Autograss is basically car racing on natural surfaces, usually a farming field, with a fresh track starting off as grass. It is usually held on quarter-mile oval tracks. Although highly spectacular to watch, it is first and foremost a participatory sport. Meetings are promoted by non-profit-making clubs, which are affiliated to the sport's governing body, the National Autograss Sports Association.
Autograss racing is a true family sport – anyone can take part. Junior drivers may start racing at 12 years old, moving into the adult classes at 16; conversely, some drivers are racing competitively well into their 60s and 70s. Ladies’ races are held at every meeting and the sharing of cars between family members is encouraged. It is an affordable motor sport. Individuals can race in the most basic classes (such as Class 1, for standard 1000cc Minis with only safety modifications) for an initial outlay of under £500 and minimal running costs. There are ten classes of car ranging from production saloons, through progressively wilder Modified machinery to the super-fast single-seat Specials.
Class 1 cars are standard Minis. As with all Autograss cars they have the trim, dashboard and seats removed. The engine is standard with very little modification allowed. The only engine capacity allowed is 998cc, in either the A series or A+ types. A roll cage is installed and fire extinguisher fitted, within easy reach of the driver. Juniors, ages 12 - 16, are allowed to drive class 1 cars in separate races. This class was previously restricted to Minis, but the Fiat Cinquecento and Citroen AX have been added to the list of eligible cars for 2006.
Class 2 is open to front or rear wheel drive cars up to 1300cc. The engine can be either front or rear, and both are popular. Cars seen most regularly in this class are Mk2 Escorts and Skoda Estelles. Since the introduction of front wheel drive cars into this class the Vauxhall Nova has become one of the favourites. Only 2 valve/cylinder cars are allowed and there is a minimum length requirement, preventing use of 1275cc Minis. The inlet tract is fitted with a restrictor, to even out performance amongst the vast collection of vehicles used.
Class 3 is the first of the unlimited capacity classes. Unlimited modifications and unlimited capacity are allowed; the only restrictions are a maximum of 2 valves per cylinder and front engine, rear wheel drive. This leads to very powerful cars with little weight over the driving wheels, and very sideways action.
Class 4 is a modified class, with engine capacities allowed up to 1130cc. Any engine modification is allowed, except turbo and super charging. This is a class not for the shallow of pocket; engines are extensively modified to bring them to a competitive level, as a specific of the rules is that the original engine and position are retained.
Class 5 is a very popular starting point for people wanting to drive modified saloons. Engine capacities from 1131 to 1420cc are allowed, the engine does not have to be the original or in the original position. A lot of cars run rear engines to help improve grip.
Class 6 is for cars with unlimited engine capacity and modifications in a front engine/front wheel drive combination. Costs to compete at the top level can be high.
Class 7 is restricted to rear wheel drive cars. The engines are unlimited, but must be above 1421cc, or 1000cc if a bike engine. Even two engines may be run, as is the case with the bike engined cars. Quite often large amounts of money are spent on the engines for these cars, including Cosworth turbo motors, large block American V8s, and V6s of different types, all highly tuned. The sound of this class thundering down the straight is enough to make some fans go weak at the knees.
Class 8 is the most competitive of the special classes and is also the one with the lowest engine capacity limit, a maximum of 1420cc. In the vast majority of cars bike engines are used, even though they infrequently reach the engine capacity limit of 1350cc. Engines may be tuned, but as usual with capacity-limited classes may not be turbo or super charged. All cars are mid-engined; this is not part of the regulations, but is the best way to get the most weight over the wheels. With the large grids this class attracts it is one of the best to watch.
Class 9 is the class most likely to win an open-class race. This class combines the high power output of the modern 2.0 litre engine with the lightness to allow better handling than the heavier class 10 vehicles. The capacity limits are between 1421cc and 2070cc and any modifications are allowed, with the usual exception of turbo and supercharging. All cars are mid-engined with most utilising an inline configuration with a Hewland or upside-down Beetle box.
Class 10 is one of the most powerful classes around. Another of the purpose built classes, this one has a minimum capacity of 2071cc but no upper capacity limit or limit on the modifications made to the engine. Twin bike engines are popular with the capacity limits being between 1550cc and 4000cc, as is V8 power. Once again all cars in this class are mid-engined, again for no other reason than that it seems to be the best solution. Phenomenal amounts of money can be spent to gain competitiveness in this class, with fully-built cars costing more than some small houses.
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