Welcome to the World Of Motorsport. Pick a budget you think you can afford and then, double it.
Maybe you’re completely new to Motorsport and you’re trying to find out how to get started. Perhaps you’re a track day hero looking to do more than just pass on the left.
For whatever reason you’re starting out in motorsport, one of the first barriers you encounter is understanding its true cost.
Source: Civic Cup Website
Novice category marketing tends to make promises on low budgets for a season of racing, but is that actually the true cost?
Despite the marketing message on offer from fixed price package novice categories, Motorsport can cost you a lot of money.
To the uninitiated, there are a lot of hidden charges. With that said nothing should be a surprise if you’ve done your research properly.
Have you factored in tyres? Entry fees? Running and transport costs for test days? What about your gear? Damage? Parts?
Source: Car Magazine
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be graced with the skills of a mechanic, or own a trailer. So, if you’re unable to run your own racing car how much of a hole is all this going to put in your pocket?
You’ll need to invest upfront in a lot of different areas; or at least do your homework and work out the most effective way to part with your cash. It’s also worth considering what you want to learn in the season.
Do you want to focus on all out pace, or perfect your race craft? Is racing in a rear wheel drive category important? Where would you like your fledgling racing career to be in a year or so?
Source: Paddock 42
Most importantly, where will you have the most fun? You’ve spent a long time working to be able to enjoy this opportunity, after all.
Let’s start by totting up the cost of getting kitted out.
Obviously you can’t head out on a test day in your jeans and t-shirt. You’ll need decent gear.
A complete set of brand new race wear. Not a bad way to part with £4,000…
Here’s your brand new race wear selection. £3,777.74 (+VAT)’s worth, to be exact. There are probably a few items in this list that you could save a few hundred quid on by choosing cheaper items. Though with some things, safer is better. Your Hans Device and helmet are critical safety gear, so if you can afford better in that direction at the expense of say, the race suit, in my opinion you should do it.
Avoid second hand equipment.
If you’ve got a bit of extra budget then a few hundred pounds spent in the other direction can go a long way.
Kit Bag: Sparco Universe
Price: £99.95+VAT (link)
This is a great kit bag with wheels and plenty of storage. It fits a helmet, two suits, a Hans device, boots, spare visors, a GoPro, bottles of water. It also has wheels!
Helmet / Visor / Tear Offs: Bell RS7 + Tinted Visor + Tear Offs
Price: £1,042.80 + £72 + £40
A Bell RS7 is at the pricier end of the helmet market for a novice but the carbon weave is tough. If you’re in an open cockpit this is a nice safety feature. My lid has been hit by nuts, bolts, bodywork, some big pebbles and it’s absolutely fine after a season of use. For a few hundred quid more, the Stilo ST5 F Carbon Helmet is very popular and comes with a radio connection pre installed.
Soon to be painted Bell RS7 with Iridium tinted lens and Autotel Radio Kit. For a season of open cockpit use it looks pretty good…
Most helmets come with a clear visor. Clear visors are great for wet days and dim lighting but you’ll need something tinted for a sunny day. Especially in winter testing.
Hans Device: Schroth XLT Frontal Head Restraint (FHR)
There are cheaper Hans devices in market but this is the only one I have experience with. Get some advice from your driver coach or team; safety wise Hans can save your life, it’s also mandatory in nearly every motor racing category. You won’t be allowed out on any UK track test day without one.
Fireproofs: Sparco Soft Touch RW-5 Long Sleeve and Long Johns with OMP Tecnica Open Face Balaclava
Price: £140.00 + £36.00
Get breathable fireproofs or you’ll sweat like crazy. These Sparco items are good, but their X-Cool range is the best. The long johns make all the difference in winter testing. If you’re out for two days in a row or more, you’ll need a spare balaclava and top. Unless you don’t mind sweating in yesterday’s sweaty gear.
Race Boots: Alpinestars SP Race Boot
There are so many boots around this price point, so for the most part you’re really looking for comfort and feel. Some boots can be quite narrow, so it’s always a good idea to try a few pairs on first. If you’ve got £340 then go for these: OMP One Evo Formula R.
Want: OMP One Evo Formula R race boots.
Race Suit(s): Alpinestars GP Pro Race Suit
Choosing a race suit isn’t easy. They get expensive pretty quickly. There are some exceptional custom racesuit manufacturers out there like Freem and Stand21, but for the most of us we’re aiming at a budget of between £500-£800. I own a spare Alpinestars suit that has a retail price of around £300. It’s quite heavy and very thick which makes it awful during the summer, but pretty much perfect for winter testing. Go for as light and breathable as you can afford with a decent fit.
Pro tip: check where the zip finishes at the bottom or you might find yourself in some difficulty in the bathroom. Some of you will know what I mean.
Gloves Sparco Rocket RG-4 Nomex Race Gloves
Radio Helmet Kit (Autotel) (link)
If you’re going to put a radio in your car (or, your second hand car came with one installed) then you’ll need a helmet kit. It’s obviously quite an optional purchase but if you’re planning to test different cars too; a radio kit will inevitably come in handy. At the sharper end of racing it’s a given you’re fully geared up which includes radio. Running the Ginetta G55 it was just assumed I’d have one. And headphones (obviously!).
Headphones: Custom Moulded from ACS
I have a pair of custom moulded headphones from ACS. They’re amazing at blocking out the noise and great for being able to hear my coach. If you can get them done, do it.
Pro tip: practice getting your headphones in and out before you go to the circuit. It’s a bit fiddly at first!
Your Racing Licence
Passing your ARDS test is easy. It’s a simple multiple choice exam and a quick drive around a circuit with an instructor. If you can drive around for two laps and demonstrate an awareness of the traffic around you, you’re in.
In your first year you’ll take the test and get your licence. At the end of that year, you’ll need to renew so the potential fee is more than you might expect in your first year.
You may want to prepare yourself by working with a coach for a day to learn the basics of your local circuit. It’s probably perfectly fine to use your road car for this!
Price: £105 for the MSA Starter Pack then annual renewal (£60 for National B and £94 for National A)
Your Personal Development: Car Handling Basics
Cost is directly proportional to track time. The more you’re on track, the more you’re spending.
There are ways to make your money go further, though. Especially while you’re learning.
I spent a few days at Blyton Park in a road car learning car handling with Scott coaching me. The session gave me the early experience I needed to feel confident on a live circuit and it transformed the rate of my development throughout the season,
You could learn car handling in your road car with a coach (at around £400) or participate in the Driver 61 Driver’s University Car Handling Course for £725. I also did an excellent one to one drift course with my good friend Andrew Bentley, one of our recommended driver coaches.
If you make sure you have a basic level of ability in your car handling technique, you can attack the circuit with much more confidence. More importantly, the headstart will make running a track car much more cost efficient.
Total: £725 (Driver 61 Car Handling Course)
Time to choose your steed.
I’ve tested quite a few different cars in my novice year alongside running my Radical SR1.
While the marketing material for almost all novice categories assures the customer that racing comes at a fixed price, it definitely doesn’t. Testing, tyres, fuel, running costs, transportation and spares make up much of the running cost of a racing car. Not to mention the engine may need rebuilding every few thousand miles (it’s 60 hours running time for an SR1).
Buy Brand New, Second Hand or Arrive and Drive Hire?
Always speak with the teams first. To enter a championship you don’t have to go via the manufacturer, and almost all teams will be more than willing to help you get started.
You’ll be presented with a few different buying options. There are plenty of second hand cars available. Take a look at Race Cars Direct) or you can hire a track car for “arrive and drive” style racing.
Arrive and drive is a very popular option. While the manufacturer may prefer you to buy a brand new car, a conversation with a team owner will highlight that there are so many more options to get into a seat than outright purchase.
Have Goals and Choose your Category to Suit.
When you’re choosing a car, you really need to consider what you’d like to get out of a season of racing. My main goal was to learn how to drive a (basic) sports prototype. This year, I’m graduating to a Radical SR3 but I’m going to do some racing in the Funcup and Mazda MX5 Cup to practice my racecraft.
Track and Race Insurance
If you’re running a car at race meetings, it’s a good idea to insure it. As a ball park, my Radical SR1 was insured at £2,058 for 5 Test Days, 4 race weekends via Grove and Dean. I ended up running closer to 20 test days. Inevitably, these were uninsured days.
Running Your Car With A Team: Testing
Let’s start by look at the ball park figures for the 2016 Radical SR1 Cup. This is a car I bought outright and ran for the year, selling on for £22,000 to pay towards the SR3.
The Radical SR1 was in the region of £37,500 ex VAT to acquire. There are some second hand cars on the Radical website for around £10,000 less though. As the race entry for the season is £4,950+VAT, there’s a potential saving to be gained via this route.
– Set of Tyres £700
– Between Race or Test Session Car Preparation £350
– Test Day Running (mechanics / transport etc) £500
– Replacement parts and engine rebuild: Allow for £300 per day of running
– Fuel: £60-100 per day
Total: £2200 per day
Test Day Additional Fees
– Track Day £100
– Test Day £179 (Open Pit / Snetterton)
– Semi Exclusive £595 (Snetterton)
– Coaching: £400-£500 per day
Total Additional Fees: £100 – £1095 per day
– Hotel £300
– Car Preparation £350
– Race Day Running (mechanics / transport etc) £500
– Fuel £60-100
– Tyres £350 (limited to 2 sets in SR1 Cup season)
– Incidental parts £300 (eg: radiator, chain / sprocket set)
Total: £1850 per race day
In summary, for 5 full days of testing and the 4 race weekend season, the approx budget is £11,000 for testing, £7,400 for the races and £37,500 for the car itself. It’s wise to have a coach at £400 per day and it’s definitely wise to buy two spare sets of wheels and tyres (around £2,000).
Season Total: £57,900 ex VAT
In the end I did an enormous amount of testing taking my budget closer to the £75,000 mark. All of my goals were achieved or over achieved, but it can add up if you want to be competitive.
If you’ve got lots of previous experience or you’re smart about your path to learning; you can probably do this for a little less. The main takeaway though is speak to a team first. They may have a second hand car, different purchase options, discounts with the manufacturer, their own coaches and so on.
A Look At The Alternatives: Low Budget UK Racing Series
If you’re not sure where to start racing, take a look at the series available. UK motorsport is fabulously diverse in the United Kingdom, there’s a category to race pretty much anything.
From a budget perspective, I think these categories really stand out, with most single race entry fees coming in around the £300-£400 mark):
– BRSCC MAZDA MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP RWD (BRSCC / website)
– BMW 330 Challenge (750mc / website)
– Tegiwa Civic Cup FWD (750mc / website)
– VAG Trophy FWD (MSVR / website)
– Toyota MR2 Championship RWD (750mc / website)
– Toyo Tyres Porsche Championship RWD (BRSCC / website)
But there are of course so many more to choose from. At a higher entry budget of £2,000 to £4,000 per race but still with a relatively low budget running cost:
A Look At The Alternatives: “Arrive and Drive” Examples
VW Cup / VAG Trophy Eligibility
I spoke with Rob from Allumy Motorsport who talked me through some of the costs associated with running at the sharp end of the VAG Trophy.
An awful lot of engineering goes into winning a championship; indeed one of Rob’s services is to build a race spec, VWcup or VAG trophy eligible car from a road car. If however, you’d like to rent one of his cars, you just need to pay your entry fee and you’re away for something in the region of 2 grand.
Race championship winning Mark 4 golf (class B champion) arrive and drive: £2,000+vat (not inc insurance around £400 per weekend)
Source: VAG Trophy
Golf Mark 4: £1500+VAT (tyres + fuel)
Golf Mark 6 (brand new tyres): £2500+VAT
There are number of different ways to own or rent a car for a season. Experience Motorsport are offering this VW Motorsport pre-production 3dr R32 Shell, built by BTCC regulars AMD.
Among the potential payment options is a £500 a month contract (+deposit) with an option to buy the car or return it. Alternatively you can rent the car for £800 a month for 12 month fixed contract, ending in full ownership of the car.
Their arrive and drive package includes; car prep, set up, tyres, fuel, driver training, transportation, etc.
Cost: £2000 per weekend (Qualifying and two races).
Alternatively, the car is £10,000 to purchase.
BRSCC Mazda Mx5 Championship Eligibility
Running a Mazda MX5 has to be the cheapest way into Motorsport. The entry fee per race in the BRSCC Mazda MX5 Championship is £405. This assumes you’re a BRSCC member (£285 for the year).
To run an arrive and drive entry in the BRSCC Mazda Mx5 Championship, fees are in the region of £1,200 to £1,400 depending on factors like time of year, distance to circuit and so on.
Testing in a Mazda MX5 is extremely cheap. Prices from our recommended track day hire suppliers range from £400 to £600 per day depending on specification, tyres, fuel, insurance and location. Try getting in touch with Jack at www.ab-motorsport.co.uk for a quote on a very nicely prepared Mazda MX5 for a season in the BRSCC (or for single tests)
For More Options on a Budget
Take a look at our recommended track and race car hire list. Each team or owner produces well sorted track day cars, many of them offering arrive and drive packages to get you started in your first racing season.
And on the opposite end of the budget
If you have slightly higher budget aspirations and would like to get into GT racing, Ferrari 458’s and Porsche 911 Carerra Cup Cars are highly accessible options via teams such as Team Parker and FF Corse.
Expect a test in a Ferrari 458 Challenge to look a little more like £7,000+VAT per day and a Porsche 911 Carerra Cup Car at around £5,000.
Featured Image: Abbie Eaton Mazda MX5 (Source)