’t hear about anything, and we forget to mention it at the awards presentation, please ask!
- RESULTS – Final event results are usually available on the FAST website the night of the event.
- CONGRATULATIONS – Your first FAST autocross was a huge success because you were prepared!