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I’m a fairly new owner of my 2018 Focus ST2 and signed up for my first autocross event at Palm Beach International Raceway. I was hoping for a few helpful tips for someone new to this, as well as ST specific tips (I.e. shifting, braking, etc.)

Any and all advice is appreciated! Thank you in advance.
 

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Keep it high in the RPMs, watch for brake fade, adjust your tire pressure for the event, look ahead + where you want to go, might want to make sure the tank is at least 1/2 full to prevent fuel starvation when throwing side to side.
 

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The singular biggest thing is to always be looking ahead. At least 2 gates past the one coming up, but really as far as you can.

Edit: also bring chairs and sunblock, and comfortable shoes if you're not driving in tennies. You will be chasing others' cones

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The electronic differential uses the brakes, as well as traction control. Even if you turn off the TC, the E-diff is still going to use and heat up your brakes. I now carry a small tool kit and brake bleed kit with me to each event in case I boil fluid or have some other unplanned problem. My first event ended with a very mushy pedal, but I was smiles from ear to ear! Since I changed to fresh fluid, I've been fine, but now I go prepared. A LSD would greatly help, but that will wait till the clutch goes.

Also don't be a hero:

Driver - If you are going into a spin, both feet in. Stop the car and forget about the lap if you lose control. The course workers don't want to be hit because you are trying to save it (Whatever "it" is to you- the car, the lap time or your pride). You do need to get back onto the course promptly, if it is safe to do so, so that cars behind you are not delayed. But make sure it is SAFE, as in where are the course workers around you and where is that next car?

Course Worker - Keep your head on a pivot. Looking at the car that passed you last or the cone you are running to reset, leaves you blind to the next car coming. Look for that next car, other workers and even the car that passed you all at the same time. If it's you or the cone, let the cone get run over and call in the car for an extra run. But don't try to out run a car to reset the cone thinking you can get first. The driver is looking for the cone, not you. Don't get between a predator and his next kill.

In general, have fun and talk to people if you get the chance. You can learn SO MUCH. I can not over emphasize this. I'm not sure how social distancing will affect interactions, but don't be shy. And here is my weird tip (as a generalization, not a rule), people who drive sedans and hatches are usually more friendly. There was a Tangerine Scream ST that was nicknamed the Flying Taxi because it would take up to 5 passengers on each run! It was fun to watch everyone who got out of that car with smiles! On the other hand, the Corvette guys were very serious about their laps. I have yet to get a ride in one.

Also, don't worry about the numbers other people are putting down. Some cars are modified. At another event, I was comparing myself to a well set up ST. My best run was about 58 seconds. The driver was very friendly and ran a 54, with upgraded sway bars/tires/wheels/intercooler/tune/etc. So I thought, OK that's mechanical mods and I can't afford that right now. Then an old guy in a new stock Civic Si does a 52 second run... now that's a driver mod. Don't waste time comparing yourself to others. The only lap time that you should ever look at is your runs for the day. If you are getting the same times or better, all is good. If you are getting worse, then figure out why? Frustrated? Inconsistent? Forgot to turn of the TC... again!? A little lost on the course? A calm mind can find solutions much faster. You see, an autocross course, your car and yourself are all parts of a fun and challenging puzzle. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thank you guys very much for the tips! They were all extremely helpful and I am even more excited now. Looks like we should have clear skies and a high of 84 tomorrow which should be perfect for my first time.
 

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Thank you guys very much for the tips! They were all extremely helpful and I am even more excited now. Looks like we should have clear skies and a high of 84 tomorrow which should be perfect for my first time.
You can usually do ride-alongs with other people, so talk with people who are experienced and ask if you can ride with them and/or have them ride with you. That way they can give you real-time pointers about brake points, apexes, etc. I did this my first time and it was super most helpful.

Agree 100% with comfy shoes, sunblock, and make sure there's food/drink otherwise bring your own. Have a great time! And race your own times as opposed to the others' times.
 

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Sorry I haven't logged in a couple weeks, so missed this...

ST specific tips for "stock":
  • Turn off TC and ESC by holding down the button until it gets into the second screen. If conditions are slippery, leaving ESC activated doesn't hurt, but you always want TC off or else the car is likely to bog coming out of tight turns.
  • There is more braking capacity available than you can use in autox unless you're coming to a complete stop in a straight line. As in both rear wheels come off the ground if you're on the threshold of ABS. Most of your heavy braking will be 3/4 pedal at most.
  • Wheelspin is bad. It means you've applied so much throttle that even the e-differential can't control it and all you're doing is heating up the brakes. 1st gear launches can easily generate wheelspin, so try to find the throttle placement that is just at the edge of wheelspin. Consider shifting early to 2nd gear if you can't control wheelspin.
  • After testing, I run with a full tank of fuel. Yes, it is more weight, but it is weight that is down low & helps your center of gravity. Half tank of fuel is the worst for fuel slosh affecting the balance of the car (imagine the effect of three bowling balls rolling about 2 ft every time you stop/start/turn) and you can get fuel tank problems when running under 1/4 tank. I get around 10-12 runs before a quarter tank of fuel is burned.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hey guys! It’s been a busy couple weeks and I apologize for the late response. The autocross event was an absolute blast. I showed up very prepared and confident due to all of the helpful tips I received on this thread. I am very happy with my performance, given that this was my first event, and will definitely be attending others in the future. Met a handful of other ST owners and got some additional advice for that specific course. My biggest takeaway was that the best mod for this course is definitely the driver, with the second best being tires. These stock tires slide a lot around turns, but that’s part of the fun I suppose!

In the meantime, I’ve already ordered the Cobb AP and have a few other items on my list! Really looking forward to seeing what this car can do (within reason) and am loving it as my DD. Here are a few shots from the event!
 

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Glad to hear you loved it and will be back. This car is great for autocross, I wish more people used it to it's potential.

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If you want some upgrades that really help with autoX in addition to tires, power isn't something you need to focus on. Look into the below (you may already have some of these, don't know your mods):
RMM
Coils or struts/springs
Sway/traction bars

Personally I'm still working on my driver mod as that has quite a way to go!
 

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Keep in mind that if you do get addicted to this sport, certain mods can bump you up into another class which can potentially be a good or a bad thing ( not usually fun when you are new getting your ass waxed by a stock car, or running with cars that are full prepped for a particular class and getting stomped by them).

Aside from getting plenty of quality seat time, my next advice would be to look into the rule book, especially if your running in SCCA.
 
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Keep in mind that if you do get addicted to this sport, certain mods can bump you up into another class which can potentially be a good or a bad thing ( not usually fun when you are new getting your ass waxed by a stock car, or running with cars that are full prepped for a particular class and getting stomped by them).

Aside from getting plenty of quality seat time, my next advice would be to look into the rule book, especially if your running in SCCA.
That’s a very good point! Luckily the event I was in recently was based off of cylinders and N/A vs turbo/supercharged. I don’t plan to do too much except for maybe tires and sway bar upgrades. It’s a DD so moderate power gains will still be fun but it will be a hobby if anything.
 
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