Getting into Motorsport: The Essentials

Le Mans At Silverstone

Motorsport enthusiast Chris White gives the rundown on the essentials you need to know about becoming a racing driver.

Motorsport is synonymous with the British culture. When you think of Formula One, you think about the greats – Sir Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill to name just two – and the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button scrapping for the driver’s championship in recent times.

The same is true in rallying, with the late Colin McRae a household name, and then you have Barry Sheene, Mike Hailwood, John Surtees and Carl Fogarty, with James Toseland and Cal Crutchlow making names for themselves in the modern era.

Whoever you think of when you think British motorsport, you’re not short of idols that’s for sure. It’s no surprise that as young children – mainly the boys it must be said – you dream of being an F1 driver or MotoGP world champion.

For many youngsters, the passion for motorsport comes from their family – their parents, uncles, Grandads, maybe even their older brothers – who spend many an hour watching races on the television or sitting in front of DVDs reviewing the previous season’s best bits – the crashes mainly! But how difficult is it to actually get into motorsport yourself? Not many of us are lucky enough to have a racing circuit in the back yard!

Your first step on the road to a motorsport career is, as you’ve probably already thought about, choosing your sport. There are all kinds, it’s not as simple as “I want to be a racing driver” unfortunately, with F1, rallying, karting and much more.

Next, sticking with the driving theme, you need to find a racing club that is relatively local. For many, the best option here is a karting club because the karts are much smaller than a car and simpler to handle for beginners.

You would find out about the safety equipment – like the helmets, gloves and leathers – and also how to be safe on the track, and you’d be racing against other novices and learning about clutch control, braking, and racing lines – all of the basics you need.

As you develop your skills and get older (you need to be 16 to race properly in the UK), you can gradually move up to bigger or quicker karts or cars with many of the world’s top drivers starting out in the karting arena.

A lot of people even opt to buy their own specialist track cars or bikes that are not legal to drive or ride on the roads, but can be transported to the circuits either on a trailer or in the back of a van and raced around on track days. But don’t’ worry, you don’t have to try and tow your car or bike yourself on the back of the family Focus, companies like uShip for example can provide transporters to help get to and from the track, in however many pieces they might be in after race day!

You’re never too old to start racing either. The majority of clubs have ‘beginner’ ‘novice’ and ‘expert’ classes, allowing you to move through the classifications as you develop your racing skills, so you needn’t worry about coming up against experienced racers on your first lap of the track, blaming you for taking the wrong line into the corners.

Safety is the main aspect of racing, and as long as you are well aware of the “rules of the track”, you’re all set.

image: © firststoptyres