PetrolBlog presents: Hillclimbing on a budget

Major Waffle
PetrolBlog and Ralph Hosier present Hillclimbing on a budget. An idea that, with some luck and a strong following wind, might just bear some fruit.

This weekend sees the return of Formula 1. Which is nice. But how about something a little more exciting? A little more frantic? Something that's infinitely more accessible. PetrolBlog has been speaking to esteemed engineer, journalist, author and all-round good egg - Ralph Hosier - about hillclimbing on a budget. Or sprinting on a shoestring. Maybe even motorsport on a bag of sand.

Treat this as a ‘putting it out there’ exercise. A random suggestion made at the bar. Should enough people support it, then PetrolBlog and Mr Hosier may have a race series to organise. Make of it what you will.

Last year, during the run up to the Pentillie Festival of Speed, Ralph and I started talking about the prospect of running a ‘Bangernomics’ Hillclimb. It'd be like a normal hillclimb, only with cars that are significantly cheaper and slightly more rubbish. But naturally no less appealing. We use the ‘Bangernomics’ name loosely at this stage as we'd need permission from Sir James Ruppert before rolling out the fabled moniker, but it sets the tone for what the ‘race’ is all about. Crucially it's not a ‘banger race’. The plan here isn't to wreck cars. It's to give them a new lease of life. 

Proton PersonaIn short, the actual plan is to run at least one hillclimb or sprint for old bangers. These cars must be bought for less than £500 and may be modified in any way the owner sees fit as long as the car still complies with MOT standards. Crucially, the modifications should not cost more than £300. On top of this there will be a list of mandatory safety standards to adhere to which will require specialist equipment. More details on this further on.

The 'Race' cars will perform a number of timed runs - probably five depending on how the day goes - with the best three times contributing to the final score. There's also the potential of a bonus run in which drivers can do a timed run in a competitor's car of their choice. An interesting end to the proceedings.

Naturally all cars need to be road legal, so there's also the prospect of a road trip and/or race car gathering for the competitors.

Other ideas being considered include:

  • An opportunity for those who aren't driving to submit designs for a race series logo.
  • Entrants to be automotive bloggers, journalists, writers and tweeters - therefore creating race teams with a brand/potential livery already in use.
  • Some kind of charity involvement - spectator ticket prices donated to charity for example.
  • Ralph's car would be the ‘people's choice’ - basically chosen by the power of social media. Interesting suggestions would be put forward for a vote on PetrolBlog, meaning that Ralph could end up with anything - just as long as it's under £500! Being PetrolBlog, a Shatchback would appear to be an obvious candidate.
  • To spice things up even further, Ralph's budget could also be pre-determined. In other words, if it's decided that Ralph's maximum bid on eBay is £411.12, then that's his limit. Should make things even more interesting.

Mitsubishi CarismaRalph would then use his engineering knowhow to identify the car's best features (assuming it has some) and develop them whilst simultaneously reducing the problem areas. Modifications could include reducing the ride height by hacksawing the springs, buying a good set of dampers, putting new standard brake discs and pads in, stripping and rebuilding key parts, reducing weight, removing the rear exhaust silencer and having a side exit pipe. Not forgetting a trick plywood aero package.

The entire process from purchase through to track testing will be captured on video - showing the momentous success or glorious failure (delete as applicable). All other entrants would be encouraged to document their own progress, creating a catalogue of events which, although ultimately falling short of broadcast standards, would be far more interesting than most things on television.

Mandatory equipment will include:

  • A good harness - at least a four point properly attached (about £50).
  • A crash helmet of some sort (roll cages are prohibited as these are road cars).
  • An FIA type engine/battery cut off switch (about £25).
  • On board and properly secured handheld fire extinguisher and first aid kit.

Car guidelines:

  • Seats must be secure and sturdy with working head restraints - if in doubt then a cheap race seat should be fitted.
  • The battery must be secure enough that in a shunt it won't break free. It should be separate to the passenger compartment or in a sealed box.
  • The door handles both inside and out must work properly, just in case a rapid exit becomes necessary.


  • Ideally everyone should run on the same type of tyre.
  • If this is not possible then tyres have to be no more than three years old and in excellent condition.

So in principle at least this has the makings of an exciting alternative take on an established form of racing. It feels distinctly PetrolBloggy!

Naturally we'd need a venue or two. With Pentillie Castle taking a break from the Festival of Speed until 2014, we could approach Ted and Sammie about hosting an event there. It's a magnificent setting after all. There's also the possibility of running a drag race, perhaps at Santa Pod.

Proton CompactClearly it's early days, but Ralph and I have been talking about this idea for a year now. The thought of a dozen or so cheap cars being rescued from death or obscurity and turned into heroes for a day sounds like the stuff of fairy tales. Who wouldn't want to see a Proton Compact, followed by a Kia Megantis and a Hyundai Accent going hell for leather along a twisting stretch of tarmac? Or a Citroën Xsara roaring across a finish line in a cloud of blue smoke? You simply don't get to see such a spectacle in Monte Carlo or Sepang.

So throwing it open to the people - could it work? Do we have some support?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address or on twitter @RalphHosier and @MajorGav. The will is there and the enthusiasm certainly isn't lacking - even if it means spending this year planning and launching in 2014. We know that Matt Biggs of Project924 and Phil Huff have expressed an interest. So who knows?

In the meantime I'm off to find a Proton Impian for £500. Handling by Lotus, don't you know...