Small cars are fun. They’re light, nimble and underpowered which means you can use all of the car’s potential all the time. They are also quite cheap, with parts most of the time, easy to find, which make them perfect for getting a taste for motorsport.
That was the idea for the now quite well-known Nugget Nationals, a time-trial based yearly calendar of events suited for low horsepower cars.
Not only is Nugget Nationals designed for fun in small and discrete automobiles, but also as a cheap way to get on track and develop some racing skills.
There are a few restrictions to what you can compete in. The car has to have cost no more than $3000 ($5000 after any safety parameters are added) and must have an engine no larger than 1.5 litres. Only cars that are eligible for road registration in Australia are allowed and modifications are quite strict.
In recent years, a new class has been added called the 'Not Nugs', allowing drivers to come with cars that don't meet the regulations to still come out and hone in on their skills.
This pair of fifth generation Mitsubishi Mirage's were my personal favourite cars on the day, not because I'm biased or anything.
The sixth and final round for 2023 would be held at Gippsland Car Club's Bryant Park (also known as Haunted Hills). This track is a hidden gem, full of undulating turns and flowing tarmac, it's a quality facility for hill climbs and track days such as this.
The Gippsland Car Club was formed in 1964 by enthusiasts in La Trobe Valley, originally organising motorsport out of Gippsland Park. Later, the car club would move to Bryant Park, where in 2008, this ebbing and flowing racetrack would be constructed.
With a few layouts on offer, the full outer loop would be used, pushing drivers and their cars for 50+ seconds. This track has plenty of blind corners and is almost always uphill or downhill. Miss a gear and it will be a slow ascent.
Even with the track pushing these low power cars and their drivers to the limit, Nugget Nationals is quite a chill event, with almost non-stop running, giving everyone a maximum of 12 runs each.
At the end of the day, Stefan Kalev in his Toyota Echo would be the fastest of the Nuggets, setting a time of 59.32 seconds, whilst James Dyer went to the top of the leaderboard in the 'NOTNUG' class as he set a 56.78 second lap time.
So, if you've got yourself a nugget in your driveway, definitely consider taking it to the track, you'll be surprised at how much fun you can have.