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Old 08-18-2007, 05:50 PM   #1
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Auto-X question: finding your way in a sea of cones

I did an auto-X today where the course wasn't lined in chalk: all I had to go by were the cones. The result was a lot of missed gates. I'd come out of a corner, look ahead and see a gate and go towards it, only to discover that I'd missed the correct gate because it was outside of my peripheral vision. Any tips for this??

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Old 08-19-2007, 08:09 AM   #2
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Learning the visual cue's takes practice. It often looks like a sea of cones to me.
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Old 08-19-2007, 08:17 AM   #3
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I've noticed that walking the course more than once and then working the first run and driving the second (so you can watch other's mistakes) makes it so much easier. Plus there will be some rubber on the road after the first run to help you see where to go.
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Old 08-19-2007, 10:01 AM   #4
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I remember my first few events, very frustrating.

As stated, practice is the best way. Walking the course is essential and the more you do each the better you will become at maneuvering through the course properly.

I still remember a major eureka moment I had. After autocrosing for about two years I was walking the course one morning and suddenly stopped and realized I could really understand and see the proper line through the course. It has only gotten better and more fun from there.

It also helps to have good course designers.
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Old 08-19-2007, 10:57 AM   #5
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For me I remember the course by simply remembering the major sections such as start, slalom (start on left), right turns, slalom (start on right), left turns, carousel, 180, etc. All this does it get me thinking about the rough layout. My first run will never be the perfect line, simply a baseline to see where the course is and what major areas I can improve on. Even if I could remember the course perfectly and remember the line I want to take, it would never match up with the instinct that comes into play when I'm actually driving at speed. After a few runs the course starts to "shrink" and that's when I focus on the line.

I always walk the course twice and I do not talk about anything except the course during my walks.

The line doesn't mean anything until you know the course. Focus on your first run being clean and forget about the time. It's hard to learn and improve your line when you are focused on where you DNF'ed.

IMHO, it's easy for people to focus on driving the car to its limits, when they should be focusing on driving the car through the course.
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Old 08-19-2007, 08:24 PM   #6
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Draw a little map as you walk the course.... study it, look at it often, make notes on it after each run. I've been doing it ever since my first AX school.

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Old 08-20-2007, 08:20 AM   #7
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^yes the map! I'm a visual person yet I too would have trouble "connecting the dots". I draw a map large enought so it can fit on the steering wheel and while I wait for my runs I study the map. I number each cone and draw an x where the braking should occur. In the begining I tended to brake a different number of times on each turn because I was going into each turn too fast or I was braking to late and the one hard tap to brakes wasn't slowing me down enough. Nailing the braking is the key to a quick lap for me.

The reason you are missing the gates is because your not looking ahead. Sounds retarded how can I look at the 2nd gate if I can't find the first!? Its a funny thing but your subconscious starts to plot the cones for you. You are indeed seeing them its just that your mind isn't registering them because you are in "target fixation". You are concentrating 90% on what is in front of you and 10% on the next one. Should be the other way around.
When you get rid of that target fixation you can see that the 2nd gate is at 9 o'clock with your eyes your body starts to react to the gate in front of you at 3 o'clock.

I once missed a gate on almost all my laps except on my very last run I got it together and managed to set the best time. Everyone had jokes about that...
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Old 08-20-2007, 12:45 PM   #8
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Walk the course. Then walk it again.. then walk it again.. and if time, walk it again. To me, if you can't commit the course to memory you will be lost all day. I don't have time to read a map while I am on course. you MUST know not only where the next gate is, but the next 2-3-4 gates. This will help you prepare for what is ahead and take advantage!

If you can avoid it, walk it without talking to people. It will allow you to think about things.. where you want the car to be? what gear you might be in? is the pavement in good condition? is it on camber or off camber? are the slaloms increasing or decreasing in distance between cones? There are lots of things you can think about before you even step in the car.

Also consider that at walking speed, at walking height, things will look a lot different than inside your helmet, seated, and driving at 30-40mph.

JFro.. was this the one out in Winchester? I was there. Yellow Boxster (FTD).

* the cones won't be out of your peripheral vision if you have already cemented the course in your mind.
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Old 08-20-2007, 01:41 PM   #9
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well you're not really looking at the map/diagram while you are driving.
Actually come to think of it I don't think I have ever even looked down at my speedo while autocrossing.
The map helps if you're that type of person that remembers things a little better if they write them down first. Just like when you were in school.
While studying the map I will memorize "the directions" afterwards for instance with eyes closed I will visualize the lap:
"Left, quick right, long straight, right, six pin into hard left, slalom, right, long straight."
Downhill skiers and downhill moutain bikers do the same thing before doing their runs.
I once watched a sports car racer describe a course to a TV reporter before the race started. While the driver described the lap from memory the TV crew played the on board footage for the at home audience and the timing of both was 100% perfectly synch'd. The lap was 1:49 or whatever and the driver described the course in 1:49...Really amazing.
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Old 08-21-2007, 01:54 AM   #10
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Racer_d, yeah, Winchester is the Auto-X I'm referring to. On the second half there was a whole section of cones that I didn't even know I was missing. Funny thing, I was the one who drew the boxes around them!

I raced BMX growing up, and then downhill mountain bikes for years and the skills haven't transferred. On DH courses, you kind of "follow the path water would", look for holes through trees keeping the yellow tape in your peripherals. Whenever I'd have a great run, I either wouldn't remember much about it, or I couldn't verbalize it. I can show the motions, but that's about it. Too much fun.
With Auto-X, it's kind of fun being a complete amateur in a new sport!
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Old 08-21-2007, 05:31 AM   #11
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Try to line up torwards the back so you can get a ride along(hopefully with someone pretty experienced) before it is your turn to go. That will give you a perspective from in the car at speed and help you see the line before it is your turn to go. It gets easier. Good luck on the next one!

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