How Do I Get My Race Licence?
The first step, which is now common across many branches of motorsport, is to buy the starter pack from the sport’s governing body, the Motor Sports Association (MSA) www.msauk.org, or from one of the members of the Association of Racing Drivers’ Schools (ARDS).
The starter pack comes at a price of £104 (2019) and includes the all-important licence application form and a DVD about racing, which will be invaluable when you come to take the mandatory test. Try and watch the DVD several times, and pay particular attention to the basic rules and things like flag signals, as this knowledge will come in useful when you take the test.
When you have digested the contents of the DVD, you will need to book the ARDS test at one of the member schools, details of which will be in the starter pack. It’s worth getting a clear idea of the timescale for booking and taking the test, to make sure you know when you will be ready to race if you plan to start as soon as possible.
Applicants over the age of 18 will need to complete a medical before taking the test, which can be done by your GP. It’s a pretty straightforward process, with both you and your doctor filling in part of the form. The approximate cost for the medical is around £120.
You won’t be surprised to discover that the ARDS test also carries a price tag, of approximately £200 depending upon venue, which includes the use of a school car for the practical part of the assessment. There are two parts to the test; a practical driving session and a multi-choice exam type session covering the regulations.
The last job is to send off your licence application with proof of passing the ARDS test. The form goes to the MSA with a cheque for approximately £60 for a National B race licence and, when it comes back in a couple of weeks, you are ready to enter your first race!
How Do I Improve My Skills?
Are you fit enough to go racing? Okay, a 10-lap sprint at Silverstone may not require the stamina of a marathon runner, but a reasonable level of aerobic fitness, core stability and upper body strength is always a good idea. If you are looking to do longer races, fitness levels will need to be even higher. You may also consider consulting a personal trainer. Take a long hard look at your diet, drinking and smoking. We’re not suggesting you become a teetotal lentil-muncher, but a sensible approach is needed. If you do drink, make sure it is not the night before a race meeting. Random drink and drug testing is carried out in motorsport, sometimes as early as 9am on race day.
The logical way to improve your on-track performance is to enlist the services of a Newbridge driver coach. Just like any sport, there are professional coaches who can seriously help you with everything – from basic car control to racecraft and tyre management – all of which will improve your lap time in a race situation, and money spent with a good coach is likely to bring a much better reward than spending money on the car.
If you choose to run a data-logging system and allow the coach to drive the car during testing, you can get some very useful data overlays to identify exactly where you can find those elusive tenths of a second – or more! Data logging itself can also help by comparing your data with a team mate, or even just analysing your performance on its own – for example comparing laps and looking at cornering and braking g-forces to identify areas where driver performance can be improved.
What equipment do I need?
How much you spend is really down to you, but a budget of anything between about £750 and £2,000+, and maybe more, is not unreasonable to cover good quality kit. Our advice is to buy the best kit you can sensibly afford. We hope you will never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you didn’t skimp.
Racewear suppliers can be useful sources of advice about race equipment and make sure you check about longevity, as things like helmets and overalls have a well-defined legal life. You’ll find supplier ads in most of the motorsport press
If you’re planning to run the car yourself, you’ll obviously need a lot more than this: mechanic’s gear, tools, spare parts, jerry cans, trailers or transporters, the list is almost endless and not one that we can fully cover here.
Which Championship is right for me?
If you haven’t yet worked out what you want to do, it’s time to do some research. This can consist of checking out and browsing the websites of racing clubs, talking to them to find out more, reading the motorsport press, attending motorsport shows, as well as going to race meetings, watching the races and meeting the competitors. That will take some time, but you should find it worthwhile as it will help narrow down your areas of interest and possibly open up options you hadn’t previously considered.
For most competitors, the cost of racing in a particular championship is a key factor. When budgeting, as well as the personal equipment you need, you should at least consider costs of the car, parts, tyres, fuel, tools, transport and accommodation, mechanical repairs and bodywork repairs, any insurances, and the fees of a team or mechanic if you are having their help, as well as club and championship fees, race entry fees, and testing fees. This is not necessarily a complete list, but we think it contains most of areas where expense is incurred by motorsport competitors. It’s very rare that competitors can complete a season of DIY racing for under £20,000, and more often than not the budget is anything from £30,000 to £50,000 upwards.
Here are some rough figures to give you an idea of what you might have to spend:
Club racing £15,000 – £40,000+
Semi-professional £60,000 – £170,000
BTCC, F3, British GTs £250,000 – £500,000+
To get to be the next Lewis Hamilton… £10,000,000+ (no guarantees!)