Pedal Car racer and precision engineer Cliff Polton from New Milton has been racing Pedal Cars since 1994. It came after one of his customers mentioned they had a pedal car and asked Cliff if he could “make it go better”. When he got to drive the car he described it as “awful”. Cliff goes onto say that when he had a go in this pedal car he got to a corner and explains how “the thing wanted to throw you out”.
Cliff’s first proper race in a pedal car was in 1994 at Pont-Audemer, France, which is the town twinned to Ringwood.
On the morning of the race Cliff jokingly got a photo with the biggest trophy they could find and captioned the photo “we’re going home with this” in the end they finished their first race in third and walked away with the trophy.
A year later in 1995 Cliff and his team were asked to build a car for this (unnamed) company. They finished the car with “a week until the race”. And the boss of the company drove the car Cliff had built just a week before and “went on to win the race”.
In 1997 Mr Polton had the idea of entering the British Pedal Car Championship and building his own car to enter into the races. They managed to get this car built “in a week” they went on and “tried it out and broke the chassis but (we) didn’t have time to fix it” as they had done this test the morning of the race.
The first race they competed in was in Ringwood and they “finished in second” but the reason for Cliff’s instant success comes down to his car which he describes as “ahead of its time” as compared to all the other cars Cliff’s vehicle was much skinnier and therefore more aerodynamic which meant he flew round the course. They ended the ’97 season second in the championship.
But why does Cliff keep going back to the track in his pedal car?
“I enjoy competition and theres a wicked side to me, you get an 18 year old or a 20 year old and I’m 76 and they don’t understand that if I sit behind them I can save 25% of my energy and get past them, and that amuses me”.
When asked what the best pedal car racing event he has ever taken part in Mr Polton responded with “I enjoy them all”
Of course due to the COVID-19 pandemic some events had to be postponed but when the British Pedal Car Championship held an event to see if they could hold a COVID safe event – Cliff was one of the first to say yes, and “was only too pleased” and in the end he “thoroughly enjoyed himself”.
Cliff describes the event at Ringwood as “a great experience for people who have never done it before” and “its silly but we had a crowd of 11,500 people in the town, it was phenomenal, it was a bit over the top really”.
The British Pedal Car Championship (BPCC) is organised and run by the British Federation of Pedal Car Racing (BFPCR) – the championship takes place across an assortment of locations around the UK and anyone is welcome at anytime.