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The Journal Gazette

  • Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Rhonda Fehring locks up the brakes on her Trans Am at the end of her run at the FWSCCA autocross competition in Auburn. The Fort Wayne Region Sports Car Club of America's autocross will be at Memorial Coliseum on July 9.

Sunday, June 25, 2017 1:00 am

Precision on pavement

Autocross puts adrenaline, camaraderie on display

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Fort Wayne Region Sports Car Club of America autocross

July 9

Memorial Coliseum

Registration cost: $40 for members, $50 for non-members; $5 discount for registering online prior to the event

Event timeline

7:30 - 8:45 a.m.: Registration (new racers – do this first)

8-9 a.m.: Tech open

8-9 a.m.: Course available for walking once it has been cleared (must check in at registration and get teched first!)

9:15-9:30 a.m.: Novice Walk

9:30-9:45 a.m.: Drivers meeting

10 a.m.: First car off

Autocross isn't necessarily about who can reach the fastest speeds or even get around the track the quickest by whatever means possible.

Autocross focuses on precision.

The Fort Wayne Region Sports Car Club of America plays host to autocross events regularly, with the next event coinciding with the Three Rivers Festival at Memorial Coliseum on July 9.

“Right now, we're mostly autocross, which is the parking lot and airport runways,” said Steve Mieritz, the regional executive for the Fort Wayne Region. “It's a non-speed event. It's precision driving so is more about accuracy. Each person tries to go through the course as fast as they can and competes in their class. It's one at a time so they're not bumping into each other.”

Every car that can complete a course fits into a class. Classes are based on multiple factors such as stock vs. modified, power, weight, among others.

“Whatever you bring, there's a spot for it,” Mieritz said. “There's the street class, which is stock cars on street tires, there's super stock like Corvettes down to H-stock like a Ford Focus.

“There's another level you can do some minor modifications, that's street touring, and it goes from there to purpose built cars that were never cars to begin with that were created in someone's garage.”

Mieritz added that pickup trucks or other vehicles that are tall and have the risk of tipping over in the course are restricted.

The participants have the added benefits of helping with every event.

Volunteers have myriad tasks to ensure the event runs smoothly. This could range from working at a corner of the course and picking up fallen cones to timing to safety alerts.

“It's like a family,” Mieritz said. “Everybody pitches in and helps. It's a club, so it's all volunteer. It's a lot of fun when people gets involved and it enhances the fun.”

Donovan Miner got involved in autocross through friends four years ago. He drives a stock 2013 BMW 328i in the D street class.

“I started when some of my friends were discussing their summer plans,” he said. “I grew up around cars and working on them. When I heard them talking about cars, it piqued my interest. I went with them and watched one event, and have been enjoying it since.

“The adrenaline of driving is what got me started. But, the more involved I've gotten with the club, it's more than adrenaline. The camaraderie is great, we're a pretty tight-knit group. I enjoy hanging out with everyone and talking about their cars as much as I enjoy driving now.”

Jake Hornbarger got involved in the club four years ago after purchasing a Ford Fiesta ST and has since enjoyed seeing his progress.

“When I bought a fun car, I wanted to drive it fast but in a legal way,” he said. “I remembered my mom telling me about the SCCA. I looked it up and took the driving class to learn how and a year later my mom started racing with me with her Mazda Miata.

“I feel like the best part is just getting better. Seeing my own progress is really fun knowing I'm getting better and better every year. A lot of that goes into just driving every day. I know I'm a better driver because of it.”

Mieritz estimates the turnout for the Coliseum event to be between 100-125 drivers, but wouldn't be surprised if there were more.

Despite the course not being conducive to extreme speed, there's still an adrenaline rush for having to navigate courses against the clock.

The course length depends on the size of the space the event is taking place.

“To keep things safe, we keep the speeds to normal highway speeds, which is 70 miles per hour for a stock car,” Mieritz said. “You have to put in turns to slow people down. That keeps things safe. The result, it has more turns than a Formula One course.

“You're always doing something. It's very high adrenaline, fast-paced, things are moving very fast. More so than a roller coaster. For the thrill junkies out there, it gives you that rush, which is highly addictive.”

areichel@jg.net