All About Autotesting- with Darren Quille
First of all I’ll start with the basics, what is Autotesting?
It is one of Ireland’s oldest forms of motorsport and is a precision driving time trial. At the start of the day you get handed 3 maps along with 3 laid out tests. The test is marked out on the tarmac surface using pylons with chalked lines between selected pylons. You have to learn the tests before you drive them, which adds to the difficulty of the driving- and is an added pressure. The most effective way to learn a test is to walk it using your map two or three times to memorise it before racing commences. Some of the manoeuvres include circling pylons, ‘J’ turns and hand brake turns. This sport also makes for good spectating as there is a lot of action in a small area. Most venues are carparks or business parks where there are large tarmac areas, this mixed with a wide array of cars from mini’s all the way to large saloons like Mazda MX5 (yes they’re large!). So now that you have the tests in your head, it’s time to drive them. If you don’t follow the test diagram exactly, it’s known as a fail. A fail is a time added to your time sheet which is calculated as the fastest time in your class plus 20 secs. If you touch a pylon it’s a 5 second penalty or if you don’t cross a line correctly; ie: three wheels across the line instead of stopping astride ( two wheels each side of the line,) is also counted as a 5 second penalty. The winner is the driver with the lowest combined times throughout the day, so it does pay to be slightly careful and make the manoeuvres count.
The classes are as follows A,B,C,D,E.
A is exclusively for mini saloons. B is fwd specials, for example: home builds; ie: Mini Specials, roof cut off etc. C is RWD Sportscars and Specials, for example: Westfield, MX5, etc. D is all saloons other than Minis up to 1300cc for example: Nova, Starlet, etc. E is all saloons other than Mini’s over 1300cc for example: Civic. These are the most common cars found in the classes but there is a class for any car that you want to enter. You do need a Motorsport Ireland licence to race this form of Motorsport. But a one day licence is available to people that just want to give it a try… there is no special clothing required, no helmet but racing shoes do help with control.
The Car: So the cars have all one thing in common- they have to be agile. The tests only use first and reverse gears which may sound slow, but trust me it’s a fast action sport, so to make the cars agile, the easiest way is to make them light. This explains why they would cut the roof off a Mini to make a Special and the use of lightweight materials such as fibre glass and carbon fibre. The only other thing you will want in your car is a limited slip diff which make the two driven wheels spin together. This makes circling a pylon much easier but this is not a must. The only actual requirement for race entry is a 2wd vehicle and a lap seat belt! Motorsport Ireland are keen to see participants entering events in production cars, which facilitates a driver to enter their own 2wd road car. This takes the sport back to its origins (Cross road autotest) where you would drive to the event, they would block off a section of a road and create an Autotest. This was obviously done with all the right authorities informed and on board. With the roads getting busy they moved to closed off car parks and business parks. So essentially if you have a car, there is a class for you to complete in and have fun. The regulations are pretty open with the two main restrictions; tyre choice and it can’t be 4wd. If u stick with a standard road tyre you’re fine, but see the list if you’re unsure. A banned tyre list is issues to all registered drivers at the start of each season. These mainly include slicks / race tyres to keep costs down. After this, you can do what you want! Any engine you want, any shell etc…
Where? So where or when do these autotests happen? There are three Championship events held in Ireland every year; The Hewison, The Munster and Northern Ireland. Alongside these championship rounds, local motor clubs around the country will regularly host their own autotesting events. The autotests happen from Waterford to Cork to Sligo to Dublin and everywhere in-between. They are nationwide so you’re never too far away from one if you want to pop down and have a look. Spectator entry is free and always will be. The drivers are all very friendly and are keen to see the sport grow. The events take place mainly at the weekends, some on Saturdays or Sundays and some are even a two day event. The calendar can be found on www.tdcireland.com just click on fixtures on the top bar and all the dates are there.
The Test Layout
As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a map of an autotest. The solid line is driving forward and the dotted line is reversing. So if you follow the example you will see the manouvres you will need to do to complete the test. I would personally recommend anyone even half interested in motorsport to come to a autotest, chat to us, have a look at the cars, and even give it a go yourself. The car control skills you gain from autotesting are amazing , you will never give out about parking in a multi storey again!!!
Useful websites : http://www.motorsportireland.com/disciplines/autotest.aspx
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