When it comes to affordable motorsport, there isn’t much that can beat a grass autotest. Almost every motor club runs one as it’s a great introduction to motorsport.
No competition license is required, and due to the slow speeds, neither are overalls or a helmet. As for the car, literally anything can be used, from a totally standard shopping car upwards, with shorter cars fairing best on the twisty courses. Power is more of a hindrance on the low grip surface with small hatchbacks often defeating full blown rally cars. The low grip also means virtually no wear on your tyres. As for entry fee, it’s typically less than £20 per person and the fuel used is negligible. You can even double drive with one car being used by two people.
The format is simple. A course is laid out using numbered cones on a grass field with the aim being to drive the course in the quickest possible time. Penalties are applied if you hit a cone or don’t follow the course correctly. Fortunately, everyone gets at least two attempts at each course with only the fastest being counted, so you can make a mistake and still recover. There are usually at least 4 different courses throughout the event. Unlike a traditional tarmac autotest, there is no reversing. This makes it more flowing and easier on the car.
Competitors are provided with a diagram showing the correct course route. The course is then walked to help learn the route and provide an opportunity to see how best to approach each part of the course. What line to take, whether to use the handbrake etc. Once completed, it’s into the car to line up ready for the first run. Passengers can be taken along for the ride and to help the driver navigate the course but it’s not compulsory.
The course is typically not large and most cars will rarely get out of second gear. Despite the lack of speed, the course provides an intense experience as you try to string together the corners to go as quickly as possible without hitting anything or going off-route. The slippery grass surface makes for easy handbrake turns, essential on the tighter sections. Although using the handbrake has a large grin factor, using it too much loses momentum which is the key to a quick time.
As well as a great day out, your car control will improve as you negotiate the slippery course, controlling the understeer, oversteer, using the handbrake etc, and all at low speed where there’s no risk of damaging your car. All useful skills if you later progress to faster events. Once into the swing of it, you can be genuinely competitive in a car with absolutely no modifications. What’s not to like!