Safety comes in 3rd at local autocross

At a local SCCA event a few weeks ago, I was recommended another local driving club with an event this past Saturday. It was 20 minutes from my in-laws; perfect. Until somebody stuffed their M3 into a light pole just off course. Lets review all the red flags that I disregarded in the morning, shall we?

First: Safety inspection. “Pop the hood. Yup, there’s an engine in there.” Done. Local SCCA is asking for a throttle blip and checking wheels and suspension, at minimum.

Second: Looking through the loaner helmets, there are some DOT spec helmets, rather than Snell rated helmets. And the Snell helmet I did find was a Snell 2005: expired.


Third: Working the course, there was a flag and radio at each corner. Local SCCA has a med kit and fire extinguisher. Not here! Probably would’ve been helpful.

To start the afternoon sessions, a e9x M3 was exiting the last slalom prior to the finish and get on throttle too early. Rear end came around, and driver was along for the ride. Over the parking space concrete bumpers, through a chain link fence, and hard into a light post. Air bags deployed, car totaled for sure, light post screwed, fence screwed. Can’t imagine it felt great for the driver. I heard people saying “of all the places for him to go through....” and I wanted to scream. Look at the course you laid out! Anyone losing control out of the slalom was always going through the fence and into the pole. There was no other option! This was entirely due to the course layout. Based on everything I saw leading up to this, I really can’t imagine much thought was put into the hazards off course and their position relative to the course.

I’ve seen three accidents now during autocross. The first two weren’t due to the driver losing control; they were due to all the mistakes made after the driver lost control. Trying to be a hero, save a run that was already lost, getting on the throttle and getting further and further off course when they should’ve just got on the brakes and brought the car safely to a stop. And they were both soft hits, nothing that ever made me worried about driver safety. This time? Driver had no chance to bring the car to a stop, and I was genuinely concerned about his welfare. To me, that’s not the point of autocross.

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