So you finally bought that fancy sports car. You spent months comparing sports packages, horsepower numbers, zero-to-60 times, brakes, tires and transmissions. But will you ever truly get a chance to channel your inner race-car driver — legally?
The Sports Car Club of America has a trail of burned rubber with your name on it.
You may have noticed the line of intriguing cars — Porsches, Corvettes, modified Mazda Miatas, or even a rusty old car with numbers taped on its doors — driving around traffic cones at Expo Idaho’s parking lot on a Saturday or Sunday.
That’s the local autocross club. What you can’t see, and won’t until you stop and talk with them, is that racing is a sport that brings together people from all walks of life. They love their cars, and they’re passionate about learning how to drive them.
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Neal Stanley of Meridian, president of the Snake River Region SCCA, said the club puts on about 18 events a year. People are invited to come and watch.
FUN VS. SAFETY
Is it safe? Yes, says Stanley, one of the benefits of being part of a large, national automotive club. With its decades of experience, the SCCA has developed safety guidelines that are taken very seriously.
Drivers and passengers wear helmets. The course is fenced, so no other cars or unsuspecting bicyclists or pedestrians can wander into harm’s way. The courses are designed to avoid lightpoles and other obstacles.
“The main thing, from my perspective, is to be safe,” Stanley said. “The main thing from the members’ perspective is — they want to have fun with their car.”
You don’t have to have an expensive car to have a blast.
Joe Lissman of Ontario, Ore., has as much fun driving his 1972 Datsun B110 on the course as the owner of a high-performance Porsche Cayman S or sleek Lotus Elise.
“There are people here that have more money in their tires than I have in my entire car,” Lissman said. “It’s not about money. It’s about coming here and having fun.”
You don’t have to have a race car to get involved.
Some members might drop their kids off at soccer, come drive their everyday car around the course and then pick up groceries on the way home.
“Just knowing how fast your car will, or will not, maneuver is a big advantage if you’re a driver and you’re coming up to an obstacle in the road,” Stanley said.
A mother of seven children and a grandmother, Suzanne Malmgren of Boise said she wasn’t sure she would like autocross on her first visit.
“I went one run and I was hooked,” she said. “It’s so, so fun.”
That was 10 years ago. Malmgren now drives a 2005 red Corvette C6 around the autocross cones. She can be heard above the roar of her engine shouting directions to herself.
“It’s really fun to go around a corner well, feel the car grip, and know what that feels like, and know the limits of your car,” Malmgren said.
“I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket in my life,” she said while waiting for another attempt to improve her time. “My kids, I bring them out. They don’t get speeding tickets. ... This is where they play hard.”
Everybody old enough to drive in her family has been to the track and knows how to handle a car, she said.
John Schultz, a retired Boise construction consultant, started autocross 20 years ago after open-heart surgery at age 59. Today, at 80, Schultz is the oldest driver of the 134 registered members in the Snake River region. He drives one of the fastest cars: A Radical Pro Sport designed for the track and built in England.
“When you’re out there on the track, you’re really not competing against everybody else,” Schultz said. “You’re competing against yourself.”
Check it out this Saturday and Sunday at Expo Idaho
Cars usually begin running the course after 9:15 a.m. If you want to to give it a try, you can register your car at 8 a.m. A fee to cover insurance costs is required. For information, check out the Snake River Region SCCA website at srrscca.com, where you can pre-pay and register for the event. A “Getting Started” tab on the website helps answer questions.