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Intro to Solo II
by: Penske

Solo II events (also known as autocrosses) are an all forward motion driving skill contest. Each driver is individually timed to the thousandth of a second, over a short, miniature road course clearly defined using traffic cones. Cars compete one at a time, hence the name "Solo", in a class with similar cars. An event can be held on any flat paved surface, usually a parking lot, or airport apron or runway.

Solo II emphasizes driver skill and vehicle handling rather than just speed. The corners are tight, and there are lots of them, so the driving is exciting and challenging. Solo II speeds do not exceed those normally encountered in highway driving. (This is the main difference between Solo II and Solo I; where much higher speeds are attained)

The skills you learn and practice here; smooth transitions, enhanced braking, and skid correction, will have an immediate impact on improving the safety and skill of your street driving. Solo II is an excellent way to teach car control to young drivers in a safe environment.

Running Your First Event

People begin arriving before registration opens (usually about 8 AM) so they can unpack their car, change tires and get ready for the day before registration begins. It is best to arrive at or before the beginning of registration so you will have time to register, tech your car, walk the course, and have ample time to talk to the Novice Chief. It is also a good idea to have your tires overinflated before arriving (a good starting point is 40 PSI cold). A tire pressure gauge is an important piece of equipment.

Of course, you'll also want to have the standard "outdoor" stuff like cold drinks (no alcohol, though!), sunscreen, hat, snacks, sunglasses, and maybe a rain poncho if you're in the Northwest.


To register you must have a valid driver's license and entry fee (usually $15 to $20). Fill out the information card at the registration area. They will help choose the class for your car if you don't know what it is. You will also be assigned a car number for the day. At registration, you will be asked to sign the insurance waiver. You must do this to compete, and any guests you bring must sign the waiver also.

Once you know your class and car number, mark your car using white shoe polish on the window (it comes off with Windex), tape paper numbers inside the window, or use magnetic numbers if you have them.

Tech Inspection

Your car must pass tech inspection before you can compete (see the Tech requirements below). Registration may be at one central area, or at your "pit" space.

The tech inspector will sign your card if you pass, or recommend changes to make the car pass, such as additional tie-downs for the battery or removal of loose items or hub caps if you've forgotten.

Course Walking

After tech, you will have time to walk the course. Course maps are available at registration, and the Novice chief will take you on a guided walk after the drivers' meeting. Try to have the course memorized before you go on the guided walk.

Drivers' Meeting

The drivers' meeting is mandatory for all drivers. The event chair will hold the meeting approximately one half hour before the first car starts. Be sure to attend. This is where you will find out information you'll need to know about the course conditions, number of runs, particular safety concerns, how penalties are assessed, and how work assignments will be handled.

At the end of the drivers' meeting, the Novice Chief will announce the novice course-walk.

Your Runs

You will have a minimum of three timed runs, weather permitting. Depending on the event, you may get as many as five timed runs. Find out who is running before you and after you, so you know when to line up. Running in order makes the timing people's job easier, and keeps the event running smoothly, but if someone gets in front of you, or you are running a little behind, don't worry too much about it. The event chair will call out which classes are to come to the grid (line of 4-5 cars waiting to run)

Once you are in grid, you will wait for the cars in front of you to launch, and you will move up until you are on the start line. A starter will wave a green flag when it is OK for you to start. The green flag means go as soon as you are ready, the timer will not start until you pass through the lights. Don't take too long if we are running two cars on course at once, because you start is timed to make sure you do not get too near the car already on course.

If you do get "lost" on course, take the time to orient yourself and continue. Don't head back to the start line, because you may be pointed toward another car. Just take the time to get back on course, and continue the run as a practice! If the next driver catches up, they will be red-flagged and be granted a re-run (which they'll use to its fullest potential).

Times are posted after each run. Your fastest run of the day is used to determine your finishing position.

Your Work Assignments

The big rule in autocross: If you drive, you work. Other drivers worked during your runs so you could have fun, now it's time to return the favor. Plus, it's a great way to see how the more experienced drivers run the course.

It's best to report for your work assignment as quickly as possible when it is time for you to work. Otherwise, some people end up working longer than others, which is no fun. The place to get work assignments will be announced in the drivers' meeting.

We try to put a novice with an experienced driver on a station if we have enough people. For a little bonus instruction, ask your co-worker to talk about the techniques of the cars on course.

Fun Runs

If time permits, fun runs are held at the completion of the event while trophies are being readied. This is your opportunity to ride with other drivers and have them ride with you. Fun runs usually cost one to two dollars.

Course Clean-up

Once all the timed runs and fun runs, if any, are complete, everyone helps clean up the course. This involves bringing in the fire extinguishers and flags, cones and timing equipment, and storing them in the trailer. Scoreboards need to be cleaned off and the pit area needs to be checked for trash. When everyone helps, this can be completed in fifteen to twenty minutes.

The Awards

After the event, following course clean-up, everyone meets for the trophy presentation. The location for the presentation is usually announced at the drivers' meeting. The event chair and his/her assistants will give out results and present trophies to the top third of each class, plus a trophy for Fastest Time of the Day (FTD) and the PAX challenge winner; the driver with the fastest indexed time.

Tech Inspection Requirements

        Safety Helmet: If you bring your own safety helmet, it must be approved by Snell in the current or two most recent ratings (e.g. if Snell 95 is in production then that, 90 and 85 are legal). The club provides loaner helmets for people who do not have one.

        Safety Belts: Original safety belts, at a minimum are required. Shoulder belts are not required, if your car did not come with them, but you must have a lap belt. Belts must be firmly attached.

        Solidly Mounted Battery: The battery must be held down properly. If it can be moved at all, it will not pass. There are some additional battery requirements which may affect you if you have modified your car. The Tech Inspector will help you out with them.

        Legal Tires: In Stock and Street Prepared categories, the tires must have measurable tread, and must be in good condition. Excessive weather checks or visible cord/plies will fail inspection. Tire pressures should be higher than used for the street, usually 45psi-Front/35psi-Rear for a front-wheel-drive car, or 40psi all around for a rear-wheel-drive car.

        Brakes: The brake pedal must be firm, with no loss of pressure when held down.

        Steering / Suspension: The steering must be tight, with no excessive play. Wheel bearings cannot have excessive play.

        Hub Caps and Trim Rings: Hub caps, trim rings and wheel covers must be removed for competition, unless they are bolted to the wheel.

        Loose Items in Car: All loose items must be removed from the passenger compartment and trunk. This includes the floor-mats. You may remove the spare tire and jack, but you are not required to if they are properly secured.

        Fluid Leaks: Excessive fluid leaks will not pass inspection.

        Numbers and Class Markings: The car numbers and class markings should be prominently displayed on both sides of the car in colors that contrast with the paint, and should be large enough to be seen easily from the timing van. White shoe polish for marking windows (comes off with Windex ) is available for people who don't have magnetic or paper numbers.

        Adequate Muffler: Your car must be quieter than 95dbA (RLS) measured 50 feet from the course at a place where you are under full throttle. Due to the possibility of losing sites for noise problems, this rule is strictly enforced. (If your car is quiet enough to avoid attracting Police attention, it will most likely pass the noise requirement)

        Throttle: Accelerator pedal must have a return spring and operate freely.

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