Laura Cooledge – How I got into motorsport
It is a myth that you can’t compete in motorsport events in winter. From AutoSOLOs and Sprint and Trial challenges to 12 Car and Targa Rallies, volunteers at your nearest Car Club will host a series of events all year round.
We asked Club Development Officer for Anglia Motor Sport Club, Laura Cooledge, to tell us about her journey into motorsport and her family tradition of participating in the Eastern Counties Motor Club’s Norman Perren Memorial Trial on New Year’s Day!
My first ever experience competing in motorsport was aged 14, at Eastern Counties Motor Club’s Norman Perren Memorial Trial on New Year’s Day.
My family has always participated in Production Car Trials (PCTs). From a young age, I remember attending every event to watch my family compete and getting in the passenger seat to bounce and help navigate, whilst my Mum, Dad or Grandad attempt to complete the course.
As soon as I was old enough, 14 in the case of car trialling, I started competing and driving in car trials myself. Trials were the perfect grounding to develop my driving ability and a brilliant first start in the motorsport world.
Although you predominantly compete at low speeds compared to other forms of motorsport, the format of PCTs with their challenging, tight and twisty up (and sometimes down) hill courses allow you to develop excellent car control. Finding the right balance between going fast enough to continue your momentum and travel up the hills, slow enough to allow you enough time to change direction and staying between the markers, whilst trying to maintain enough grip at all times, is a tough skill to master. Once you have attempted a few courses, you soon learn the tricks. You are slipping the clutch at precisely the right time, using your handbrake when your car doesn’t have enough lock to inch around the tight corners and strategically using the best lines to get you as far as possible along the course. Trialling is extremely rewarding – it is a great feeling to complete a course without hitting any markers. It was not long before I started winning ‘Best Junior’ and ‘Best Novice’ awards, promoting me to ‘expert-status’.
Having three years of driving experience before turning 17 made learning to drive on the road so much easier, and I believe that the skills learnt through competing in PCTs have also made me a safer driver on the road. I had already developed great spatial awareness and clutch control and understood how different surfaces and factors would impact cars’ handling. For anyone looking to build their car control before learning to drive or competing in other forms of motorsport, PCTs are definitely the way to go!
Production Car Trials are one of the most accessible forms of motorsport to get involved in, as they are low-cost and you don’t need any form of specialist equipment or car to compete, just an RS Clubman License (free) and Club Membership. Events tend to be non-damaging, meaning you can even take part in your road car! My first trials car was a 20-year-old 1.2 Ford Fiesta, and I now compete in a 1.6 Citroen Saxo VTS.
Events are very sociable, and ECMC’s New Year’s Day event, in particular, has such a family-orientated, welcoming and friendly feel to it.
Trials are a fantastic way to begin your involvement in motorsport, whether you would like to compete as a driver, passenger, marshal or help with event organisation. Since my first event, aged 14, I have competed in special stage rallying, and I am the Club Development Officer for Anglia Motor Sport Club. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact your local motor club (you can search here on Motorsport UK) to be greeted with plenty of encouragement!