Autotest is all about car control. The challenge is to negotiate as quickly as possible a memorised, low-speed course without hitting any markers.
While you will rarely venture out of first and reverse gears, you will need to get the hang of handbrake turns, J-turns and the like – unless you want to spend all day doing three-point turns and coming last, that is!
How do Autotests work?
Drivers compete on courses – usually on tarmac or grass areas such as car parks or smooth fields – marked out by plastic pylons or cones. They tackle a number of tests, with two attempts at each. The driver with the lowest accumulated time is the winner, although penalties are incurred for hitting cones, failing to stop on a line, or for taking the wrong route.
So how do I start?
Autotests are incredibly accessible, with numerous events every weekend from club level up to the Link-Up Ltd MSA British Autotest Championship. The BTRDA also runs a series – the Demon Tweeks Direct BTRDA Autotest Championship, and there are further regional championships in every area of the country.
You’ll need to be at least 16 years old, or 14 for Production Car Autotests. First, go to some events and chat with some of the competitors and organisers, who will be happy to talk you through everything you need to know and answer any questions you may have.
Next, join your local club. If you want to compete at regional level or above, you will need a Non-Race Clubman Competition Licence. Then, of course, you will need a car…
What kind of car do I need?
Most people start off in their road cars; small hatchbacks have proved popular and competitive in recent years. Obviously, stretched limos are not so manoeuvrable, although you’ll certainly become a crowd favourite.
The MSA championship has seven classes to enable drivers to compete against similar machinery and most other events have class structures too. These are split into saloons, sports cars and modified Specials. They may also be split by engine size, as well as front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive.
It’s estimated that, competing with your standard road car, you can complete a season of thr MSA British Autotest Championship for as little as £700, while Regional or Club level championships can be even cheaper.
If Autotests seem a little daunting and you would rather have a go at something simpler to start with, consider AutoSOLOs, which are much the same but don’t require any reversing, generally use simpler course layouts and are only open to standard road cars, which must be driven to and from the event.
What equipment do I need?
Because Autotests are low-speed events you don’t need special safety gear such as helmets or overalls, which makes this one of the most readily accessible motor sport disciplines.
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.