So you want to race your SVO in Solo 2 Events (Autocross)? Here is what worked for me.
By Dave Schmitt
There have been many informative articles written on how to get started in autocross, but none (that I know of) written specifically for SVOs.
One very helpful article for beginners is Autocross Novice Handbook by Kate Hughes, which will give you a good idea on what to expect from an Autocross.
This article won't dwell on the items in Kate's book, but focus more on what I've learned since I started autocrossing my '86 SVO in SCCA G-Stock class.
Where can I autocross is a question I had easily answered. There is a regional SCCA in my hometown, so it was easy to find a place to autocross. You can find your local region on the SCCA website Most regions have a website that lists events, locations, etc. Even better is to find somebody who drives in your region and learn a bit more about the local SCCA. I am very fortunate in that my region has events about once every three weeks during the Spring, Summer and Fall, the courses tend to be designed more for larger cars than for smaller cars, and the members are very helpful.
Pre-season planning or Before you do anything else
Prior to any work with the car, determine what class you plan to run. The class selected will dictate what modifications are legal and which aren't. It is up to the driver of the car to properly classify his/her car. SVOs will usually fall into one of three classifications: G-stock (GS), E Street Prepared (ESP) or C Prepared (CP). Read the Solo 2 Rules on this website to determine the modifications allowed in each class. As you move up in class (GS to ESP to CP), the cars are better suited to autocross and the times of drivers in these higher classes will (generally) be faster. The planning part is to make sure you don't have one modification that bumps you up a class, especially if it is a modification that is easy to change.
Before your first event and after you've set your car up, find an empty parking lot and drive your car. Get used to how it reacts to different situations. This one thing alone will help you drive better during the autocross event.
The following is what I have found works well for me, is legal in the class I run, and fits my driving style. You may find something different works for you. All settings are for a stock '86 SVO and will vary from course to course. Consider this a good starting point; and don't feel you have to do all these to autocross your SVO-just get out there and drive.
- Set the rear shocks to full firm
- Set the front struts to 1-1/2 turns off of full firm (turn adjusters fully counter-clockwise to set full-firm, then back-off adjusters 1-1/2 turns clockwise).
- Set rear tire pressure at 35psi cold (a good tire gauge is a must-have), adjust based on tire roll after each run
- Set front tire pressure at 41psi cold, adjust after each run
- Toe set to neutral or 1/32" toe in
- Camber set to as negative as possible
- Caster is not adjustable with the stock setup (you can get a bit more positive caster by loosening the k-member bolts and pulling the k-member forward)
I currently run my SVO in G-stock. The class is called "stock" for a reason; very few modifications are allowed. I have found the following modifications, legal in stock class, work for me:
- K&N air filter that fits in the stock air cleaner housing
- Stainless Steel brake lines (allowed on stock class vehicles manufactured before 1992)
- Polyurethane end links for the front sway bar
- Polyurethane bushings for the front sway bar
- Flowmaster mufflers
- DOT legal race tires
Pre-event Planning and preparation
Locate information on technical inspections, and what a technical inspection includes. Prepare your car to pass the tech inspection. Typically, tech inspections include:
- Trunk empty
- Driver's floor mat removed
- Numbers on the car
- No loose debris in the passenger cabin
- Any camera mounts already setup
- Any removable harness system installed
- No mechanical problems with the car (loose battery, good throttle return, missing lug nut(s), excessive play in the wheel bearings and suspension, etc).
Prior to an autocross, I give my SVO a thorough check. This check already assumes the fluids are fresh (including oil, transmission, differential, power steering, brake), all filters are good (fuel, oil and air) and the car is in good tune. Verify the wheel lug nut torque is correct (factory spec is 80-105 ft.-lbs.)
You'll also need a helmet. From the 2012 SCCA National Solo Rulebook: "All helmets meeting the latest or two immediately preceding Snell Foundation standards (SA2010, SAH2010, SA2005, SA2000, M2010, M2005, M2000, K2010, K2005, K98), SFI standards 31.1, 41.1, 31.1A, 31.2A, 41.1A, 41.2A or British spec BS6658-85 type A/FR are acceptable."
The Day of the Autocross
Get to the course early, register and go through the technical inspection as soon as you can. Meet some others who are there to autocross; if you're lucky, you'll meet a driver of another Mustang or SVO. Walk the course, many times, at least once with an experienced driver who drives a car similar to the SVO. Find out what time the Novice walk is (an organized walk of the course with an experienced driver) and attend this. Attend the Driver's meeting. Drive and have fun.
During the Autocross
After each run, allow your car to idle about a minute to help cool the turbocharger before turning off the car. Check to make sure your tire-to-pavement contact is good (some use shoe polish on the contact surface to sidewall to check this) and adjust tire pressure to correct (add pressure to reduce tire roll and vice-versa). Choose a part of the course you are having difficulty with and watch experienced drivers in cars similar to the SVO and what line they drive through that portion of course. Socialize and have fun.
After the Autocross
Review how you did. If you changed your driving style or car setup between runs, analyze what worked and what didn't work. Think about what you want to try for the next autocross. But overall, have fun.