Racing a pick-up at Cadwell Park

This is a pick-up truck. It's made by Ssangyong and uses a diesel engine. It's also one of the most fun vehicles I have driven on track. No, I haven't gone barking.

This is no ordinary pick-up, you see. It's a Musso, but it's one that's undergone a strict diet, which has seen almost 400kg removed from its belly. Ok, it still tips the scales at 1,700kg, but that's still a weight loss programme worthy of a Subway commercial.

Rear-wheel drive and an empty bed
Rear-wheel drive and an empty bed
Add bespoke racing suspension, Avon semi slicks and a trackside cafe-fuelled racing driver, and you have yourself a Ssangyong Racing Challenge pick-up ready to bang doors with, well, 12 other fettled Ssangyong pick-up trucks.

Why, you ask, would anyone want to do that? Perhaps surprisingly, it's because this race series, which is just about to complete its inaugural season in Britain, represents a great first step on the car racing ladder.

It markets itself as a series for youngsters dreaming of a professional racing career and amateurs looking for a new and unique challenge. And helpfully for us, it also has a spot for failed racing drivers who've landed themselves at a motoring title - aka the media car.

Identical setup means close racing
Identical setup means close racing
Musso number 02, or 'the yellow-arsed beast', as I have christened it, is identical to its rivals in every way (apart from the paint job), so it runs with the same 2.2-litre engine, same setup, same fuel load, get the point. This means that as we line up on the grid at Cadwell Park, the venue for PistonHeads' Ssangyong Racing Challenge debut, the results that follow are down to the driver and nobody else.

The Musso series uses a rolling start, so the 12-truck field, with yours truly starting in fifth, rolls towards the line at about 30mph. On green, the gruff note of 12 heavily loaded oil burners fills the air with the kind of carbon footprint that would shame a shipping firm. Don't be fooled by the novice stickers adorning the back of about a third of the pack either, this bunch, now five-sixths of the way through the 2017 season, are as racey as any. Just making it through lap one requires an immediate 'elbows out' driving style.

Bumpers are banged, wheel arches scuffed and swear words uttered; with the opening few laps of Cadwell among the closest-fought I've experienced yet. Naturally this is all part of the attraction of every truck producing an identical 208hp and 375lb ft from the remapped engine under the snout. Despite the peak power not particularly troubling the rear tyres on a dry circuit (oh yeah, these racing trucks ditch the road car's four-wheel drive for a more macho rear-drive setup), they're plenty punchy enough to bring slipstreaming and tactical wheelspin - to tighten the Musso's line - into play.

Keeping it clean through corners
Keeping it clean through corners
Entertainingly, the trucks dart and squat like hot hatches, only showing their weight when in trouble. Lose the back and the pendulum effect of thick metal panels will take its toll, so much so that earlier in the weekend an unfortunate competitor lost the back end of their Musso and fired off circuit and into a port-a-loo... In today's race, a similar 'arse-out' scenario two places ahead of me ends with less bodily fluids, but enables me to squeeze through into third place.

Does this present me with an opportunity to challenge for the win? Not a chance. The drivers ahead, James Gornall, a former Formula Renault and British GT champ, and Cam Jackson, an experienced classic racer with multiple wins to his name, scamper off into the horizon. These two serve as perfect evidence for the vast differences in experience on the Ssangyong Racing Challenge grid, and ensure that the remainder of the final race of the day is quite lonely for car number 02. Not that this makes the third-place trophy that follows any less welcome.

There were a few more scuffs on that bumper by the end
There were a few more scuffs on that bumper by the end
In a couple of weeks the final round of the season will take place at Brands Hatch, after which the championship's future will be decided. The recent departure of Ssangyong UK CEO Paul Williams has cast doubt over support for 2018, which is a shame, because while there's unlikely to be a bidding war over the TV rights, it feels like the series offers a nice little fillip to a brand trying to broaden its profile in the UK.

Here's hoping the next CEO signs the cheque to keep the pleasingly off-beat Musso series alive.


Sam Sheehan






[Racing shots: Mick Herring]
[Details: Luc Lacey]

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Comments (7) Join the discussion on the forum

  • silentbrown 06 Oct 2017

    Fun smile

    Looks like you got a nudge up the rear braking for Park...

  • coppice 06 Oct 2017

    Ironic juxtaposition of what I think is the UK's finest and prettiest circuit with a dog ugly parody of a race car. But why not ? Bit like having Skepta (other grime..errmm ..artists are available) play at Covent Garden....

  • TooMany2cvs 06 Oct 2017

    Where's the link to video of the chemikhazi incident, then?

  • filski666 06 Oct 2017

    Pickup racing is great fun - used to do it in mine too - well, not really "racing" but being silly on a racetrack...

  • dazwalsh 06 Oct 2017

    I dunno wether its bonkers as in awesome or bonkers as in the worst idea ever conceived.

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