LIMESTONE — Loring Commerce Center becomes the “Center of Speed” again this weekend as the Cumberland Motor Club hosts autocross events Saturday and Sunday on the runway of the former Loring Air Base. There will be two national-caliber Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) courses set up, one for Saturday and the other for Sunday.
In July, the runway became the site of a world record speed of 311 plus miles per hour set by Bill Warner of Florida on a Suzuki motorcycle.
This weekend top speed will not be the goal of the autocross. Instead, the emphasis will be on driving skills.
According to autocross chairman Per Chris Moberg, “the Loring venue is big beyond words, we struggle to describe it. For autocross it is perfect with its large paved areas and flat unobstructed runoff.”
Moberg, who will be driving his 1971 Saab Sonnett and 2010 Intrepid Race Kart said, “autocross allows me to hone my driving skills in a way I simply cannot do on the public roads. It is cheap to participate and there is little risk to your car. But most of all it is plain fun and exciting.”
Autocross is a timed competition where drivers navigate, one at a time, through a temporary course marked by cones. The Loring course will be one of the longest in the nation, with an average time of 1 minute, 20 seconds. Speeds will be slower than purpose-built courses yet will exceed interstate speeds on parts of the twisty circuit.
The class structure for the event will allow drivers to race vehicles from economy cars to specialty race vehicles. Go-karts also will run the autocross and will turn in some of the fastest times of the day.
According to officials of the Cumberland Motor Club, racing your street vehicle is relatively simple. Each vehicle will be given a thorough inspection to make sure nothing will fall off the car and that it is in good mechanical condition. Wheels and suspension should be bolted tightly. Wheel bearings should have no excessive play. The battery should be bolted or securely clamped. There should be no fluid leaks and no loose items in the car.
After technical inspection, first-time racers will go through orientation where they will learn about safety procedures and the meaning of the marker cones, followed by a drive through the course to get familiar with the layout. Then they will strap on a helmet and get in line to go through the course at speed.
Officials recommend that anyone arriving Friday walk the course with someone with experience who would be willing to show the preferred line through the corners and where the apex or turning point of a corner is located. Racers may even be able to meet the course designer, who may give away some “secrets” about how to follow the course.
Knocking down course markers will cost a two-second time penalty. Skids may be expected by first-timers, and even veteran racers upon occasion have been known to exceed their car’s limits. With generous runoff areas, little chance for car damage exists. Learn from mistakes made on each run with a goal of bettering the times on each run. Competitors may get six or more runs each session.
Jake Daniele, who will be driving his purpose-built Caterham 7 at the autocross, said, “when I started, my friends and I used to say, ‘friends don’t let friends apex early.’”
Mini Cooper S driver Michael Picher advises, “brake as late as possible and then drive through the corner. Don’t brake and turn at the same time.”
Acura Integra and Master Kart driver Dwight Spencer added, “I like the phrase, ‘driving is all about the corners.’”
For information about the autocross at the Loring Commerce Center, visit the Cumberland Motor Club’s website at www.cumberlandmotorclub.com. The preregistration cost is $35 per day for members and $45 for nonmembers. On-site registrations are $45 for members and $55 for nonmembers. There are 84 preregistered for the event with more than 100 expected. Registration and technical inspection start at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.