During one of those “how was your weekend” conversations in the office, I shared with others my experience at a performance driving event called autocross.
I’ve always had an interest in cars and motorsports. Reading car magazines to keep up on the things going on in the industry, occasionally watching parts of a race on TV, and an unfulfilled desire to have a place to get behind a wheel and do performance driving. As a kid, I had a dream to be a sports car driver. But as an adult in suburbia with a minivan, it all seems out of reach. When I read an article about a performance driving event I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to attend.
The event was basically setting up a bunch of traffic cones in an empty parking lot (or abandoned airplane runway), and learning to toss the car around the cones, all while never really getting above 40 mph and having only one car on course at a time.
You drive your own car, whether it is a souped-up specialty or a daily driver with lots of miles and little horsepower. It’s highly organized by the hosting staff, and safety is a top priority. It seems a relatively safe and legal way to drive your own car with spirit, and to learn the handling limits of the vehicle that not only is fun but improves your overall safety abilities for everyday driving. A local car club was hosting an autocross novice day, and I decided to make the plunge and try it out. I wasn’t the only attendee that was totally new at this. It was a blast. I got hooked.
A few months later, a relatively new employee @kmullins stopped me in the hall, and asked: “Do you do autocross?” “Yes,” I said, “why do you ask?” “Because I do too!” So we started talking. Come to find out, she’s done a lot more than I have. She’s been a safety flagger for a professional race, attended the Indy 500, and saved her money and got some instruction behind the wheel of multiple exotic performance cars.
So as we started talking more, in those “how was your weekend” discussions, we kept stumbling on more and more other employees that had this same interest and also didn’t know how to achieve it. And then we stumbled into a few employees that had been achieving it and were doing more. It became obvious at that point that we needed to do something more with this passion than just talk about it. So we formed a car club in the office.
With the experience-driven culture of our workplace, it made total sense to band together, to share our knowledge for the benefit of others, and to find new experiences we could share. So plans have been laid to meet up periodically, talk about what we’ve learned and seen, and plan some events. These events may be to attend a local car show, help each other over the confidence hump to participate in their first performance driving event, to get to the next level in personal performance, or to plan some outreach events.
We can help folks understand how to properly inflate their tires to the right pressure and how to change a spare, but we’d also like to drive at the next level in an autocross or rallycross event, and generally just get out and have a blast, safely of course.
None of us have a dedicated car for performance driving - we’re using our everyday cars. But rather than sitting in front of a screen on the weekend, I’d rather be sitting behind a steering wheel and getting better at my performance technique and doing so with my friends. At these events, I meet the nicest people and hear stories about other events that are happening and their experiences. We can go to ‘Cars and Coffee’, go driving at the karting park, and share tools for that weekend project. Connecting with these people is enabling these great experiences.