Grand Prairie—Lone Star Park hosted The Cones Awaken, a Texas region Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) autocross event, on Sunday, July 25. More than 130 drivers participated in the competition.
Autocross, also known as Gymkhana, typically lasts less than a minute and a half, and most cars operate only in first and second gear. Cars are timed on an obstacle course created of cones, which demand tight turns.
“It’s more of a precision driving event over speed,” Tim Boesche, chief of safety, said. “It’s more about car control and being able to navigate the course cleanly and efficiently, than it is having monster power and going fast. One-thousand horsepower won’t help you on an autocross course. You can see by the cars we’ve got running out here, Miatas and VRZs, cars that are pushing 150-160 horsepower. We’ve got the big horsepower cars, Corvettes, my Mustang, and some others, but it’s really more about how well you can drive the car through the course, than it is about having raw power.”
“I have always prided myself on car control,” region executive Matt Lucas said. “This is a phenomenal way to practice car control skills in a controlled environment. I like driving right on the edge with minimal risk to myself and other people. You can’t do this on the street. I like that you can practice it here. It makes you a better driver. I like the competitive side of it.”
“It’s just fun,” Wayne Atkins, co-driver with Lucas, said. “Pushing yourself and the car to the limit. It’s some fun camaraderie driving the same car; who can be faster? And [the times] were really close. [Matt and I] were less than a tenth of a second apart on this course.”
The degree of difficulty seems high, but the SCCA prides itself on accessibility.
“It is truly entry-level motorsports,” Lucas said. “It’s where someone can come, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. You can use your street car, and you can use it exactly as you drive it on the street. I started, because it was inexpensive.”
“Most of these cars are not dedicated race cars, they’re street cars,” Atkins said. “There’s people who keep it completely stock and come out to play.
“Some of these cars are $1,500 or $2,000 cars. It doesn’t take a whole lot to be competitive.”
“A lot of times people will think, ‘Well, my car’s not really an autocross car,’” Boesche said. “One minute ago you saw a Toyota Camry go by, and he’s out here autocrossing. Do we have a lot of sports cars and sports-derived vehicles? Sure we do, because they’re fun to drive. But there is a class for just about every street car made. No matter what you’re driving, the chances are we’ve got a class you can come and run it.
“If you need help figuring out what class you’re running we’ll get you classed. We do a tech inspection on your car to make sure it’s safe. I would recommend doing the novice walkthrough we do before the event. Everybody walks the course before the event, so you know where the course goes, with a very experienced driver to show you where you should have your car at each point. That kind of guidance to help you get through it, and then we will also put an instructor in the car with you if you want your first few runs to get the hang of it. Nobody out here is going to abandon you and let you have to figure things out on your own. Ask for help, and we’ll help you.
“Guys in Miatas are not competing against Corvettes. There are separate classes, so you’re only competing against the cars in your class. You’re running against people who have generally the same prepared level, and it’s fair, so the competition is good.”
“Of the 137 competitors, 35 or 37 of them have never done this before,” Atkins said. “That shows there’s excitement for this.
“If you like playing with cars and you want to be a better driver, because this absolutely makes you a better driver. I don’t condone any of this stuff to do on the street, and most of these people don’t carry this home with them, but it’s a way to come out here, hone your driving skills, push your car to the limit, and just generally have a great time.”
“This is a great group of people to hang out with,” Atkins said. “A lot of these people I’ve known for 20 years. It’s a safe environment to come push your car to the limit.”
“In DFW, you could autocross almost every weekend if you wanted to,” Lucas said. “There’s a number of clubs that do it. There’s us, the BMW club, Equipe Rapide. The Porsche Club does some sometimes, and then we’ve got the Good guys car shows, they set up autocrosses.
“The Texas region of the SCCA covers North Texas, from over to Louisiana to Abilene. We are a nonprofit.
“Autocross is only one of the motor sports disciplines we participate in. We have time trials, autocross, club race, and road rally. We also do a teen driving program. When the kids come out of that program they truly are much better drivers.”