More Seat Time - Autocross or Drags? – Full Spectrum Performance

More Seat Time - Autocross or Drags?

Recently I had a discussion with a friend about getting his butt out to an autocross. He told me that he preferred drag racing to autocross because you get more seat time at the drags. Personally, I like doing both though I will never miss an autocross. Both are lots of fun and you can get extremely competitive with both disciplines. His response got me thinking and here's my response in regards to seat time or time spent racing. I am not including time attack, HPDEs, rally or drift in this article. Just what sparked the initial thought. 
Do you get more seat time at the drags or in an afternoon autocrossing? 
In this article, I am going to not count the most important part of driving... education either through tutorials or book learning. This is strictly for guys that think one race day allows you more time with your butt in the seat bangin' gears.
 Everyone wants more seat time. I mean, seat time is one of the reasons that you bought your car. To drive it. To make it do what you want, faster than anyone else. To hold bragging rights amongst friends.  
So, I've been thinking about autocross and drag racing. One argument of not going to autocross is: Why would I want to spend an afternoon racing and only get such little seat time when I can go drag racing and get more? 
Let's delve into that statement a little bit.
In a standard autocross you will get 6 runs that last 35 (short course) to 50 seconds (for a long course). So you are getting 210 seconds (short) or 300 seconds (long) of seat time. Each run you will get faster as you learn the course, your car, and the surface.
Now, this is seat time that is going to take you to limits of your driving ability. You are going to earn serious respect for your car, no matter what level of modification. You are going to learn lessons that can be applied every day. Combatting understeer, recovering from oversteer, the effect that braking early or late will have on your car at road speeds. 
Okay, okay I know what you're saying now. "But at an autocross, I have to work and it takes extra time." Work is part of the camaraderie of the sport. Everyone shows up, races and works. This is how and when you get to meet new people who share a common interest and more people you can heckle as you get to know better. 
Now let's look at going to the drag strip
I am assuming an average run here. I'm going to assume you have a good car and can drive it. You are looking at 12 seconds (you're pretty quick). Assuming you want the same seat time as you get autocrossing you would need to take 17.5 runs that night (assuming short course) or 25 runs (long course). 
I know lots of people with cars of vastly different levels of modification from stock to full stupid. I don't know many people who have cars that are capable of running 17.5 passes in an evening much less 25 passes. Most people will make 5 to 6 passes (72 seconds). 
You are going to learn how to launch your car. You are going to work on timing the lights for your best reaction time. You are going to learn shift points and possibly some twitch input steering to control wiggles. You are most likely going to come out of the night wanting more power so you can compete with x car or y friend.
Drag racing is fun, but it's the car much less than the driver. Don't get me wrong, at high level racing the driver has massive influence as the cars get closer build wise, but at the part of development where someone is wanting seat time the car will trump the driver most of the time. 
As you can see, a day autocrossing will allow you much more time to get the seat time that so many people crave. Drag, while it's a fun night out, will usually result in less time learning your car and developing your driving. You're gonna have a lot of opportunities to beat up on your friends or get it broken off in your rear end and have to endure the relentless teasing that is sure to follow.
So, do yourself a favor. Look up your local autocross and go get more time driving and learning. Then take your idiot friends out to the strip and earn those bragging rights back. Then take him to an autocross and really get a chance to rub it in while making both of you better drivers.

Go enjoy your car, but don't forego one of the best experiences in motorsports because you don't get enough time driving in an autocross. You get more!  

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  • Good read. Ive made this arguement w friends a ton. Ameture endurance racing such as gp2 or evem LeMons, will give even more seat time. Its going to be a dedicated track rat though.

    • Matthew Hudson