For some barely fathomable reason – probably something to do with the Monaco Grand Prix or some such – motorsport has, to the casual observer, the sheen of glamour to it. Of course, the committed British enthusiast or club competitor knows that the truth is most emphatically otherwise – rain, wind and cold are almost constant companions to British motor racing.
All three meteorological elements are threatening to come into play as two gawky-looking buggies are unloaded from a trailer at an increasingly damp and autumnal Lydden Hill. I'm still excited, however, because despite the best (worst) that the British climate can throw at me - and the unpropitious looks of the two RX150 buggies - I've no doubt that this is going to be a deeply captivating motoring experience.
That's because the RX150 is powered by a 954cc Honda Fireblade engine that produces around 150bhp. And in a vehicle that weighs around 500kg that should make for quite a rapid and potentially unnerving package, especially when you consider that there's nothing in the way of electronic aids to help deliver that power to leaf-strewn Tarmac.
The RX150 actually starts life as a Rage off-road buggy, but undergoes a comprehensive set of revisions to make it competition-ready, including an FIA-approved seat and five-point harness, front and rear bumpers, nerf bars on the sides, side nets, a rain light and a windscreen wash-wipe.
The Rage is then nearly ready to race, but for a name change - you see the MSA doesn't like the aggressive associations the word 'rage' throws up. So when you take one onto the rallycross circuit, it becomes an RX150.
The finished product is effectively to rallycross what a Formula Ford car is to conventional single-seater circuit racing, or the Caterham Academy is to club racing; a one-make 'feeder' championship to help teach racecraft. Except in this case it teaches racers the dark art of slipping seamlessly from asphalt to loose surfaces and back again.
It's also the vehicle of choice for the early stages of the Race of Champions (which, incidentally, was held just the other weekend in Dusseldorf), so I'll be sharing bum-space with the likes of Vettel, Loeb, Prost, Priaulx and Schumacher.
My guide around is Joe Shrimpton who, despite being a sickeningly young 18, is a bit of a hand with the RX150. So he must be good - because I'm told by the RX Racing chaps that the flighty power delivery and short wheelbase make the RX150 quite a tricky beast. I can well believe it. If you're handy in one of these, well, there are few vehicles that you won't be able to master.
Despite this, Joe is modest. Having performed some spectacular on-track acrobatics for the PH camera lens - which he dismisses quite nonchalantly as 'just larking around' - Joe returns to the pits and it's my turn. "By the way, it's set-up to be a bit skittish," He says as he helps strap me in after I've clambered clumsily into the cockpit. "The nose is as soft as possible and the rear suspension has been jacked right up, so you'll have to be a little careful."
First, though, I have to get the thing into first gear. That's done by a firm nudge forward on the sequential gear lever sprouting from the steering column. Next task is to actually get the thing moving. Having blipped the throttle a couple of times I know that the Fireblade motor is as instant a revver as you'd expect it to be, and tentative exploration reveals that the clutch is not the most forgiving of devices. I really don't want to stall.
Somehow I manage to juggle the throttle and clutch and head out onto the circuit. We're only able to use the Tarmac bits of Lydden Hill today, but as I accelerate through the gears it's immediately clear that a surfeit of grip is not going to be a problem. Even in the lower echelons of the rev range, the surge of acceleration is instantly fierce, with the tyres firmly on the cusp of wheelspin already. As I pull the gear lever through second, third and fourth, there's almost no drop in engine note, so quick is the gearchange - in fact for a while I think it's not actually going into gear correctly.
But it is and, by the time I reach the first real corner - a sweeping, off-camber right-hander - I'm already close to three-figure speeds. And that's with an upchange at a conservative 7000rpm.
The brakes wipe off plenty of speed, but taking the corner is still an unsettlingly alien experience. turn-in is hyperactively sharp, but a combination of a short wheeelbase, a relatively tall frame and a softly suspended nose means the RX150 pitches into the corner with a bit of a lurch. There is grip there, but the RX150 is clearly as tricky as I was led to expect.
On the way out of the corner the cold rear tyres are super-keen to spin-up and the RX150 shows every sign of being rather keen to swap ends here, too.
Soon enough, though, you get used to htese sharp responses and begin to realise that, once the car's limit of adhesion has been breached and you've made the initial reaction, it's actually quite a forgiving machine - and one that you can push to genuinely outrageous angles of slide without spinning.
That screaming acceleration - you can reckon on one of these things easily hitting 60mph in about 3.5secs - is also pretty beguiling, and i'm soon feeling brave enough to wait for the change-up lights before yanking the RX150 into another gear.
Unfortunately this ramps the noise levels up considerably and, since we've not booked the circuit for a 'noisy day', the Fireblade's treble yell brings the day to an early close. A nearby farmer has called the circuit office to say we're scaring his cows and could we please stop it.
Which is a shame, because if I want to play any more i'll have to £19,995 and
the budget for a season's racing. Which is something I cannot do. But if you do have a spare 30 grand or so burning a hole in your pocket and want to try a bit of Rallycross, then I seriously doubt you'll be disappointed with a season in an RX150*.
*Failing that, of course, you could just watch it all on Motors TV or even Channel 4, as RX150 racing is part of the support package for the British Rallycrooss Championship.
RX150 Tech Spec
954cc Four Stroke 16v 150bhp (Fireblade) 6 Speed Manual fully checked warranted used engine
Foam Filled Aluminium Tank
(Capacity 23 Litres)
Quaife Forward & Reverse Gearbox with A.T.B Differential and now fully Gear Driven
Sequential Short Shift Rally Style
Powder Coated 1.5" Cds Tubular Space Frame. Tested beyond FIA standards
Aluminium 5-bar Plate
One piece 13" Alloy Revolution rims
RAGE 1 Way Adjustable Intrax Gas Charged Dampers with Spherical Bearings
Front - Double Wishbone with 13.5" travel
Rear - Double Wishbone with 14.5" travel
Aluminium Rack & Pinion, 1.5 Turns Lock to Lock
Stainless Steel Cross Drilled Discs all round with Brembo Calipers and Bias adjustment
FIA Approved Diolen Race Seat (Adjustable)
FIA approved 5-point Pro
Front & Rear Bumpers, Side Nerf Bars, Integrated Fire Extinguisher, Side Nets, Rain Light and windscreen wash/wipe system
Aluminium Race Radiator with expansion tank and a Thermostatically Controlled Fan
Full Stainless Steel Race Exhaust System
Length - 2800mm
Width - 1800mm
Height - 1450mm