An autotest is a fantastic thing to watch. The experts seem to make their cars glide as though on ice, seamlessly changing direction and pirouetting around the course markers.
There are two types of autotest that the Weald MC member clubs promote – grass and tarmac.
Whichever surface is in use, the fundamentals are the same. The Clerk of the Course prepares a number of “tests” – typically 6. The tests are distributed to the competitors in sufficient time to allow them to learn the layout.
Upon arrival at the site where the tests are taking place, most drivers can be found taking place in a quick session of origami – folding their test sheet so that only one test is visible at a time. It is now that you see drivers undertaking the bizarre walk of autotesters – walking the test as they intend to drive it – changing the directions of their walk to match the merry dance they hope to carry out in the test.
Tyres are often let down to increase the traction area for autotests, so this is the period that drivers prepare their machinery, some changing tyres as well.
At the designated time, the marshals move into position at the start of each test, ready to start the clock as the front wheels cross the line. They watch the drivers like a hawk, spotting clipping of cones and missing of lines, and then as the front wheels come across the finish line stop the clock and record the time.
Depending on the time available drivers might get two or three attempts at each test, with either their best or two fastest runs counting. The winner is the driver who performs all the tests as fast as possible.