My Dumper Truck Racing Experience Day Review

In April 2013 the people who run Diggerland gave me two tickets to try out Dumper Truck Racing to see how it compared with my digger racing experience. This experience used skid-steer diggers instead of full-sized backhoe excavators and as Dumper Racing was the smaller scale sibling to Digger Racing I was interested to see how much it differed – and whether it could deliver on thrills.

This time I decided to compete with my father-in-law. For the months preceding the day we had been psyching each other out so needless to say we were both hungry for a win, if only for vanity and bragging rights. Armed with a competitive spirit and a sense of fun we headed down to Diggerland Cullompton in Devon to race dumper trucks on a Saturday evening.

We arrived half an hour before the park closed (4.30pm) as directed on our experience day tickets. Despite fears of rain the weather was good to us, with strong sunshine and a breeze. The park near Willand in Devon was easy to find and was only around 6 miles from our hotel we had checked-into. It’s situated next door to Verbeer Manor, a grand looking building. The park is signposted and the winding path leads to the reception desk.

We checked-in swiftly and quickly and were asked if we wanted to race against each other (of course we did!). We were the third group to have checked-in so we were the third group to race, which meant we could watch some of the other competitors taking part beforehand and work out some tactics.

In total there were 17 participants on the day with a make up of around 80% male and 20% female. We were split into six groups of three participants (as per the check-in list) and race in heats. In a typical experience we would have got two heats each, with the best going head-to-head in a dramatic finale.

We ran through a quick safety brief / instruction lesson at the beginning in three groups of six participants. This covered how to get ready to race, a run through the two control sticks required and a few tips and tactics to remember. Our machines were JCB 160 skid steer robots. It measured 2.3 metres in length and 1.3 metres in width. At a mere 1.9 metres in height it was a dinky digger. It offered a top speed of 6 miles per hour but don’t be fooled by the number – the experience was a challenge of skill as well as speed. The bucket on the front of the skid steer had been removed and replaced with some old tyres for safety. In fact, these were the same skid steer diggers being used by the public earlier in the day, except that in this experience they had their speed limiters removed.

The scoring was then explained, with main aim of the experience being to score as least points as possible. You would score one point for coming first, two for second and three for third. Next, you’d get five penalty points if you touched a cone along the way and worse still, if you run over a cone and dragged it along, that resulted in ten penalty points. The key then was to be quick and nimble but accurate and precise.

The first race sounded simple enough. Race alongside a set of cones, turn around a large tyre at the end of the track and race back. The first race showed that even though this sounded simple, it was also easy to mess it up! The skid steer robots were controlled by two levers – one on the left and one on the right. The left controlled the motion of the left hand side wheels and the right controlled the right hand side. To go forward both levers needed to be pushed forward. To pivot on the spot, one lever is pulled back and the other pushed forward. To turn slightly in motion, you ease off gently on the control that matches the same direction you wish to angle towards.

All that sounds simple in practise but when it came to our turn that went straight out the roll cage protection around me. After the flag was dropped to start the race I over steered to the right causing me to face the embankment. To compensate I then over steered to the left. My father-in-law seemed to pick it up straight away and with a few glitches he managed to secure first place. Contestant number three managed to drive up the embankment whilst I managed to zig-zag my way down and up the track, racing up a few penalty points.

The second race was exactly the same again only this time we knew what to expect. This battle was closely fought with all three contestants in our race crossing the finish line in a photo finish style. Looking at the photos contestant three won by a fraction, I came second (woo hoo, not last this time!) and my father-in-law brought up the rear, albeit marginally.

We were then told that as we had raced too quickly (as it was a smaller group) we could get a couple more races each which was great news and completely unexpected.

The third race introduced a bit of skill and I did think I may benefit from having zig-zagged my way along the course in round one. This time we needed to weave in and out of the cones along the track, around the tyre and weave along the cones to race back. Despite my slow start I managed to keep up with the others though I did manage to clip a cone along the way. Contestant number three was speeding along whilst by the time we’d turned around the tyre both myself  and my father-in-law were neck-and-neck. We both clipped a cone on the way back but he managed to pip me to the post again.

The fourth and final heat was even more difficult again. This time we had to do the weaving in and out in reverse. Looking over our shoulders we had to work out how best to navigate the course using the controls. Again, this one wasn’t my forte so as I had noticed the other two racing off when at the bottom of the course I decided to go for accuracy rather than speed, so as to save a few points!

In the end neither myself or my father-in-law ranked high enough for a final head-to-head race. We scored 26 and 18 respectively but the best scoring participants scored as little as eight points! The final race was a photo finish too, as the best of the best raced weaving in and out of the cones with expert precision. Clearly it was possible to fuse speed and agility with precision and accuracy but I couldn’t find the right blend. My problem was that when I headed in the wrong direction I over-compensated losing speed and accuracy. Next time I might stand a better chance!

Overall this two hour experience was great fun. I may not have won but I had fun trying. There was a mix of abilities in our group and whilst some had come to win, I think it was fair to say everyone came to have fun doing something different and quirky. It’s definitely something I’d do again and would say it’s a great introduction to digger racing. Try this first then try your hand at something bigger, faster and more extreme!

Disclosure: Diggerland gave us two free tickets for Dumper Truck Racing. We paid for everything else, including getting to the venue and accommodations. My review above is uninfluenced, honest and factual based on my own experience on the day we visited.

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Dumper Truck Racing Experience Day
Author Rating

Tilting back

The driving seat

Ready to race

Me going the wrong way!

Full steam ahead

I just clipped that cone

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Hi, I'm Dave, chief test driver, and in 2010 I was sent on an awesome JCB Digger Racing experience day. It was great fun and something that I never would have done otherwise. Bitten by the bug and now considered a JCB addict, I was then sent on the Dumper Truck Racing experience in 2013.