Shop Talk Coupe Mustang Autocross
Henry De Los Santos
Mustang360 Network Content Director
April 17, 2015
Photos By: Justin Fivella

I’ve always been a straight-line guy with an absolute passion for the dragstrip, so let’s get this out of the way and say this isn’t about what’s better. Instead, I want to talk about other avenues where you can have fun with your favorite ride.

For me, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I got a bit more serious about autocrossing and open tracking. If you aren’t familiar with either, I strongly recommend hitting the local autocross venues before trying your hand at open track courses.

You can find autocross events across the country on any given weekend. If you can’t find one, check with your local SCCA, various web forums, or your favorite Mustang club. All that’s required at most events is a mild safety check to make sure you don’t have any miscellaneous items in the cabin or trunk that could fly around, to check wheels for loose bearings, and to make sure the battery is secured in place. That’s about it. Most courses can range from a little over 30 seconds to well over a minute for larger courses.

Traditionally speaking, you won’t get a lot of speed—maybe hit 40-plus mph at best—but this isn’t about speed. Obviously you want to get through the course as quickly as you can, but it’s more about smooth technique than all-out raw horsepower.

If a bit more speed is your thing, then ripping around an open track course can really get the adrenaline pumping. However, keep in mind that higher speed requires a few more stringent rules. This means a more in-depth tech session, including additional safety equipment such as a fire suit and a roll bar. And depending on what organization you’re running with, there is a good chance that you’ll have to run in several sessions with an instructor before you’re allowed to run fender-to-fender with others at full throttle. It’s an eye-opening experience and can be intimidating at first, but where else are you going to hit 120-plus mph for a long time without worrying about local law enforcement?

Just yesterday I was asked if I had a personal preference. I had to really think about that one because I enjoy participating at both types of events. Until recently I was pretty spoiled and was able to participate in both during a weekend outing. Unfortunately, those types of events haven’t returned to Southern California. I have kept to the autocrosses as time permits.

Going back to preferences, I will say autocross is a blast and it doesn’t take a huge financial hit to participate. Bring a couple of chairs, a cooler filled with sandwiches and water, and a few buddies, and you’re set for the day. Even if you have no experience, don’t be afraid to check it out. Plenty of folks are more than willing to give out rides and show you which lines to take on the course and where to brake. More important, it’s a comfortable setting that’s far from intimidating. Matter of fact, if you have a better half who’s always wanted to get a little familiar with performance driving, autocross events are a great place to put them behind the wheel.

You’ll have a blast. You don’t have to tow your ride out to the autocross (well, unless you want to). And if you brought a friend, there’s a good chance you created a new enthusiast to our world. Then again, if the weekend for you means going to the movies, that’s OK too, but I’m pretty sure most of our readers would rather stomp on the pedal.

Now I’m curious. What’s your preference: autocross or open tracking? Have you even tried either? Email me at finish.line@enthusiastnetwork.com.