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Flashback to 2003: When driving test became serious competition

By Heather Large | Features | Published:

It was the chance for car enthusiasts to put their driving skills to the ultimate test

Rob Lees takes his Sylva Striker for a spin at Cosford Aerospace Museum in September 2003

The Cosford Aerospace Museum echoed to the sound of one “flying start” after another as cars and drivers competed in the latest round of the BTRDA Staffordshire Knot autotest in September 2003

Some 37 crews, many of them from the Midlands, took part in nine tests at the event which was hosted by the Wolverhampton and South Staffs Car Club.

Following most major road rallies of the 1950s was a tie deciding “driving test”which would involve simple manoeuvrability sections, which involved “parking the car” against the clock.

Gradually over time driving tests became a discipline of motor sport of its own and in the 1960s developed into autotests and championships were formed, particularly one from the BTRDA.

Autotests involve driving the car on a timed, predetermined memorised route, with penalties added for striking markers, bad positioning on the lines and not completing the test correctly.

Owen Motor Club member Mike Sones in action

The BTRDA Autotest Championship comprises 11 rounds at venues across England, Wales and Scotland which includes one hosted by Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Car Club, which was founded in 1951.

Vehicles are classified according to overall length, body type, and engine size into five classes and three additional scoring classes for juniors, under the age of 25, jubilee drivers over 45 and ladies.

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In 2003, the overall winner of the event at RAF Cosford Museum was Dave Mosey, from Ilkley, in a Mini Special.

Another Mini Special, driven by Knutsford’s Stephen Wild, was in second place with the home club’s Malcolm Livingston taking third place in his West Midlands-built Westfield.

Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Car Club’s own John Griffiths broke a driveshaft but still came in 24th overall and second in his class.

Club member Gavin Dickson was 16th overall and second in his class in a Nova, while Katie Carter was 36th overall and fourth in her class.

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At the time the club was also hard at work preparing for the Bulldog Rally, to be held over some of the best forest stages Mid-Wales has to offer.

As well as being the latest round of the Kumho National Rally Championship, there are also classes for clubmen and historic cars.

A timekeeper gives a driver his times after one of the tests

As well as hosting a round of the Autotest Championship, Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire Car Club has run and managed Rally North Wales since 1958 and is proud that the rally is a round of numerous prestigious championships such as the Fuchs Lubricants Motorsport UK British Historic Championship and the Pirelli Motorsport UK Welsh Rally Championship.

Previous winners of the event include rallying royalty such as Colin, Jimmy and Alister McRae, Elfyn Evans, Tom Cave, Andreas Mikkelsen, Malcolm Wilson, David Llewellin, Russell Brookes, Stig Blomqvist, Tony Pond, Michelle Mouton, Markku Alén, Henri Toivonen, Ari Vatanen and Pentti Airikkala, to name a few.

A new addition to the BTRDA Autotest Championship in 2009 was the Road Going Class E, for Saloon cars that are capable of being driven on the road, are taxed and have an MOT.

The inclusion of Class E has resulted in tests being more open, with the intention that all drivers in the class will be able to get round without excessive use of the handbrake, but still demanding.

For 2013 roadgoing production sports cars were added into this class.

Despite the apparent need for optimum power and handling capabilities it will be possible to be competitive in a standard road car, driver skill being the important ingredient.

In 2012, the popular event saw an influx of extremely competitive drivers from overseas to contest the Championship, with Steven Ferguson taking the overall honour, but in 2013 Richard Pinkney restored English pride by taking his first Gold Star and did so again in 2014.

While 2015 saw the return of Alastair Moffatt in a newly aquired “Irish” Mini Special, who continued his winning ways in 2016.

The following year saw a tight battle between Chris Chapman, Malcolm Livingston, Dave Mosey and Richard Pinkney, who eventually took the Gold Star by a mere two points. The same four were involved in the 2018 Championship battle, although this time Dave Mosey was driving a very rapid Mini Special, and again the winning margin at the end of the year was a mere two points, but this time in favour of Malcolm Livingston whose previous Championship win was in 1994. In 2019, Alastair Moffatt was again victorious taking the Championship with a maximum score.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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