*MAY 1-2: DE CANCELLED DUE TO STAY-AT-HOME ORDER*

UCR Autocross Chatham

Intense, precise driving …in a parking lot!

THE JOHN D. BRADLEY Convention Centre in Chatham was rocked on a lovely warm September Sunday by the sound of Porsches roaring around an autocross track laid out in the parking lot. UCR autocross organizers Mario Marrello and Pete Koepfgen laid on a stellar event, low key and informal, with a track marked out with cones combining slalom sections, long fast bends, narrow gates, a tight fast hairpin turn, and a fast slalom run to the finish line complete with a DNF cone for overshooting the finish line. An electronic timing system was in place, providing immediate results to the drivers down to 2 decimal places, and it is surprising how quickly that becomes an incentive to drive better and get around the course faster.

Blasting off the line, roaring down through the slalom, hammering around the long sweeping right hander, blasting back and absolutely heaving tightly around the hairpin…

After the comprehensive driver briefing Mario and Pete led a track walk, and just like at Mosport/CTMP DE events so much is learned by walking the course and walking around the cones as you will drive them. Finally, to set the scene Mario did a demo lap of the track, in his very-stock looking Cayenne, and demonstrated first of all that even a Gen-1 Cayenne is a mighty sports car for this type of event.

Blasting off the line, roaring down through the slalom, hammering around the long sweeping right hander, blasting back and absolutely heaving tightly around the hairpin, tires scrabbling for grip, roaring away back down the slalom, around the long sweeper again, away and then a fast left to come roaring down the last slalom section and stopping, breaking the timing beam but not hitting the DNF cone. OK. so that’s what we’re doing then…

A whole range of cars got lined up and were off and running, one at a time, around the track. First runs were mainly tentative, learning the track. Naming no names but at least one person was concentrating so hard on making the second turn he completely missed the first turn right off the line. Several people lost the plot out there on the course and fumbled their way home. It’s tricky remembering the route, even though the cones are set up to point you in the right direction. We had about 10+ Porsches and maybe 10 other cars, including a BMW 2002 saloon that hurtled around with a full complement of passengers, front and back. 

The 911’s mean business and are starting to oversteer their way around the hairpin, swinging the back end around, tires ripping up the dust and grit from the parking lot surface, and blasting to the next braking zone.

First runs done, getting timing results, everyone’s got the hang of this now and everyone’s getting tidier and faster. Well, faster anyway. The 911’s mean business and are starting to oversteer their way around the hairpin, swinging the back end around, tires ripping up the dust and grit from the parking lot surface, and blasting to the next braking zone. 968s have tires squealing all over the place, a Macan is going around just like Mario’s Cayenne, lots of lean but tightly on-line and a beautiful top-down 986 Boxster is looking smooth out there.

Everyone is having a fun time, people are yelling excitedly and laughing about their latest time, and some are getting tips and feedback from Pete for improvement. Now it’s well into the afternoon, and some cars are heading home, and the starting line-up is getting shorter. A few final full-on runs get personal best times (for me anyway) and we call it a day. Everyone has had a great time – enthusiastic crowd, great cars and a nice venue to explore high performance driving. Huge thanks and appreciation to Mario, Pete and the people who help them for a super day. </>

Story and photos by Roger Stopford, UCR Member

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