Choosing A Racing Series
So you’ve taken the plunge to get into racing, but you aren’t sure where to go, this article will help to guide that decision along with highlighting some key considerations. Motorsport can be broadly separated in a tiered system to categorise each level of motorsport. Both your budget and level of experience defines in which tier you’re likely to be able to compete, these tiers are outlined below with costs given to run a car for a season. The cost of just driving may not be exactly the same as the costs given but will likely be in a similar ball park. For simplicity within this whole article I will only be addressing circuit racing although other forms of racing have a broadly similar structure and set of considerations.
These series range from smart cars to BMW M3s and everything in between! This level is called “club” motorsport as racing takes place on weekends organised my motor clubs such as 750 Motor Club, BRSCC, BARC, MSVR etc. This is the most prevalent form of motorsport with racing open to anyone with a licence, taking place at tracks around the country almost every weekend from March to October. Here competitors enter themselves individually with grids open to all rather than grid slots allocated to teams who then take on drivers as is the case is professional series.
Cost: 6k - 30k/season
This is the next step up from club level with drivers generally trying to build a racing career to move on to professional drives. These series are often extremely competitive with large budgets relative to the cars being raced with more sponsorship and teams generally involved. Examples of these series are Michelin Clio Cup, Radical SR1/3, Ginetta GT5 and Caterhams.
Cost: 30k - 100k/season
This tier operates on a similar level to that of Semi-Professional with a mix of “Gentleman Drivers” (people who pay for seats and are essentially club competitors with more money to spend) and professionals. These series are often international with multiple rounds abroad and large budgets due to the longer races and higher spec of cars involved. In these categories you see the true GT cars with GT3 and GT4 spec machinery such as McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche GT cars to name a few.
Cost: 100k - 500k/season
This is the top tier of motorsport with a majority of drivers being paid to race for their teams. These series often have substantial television coverage along with a good level of attendance to watch the races live. A good example of a series such as this is the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) with ITV4 coverage and 40k+ fans trackside.
Cost: 250k - 1+ million/season
So what factors are important or should be considered when looking to get into racing. In general the consideration can be broken down into 4 main areas detailed below:
This is the most obvious factor when going racing. What car do you want to drive? What series can it be entered in? Is there a specific layout that you like or are interested in (Rear, Front or 4 Wheel Drive, Front, Rear or Mid-Engined)? These are all questions that you should ask to help narrow down the choices of what to race. Another consideration is whether you want to build the car yourself or have the work done by a professional outfit or even just purchase an already built car. This decision may be made for you by the level of complexity and availability of what you intend to race, for example a Radical isn’t exactly a car you can just build yourself in the garage! A good resource for pre-built cars is racecarsdirect.com but additionally speak to the series organisers as they often know of available cars within the series that aren’t actually openly advertised, as well as being a great source of advice for car builds in general.
The grid size of a championship is usually a good indicator of the series health and level of support. If the series is not a new start up (less than 2 seasons old) and has low grid numbers then it’s usually a good indication of the series being in decline usually due to reduced support and sponsorship or lack of availability of parts for the cars. If grid numbers are low the racing experience is likely to be worse as there’s less potential for battles up and down the grid. That isn’t to say you can’t race in a series with reduced numbers and have fun but you should definitely be mindful of competitor numbers when choosing. Generally you should look for good levels of subscription (20 cars or more) wherever possible to have the best racing experience.
This is of course key as your budget will greatly influence what and where you can race. The general advice I’d give when you’re starting out is to work out a budget with projected costs as best you can. When I first started out I was told to work out a budget and then double it to give what it actually would cost. Looking back on that season that wasn’t far wrong as there are a lot of hidden costs involved with travelling, food and other trackside expenses which are a necessary part of racing. To see what your budget will allow you to race go along to a weekend and try to speak to some competitors or series organisers. They will usually be able to give you some really good advice and racers in general are a friendly bunch. Another good opportunity to do this is at Autosport International at the NEC in Birmingham in January. This event gets a large amount of the UK motorsport industry together under one roof making it nice and convenient to compare and contrast differing clubs, championships and cars.
What is meant by “progression” and why would it be important to you starting out racing for the first time? Well what I mean is the scope to progress your racing further by entering a championship. This may however take many forms, the most obvious one is a progression of your racing career, using your performances to attract sponsorship or vital experience to move on to a bigger and better championship. Some feeder series offer drives in a larger more prestigious championship as reward for winning them for example, or teams from larger championships may look at specific categories as being the most relevant to sign new young drivers from.
This isn’t necessarily applicable to everyone though as not everyone is trying to “make it” in racing, some people are into it purely for enjoyment although I’d argue that there are other forms of progression that apply to all drivers. I’d define these forms of progression as “the challenge”. By entering a new racing series there is a certain challenge presented to you as a driver whether that be simply the challenge of going racing for the first time or a new experience such as drivetrain layout or downforce. A new challenge and the progression that comes with it is always something to consider when looking at a series.
As always if you’d like to know more or require extra info on anything we do or have discussed don’t hesitate to get in touch. Also if you’d like to see an article on anything specific just let us know!