Episode 002: Autocross IS real racing. Why the SCCA Solo program is a legitimate career step.

autocross is real racing

I am EXTREMELY adamant that autocross is real racing.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why autocross is real racing
  • How racing in the SCCA Solo brand is an excellent place to begin a legitimate racing career
  • How to deal with haters who say autocross is not real racing
  • The number one arugement against autocross, and why it’s completely ridiculous
  • Randy Pobst’s story of moving from ProSolo autocross into a professional (and very long) racing career


Pics of the BRZ in full livery. Click here.

My Instagram handle: @CatchMattCovert. Follow for unique content that isn’t on the site of FB page.

Correction: Randy Pobst does not work for Car & Driver OR Road & Track. He works for Motor Trend.


Speaker 1: Welcome to howtobecomearacecardriver.com Podcast, where it’s not about being a racing driver but learning to become a racing driver. Here’s your host Matt Covert.

Matt Covert: Yeah. Hey, what’s up everybody, Matt Covert here again, howtobecomearacecardriver.com with the Podcast second episode and I’m really excited about that. First episode went really well. It’s not on iTunes yet, I just want you to know it will be available eventually, it should be soon.

You can get it on iTunes or Zune or Podcast addict. It pretty much should be anywhere that you would go to normally get your podcast and stuff like that. But it’s not quite there yet for now. You have to get it from my website and that’s okay, so we’re moving on the right direction.

But rather than waiting, I just wanted to shoot another episode or record another episode? Yes, that sounds a little better.

So, the meat of this particular episode, we’re going to be talking about how autocross is a completely legitimate first step in your racing career. And I know, there’s a lot of “Nay” sayers to that kind of thing we’re going to address all that just one point at a time as we go along down through here.

Autocross is real racing and we will come back to that again. But i just want to touch on a couple of really cool things that happened at a couple of day with autocross the pass couple of weeks.

I raced with a bunch of different clubs, I am prioritizing the new Hamster Club but I’m going down a racing with the BMW club, the Porsche club, NESVT, the New England Region SCCA guys. Man, there are some serious talents down there. It’s awesome to be down there running with them.

A couple cool things that happen, the more I go out and race, the more people come up and introduce them self to me because they recognize the website. Probably, the best thing I ever did was put the website on the side of the car. It’s in huge vinyl, that’s just kind of side-ways, it looks really great. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll put a picture of that actually in the show notes so you can check it out. And show notes for this episode will be – howtobecomearacecardriver.com/podcast2. That’s for episode two, alright.

So, people come and introduce themselves to me, I love that. I met a really cool guy named, Bill Cioni, I think is how you say his last name. He’s got a really cool 2011 Outback Sport. He walked up and say, “Hey, you must be Matt. I read the website.”

That was really cool, I love talking and chat with him. I probably talked him about shocks and square barrows or whatever for about ten minutes and that was really cool.

If you see me somewhere in New England region and I’m racing, please come up and introduce yourself. I’d love to meet you and talk about what you’ve got going on. May be if I’m adjusting tire pressures or about to go out on a run, maybe wait a little bit, but I do want to meet you and I do want talk to you, okay?

I also met a really cool guy named, Bill Brundige. I’m not sure. I haven’t really officially met him in person yet. But he reached out to me about something, the sponsorship program on the website. And I guess, I can touch back on that later again too because there is some news with that.

But he has an FR-S, I have a BRZ, we’ve talking shop all week. This guy is way faster than me. We’ve been talking about car tuning. And I’m always willing to try again and get new advice and try new things and this guy seems to know what he’s doing. He’s extremely competitive.

He ran two seconds a lap faster than I did the last time we raced. So needless to say, he has me beat and he’s going to be co-driving with me this weekend and kind of coaching me. And he gave me some set up tips.  So, the car’s going to be set up basically like his FR-S for this weekend. I’m really excited to see how this goes. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.

I also met another guy and introduced himself. He’s name was Will Koscielny, I’m not sure. All these crazy really neat, weird names. But also another awesome competitive guy, gave me some great tips with networking and all this great drivers.

And these guys are both been saying the same thing about my car. It’s a competitive car locally, I’m winning. I think I mention last time. I am leading the points series at New Hampshire Club. I actually won again last weekend, really exciting, I extended my points lead.

So, the car isn’t too bad but it’s that last little bit to move up to the local level to the regional level with these amazing drivers and I’m so excited. The car is competitive for a podium finish at the regional level right now as it stands.  I mean, that’s good but I’m not okay with that, I want it to be competitive for the win. So I’m excited to work with these guys and get some coaching and get some tuning device from guys who are better than me.

So, I guess, the lesson here is, if you’re not reaching out to people who are better than you, if you’re not striving to go out and find someone to mentor you and give you advice, I mean, you have to vet these people to make sure that they know what they’re talking about. But if you can find these people are better than you, their results are better than you, they have more experience, you got to listen to them, man.

It’s not like I am trying to avoid a better tuned car or more speed, that would be crazy. It’s just that these guys have gone the long way round to gain their knowledge and they’re willing to share with me and I am just completely grateful and humbled by that. So, I’m really looking forward to that.

And incidentally, I think I posted something about that on Instagram this morning about having a mentor. And if you’re not following me on Instagram, I hope you do. There’s a lot of unique content in there that doesn’t end up on the website or the Facebook page. So, my Instagram handle is @catchmattcovert and I’ll put that in the show notes too, just so you can have it.

There, house cleaning is out of the way so, let’s jump in to the main content of this particular episode.

And I mentioned a guy on the last episode and his name is Randy Pobst. And of course, let me just remind you, we’re talking about why autocross or how autocross is a legitimate first step into your racing career and a great way to learn what you’re doing before you try and move up and spend a ton of money, okay.

So, I mentioned Randy Pobst and this guy is an incredible driver.  He has tons of accolades. I mean, he is driven in the Pirelli World Challenge. I think he – shoot.  Is it Road and Track or Car and Driver, I can’t remember who. He writes for their magazine. He does a lot of their on track testing with performance cars. I’ll figure out which one it is, Car and Driver, Road and Track, I’ll put that in the show notes too if it needs to be there. Yes, I think I’m going to do that.

Yes, he also writes for SCCA’s magazine which is awesome. I know he is working now helping a team in Colorado, I think, developed their race team. I mean, he’s doing some hill climbs and stuff right now. He is just an incredible pro driver. There’s no getting around it.

And I’m telling you about him because he spent his first ten years of motorsport in autocross. He ate, sleep and breath it. That’s all he did and he was amazing at it.  He moved up quickly.

This guy is a multinational autocross champion. I mean, I could talk about this guy all day long.  He moved up to the club racing level, moved up to the majors, through the run offs and into Pirelli World Challenge.

I know he’s done all kinds of endurance racing.  He’s been successful there. He’s got a great career going. The point is that he started in autocross and since he moved on to pro from autocross. He proved that it was possible.

For those of us who don’t have a ton of expendable income and are going to have to go a long way around, that just prove to us that autocross is a completely legitimate way to start your racing career. Autocross is real racing and there’s just no getting around it, okay.

So now that we know that it’s possible, we could talk about a bunch of other examples of people who have done that too but we don’t need to.  Because if we know that one person did it, we know that it’s possible. And it’s our responsibility to take it from there and end up the same way he did if that’s what we want in our lives, there’s just no other way around it.

I think we probably at some point, we should probably do this now. We’re going to have to address the people who say that autocross isn’t a real racing at all or that it’s some type of subpar motorsport or some other thing like that. Anyone who tells you that autocross isn’t legit is obviously wrong. They’re either lying to you or they just have no idea what they’re talking about.  They don’t know about people like Randy Pobst.

And from what I’ve seen, this is just from what I’ve seen in my networking, building connections and meeting people through the site and just talking shop wherever I am. There seem to be two different types of people who think that autocross is either stupid or not a good way to start or beneath them or whatever.

The first type of person, that person, they don’t even race.  The most amount of reason that they do is on Forza 4. I don’t know, I’m probably a couple years behind that. I don’t know what the latest Forza, Xbox whatever racing game is. These people are spending most of the time on the couch playing Forza 4 and I don’t care, that’s fine. If you want to play the Xbox, that’s fine with me, I don’t mind. It’s your life, do whatever you want.

But I think it’s pretty important to understand that those people’s opinions about motorsport, they’re basically limited to Xbox. We don’t need to consider what they’re saying. They genuinely don’t have a valid opinion about this because they’ve never done it.  They’re not trying and they’re just talking it down and I mean.  It’s a simple as that.

The other type of driver, I just said driver – the other type of person who says that autocross isn’t legitimate form of motorsport. And this one really gets me and this tends to be people – I guess, there’s no other word for it. These are rich people, people who have lots of expendable income. alright.

By the way, as a side note for this because it kind of ties in. A lot of “pro drivers” are actually paying the race teams to be the driver of that car.

It’s kind of the opposite of what Randy Pobst did. Randy Pobst built his talent through autocross, ten years of autocross, multi-time champ. Somebody offered him a ride. I can’t remember who it was, I have to look that up too, I guess. But he did it through shear talent and determination. He didn’t have a ton of money.  He didn’t buy his way in.

There are a lot of people there who have a lot of money and there’s nothing wrong with that. But they’re approaching racing teams and saying, “Hey, I want to be your racing driver.  Here’s X amount of thousands of dollars,” or whatever deals they make. And the race teams going to say, “Sure. Okay.” Because all of a sudden they have a driver and all of a sudden they have a ton more money, what’s not to love about that?

I don’t know. Is that really pro driving? If you’re driving at the Pirelli World Challenge Series and you kind of bought your way in. I don’t know, it kind of sounds like an expensive hobby to me if you’re not making a living out of it.

And there’s nothing wrong with what I said. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you have a ton of money, spend it however you want. I don’t care. We live in a capitalist society, that’s fine with me.

If I ever get rich, yes I’m going to spend it however I want. So I don’t care it’s really your money. It’s your money but it’s kind of the opposite of what – I wish I can say, common folk, I guess. But people like who don’t have a huge amount of expendable income.  And I know there’s a lot of people listening to this podcast who feel the same way.

So, we kind of have to do a Randy Pobst through and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So, these rich guys, they’re buying their way in and by doing that they’re skipping all the entry level stuff. They probably haven’t even done an autocross.  And it kind of seems beneath people when I talk to some of these guys to go stand out on a black top in a hot sun and chase cones or whatever. And they can just throw money at their problems, jump up to pro series and just run with the big dogs, whatever skill level. I mean, that’s kind of irrelevant, I guess, for this conversation.

And I always get a kick out of this when I picture this in my mind, alright. A lot of these same guys – you know what, I’m going to add a third category. No, I’m not. I’m just going to say, I’m just going to leave it as the rich people category. This is probably a different type of rich guy who may be isn’t as serious about having a performance driving career but I’d see this sometimes.

So picture this.  I’m going to paint you a picture of the typical guy who is not a fan of autocross and says that autocross isn’t a real racing.

Picture this. This guy drives may be a mid-range to upper-range BMW Coupe. He has the polo shirt and the $8,000 Bluetooth earpiece and that’s the kind of guy who looks down on autocrossers.  And I guess, there’s nothing wrong with it.

And actually, no.  This is  a great segue way. I’m glad I said it that way because these guys, these are the same guys – let me back up for a second. The argument, that most people use including these BMW polo wearing snobs, the argument that mostly these people use to say that autocross isn’t a real racing is the fact that it’s not wheel to wheel real racing and you’re not trading paint.

People are looking at it like they had that kind of like mystical fanatical fantasy “rubbing is racing” type situation back in the short track, early petty days or something like that. Well, most of these guys, these are the HPDE guys, the guys who like to go lap the local track.  They’re not really racing either. Well, maybe for a time they’re racing a little bit or something like that but they’re not racing wheel to wheel just like we’re not racing wheel to wheel.  There’s nothing wrong with that. And they’re certainly not trading paint with anyone. Can you imagine what will happen if someone scratch the paint on his BMW? That would be a nightmare. We’re not even going to go there.

So let me try and just come back at this idea that if it’s not wheel to wheel racing, it’s not a racing at all. I think that is completely absurd.

Let’s talk about the simplest type of motorsport. And that type of motorsport is, I can go faster than you from this point to this point and we call that, Drag Racing. I love drag racing.  There’s a lot of skill involve on a drag racing and all kinds of neat stuff.

We won’t get into that here. Honestly, I don’t know a whole lot about it anyway.  You cannot look at me and say that drag racing isn’t real racing. You’re at a pro level, all the way to the top fuel funny cars, millions and millions and millions of dollars of advertising and bouncing around that niche inside the racing world. So I think we can say that drag racing is legit.

Drag racing is a type of checkpoint racing which is just a point A to point B. It doesn’t really matter who’s in between. It could be a straight line. It could be a bunch of squiggly stuff like we do on autocross.  That’ not a big deal but obviously, checkpoint racing is a completely legitimate form of racing.  There’s just no denying that.

Let’s talk about Rally America.  That’s the United States premier stage rally championship series. I’m not talking about like SCCA rally cars. That stuff is cool but I’m talking about real drivers. Travis Pastrana, David Higgins – props to him.  He’s crashed Rally America for the past few years and Ken Block. All those guys race Rally America and they’re professional full-time drivers, no doubt about it. And that’s a checkpoint racing too, point A to point B, no big deal.

Along the same line, we can talk about the World Rally Championship.  In fact, guys like Sebastian Loeb, a seven time consecutive world stage rally champion. That is an incredible accomplishment. Countries all over the world, seven years in a row.  That’s amazing. This is probably the ultimate like hyper four wheel motorsports action. Ironically, it’s the worst sports to watch.  It truly is. But as far as accomplishments, it’s amazing.

These guys go seventy, eighty, ninety miles an hour through the woods, through the mountains on these little roads that never seen before. That is just incredible type of racing.

To continue on that same line, we can talk about any type of hill climb – Pikes Peak, Mount Washington, any type of endurance race, Baja racing.  We could talk about motorcycles or trophy trucks or whatever the case might be. That is all completely legitimate, popular stage racing. 

That’s the same thing as check point racing. And that’s what we do as autocrossers.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with checkpoint racing. You come up to me and tell me you have to be racing wheel to wheel and trading paint for it to be legit, I think that is absolutely ridiculous.

Anyone who’s using that argument just has no idea what they’re talking about or they’re on their high horse.  And honestly, you’re never going to be able to change their opinions but you need to just stop spending time around them because they’re going to rub off on you. That’s what happens when you spend time with people.

If you look around your five friends or whatever, you’re probably in the middle of just about everything – your income levels, maybe your political view, stuff like that. You just happen to be in the middle and that’s usually the way it is. I have no idea why.

Lucky for us, the joke’s kind of on them when it comes to autocross, these guys who were all about HDPE and all about stuff like that. Autocross is so cheap to enter, what is it forty, fifty bucks for a whole day? Where can you spend fifty bucks to go and just trash your car for an entire day?  That is pretty awesome.

The other cool thing about autocross is that, there’s nothing to hit when you’re out there. If you want to find the upper end, upper limits of your vehicle, no big deal. If you go pass them, man, you’re going to spit out and take out that cone, that’s not a big deal, okay? Hitting a cone is just not a big deal at all.  That’s the way you learn.

It’s such a good platform for getting your basics down. And I feel like a lot of people just wouldn’t be able to do that on a full pledge road racing course with walls and sand traps and all stuff like that because there’s nothing to hit in a parking lot. That’s beautiful.

The other great thing is that – I mean, sure you show up in your  daily driver. We had a some kind of 80’s Volvo Station Wagon. The thing leaned further than a boat in a hurricane. But the guy was having this time of his life and it didn’t matter. And these times obviously it weren’t great but he’s out there doing it.

You just can’t show up with anything to the race track.  It’s really not that safe and they normally don’t let you do it.

So I maintain fervently that autocross is the best way to start your racing career. It’s the best place to learn skills, to hone skills.  There’s a huge community wherever you go.

In my situation this past couple of weeks, I’ve been connecting with amazing drivers.  The community is already there. There’s no money exchange because no one is racing for purses or pay outs. It’s very competitive but it’s not competitive enough so that no one will help you out.

People at autocross love to help each other and that is the best part of learning environment because there’s always someone faster than you.

I’m not going to lie. I feel there’s a lot of pressure on me as the owner of howtobecomearacecardriver brand. When I show up at the regional event and run second, third, fourth, fifth, whatever, it’s kind of stressful because I’m supposed to be the authority figure to all these guys.

I mean, connecting with them is a lot harder for me than it would be for you because I have to swallow a lot of pride. And you have to do that if you want to get better and I’m absolutely doing that.

I love connecting with these guys and taking advice and realizing that, “Man, I just… I’m really good at this stuff but these guys have been doing it longer and I can shave off a lot of my learning curve by taking his advice.” And I think that’s really important.

So we know this is the best place to go, to learn new skills.  It’s the cheapest route to go to learn new skills.

Autocross is real racing. Randy Pobst did it, he launched an incredible career. There is no other Randy Pobst. There are other people who’ve launched their career from autocross. I mentioned it earlier but it doesn’t matter because one point of proof is enough for me to say that, “Okay. Anyone else can do this too.” Is it easy? Of course not.  If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

But look at me.  This is my first competitive year in autocross. I’m leading the point series in New Hampshire. I’m at the podium level at regional already because I put so much effort into what I’m doing.

I read all the time. I am quick to take advice from people who are better than me. There is so much that we can learn from all these other people. And autocross like I said, is the best learning environment because people want to help.  You just don’t get that when there’s money involve and it’s as simple as that.

Alright. Man, I’ve been waiting to get that out for like two weeks now. Obviously, you can tell I’m like absurdly passionate about this and I’m easily excitable. And I think the podcast is such a good outlet for stuff like this. I absolutely love it.

There you have it. I think I’m going to wrap it up there. Once again, show notes for this page are going to be howtobecomearacecardriver.com/podcast2. That’s for episode 2. And I guess, I’m just going to call it right there.

I’m Matt Covert, howtobecomearacecardriver.com. If you’re racing this weekend, good luck to you and I will talk to you soon.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to howtobecomearacecardriver.com’s podcast. For more free information about improving your driving technique, understanding vehicle dynamics and the winning motorsport lifestyle visit howtobecomearacecardriver.com.


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  1. I don’t think jumping into racing cars right away makes the best drivers. Get into karting if you’re serious about becoming a professional race car driver. Kart tracks are smaller and the power to weight ratio of a “rotax max” for example is incredible. You’ll get similar “corners per minute” to US style autocross, a lot more time behind the wheel to hone your control skills/instincts and you can even engage in wheel to racing without going bankrupt.

    This article talks about Randy Pobst who probably really got his serious racing skills karting at some point anyways. MY (iI know it’s not everyone’s) opinon is to go learn your raw control skills at karting, test your car at autocross to see how it feels in a safe environment but then don’t hesitate to jump into racing on a track if you can. Fast cone reading doesn’t apply to many situations outside of autocross if you already have strong car control abilities.

    I say this because I have a karting background, did an autocross leaning weekend once where by my… maybe 10th? run I was really fast. However an autox is typically just 4-6 runs in one whole day. It’s a challenging fromat for sure and you can learn courses faster by practicing it on a regular basis. But my point is that with an extra run or two I could be faster than most seasoned autocrossers because I have good car control skills, I just don’t practice this format enough to learn the track faster. I could learn to improve my cone reading skills, but then I’d have to regularly spend whole sundays where I only get 3-6 minutes behind the wheel. It really depends on how badly you want it.

    If you want to be an autocross national champ then knock yourself out and autocross as much as you can. Just know that most autocross champs more often than not just stay with autocross doing nationals each year, or already do serious karting, road racing etc and like autocross on the side too for fun. It’s kind of like how the GT Academy kids are marketed as coming from video games, when really they just did a bunch karting early on when they were younger. (once practicing in a video game simulation their minds can more easily fill in the blanks as to how the car feels)

    Solo/US autox is a fun social event with other car enthusiats but the lack of track time won’t allow you to progress as fast as karting does.

    If road racing is what you aspire too do, I’d spend more time taking karting seriously then solo is all I’m suggesting. If fast outdoor karting were more popular nationwide (well structured with a popular national club like SCCA to give good drivers visibility), more US drivers would make it out on the international scene.

    • Great insight! Thanks for sharing!

      Actually, Randy Pobst never raced karts. He got his start in autocross! It was a cheap way for him to race while in college. Tom O’Gorman in the Pirelli World Challenge did do some minimal karting (His family owns a kart track), but got his start in autocross too.

      While I don’t disagree with you, as I’m karting now. I do feel that autocross does help one get their start in performance driving and racing. It’s where I got my start. I started autocrossing about 16 years ago, and only recently got into karting. The biggest thing I learned from autocrossing is my innate ability to find the line in minimal laps. Because of the limited runs and fast pace of an autocross, I had to quickly assess the layout of the course and find the fastest line for me.

      I completely agree that karting needs to have a bigger following here in the States. Not only as a stepping-stone to cars, but as a viable option to go racing as a whole.

  2. There will always be snobbery/bias towards everyone’s own types of “racing”/fun. There’s debates on both sides of the spectrum, but as the above post already stated, if your car control is already good then autocross is a waste of time if your passion lies in road racing. Also, you mention the “low cost of autocrossing”. It’s 40-80 bucks but you get minimal seat time and you have to work for it (which means either freezing/burning up outside). That isn’t really low cost to me, especially if I have to drive a decent distance and waste my time doing it to go autocrossing.

    • I totally get where you’re coming from. Autocross isn’t for everyone, and it does have some downsides. Personally, I enjoy it because it forces you to learn a line in a short amount of time. That, and comparing the cost of an autocross to say an HPDE, you’re in it for a lot less money. Sure you get more seat time in a DE, but there’s no competition aspect.

  3. Make a more new posts please 🙂

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