Isn’t it time you tried an Autocross?

What an event! What a venue! Ever consider trying out autocross? Well, you should! The pair just put on by the Cape Fear Chapter at Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point is a good example why. It’s been 30 years since I, the Membership Chair, ran an autocross, so I should have registered as a novice, but there were so many Novice Class entrants, that I thought I’d have an easier time if I ran my box-stock Miata in E Street. Wrong! Those Cape Fear folks know how to treat novices right.

There was a special walk-through for Novice Class entrants led by an experienced volunteer. Then every novice who wanted one got an instructor to ride second seat for as long as he or she preferred. They could also ask for a taxi run, where an instructor drove the novice entrant’s car while the novice observed from the passenger seat; and those runs did not count against the five runs total that we got each day. And many experienced participants, some even from out-of-region, cheerfully let novices ride with them too, despite the fact that they were competing for points. Talk about a friendly atmosphere in which to learn, this was it! I was unknown to all except for a few of the Cape Fear officers and the Triangle Chapter competitors I ran across, so I got no special treatment. And that was just the point. Random folks I’d never met would walk up to me and ask me how it was going and offer advice. And then about 60 of us all gathered at the same restaurant for dinner. It had to have been the most welcoming autocross for newbies I have ever attended. Had a great time. So why don’t you come out and try it too? You won’t be disappointed. You can compete in just about anything — just ask the novice Marine who brought his Police Interceptor Crown Vic – the most unlikely autocross car ever! Hats off to Solo Chair John Byers and all the crew of the Cape Fear Chapter pulling this off and showing the world how SCCA events are supposed to be run.

And did I mention the venue? Foxtrot taxiway at Cherry Point is HUGE! It’s one of the best autocross venues on the East Coast, I was told, and I believe it. The first day course was tight and tricky — a national level design they said — with lots of changes of direction, where you go back over the same ground more than once and pick up a different set of pointers to find your way. I had trouble and DNF’d a few times, as did many other more experienced competitors. But the novices caught on quick, thanks to their in-car instruction. And other competitors caught on faster than I did – you can ask Triangle Chapter members Justin Deffenbaugh, who co-drove a hot Miata with his buddy Phil, and Bob Stearns, who drove his real ’65 Shelby 427 Cobra at these events for the first time. Bob ran as a novice, Justin did not. And they both did quite well. Good for you guys! Hey, even 5-year-old Adam Miller from Garner in junior kart class got the course figured out and posted a good time (better than me!). Way to go, Adam!

Then on Sunday, they changed the course, opening it up until it was more like a tiny race track, and we flew down it. What a hoot! Since I hadn’t done so well the day before, Chris Severt and John Byers both made it a point to ride with me and give me some pointers. Chris even gave me a taxi ride in my own car, like he did for so many of the novices. In truth I should have been smarter and realized that Novice Class is where I belonged from the start, and it was amazing for me to find that the organizers had realized that and volunteered to help me out the next day. Can’t say enough good things about those people and their events! Many, many thanks to the Cape Fear Chapter, the Single Marine program, which sponsors our events at Cherry Point, and of course, to the United States Marine Corps. Semper Fi!

So what are you waiting for? There’s another novice school coming at the smaller Blackwater site in April, plus another one in June, and in-between yet another go at Foxtrot taxiway in May. See the full schedule here. Come on out! You’ll be glad you did! More photos here.

James Shanks
NCR Membership Chair