Taking a near-two- tonne pick-up truck racing is like asking a lumberjack to ballet dance, don’t you think?
Like lumberjacks, pick-up trucks are big and strong and excellent with logs, but all that muscle means they tend not to be particularly agile. Odd then, that this juxtaposition (the pick- up racing, not woodsmen in tutus) seems to work so well Down Under, where championships like the V8 Ute Racing Series are very much part of the motorsport mainstream.
In Britain, pick-up racing is a niche, but now that sales of roadgoing pick-ups are increasing – as a nation, we’ve bought 30% more of them this year than in 2016 – is it time we sent more to do battle on track?
Ssangyong, the Korean brand that’s yet to make a real mark here but is aiming to double its UK sales to 10,000 per annum, thinks it is, so since the start of this year has offered its Musso, a low-cost rival to the Nissan Navara, in race-prepared form for £17,000. The Ssangyong Musso Pick-Up Racing Challenge has been launched alongside it.
The one-make series is pitched as everything from an alternative tin-top series for amateur racers to a first step for youngsters with dreams of a professional motorsport career. As such, the racing Musso is quite different to its road-going counterpart, which has a one-tonne payload and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity. The track version has bespoke racing suspension and has been on a strict diet, losing practically all interior trim from the dashboard back to shave close to 400kg from the kerb weight. A Safety Devices rollcage has been fitted, and the racing Musso still tips the scales at a stout 1700kg.
Under the Musso’s snout is a 2.2-litre diesel engine, remapped to produce 205bhp and 375lb ft, gains of 29bhp and 80lb ft respectively over the road car. While the numbers aren’t exactly outstanding by racing car standards, the extra power makes the engine feel like a bung’s been extracted from its exhaust pipe and ensures punchy performance at Cadwell Park, the challenging venue for Autocar’s debut in the series.