Fast Times in the Metro
The morning sun on your windshield makes you squint. Just a few seconds more. The flag drops and you accelerate forward, eyes looking where you want to go.
As you shift into second gear your tires chirp and the rear of your car slides a little and regains traction. You floor the accelerator. Exiting the big sweeping turn as quickly as your car can hold the line and you see several police cruisers. You’re breaking some laws—if you were on the street that is… but you aren’t. You’re at the sheriff’s training facility in Oklahoma City and you’re at an autocross event.
As you pull back into the staging area, your buddies razz you about clipping a cone. That’ll cost you a second off your time. You plot your revenge as you idle your car back up to starting line. Your mission: shave a full second off your last run—and don’t hit any cones.
For some local car enthusiasts, there is no better rush than a weekend autocross event. They’re low key, low cost and a great way to improve your driving skills. Several local car clubs sponsor events here. This particular outing happens to be the OKC Porsche Club’s event. There are quite a few Porsches here, but there are also cars of other makes. Most of the local clubs are not brand exclusive.
Today’s course starts off with a slalom, a wide turn, short straights and a hairpin turn opening up to a long straightaway. The course winds down with a series of tight turns flanked by dozens of orange cones. “There’s no way to get through that quickly—it takes skill, a lot of footwork and restraint to not take out a bunch of cones,” said Matt Herndon, the club Vice President and Autocross Chairman. He designed the course and seems pretty pleased with it. “When I set up the track I try and keep two different types of cars in mind—the high horsepower ones and the small wheel base ones. I try to set up the track the night before the event and hope I have challenged the drivers on everything.”
The sheriff’s training facility is unique in design. It consists of a large paved area joined to multiple single and double wide lanes that wrap around turns. The layout offers the club’s course designers a variety of options for events as well as a realistic training ground for law enforcement.
“Managing a high speed pursuit is something that must be learned. The track allows deputies the opportunity to operate their assigned vehicles in emergency mode,” said Capt. Anderson of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department. Currently, there are approximately 20 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies who utilize the facility at no cost.
By the afternoon, the intensity is increasing. You’re calculating how to cut a corner tighter or what line to take through the big sweeping turn so you can exit quicker. It’s like math, but really fun math. And it’s all over in 79.24 seconds. Your best time of the day.
“This is a place to push your car and understand its limits—not on the street.” explains Brad Edwards as he slips on his helmet and readies his modified Mazda for its next run.
To be clear, this is not racing. Drivers only compete against the clock. At the end of the event someone will be the quickest, but for many of the participants that’s not the point. “I’m here for the seat time,” said Edwards. “More driving time… the better I get.”
“Ferraris, Corvettes and Honda Civics. Some people even trailer in dedicated race cars, but we also have street cars, project cars and stock vehicles enter. Our events are for all levels of drivers, from beginners to more advanced. All car makes are invited. This year we are hosting events one Sunday each month from March through October,“ said Mark Cox, Oklahoma Z Car Club events coordinator.
There are several local clubs that run events at the Sheriff’s track. The local BMW, Porsche, Corvette, Mustang and Z Car clubs run here. Each of the clubs’ websites outline the rules for participation.
“This is fun and local. If you want more speed or a bigger track experience there’s always Hallett. That’s about an hour away.” Edwards is referring to Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Jennings OK, just west of Tulsa. Hallett offers a program called High Speed Touring that utilizes their 1.8 mile technical road course. Edwards continues, “It’s a rush being on a real race track with other cars. They have novice and advanced groups—and ride-along instructors.”
So if you you’d like to explore your car’s performance, there’s no need to do it on our local byways. Find a club and sign yourself up for some track time. Your car will be glad you did.
Oklahoma Z Car Club okzcc.com | Porsche Club of America pca-warbonnet.org | BMW Car Club of America sunbeltbmwcca.org | Oklahoma Mustang Club okmustangclub.com | Sports Car Club of America gasketgazette.org | Hallett Motor Racing Circuit hallettracing.com