Professional auto racing can be a ridiculously expensive sport, one hard to get into without a billionaire backer, wealthy parents or a fat bank account of your own. But if you lack the cash and still dream of the track, don’t worry. There’s always Norwegian bilcross.
Instead of Ferraris and Astons, drivers race beat-up Volvos and Saabs that might otherwise go to the junkyard, competing for little more than a dinky trophy. “There’s no money behind it,” says Alberto Bernasconi, who photographed a race near Hellvik, Norway last June. “Just fun.”
Bilcross is a cheap version of world rallycross that originated in Finland as “Jokamiehenluokka,” or “Everyman’s Class.” As long as your steed can steer laps around a gravel track, you can participate. Drivers patch up their cars with second-hand parts and roll cages, stripping the interiors of all but the front seat, steering wheel and dashboard. They might hammer out the dents, spray-paint the exterior, and hand-paint on the name of their sponsor on the side, if they have one. But no one sinks too much money into their rides because it’s a short-term investment: Each competition ends with a fixed price auction, where drivers turn in their own vehicles and pay somewhere around $1,200 for someone else’s, minus the seat and dash. “It keeps it affordable for everyone,” Bernasconi says.
Bernasconi discovered the sport while shooting a travel story in southern Norway. He was winding through the hills with his windows down, enjoying the peaceful scenery, when he heard the engines. They were loud—not because they were powerful, but because the curving, 1.5-mile track at the Egersund Motorsportsenter sits in a dusty stone quarry that amplifies the noise. Bernasconi hadn’t planned to stop, but before he knew it, he had forked over the 12-Euro entrance fee and was snapping away.
The competition seemed more a spoof of racing than racing itself. Cars broke down and crashed at unimpressive speeds; others failed to start at all. One driver took several minutes to crawl to the finish line after her shift gear broke, the crowd cheering her on from lawn chairs perched in the surrounding hills. No one took any of it too seriously. “When I was a kid I did races with a go-kart,” Bernasconi says. “It’s more or less the same thing,” Bernasconi says.
Bernasconi’s sunny photos capture what’s left when you take the money, speed, and ability out of racing: fun. But maybe that’s what it’s supposed to be about anyway.