A Day at the Chesapeake Region Autocross

By: Ryan Roche

On Saturday July 21, 51 drivers gathered in a parking lot just off the Snowden River Parkway in Columbia, MD for the fourth race in the Porsche Club of America Chesapeake Region Autocross series. 

As drivers gathered for the pre-race meeting, volunteers from the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and Porsche of Annapolis dealership were busy setting up the cones which make up the course.

Autocross is one of the most common and accessible forms of motorsports. The goal is to navigate your car through a series of cones as quickly as possible, without touching or knocking any over. Drivers take a timed run around the course and are then scored against others in their car class. 

The autocross rulebook dictates that no one is allowed to drive the course prior to their first run. Drivers have to start the morning with a course walk to get a feel for the track and figure out line choice.

As they walk, volunteers and the more experienced drivers offer suggestions to each other about recommended gear and line choice through each section of the course. According to most of the leaders, this course’s longer straights made it slightly better suited for cars with a little more in the horsepower department.

As cars leave the gate to start their run, the announcer broadcasts the driver’s name, car model, and class to the crowd. Even though it is a race, the ultimate goal of autocross is to improve drivers’ skills and their familiarity with their car’s handling. 

Autocross races are often “run-what-ya-brung” style events, and plenty of the cars parked on the grid double as daily drivers.

Rain began to fall after the first few rounds, and several drivers spun out as they struggled to adjust to the sudden loss of traction. Officials tried to keep cars running and staged close to the grid to finish up as quickly as possible.

Several mid-engine cars made appearances, but this 1985 Toyota MR2 was the only one to come from Japan.

Don’t let the pop-up headlights on #189 fool you, this 1989 Miata packs a serious punch thanks to a Flying Miata turbo kit and driver Mark McLaughlin. He clocked some of the fastest laps of the day and even put a few exotics to shame.

Front-wheel drive cars were out in force and hot hatchbacks placed well across several classes. 

The #278 car was driven hard all day by Chris Chhoron of Odenton, MD. Chris is a regular at both Chesapeake and DC region autocross events.

Due to the compact courses and low speeds, autocross is very spectator friendly. Several people braved the rain and set up near the fence to watch the morning’s races.

At 11:20 a.m. the generator powering the timing equipment died. It seemed that the day would end early after all. Drivers parked on the grid exchanged nervous looks with one another. Luckily the generator had only run out of gas and the timing equipment was up and running again in no time. 

The event was scheduled to run until 1:30 p.m., but due to the inclement weather the last run finished up at 11:36 a.m. The course was dismantled as quickly as it was setup. The SCCA Chesapeake Region #4 race was in the books and drivers left looking forward to their next race.