Part of being a parent is exposing your children to interesting experiences even when they are now legally adults. They can then form their own hobbies and interests with what takes hold. Given that philosophy my two older boys and I decided to participate in an auto-x event together as they had previously enjoyed ice racing.
While no expert I have participated in auto-x on three occasions each time in a different car. My first experience was in my then brand new Mazda 2, then the comically slow Mercedes-Benz 220D and finally last year in my MX-5. I could have taken the Mazda back to improve on my comfort level and skill but I thought it might be more fun to take the current winter beater and kid’s car, our 2006 Hyundai Elantra. It is completely stock and perhaps not an obvious choice for motor-sport but at least sports a five speed manual gearbox. My eldest son had bought himself a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer several months earlier that he brought along as well. Both cars have 2.0L engines and manual transmissions but his Lancer certainly feels sportier overall and is equipped with a larger stock tire and rim package. Both cars are lumped into the H-stock “catch all” category of slower cars which is fine as none of us were likely or expecting to win.
On our drive out we can across this custom Volkswagen Beetle on the back of a trailer. I hoped it was going to the same event as us so we could get a better look.
Luckily it was which allowed us to see how wild it actually was with a Oldsmobile 455cid V8 swapped in. It seemed to have earned the nickname Oldsmobeetle as declared by a rear window sticker. The big engine is certainly wedged in there.
It also features some impressively wide fender flares.
The old engine compartment now housing what appears to be a second radiator as well as the fuel tank.
Our modest ride preparation was limited to figuring out how to share two cars and two helmets between three drivers as well as checking tire pressure at the start. Many of the more experienced or serious drivers tweak their tire pressure as the day progresses but we did not. As for car sharing you need to have a number on your car to keep track of times and scoring so ride jumping is not helpful for the organizers. My older son would use his Lancer while my middle son and I would share the Elantra. We picked numbers of 42 and 742 so I had to just remove or add the 7 as needed. Forty two being “the answer” for any Douglas Adams fans. As usual numbers were applied with green painter’s tape.
It is always interesting to see what other competitors bring out to the auto-x events. Last year I drove with a different club who brought out some high priced hardware including a borrowed (??!!) Aston Martin, many Porsches and a Lotus. I was interested to see how the local club would compare after I had not participated in several years. We looked to be seriously out gunned car-wise until a Geo Metro arrived. I then realized it belonged to a friend of mine who is an auto-x veteran. He did not end up staying to race so the Elantra was by far the most modest vehicle with the Lancer not too far behind. Not that I care about winning but there is a PAX score which, in theory, levels the classes and corrects for vehicle disparity.
As per traditional one first walks the track to get a sense of what lines to take and how it will flow. There are pointer cones (the yellow ones sideways, on the ground) that point at which side of the cone you should driving on as illustrated above.
Lined up and ready to go. I still found the track a little confusing at speed so on my first run I did not push it too hard to avoid getting lost and earning a “Did Not Finish”. Each run after that I got a little more brave and soon had the Elantra howling its small but generous sidewall 15″ tires around the course. As a result each run was a little faster until reaching a plateau at around mid seventy seconds before hitting a cone on the last run (for a two second penalty). On the second half of the course I felt I definitely left a little time on the table and with additional practice could have improved. Maybe next time.
The Lancer carving a line.
This 1981 Chevrolet Camaro was entertaining to watch as it squatted down in the rear when the driver got on the throttle. It sounded great as well.
One of several Porsches.
A Mazda MX-5 just like mine. I have to have the roof open for infinite headroom when wearing a helmet as well.
A JDM Subaru WRX owned by a friend of my son.
This Toyota MR2 started life as a non-turbo four cylinder but now sports a V6 engine.
A Pontiac Trans Am from 2001.
It was not all sports cars as demonstrated by this Nissan Altima coupe. Not sure if this was four or six cylinder powered.
This Honda Civic had a few minor bolt on modifications so got bumped up a class.
Remember that (not a LS) V8 Beetle? I had to capture a short bit of video of it racing to share.
Interestingly, my son in the Elantra posted very similar times to mine even though this was his first event. He finished a mere one second behind my best time.
The son with the Lancer had some bad luck in the second half of the day when he was spooked by a rattle coming from under the car. He asked me to ride along with him in an attempt to diagnose it but the culprit soon became clear as the exhaust when the overall car noise suddenly got significantly louder half way though the course. He bailed on that run just in case something came more loose and avoid any further damage. The cause was the previous owner’s ham-fisted aftermarket exhaust work which we were able to fix the next day with a replacement clamp. It did mean he had to endure a very loud drive home for about half an hour. I choose to return in the Elantra.
All in all it was a successful day and we were able to brag that we had beat a Firebird, Corvette and some other more impressive machines in raw time as well as many others in PAX, corrected time (above but also shows raw time). I placed 22nd out of 31 entries in the Elantra which I was more than happy with. Both my sons are talking about participating again in mid June which will mean I might have to take a repeat car for the first time.