Getting Your Race Licence - The ARDS Test
In our previous article “So you want to go Racing?”, we briefly outlined the steps necessary to get into club motorsport. In this article I’ll be expanding on one of these points, the ARDS test.
Before undertaking your ARDS test you’ll need an MSA “Go Racing” pack. These are usually around £100 and can be purchased from a variety of places including the MSA themselves. In this pack you’ll receive the licence application form that you’ll need to take along with you to your ARDS test to be filled in by the instructors.
So what is an ARDS test? Put simply it’s the practical assessment that is required to be successfully completed before the UK Motorsport governing body (The MSA) will grant you a race licence. This test is in place to ensure that people going into racing for their first season understand the rules surrounding competing on track and most importantly staying safe at a race weekend! The safety aspect is the key point to understand as the test is completely designed to ensure you are safe to be on a racetrack rather than fast enough to be competing at the sharp end of a race. Your speed in a car is largely irrelevant during the test although you must be able to drive to a reasonable speed to be safe of course. ARDS tests are conducted by racing schools at racetracks (most racetracks have a school, a list can be found here) and normally, if not always, coincide with a track day so you have traffic to navigate through while on circuit.
The test itself comprises two parts, a written test and a practical test, I’ll go into each of these in detail below.
The written test is a multiple choice questionnaire in which you must answer questions relating to racing and race weekends. These include but aren’t limited to flags you might have displayed to you while on track, how you would react in specific situations on track and what you need to do and where you need to be at certain points during a race weekend.
This may seem daunting at first but really this is a very simple test based on an instructional video which is sent to you with your go racing pack. It is advisable to watch this video prior to the date of your test so that you have an idea of what may be asked and the rules around racing. However the video is also usually shown to you just prior to the questionnaire itself so the answers should be fresh in your mind. Just make sure you pay attention and you’ll be fine!
Next on to the practical test. Prior to taking this it’s advisable to do at least one or two trackdays, ideally at the track where your test is, and maybe even get some tuition from an instructor. This will help you be comfortable in a trackday environment and get straight up to speed on the circuit, you don’t want to be learning the circuit as the instructor is driving you around to show you what he/she expects!
The format of this test is straightforward. Most racing schools have their own school cars in which you can undertake your test (although check with your local school to avoid being caught out!) this means you don’t have to worry about having your own car to take on circuit. The instructor assessing your test will usually take you out for a few laps first. This allows you to assess the condition of the circuit on the day, see the lines that the instructor expects you to drive, and most importantly shows you how fast (or otherwise) you’re expected to drive at. The most common worry for people doing an ARDS test is generally “will I be fast enough?” If you are semi-regular track day driver, you’ll likely have absolutely no problem with driving at the pace required for the test. During this time you should ask any questions regarding track behaviour, racing lines etc. that come to mind as you wont be able to ask while you’re being assessed, you’ll just be expected to know.
Once the instructor has driven you for a few laps, it will then be your turn to jump into the drivers seat. The assessment is usually a 10-15 minute assessment depending on the racetrack and how busy the circuit is. During this time you’ll be expected to drive competently and in a safe manner. The main thing the instructor will be looking for is safety, this means confidently navigating through traffic, letting faster cars past and generally being aware of what is going on around you. Anything in particular that they are looking out for they’ll tell you as they are driving around themselves. A top tip is to take an extra bit of time when you first get into the car to make sure you’re comfortable and can properly reach all of the controls, this means you won’t have any unexpected distractions on track and can simply focus on driving safely and smoothly.
Once you’ve completed both sections of the ARDS test all that’s left to do is to make sure that your licence application form is completed. This is usually done throughout the day as you undertake each section, but make sure before you leave the circuit everything necessary is filled in!
Then all you need is to complete a medical (to be discussed in a later article) and you can send off your application to go racing!
Please follow us on Facebook where you can check out the progress of the race team, see photos and videos and be notified of new articles!