Autocross is an ideal discipline for novices looking to get their first taste of competitive motor sport. Put simply, the aim is to tackle a temporary course, usually between 800 and 1200 metres long in a grass or stubble field, against the clock.

While it is a signature discipline of grass roots, budget motor sport, you can compete right up to national level in the MSA British Autocross Championship – in 2010 Ross Westgarth became the youngest ever MSA British Champion in any discipline when he won the Autocross title aged 16.

How does Autocross work?

There are usually heats of three or four laps, a practice run and at least two timed runs, the best of which counts towards the results. While it is not a racing discipline there may be multiple cars on the course at any one time, depending on course space and conditions.

There are different classes, which are determined by engine size. Cars can also be double driven, so you can team up with friends or family and halve the cost of competing.

How do I start?

The Autocross community is very friendly, so go to an event or two and have a chat with some of the competitors and organisers.

If you then find yourself keen to have a go, you need to be at least 16 years old and a member of an MSA-registered club. You will also need a Non-Race National B Competition Licence, for which no test is required.

Some events run Junior Autocross for competitors as young as 14, though they are restricted to one particular class of vehicle and limited to a maximum of three laps per heat.

What kind of car do I need?

Autocross vehicles vary from virtually standard road cars, some of which are driven to and from the events, up to Rally-spec cars, Autocross saloons and even modified ‘Specials’.

You need to have a fire extinguisher fixed in the car and mud flaps fitted behind each wheel. Roll cages and harnesses are recommended, and are mandatory in Junior Autocross.

Before you get started on these modifications, make sure you read the Autocross section of the latest MSA Competitors’ and Officials’ Yearbook carefully – you will get a copy with your MSA Competition Licence.

What equipment do I need?

You will need a helmet and overalls as specified by the Autocross regulations in the MSA Competitors’ and Officials’ Yearbook. Make sure you read this carefully, as you much have the right ‘standard’ of equipment – if you turn up to an event with the wrong standards, you won’t be allowed to compete.

Remember that it is the competitor's responsibility to ensure that their vehicle and equipment comply with both the MSA's General Regulations (detailed in the MSA Competitors' and Officials' Yearbook) and the Supplementary Regulations (SRs) of the event or championship.