Your first autocross event can be a lot of fun. New experiences, fast driving and great friends await. It’s one of the easiest competitive motorsports you can get into, and you can dramatically improve your driving skills and accuracy in a safe and welcoming environment.

There are a few things you can do that will help you enjoy the day and get the most out of your first time at autocross. Here are 12 tips to get started.

1. Get Your Car Ready Beforehand

Get your car ready before you go. Autocross is an easy motorsport to get into. Just bring a car in good working order. That means no worn or loose suspension parts, no bald or damaged tires, a properly secured battery, good brakes, working seatbelts and no major leaks. Set the fluid levels and tire pressures to factory levels and remove any loose items from your car.

2. Arrive Early to Get Set up

Arrive early to the event. Motorsports folks are a punctual bunch and most will get to the event early. When it’s your first autocross, an early start is a big help. You’ll be less stressed since you won’t be rushed and you’ll end up with plenty of time to get settled in.

3. Ask for Help If You Need It

Autocross enthusiasts tend to be friendly and helpful people. Look around for more experienced participants and ask for help on what to do and where to go whenever you’re not sure. Chances are you’ll find someone to walk you through the process, plus you’ll probably make some new friends.

4. Come Prepared Rain or Shine

Make sure your first autocross is a great experience by coming prepared for the event. Autocross tends to run in any weather, so bring appropriate clothing and weather gear. Pack your close-toed shoes, drinks and snacks, plastic tote to hold your belongings, your Snell-rated helmet, your license, and a signed minor waiver (if you’re participating in an under-18 event).

5. Check in at Registration First

When you first get to the event, head to the registration area to check in. You’ll get the formalities over right away and the check-in folks will be able to answer any questions you have. Look for a tent, trailer or other well-marked place. Typically you will be given a car number, a run group, run schedule and a volunteer work assignment for when you’re not driving.

6. Ace the Tech Inspection

All motorsport events include a quick technical and safety check of each vehicle before it drives on the course. Your tech will likely be a fellow autocrosser and volunteer. Ace your inspection by emptying out your car and opening the hood and the trunk for your inspectors.

7. Join the Novice Course Walk

Join the novice course walk group or ask someone with more experience to take a walk with you and help you get a feel for how to look at the course and spot the most important cones. Walk the course another 1–2 times if you can and think about your plan for driving it. Since you only get a few runs on the course, the more familiar you are with it, the better.

8. Attend the Driver’s Meeting

Autocross and other motorsports events typically offer a driver’s meeting early in the day. Be sure to attend. Not only is attendance mandatory for some events, the driver’s meeting will also provide you with great information about the site and course, the event schedule, flagging, pylon penalties, instructor availability and any important safety items.

9. Help Out and Make Friends

Participating in autocross is more than just driving. You also get to help out. Like the people who helped you register, did your tech inspection and hosted the driver’s meeting, you’ll play double-duty as a driver in the day’s event as well as an event volunteer. By helping, you’ll learn even more about autocross, get to meet even more people and make more friends.

10. Watch and Learn from Others

Watching other drivers before your run is a great way to learn more about autocross and improve your own time and accuracy on the course. Pay attention to what works well for other drivers and try to incorporate those approaches into your own runs.

11. Drive Your First Autocross Course

The first time you drive your first run of the course, pick a speed that allows you to stay on the course. Remember the goal of autocross isn’t just speed but accuracy. Stay in bounds and avoid the cones. You can always drive faster on your next run through the course.

12. Keep Learning and Improving

Autocross doesn’t end with your last course run. There’s always more to learn. Take the opportunity to discuss your performance with other participants. Think back about your day after the event. Jot down some notes about where you might be able to improve at your next event. If you finish early, stick around to watch others drive and pick up some tips.

One bonus tip before you head out for your first autocross — make sure you have insurance for your car. Even though autocross is very safe, there’s a chance you could have an accident and most auto insurance policies limit coverage for competition events.

If your policy has exclusions for your car on the course, don’t worry. We offer an AutoCross with Off-Track Insurance policy for just such occasions. This annual policy for both licensed and non-licensed vehicles provides coverage for a full season of autocross events, plus you can add annual coverage for all of your race-related parts, equipment and trailers. It’s a great way to protect your car from damage while you’re trying to beat your best time at your next event.