Our homegrown Ben Harper is hitting new heights
Ben’s family have been competing in Autograss sport for 50 years, his Dad John, starting racing in ’71. The Governing body is called NASA (National Autograss Sports Association), of which John was both Chairman and Vice Chairman of, for over 25 years, although now retired, he is still asked his advice on different aspects of the rules and regulations. Ben’s mum Barbara is a director and competes at the highest level.
Although this is an amateur sport, there is a lot of money spent on, not only cars but also Caravans and Motorhomes, some of the guys turn up in Motorhomes worth over £100,000 and race cars with tuned engines worth £50,000 a piece! They usually carry a spare too. One of the national meetings had a record 935 drivers signed on, making it unofficially the biggest race meeting in Europe ever!
There are 10 different classes of cars ranging from unmodified saloons to fully modified twin motorbike engine open-wheel cars, so there is a lot of scope within the sport.
There is race coverage on the radio and national events are shown live via Apps Media’s YouTube channel. It has also featured on Sky and Motors TV, we had Ben Collins (the Stig from Top Gear) come and try to beat the local drivers.
NASA, the governing body have a large stand at Autosport international which is held at the N.E.C every year, plus other regional car shows around the country.
Ben is the driver of M111, a Class 8 special and M11 a class 5 Mini, which are both sponsored by Jewelultra Ltd, he is a 35-year-old Motorbike technician from Leicester working for Drayton Croft Motorcycles of Hinckley.
Ben has been racing since he was 14 years old (21 years in total). He competes in arguably the most competitive class, Class 8. These are single-seater, specialist-built machines, with serious power to weight ratio. They are not built for a high-top speed as the tracks are quite short but can easily accelerate from 0-60mph in 2-3 seconds, hitting a top speed of around 80-90mph on an oval track with straights around 400 metres long.
Ben has built the car himself, with help from his dad, John. It has a 1350cc Hayabusa motorbike engine, which in standard form produces around 220bhp, in a car weighing around 350-400kgs, this is about the same power to weight ratio as a Bugatti Veyron.
For the last 5 years, Ben has been racing his other self-built machine in the form of a Class 5 Mini. This is a rear-engine car with a highly tuned Fiat X1/9 engine, it has a full spaceframe chassis with a mini shell and a centre seat. With a top speed around 80-85mph dependant on gearing, Ben’s unsure of its official stats, but it’s ‘knock you back in your seat’ fast!!!
Ben competes annually for the national league titles where he is considered a top driver within the local club and league. He always qualifies for the NASA National Championships held in August each year, but it yet to be crown the champion.
Ben is also a top contender in the UKAC race series, which runs alongside the national championships. Previous years have seen Ben regularly feature in the top three in both classes, and in 2018 he won the Class 5 title.
Links to more info.
UKAC race series:
Apps Media: YouTube channel
Class 5 victory:
Class 8 Victory: Southern League Grand Prix – West country videos. Excellent win.
Class 8 on-board footage. See how he does it…