<VV> Autocross - Cones and Courses

Sethracer at aol.com Sethracer at aol.com
Mon Jul 12 18:38:59 EDT 2010

Some further notes on the information I supplied on the use of different  
color cones at autocrosses. I agree with several comments that a minimal 
number  of cones should be used, consistent with course flow and participant 
guidance.  You haven’t seen a “sea-of-cones” until you have climbed into a 
lay-down formula  car with your eyes about 2 feet off of the ground.  I had to 
completely re-think my course  walks. There have always been differences 
between the courses presented at local  events and those of the SCCA Nationals, 
and many differences between local  events around the country. My reference 
to color cones at SCCA events was to my  region, San Francisco Region, not 
the Nationals. At the local SCCA events, pairs  of colored cones were used 
to indicate the Start and Finish lights. This could  be viewed as a safety 
issue.  The  “green cones at corner apex points” is a technique used at 
Lockheed Club events.  Very much like the Corsa Convention events, the local 
Lockheed events draw three  types of competitors: First, those who autocross 
15-20 times a year - any-club,  anytime, anywhere. They are familiar with all 
types of courses, can adapt easily  and usually add safety and fun 
suggestions on course design. Second, a group of  regular participants, they make 
maybe 6-8 Lockheed events a year and do not run  anywhere else. They will run 
whatever course you throw out in front of them,  with rusty reactions causing 
a few cones here and there. Third – this is the  first or second autocross 
they have ever run. These folks can get lost easily  and don’t want to look 
foolish in front of their friends. They have usually not  yet mastered the 
art of looking ahead and they drive from gate to gate or apex  to apex. What 
we found is that the Lockheed courses, exactly like the Corsa  Nationals 
course must try to appeal to all three types of drivers. Corsa has a  great 
number of once-a-year autocrossers (Think Edward N. Cole contestants) and  
first-time ever autocrossers. Back in my youth, I wrote many gimmick car rallys,  
where the challenge was to “fool” the contestant and display your creative 
 thinking and interpretations. (I once placed a Checkpoint sign in a 
wheelchair,  which, of course, made it an “invalid” Checkpoint.) As somebody 
mentioned, some  course designers seem to have seized this thinking and applied 
it to autocross  as well. I think it is the course designers responsibility 
to design a course  where it is easy to follow the correct course, but hard 
to plot and follow the  correct/fast line through it. The ability to plot 
and follow that fast line is  what determines the winners at the events.  The 
pointer cones and, perhaps, the use of a different color cone at  apexes 
will help the novice competitors find their way through the course, it  should 
have no effect on the experienced autocrosser. If the competitors walk  the 
course before their competition runs, or, as in Iowa, cruise through the  
course at a slow speed to see the flow of the course, they will be much better 
 prepared for their actual competition runs. The pointer cones and the 
colored  apex cones are just subtle reminders of the “Minimum location” 
requirements of  that particular course. On some courses, such as the Hawkeye Downs 
course, the  colored cones might have served no purpose. But at many other 
Corsa National  courses, they might have served as guideposts for the novice 
drivers, helping  them to see beyond the Sea-of-Cones and find their way to 
the finish line. 

Seth Emerson

C's the Day! -  Corvair, Camaro, Corvette
San Jose, CA

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