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Episode 01

Starting up a racing career is hard, they say. Just how hard is it though? I’m making it my mission to find out…

Starting up a racing career is hard, they say. Just how hard is it though? I’m making it my mission to find out…

“New year, new me.”

“New year, new me.”

The cliché that almost all of us use to convince ourselves that we can make a difference to our lives for the better. After all, what better time to make a change than when the whole planet (near-as-makes-no-difference) simultaneously celebrates a change. Beginning a new challenge at the start of a new year means it’s easy to calculate how long we’ve successfully stuck with our new habit, or as with the vast majority of us, how long we lasted before we gave up.

So, here is my “new year, new me” challenge. Writing. Well writing and racing, but I’ll touch on the writing bit first. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been particularly gifted at writing in my 20 years of existence to date, but I’ve always enjoyed stories. Be it reading stories, reciting stories, being immersed in the portrayal of a story by people much more talented in the field of acting than I, a good story draws people in. It draws them in to the point where they don’t want to get out, they happily embrace each word right up until the final full stop.

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But it’s all well and good knowing what a story does and wanting to write one, but where does the inspiration come from? Where do you find that gripping storyline? For me, in this instance, I feel that subject will be myself.

“But who are you? Why are you so interesting? I’d never even heard of you before clicking on this post!” I’m sure you’re thinking, although I expect there isn’t quite as much emotion behind your thoughts as those expressions just had. This brings me onto the racing. I, just like a lot of you I’m sure, want to go racing, but don’t have millions of pounds of backing. I don’t even have thousands at this point. It’s just me. I want to go racing, but I don’t have a race team, a car or even a race licence. I do, though, have a desire to race.

Regardless, my “new year, new me” plan is to live a racing life. Every aspect of a racing drivers’ life will be documented, be it mental and physical health, raising finances to race, finding the best competition to race in, how to improve as a driver, everything. Every sacrifice, every triumph, every setback will be lived and written about, all for your reading pleasure. Together we will discover just how hard it really is to get into racing using just my own two feet.

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Ideally, this culminates in “racer realises lifetime dream” rather than “racing blog stalls at the start line.” Ideally, I don’t give up in two weeks’ time like most “new year, new me” challenges. Ideally, I haven’t lost the interest of both of you readers by now. “Ideally” is a very easy word to use far too many times in a row, it seems. I think I’m now rambling on a bit…

Let’s get things back on track (I promise the puns are really not intentional). Now that you know, and hopefully understand, what this blog is going to contain over the coming weeks, months, years, I hope you find it an entertaining enough concept to stick around with, as I prepare to dedicate my life to the racing grind.

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Episode 46

Even if you can’t race, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in motorsport. In fact, here’s how you can land the most important role at a race meeting:

How To: Become A Marshal

Even if you can’t race, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in motorsport. In fact, here’s how you can land the most important role at a race meeting:

Motorsport is a love for many people, regardless of age, gender or any other discriminatory factor. On the other hand, due to the financial (and to a lesser extent health and fitness) constraints on participation, the demographic of the drivers – those who are actively involved in the action – is fairly non-diverse.

The problem with this viewpoint, however, is that you’re discarding arguably the most important participants. The people who, if we were without, motorsport wouldn’t occur. If you’re yet to figure out who we’re focusing this article on, it’s the orange-clad volunteers that make racing possible: our marshals.

Coming in all shapes and sizes, from a multitude of backgrounds, the brilliant thing about British motorsport marshals is that they’re selfless enough to do the vital jobs they do purely for the love of the sport. If you wish to get involved in motorsport but don’t want to or can’t drive, then marshalling is the job for you. After all, you get front-row seats to all of the action, and it’s a lot cheaper than participating too!

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Does this sound up your street? Then here’s the definitive guide about becoming a marshal:

When you become a marshal, the process is not too dissimilar to becoming a racing driver, in some senses. Initially, you should join a club based on your interests. For racing, that may be the BRSCC or BARC, whereas for marshalling there are two predominant clubs to choose from: the British Motorsports Marshals Club or the British Rally Marshals Club. Naturally, your choice between the two should be driven in whether you wish to volunteer for circuit racing (former) or rallying (latter).

For now, then, let’s focus on the BMMC. If you’re looking to get a taste of marshalling without a commitment, the BMMC run a ‘Try a Day as a Marshal’ scheme, where interested parties can experience the role before making a decision. To sign up for one of these, all you have to do is fill out a simple form on the BMMC website, and they’ll be in contact.

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For people ready to take the plunge instead, you need to visit the Motorsport UK website. Here you will find the application form to register as a marshal. Once you’re accepted, you’ll be given a whole host of training based on the role you pick, and then you’re good to go!

One of the great things about the fact this role is voluntary, is that there’s absolutely no commitment. There’s no set number of events or days you need to volunteer, meaning all the power is in your hands. If you choose to really dive into the job, though, you can really go places. British marshals are recognised as some of the highest trained, best marshals in the world, and many volunteers end up travelling abroad every year to marshal at some of the biggest motorsport events.

In short, then, volunteering at your local race track could literally take you places. A job with no required qualifications, and a motorsport role that doesn’t require a substantial budget to get started with. Sounds perfect, right? Maybe the most important person at a race meeting could be you.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Episode 45

In the £30-35,000 price range, there’s a very interesting car-buying dilemma…

Buying A New Daily vs New Racing Car

In the £30-35,000 price range, there’s a very interesting car-buying dilemma…

Back in the spring time I wrote an article asking whether I really needed to buy a racing car, or whether my speed need would be met by just a track toy. You can read the article in full here, and if you’re yet to read it I won’t spoil it for you now. This week we’re travelling down a similar path, though. Should I buy a race car, or should I buy myself a new road car instead?

If, like me, you also like your road cars, you might be aware of a new hot hatch that is on its way from Japan. Over the last week or so, a wave of first-drive reviews have been released for the Toyota GR Yaris, and they’ve all been explicit in their assessments: it’s a ridiculously good car. A brainchild of Tommi Makinen Racing – the outfit in charge of producing Toyota’s factory WRC effort – the car is the first homologation-special rally car the world has seen for the best part of 15 years.

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I obviously have not driven the car yet myself, however I have been keeping a close eye on its development ever since it was first announced at the top of the year with a view to potentially owning one myself. As a result, I was relieved that Toyota hadn’t cocked up a recipe that, on paper, is special to say the least. In fact, what they’ve produced is quite the contrary.

By all accounts, the car is light, nimble, as powerful as it needs to be and, most importantly, oozes character. A car classed alongside the Ford Fiesta in terms of dimensions, yet similar to Golf GTIs and Hyundai i30s in potency, and a four-wheel drive system unlike any hatchback on the market, the car really has been made with true drivers in mind. Priced at less than £35,000, it really is an affordable performance vehicle.

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It’s the price, though, that creates my dilemma. More specifically it’s the available finance price where, over a 42-month period and with an £8,000 deposit, the GR Yaris is available at less than £300 a month with just a 1.9% APR, even in my spec choice of the Circuit Pack in black. If you take those finance terms of an £8,000 deposit and £300 a month over 42 months, though, you could finance yourself a rather different driving prospect: a Caterham Academy package.

For those of you not in the know, the Caterham Academy is an all-inclusive entry-level racing series here in the UK. For a base price of a hair under £30,000, you’re buying your very own road-legal racing car *and* a full season of entry fees into a novice-only competition that runs at seven of the best racing circuits in the country, including both Silverstone and Brands Hatch. There are a lot of other features within the Academy package, but I’ve already written a stand-alone article with everything you need to know, which you can read here.

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Back to this subject, then, and you can see the dilemma. For almost equal outlay I have the choice of potentially the best new drivers’ car in years or the beginning of my racing career. So, before I ask you wonderful readers for any advice you’ve got, let’s have a look at the pros and cons of each option from my perspective:

The pros of the Yaris are fairly self-explanatory. It’s a special car, something that hasn’t been built in recent memory nor is it likely we’ll see another. It’s something I can drive every day, at any time and in any conditions. In the long run it’s likely not to depreciate as much as other cars in its segment either, due to its limited numbers and pedigree.

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On the other hand, however, I’d be missing out on the sense of competition that you can only achieve from racing. Sure, I could take the Yaris to track days and I’m positive that they would be enjoyable experiences, but it’s not made specifically for that purpose, so it may not feel quite at home either.

In the Caterham corner, I’d finally be able to begin the racing career I’ve been yearning after. Extra costs that are associated with entry into motorsport – such as the ARDS test and licence – are all included in the initial cost, too, meaning all I’d have to spend on top is the cost of my racing uniform. Another plus point is the nature of the Santander finance deal Caterham have set up. When it comes to the Caterham motorsport ladder, small improvements are made to the cars each year in order to let you progress into the faster series, yet these modifications don’t adversely affect the finance package. Therefore, progression up the motorsport ladder is cheap and easy.

On the flip side, unfortunately, come with the associated hassle of owning a racing car on the day-to-day. The extra expense for storage, towing and other consumable costs need to be accounted for, along with the fact it would be my second car, not a direct replacement for my current vehicle as the Yaris would be.

As you can see, then, there’s a lot of deliberating still to do on my end before a final decision is made. What would help me, then, would be some outside opinions. If the choice was yours, would you buy the new sporty daily, or start a racing career? Let me know with a comment below! No, please do, I need all the help I can get.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Episode 44

If you’re thinking of getting into motor racing, this could be the best commitment-free method of finding out if it’s for you…

Hiring A Brands Hatch Caterham:

The Best First-Taste of Motorsport?

If you’re thinking of getting into motor racing, this could be the best commitment-free method of finding out if it’s for you…

This week, as a 21st Birthday present for myself, I decided to go for a track day along with a friend of mine. In a normal situation, this sounds like a fairly run-of-the-mill idea. There was one small problem, though. Neither of us own a track-worthy vehicle. What we were able to do though was hire a car, so that’s what we did. The question is, then, was it worth it? Let’s take a look.

The car in question was a Caterham. Precisely, a Caterham CDX, which is purpose-built for a variety of abusive activities available at Brands Hatch circuit in Kent. These activities include a car control/drifting day, track-day tuition, or the option we chose: track day car hire.

Specification-wise, the Caterham CDX utilises the 1.6-litre Sigma engine found in most Caterhams. In this car, it was producing 135bhp, and was transported to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual and an LSD. The car also featured a roll-cage, however was the ‘wide’ chassis for ‘extra comfort.’ I can tell you now, it’s still not wide!

Having experienced it, I’d say the Caterham is pretty much exactly what you’d want as an experience car. It was by no means the quickest vehicle on circuit, but by far wasn’t the slowest either. There was plenty of grip from the Yokohama tyres, and the car was powerful enough without being so powerful it could spit you off if you were too throttle-happy on corner exits. A very good sweet spot that allowed us to gain confidence quickly despite driving a completely new-to-us car on an unfamiliar circuit.

The vehicle was ours for the full day for unlimited usage, with the only caveat being the car must be rested for 20 minutes per hour. Other than that, unlimited fuel, tyres and a garage space are all thrown into the upfront cost. What is that cost I hear you ask? £895, plus the cost of the track day itself on top. The second driver slot we added was an additional £100, which bought the total for our day to £1,164 split between us. Quite an expensive day out, then.

Whilst it certainly is an expensive day out, the best aspect was the knowledge that, as long as we didn’t bin the thing, no unexpected additional costs would spring up on us. For example, the throttle cable actually snapped whilst I was driving down the start/finish straight in the middle of the morning session, but even being stopped halfway up the hill towards Druids was relatively stress-free. Once we were towed back to the garage, the resident Brands Hatch mechanics came to investigate, fixed the issue, and we were on our way once again within half an hour, without spending a penny and completely hassle-free!

On top of that, our host Will was an awesome person to deal with. He was extremely friendly and cheerful, made sure we were welcome, helped with refuelling the car, and was just an overall top, top person to deal with. When he was giving passenger laps in the other MSV Caterham, he showed that he wasn’t bad behind the wheel either!

In short, if you’re thinking about wanting to race in the future but want to experience a track day first to work out if it’s for you, I’d thoroughly recommend hiring a Caterham at Brands for the day. It was a great way to dip our toes into the water of fully-grown motorsport rather than just karting, with it being relatively cheap and commitment-free. The only thought I’ve got now, is should I buy a Caterham of my own..?

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 43

This week we’re taking a look at the BRSCC CityCar Cup, which is a single-manufacturer series that uses cars from three manufacturers. Confused? So am I…

BRSCC CityCar Cup:

Cheap, Easy & Fun?

This week we’re taking a look at the BRSCC CityCar Cup, which is a single-manufacturer series that uses cars from three manufacturers. Confused? So am I…

Most racing series that incorporate vehicles from different manufacturers end up requiring performance equalising measures to keep the grids even. For example, grassroots competitions regularly separate vehicles into classes using power-to-weight, and in more professional categories a ‘Balance of Performance’ measure is used in an attempt to negate any specific car from being much faster than any other. Occasionally, though, a racing series doesn’t need any. This week, we’re going one step further still: we’re talking about a racing series that’s effectively one-make, despite allowing three different vehicles from three different manufacturers compete.

Now, I know that I have mentioned a fair few times on this blog that I have no interest at all in racing front-wheel drive cars, nor am I looking to convert a road car into a racing car. With that said, however, this sort of challenge may be exactly what you readers are wanting to get involved with, so it feels right for me to create these all-you-need-to-know style articles regardless. As such. This week we’re delving into the BRSCC CityCar Cup.

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To kick things off, let’s address the elephant in the room of the whole ‘three-make, one-make series’ bit. The CityCar Cup is a new-for-2020 series dedicated to the first-generation Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107. The reason why this is therefore effectively a single-make series is because the three cars, under their unique bodies, are the same vehicle, and (I’m fairly sure) they were even produced in the same factory as one another. Their engines, drivetrains, suspension systems are all identical, and so their resulting performance was also identical.

Seven years after production of these pocket not-so-rockets ceased, the British Road and Sports Car Club (BRSCC), alongside SW Motorsports, have created a dedicated competition for these cars. In theory it sounds not only good but cheap, so what do you actually have to do? Well, in order to both turn these monsters into track-ready demons and preserve parity, those of you who wish to track-ify your C1s, 107s or Aygeese must do so by using the supplied kits from SW Motorsports. Luckily, these are relatively cheap at £2,900 VAT inclusive, and considering the cars themselves are readily available from around £1,500, you’re looking at spending less than five grand!

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Included in your sub £3k conversion kit is a full bolt-in roll cage, spec wheels, tyres and coilovers, and a few other bits and bobs like door cards and a footrest. There is a second, optional package labelled the ‘MSUK Safety Kit’ (interesting to see that safety is optional…) available for £1,400 which includes a seat, harnesses, fire extinguisher etc, and whilst it’s only a recommended option it makes sense to purchase as it’ll save you a tonne of time in searching for the items individually. When this is factored in, then, you’re looking at costs of circa £6,000 with sundries included, but there is another way into the competition.

If you’re not especially mechanically-minded, have an extremely busy schedule or are just a bit lazy, you don’t have to build your car yourself. SW Motorsports, the guys that developed the whole CityCar Cup package, also offer ready-made machines for you to purchase, at the cost of £6,995. What makes this option particularly attractive, however, is that your competition registration and first entry fee are thrown in with the package, saving you even more time! At that cost, you have the option of all three models, too, so you can pick your favourite-looking, the lightest (apparently the C1 is marginally trimmer) or, if you’re in a similar situation to myself where your family already own a first-generation C1 and a 107, you could complete the set.

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Now you’ve secured your motor, then, what next? Well, race entry fees are £345 per event, where the CityCar Cup forms a class within the ClubSport Trophy. Whilst this arrangement is reported to be temporary, with the CityCar Cup receiving its own dedicated race in 2021, it does mean that you’re stuck at the rear end of a moderately diverse grid. For example, the pole position time at the previous Silverstone National round was a 1:04 in the ClubSport Trophy, whilst the CityCar Cup pole time was a 1:19. The race itself lasts for 45 minutes, with one compulsory pitstop. Whilst 2020 was always meant to be an experimental, ‘let’s get things off the ground’ year, the way things have gone has limited the CityCar Cup to just three rounds, two of which have already occurred. The final race of the year is at Croft, during the BRSCC meeting on October 31st, and whilst that may be too soon for you to organise an entry, it could be the perfect opportunity to scout out the competition in preparation for an assault on the 2021 title.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 42

Lewis Hamilton equalling Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record reignited the age-old debate of who was better, but how have the challenges facing F1 drivers changed over time?

Better Then Or Better Now?

How Drivers’ Challenges Have Changed

Lewis Hamilton equalling Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record reignited the age-old debate of who was better, but how have the challenges facing F1 drivers changed over time?

As per usual, the success of Lewis Hamilton in this week’s Eifel Grand Prix was polarising, but this weeks’ success was more significant than normal, as he tied Michael Schumacher’s record for the most Formula One wins of all time. Of course, you probably knew that already, with it sort of being an international headline, but I’m just setting the scene, so bear with me.

Right, now the reason many people are unhappy is because ‘Hamilton’s always in the fastest car’ and ‘the Mercedes is the most dominant car in F1 history, anybody could win that many races’ and so on, but most of the *racing-related* reasons loop back to the core argument of ‘it was better in the past.’ Therefore, because I’m struggling for a better idea that doesn’t require a few days of planning, I’m going to delve into a couple of different challenges that drivers had to cope with in the past and present.

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First up, let’s consider a factor that would’ve been at the forefront of drivers’ minds, even up to about 30 years ago. That is the significant chance of life-changing injury, if not death. Drivers such as Jim Clarke, Jochen Rindt and Ayrton Senna were among the most talented drivers of their generations, and yet even they weren’t able to escape the most punishing penalty that motor racing had, and still has, to offer. Thankfully, over time, safety has taken leaps and bounds to the point where Senna himself is still the most recent F1 death to occur at a race weekend. Unfortunately, there are still instances such as Jules Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka in 2014 and Anthoine Hubert’s Formula 2 tragedy last year, but that totals two deaths on the F1 calendar this century, as opposed to a few deaths a year in the early era of F1.

As a result, it’s probably safe to say that modern racing drivers don’t take anywhere near as much risk in terms of their lives as their counterparts 40 or 50 years ago, so that is one extra challenge drivers had that they do not pay nearly as much attention to these days.

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One aspect that every driver tries to use these days in order to find a marginal gain, though, is fitness and nutrition. Every driver in the current paddock has a personal trainer with them at race weekends, and the vast majority of meals are planned and portioned by professional chefs. Each driver is committed to getting the best out of their bodies, in order to be at their best in the car. This ‘body is a temple’ approach is often linked to Schumacher himself, with many purporting the German to be the first driver deadest on ensuring his fitness was as good as can be.

Before the ultra-fit generation of drivers came about, however, many drivers lived a more… expansive lifestyle, shall we say. One example we can’t omit is the legendary James Hunt, who would often drink and party the night before races, yet his blasé attitude didn’t seem to deter from his driving abilities. In comparison, the closest to partying any modern driver gets before a race is probably the glass of red that Nico Hulkenberg was enjoying during his stay in Cologne before his call up this weekend.

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Overall, then, this means that drivers now have to work harder than ever to keep both their mental and physical conditions at their peak, not just in an attempt to gain an advantage, but in an effort not to be left behind by the rest of the field.

Finally for today, there’s the driving itself. In the past, the cars were analogue and physical, with the driver out on their own. This made the cars difficult to drive, as you they had to be right on that ragged edge in order to maximise its pace. In comparison, modern cars are extremely technical, with many different buttons and switches on the steering wheel. Whilst they may not be quite as physically demanding these days, the sheer complexity and mental agility required to be making adjustments to the car whilst travelling at 180 mph poses a whole different challenge, and one that’s arguably just as scary.

The fact that the cars are so different, though, in itself poses the question of ‘should these drivers really be compared,’ and, to me at least, they probably shouldn’t. Maybe, just maybe, they should both be considered the greatest of their eras, just as Fangio is.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 41

Portimao sees a new series support Formula One for the first time, and what’s more, you could race in it!

You Can Drive In F1’s Newest Support Series!

Portimao sees a new series support Formula One for the first time, and what’s more, you could race in it!

The Portuguese Grand Prix in a couple of weeks will throw up a couple of new scenarios for Formula One. Obviously, the first to come to mind is the whole new circuit, but there will also be an all-new support race on the calendar. For the first time ever, the Sports Prototype Cup will feature on the undercard of the world’s biggest motor-racing stage.

The Sports Prototype Cup is predominantly a multi-class championship for lightweight, sports prototype cars. Not specific enough? Think Radical. Literally Radical. SR3, to be precise, as one of the two featured classes is for that specific model. The other featured machine – and the class running at Portimao – is called the Revolution A-One. Ever heard of it? Nor have I.

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Taking a deeper dive, when the Sports Prototype Cup (I’m just going to call it SPC from here on in) was conceived Revolution signed a five-year deal to become a ‘promoted category.’ As such, if the championship was able to secure a race spot at a significant meeting (think undercard of, I don’t know…F1?), then the Revolution class would take precedence over everyone else. That’s why you won’t be seeing Radicals in Portugal, as it’s a Revolution-only event.

The A-One itself is a two-seater LMP-esque vehicle, designed by Phil Abbott – co-founder of Radical, ironically. The car features a full carbon-fibre tub, covered in bodywork that reportedly can ‘produce more downforce than anything else in its price bracket.’ Overall, weight is at 795kg, and the power-to-weight ratio? 440 brake horsepower per tonne. This is achieved through the classic 3.7-litre Ford V6, which seems to be the DFV of the 21st century considering how often it’s commandeered. After all, it was only last week I was talking about the Ginetta GT-A’s 3.7L Ford V6! Before I digress any further, in this iteration the Ford motor is pumping out a healthy 380bhp, which is sent to the rears through a transaxle pneumatic gearbox. Pretty potent, if you ask me.

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Unfortunately, in my rather limited research time, I’ve been unable to discover any sort of pricing structure for either outright purchase nor arrive-and-drive hire of the Revolution A-One. It seems that Revolution aren’t particularly willing to reveal the price of their Radical-rival, other than ‘sub-£100k.’ Cheap then, it’s not.

In the grand scheme of things, no, but in terms of F1-undercard? Definitely. And as I said, arrive-and-drive packages are available for those yearning for a one-off experience. But what do the competition entry fees look like? All in all, I’d say… reasonable. The entry cost for the Formula One weekend (assuming you’d already got the car sorted) was £5,000 + VAT, and when you take a look at the race slots they’ve been given, that’s a pretty good deal. The SPC have been handed the Formula 2 slot, meaning their 30-minute Free Practice session is immediately before F1’s FP1, qualifying is directly after FP2, and the two 35-minute races occur just after Saturday’s F1 Qualifying and immediately preceding Sunday’s F1 race. You couldn’t ask for better coverage from your £6,000.

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Some of the competitors are pretty high-profile, too. Well, at least one is. You might know of that Olympic cyclist with thighs the size of my waist? Some bloke that’s since driven Le Mans, World Rallycross and Porsche Supercup, just to name a few. Chris, I think his name is… Regardless, his entry is one of a ‘record-breaking’ field, with it being the largest number of entries since the inception of the series at the start of 2019.

Unfortunately, if this article has persuaded you to jump onto a Formula 1 undercard, I’m afraid it’s a bit too late. You see, entries for the Portimao round closed on the 2nd October. You could of course add your name to the late entry reserve list, but I wouldn’t expect to be able to race. After all, who would turn down an opportunity to support Formula One?

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 40

Ginetta are replacing their rookie series, with their GRDC series making way for the new GT Academy. Question is, will the replacement be a success?

Ginetta’s New GT Academy:

Have They Missed The Point?

Ginetta are replacing their rookie series, with their GRDC series making way for the new GT Academy. Question is, will the replacement be a success?

The world of grassroots motorsport actually had some news this week, with Ginetta announcing their all-new GT Academy series. Arguably the kings of single-make championships, Ginetta’s latest competition is set to become the first rung on their GT car ladder. The question is, though, does it actually serve it’s intended purpose?

GT Academy used to be synonymous with the Gran Turismo-Nissan project where a group of gamers vied to gain a professional racing contract. Unfortunately, to my knowledge that particular venture no longer exists. Fortunately, the man behind the idea behind the series set up an alternative: World’s Fastest Gamer. Either way, this is a digression. Now, GT Academy is an all-new-for-2021 racing series put together by Ginetta, cited as an ‘entry level GT racing series.’

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The car itself is claimed to be derived from Ginetta’s GT4 car, which in its own right is the ‘most successful GT4 chassis in history,’ and features a shedload of serious racecar equipment. Up front, the workhorse is a 3.7-litre Ford V6, which pumps out 270bhp. Admittedly, that’s not massive considering the capacity of the motor, but the 405 lb-ft (550 Nm) of torque should give you plenty of low-end shove, and the engine is designed to be near-on indestructible in order to reduce costs.

Moving on, and that engine is sent to the rear wheels via a six-speed Quaife helical ‘box, operated by a set of flappy paddles. Whilst you won’t be hearing any straight-cut whine from those gears, they should be able to take a beating, and the auto-blip throttle should also aid the longevity of your drivetrain. The rest of the car’s composition is also a clever blend of thoroughbred and refined, with your LCD dash and race suspension complimented by road-legal Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, sound-proofing and air con. All in all, a happy medium for many casual motorsport-ists.

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Alongside the car, the GT-A race series has also been announced. The plan is for a 5-weekend season accompanying the British GT calendar, with each weekend featuring 65 minutes of track time, split between a 20-minute qualifying and a triplet of 15-minute races. Ginetta are expecting a bumper grid for the new competition, too, as they’ve said that the field of equal cars will be split into two classes, one just for rookies. Further to that, there will be Chairman’s Cup awards for drivers who have survived 45 years or more, to add to the inclusivity.

All of these features come at a price, though, and this is where my problem lies. This ‘entry level’ racing series is seriously expensive! You may recall an article I wrote earlier in the year about the G40 GRDC series run by Ginetta, which was penned as the entry point for rookies. In that article I estimated that a season in the GRDC would cost the average person circa £50,000, which is a lot of money of course, but in the grand scheme of motor racing is about the sweet-spot for an all-inclusive, factory-supported racing series for first-time racing drivers.

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The first piece of bad news is that the GRDC will cease to exist with the advent of this new series. The second piece of bad news is that the required budget for this replacement series is about double that of the old one! Yep, the cost of the car itself is £62,500 + VAT, so effectively £75,000. Then, as a racing virgin, you want as little hassle as possible, and so you plop for the £17,000 + VAT ‘Rookie Package,’ which includes car transportation to each event and storage in between, alongside a whole raft of other benefits like technical support and driver coaching at race meetings. At this point you’re already topping £95,000. Ninety-Five Grand! For an ‘entry-level’ series! Need a racing licence and something to wear during races? Those itches can be scratched, for a combined £3,500 inc.

And we’re not even close to the end of the list. Whilst I won’t spell everything out at this point, as I’m sure my point is clear, I must pick out the ‘Winter Testing Experience.’ For a shade under six thousand pounds (inc.), Ginetta will be happy to ship you out to Spain over the winter to help you get to know your machine, with two days of testing at Guadix in Spain. I’m sure this experience will be an incredible one with fantastic accommodation and two days of driving joy, but even so. Six Grand for a two-day holiday?

Overall, with every option ticked, a new driver would be looking at £133,000 for their first season of racing, and that doesn’t even include tyres. When compared to the GRDC, which I estimated at around £50,000, that’s a big step up. Honestly, my opinion is that Ginetta have gotten a bit greedy here. Their current ladder of G40, GT5, GT4 seems perfectly accomplished, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of new drivers still enter the sport via the G40 Cup (which is continuing, just not the rookie-specific GRDC) or GT5 Challenge. I expect the series as a whole will prosper, considering the GT-A will be filling an ever-increasing price gap between GT5 and GT4, however the rookie element will have certainly priced out the vast majority of people looking to begin their racing journey in Ginettas.

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Episode 39

In a world where championships cost many, many thousands of pounds to enter, here’s one for less than £500 all in!

The Cheapest Way To Win A National Title!

In a world where championships cost many, many thousands of pounds to enter, here’s one for less than £500 all in!

Motorsport is expensive. It’s a fact, and it’s one that you can’t really deny. A season of car racing is considered ‘cheap’ if the total expenditure amounts to ‘just’ four figures, rather than five or six. I even wrote an article earlier this year about the Club100 karting series, and labelled the circa £3,000 budget you would need for the season as ‘an absolute bargain.’

How about, then, I tell you about the cheapest way to become a bona fide British Champion? That’s right, I’m talking about the British Indoor Karting Championship, a competition you could win with a budget of £400.

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The British Indoor Karting Championship is a new-for-2020 event, created by Teamsport in conjunction with MotorsportUK. For the purpose of some background, Teamsport are an indoor karting company that operate 32 circuits in England and a further three in Scotland (branded as Scotkart). They reportedly provide ‘the ultimate indoor karting experience’ through tracks that incorporate multiple levels and banked corners.

Previously, Teamsport ran an annual competition called KartChamps, which ran nationwide and aimed to find the fastest indoor karters across a variety of age and weight categories. This year, however, KartChamps has been replaced by the BIKC (I’m not writing British Indoor Karting Championships every time, it’s way too long), the first indoor karting championship to be recognised by MotorsportUK, the governing body for, yep, motorsport in the UK. Who knew!

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In the interest of fairness, the BIKC will crown multiple champions each year as they have decided to split competitors out by age and weight. Therefore, in 2020, there will be seven champions in the following categories: Cadet (age 8-11), Junior (12-15), Rising Star (16/17), Featherweight (<70kg), Lightweight (70kg≤X<80kg), Heavyweight (80kg≤X<95kg) and finally Super Heavyweight (95kg+). This does mean that friend who’s carrying an extra 15 kilos will have to write off the weight excuse this time around, I’m afraid, but it does mean you could both be winners!

So, now you know that you don’t have to worry about your lockdown belly making you sluggish, you want to know how to qualify, right? Well, you’d better get down to your local Teamsport venue pronto, as you have to visit on three occasions before the end of September. Now, given that I’m publishing this on the 23rd of September, that doesn’t give you much time. Sorry.

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In order to compete in the BIKC, you also need to purchase a MotorsportUK K-I Licence, you know, to say you’re official. This licence can be bought through Teamsport’s Elite membership, which costs just under £35 and comes with a load of other benefits, although I’m not mentioning them here because they don’t sponsor me (wink wink, Teamsport!). Once you’ve purchased your licence, you need to race at your local Teamsport track on three separate occasions (before the end of the month), and the fastest lap from each of those three sessions will be averaged to give you your ‘qualifying time.’

The drivers with the fastest 12 averages in each category will then proceed to compete in the Local finals, held at whichever circuit you qualified at. These finals are held between 12th and 15th October, dependent on your category and location, with the top 5 from each categories’ local stage progressing onto the regional final. Still with me? Yes? Good.

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Regional finals are held during the first half of November, where once again the top five in each category will progress to the final stage: National finals on Saturday 28th November (Sunday if you’re in one of the u18’s groups). Here, at Teamsport Warrington, the drivers will fight to the death to be crowned British Champion! Well, not quite fight to the death, more like race to a certain level of enjoyment, but you get the idea.

This sounds all well and good, Ben, but what are the costs, I hear you cry. Well, the qualifying sessions are price dependent on what type of event you pick, but most likely won’t cost more than £90 for the 3. Membership, as mentioned, is £34.95, and the Local, Regional and National finals are priced at £40, £60 and £80 respectively. Therefore, if my Maths A-Level does me justice, the all-in cost is… £305, give or take! Add in a bit of fuel for the travelling, and you can see where my £400 budget comes from, can’t you. Absolute bargain, in motorsport terms.

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If you thought the opportunity to brag about being labelled a British Champion wasn’t enough of a reason for entering, I’ve got a few more up my sleeve for you, in the form of prizes. Yep, your brilliance will not go unnoticed, I tell you! The prizes differ depending on your age (for obvious reasons), but if you win any of the adult categories, you’re in for a bumper haul of the following:

Free entry into 8 rounds of next years’ Club100 Sprint Championship, alongside a test session for you to get used to the karts. You’ll also receive a pair of VIP tickets to the Nestle ‘Professional Private Suite’ at the O2 Arena in London (presumably for an event of your choosing, it’s not completely clear), full racewear kit courtesy of Arroxx, and finally a track day in a MINI Challenge Cooper class racer!

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There’s also prizes for the second and third-placed competitors in each of the adult categories, plus separate prize bundles for the under-18 categories, but they don’t compare to the grand prize, so I’m not even going to mention them in the same article. I will also mention the swanky new BIKC trophies that will be presented, though. I’ve not seen what they look like, but they are new and swanky, presumably.

To round things off, a little bit about me. After all, it is my blog. Will I be competing? Not this year. I do like the idea behind the event (I have in fact competed in two previous KartChamps) and the prizes are mega, but there is one specific reason as to why I won’t be racing this year, at least. Will the reason be revealed in the future? I hope so. Will I potentially enter the BIKC in the coming years? Almost certainly. I’ll just let someone else take the spoils this time out…

N.B. I tried to be a little different with this article, incorporating a bit more humour, and faux-arrogance is a by-product of that. I’m not this cocky in real life, honest!

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Race Watch 16

As we pass the halfway point of the 2020 World Rallycross season, it’s a pair of returning faces running the show. Question is, which will come out victorious in Latvia?

FIA World Rallycross:

Riga, Latvia

As we pass the halfway point of the 2020 World Rallycross season, it’s a pair of returning faces running the show. Question is, which will come out victorious in Latvia?

The FIA World Rallycross Championship was back this weekend, with a double event at Riga, Latvia. The season so far has very much been dominated by a pair of returning World Champions, with the 2016 champion Mattias Ekstrom filling in as a last-minute replacement for Janis Baumanis – who couldn’t compete due to budget issues, and the double World Champion Johan Kristoffersson returning to World Rallycross after competing in World Touring Cars in 2019.

Coming into the weekend the pair had taken victory at three of the four rounds, and the trend continued on Saturday, with Kristoffersson claiming his third win of the season – keeping his record of victory in every Saturday event so far. On Sundays, however, the story has been drastically different. Who will win round 6 of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, then? Let’s take a look.

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In Q1 it was Ekstrom that shot out of the blocks. After being placed on the back foot by having to choose his Q1 grid position last, he had the outside lane in Race 1. The veteran Swede didn’t let this phase him, though, as he had a perfect start and left Krisztian Szabo, Reinis Nitiss and Guerlain Chicherit to eat his dust. In Race 2 it was Robin Larsson – Ekstrom’s Audi S1 teammate – who won the heat, although his time was not quite as quick. Race 3 was Niclas Gronholm’s, although he was one second slower than Ekstrom and 0.2s off Larsson, which left him fifth overall. Third and fourth in Q1 went to Timmy Hansen and Kristoffersson respectively, with the older of the Hansen brothers beating the championship leader in the fourth heat.

That put the two Audis, Timmy Hansen, Kristoffersson and Gronholm all together in the final heat of Q2. Before then, the initial pace was set by Timur Timerzyanov in heat two, putting in a time of 3 minutes 24.030 seconds. This was eclipsed by Andreas Bakkerud in Race 3, who set a 3:23.769 – the benchmark time that would be chased by the leaders in the final heat. That heat saw Ekstrom make another good start, aided by Larsson of course, meaning Kristoffersson was once again on the back foot. The 2017/2018 champion was hassling his 2016 counterpart to an extent, however there was no way through and the pair settled into a rhythm that placed them first and second in the session standings. The gap in pace between the two masters and the rest of the field was significant, as they were the only drivers that made it into the 3:22’s.

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With an extremely abrasive track surface, it was imperative that drivers were as kind to their tyres as possible during the day, as they only had 12 new tyres for the whole day. With that in mind, Robin Larsson was on the back foot after his front-right suspension broke in Q2, and so had to strap a fresh set of boots on in order to cement a good semi-final grid position. As such, he promptly set a benchmark time of 3:22.361 in heat 1, and nobody could live with it. Race 3 was a quick heat, with the Hansen brothers maximising their strategy to set times that gave Timmy 3rd and Kevin 4th in the session. Second was Kristoffersson, who psychologically dealt a big blow to Ekstrom, finishing more than three seconds up the road, although Ekstrom was on those used tyres.

With the points added up from the three qualifying sessions, we had our top 12 set. Semi-Final 1 would see the Audi pair of Ekstrom and Larsson on row 1, Gronholm and Kevin Hansen on row 2, and Timerzyanov alongside Szabo on the back row. They would be competing for spots 1, 3 and 5 in the final, whilst semi-final 2 – competing for the even spots in the final – would see Kristoffersson and Timmy Hansen on the front row, Bakkerud and Timo Scheider on row 2, with Anton Marklund and Liam Doran bringing up the rear.

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Semi-final 1 saw Ekstrom check out at the front, whilst Larsson led the battle for second. Kevin Hansen lost out in the start to Gronholm, and so had to play the strategy game by taking the joker lap on the first tour. Gronholm responded on lap 3, and the pair emerged at the re-join side-by-side. Gronholm had the inside line, though, and took the position. In clear air Larsson was able to set a better pace, and so slotted back into second, behind Ekstrom and ahead of Gronholm.

For semi-final two, Kristoffersson copied Ekstrom. Back in the pack the race had scrappy moments, with Doran having a big moment at turn two on the first lap when four cars tried to occupy the same spot of tarmac. The big moment occurred between Timo Scheider and Andreas Bakkerud, however. Bakkerud managed to get up the inside of the German out of turn 3, but Scheider was having none of it and forced the Norwegian into the grass banking at 120kph. As a result, Bakkerud’s Megane was wrecked and Scheider took third place behind Kristoffersson and Hansen, but he was later disqualified for his error.

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This gave us a final of Ekstrom on pole with Kristoffersson alongside, Larsson and Timmy Hansen on the second row, with Gronholm in fifth and Kevin Hansen promoted due to Scheider’s DSQ. Once again, Ekstrom got the jump on Johan off the grid, and the pair checked out from the rest of the field. The fight for the final podium position was extremely tight, with Larsson, Gronholm and Timmy Hansen all jostling with each other at stages, but it was Robin Larsson who claimed third. Ahead, Kristoffersson was hassling Ekstrom, but couldn’t get past and was unable to use the joker strategy due to the proximity of the chasing pack, and as such the ‘retired’ Audi driver crossed the line first.

After Mattias Ekstrom’s second victory of the season, then, and Kristoffersson’s streak of Sunday ‘failures’ continuing, the championship gap has been cut to just 17 points. Niclas Gronholm is third with 117 points, 32 back from Ekstrom (149) and 49 off Johan (166). With the season now past the halfway mark, however, is there enough time for anyone to catch the most successful World Rallycross driver of all time? We’re going to have to wait nearly a month for the next event, with the championship heading to Catalunya on the 17th and 18th October for the last double-header.

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Episode 38

The best motor racing series are those that bring the largest crowds, but are they really the best races for you to watch? Is the best racing actually seen in the ‘worse’ categories?

Is ‘Better’ Racing Actually Worse?

The best motor racing series are those that bring the largest crowds, but are they really the best races for you to watch? Is the best racing actually seen in the ‘worse’ categories?

This week I think I’m going to touch on a subject that many people may not think about when it comes to motorsport, and that is speed. Obviously, everyone thinks about speed in motorsport considering the metric of how good a driver is boils down to how fast are they, but I’m thinking about speed from the perspective of a spectator. More specifically, this week I’m going to be presenting my opinion that more speed equates to worse racing.

Here’s my point. We, as spectators, like close racing. Close racing provides entertainment which, after all, is why we watch the sport. My gripe is, then, that most people watch Formula One in the hope of a good race. In the hope.

I’ll continue on the Formula racing series point for a moment, as it provides a good basis for my argument. Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 3 have all shared a race schedule this year, therefore they provide an easy comparison. Formula 1 has had 9 races, with a grand total of 4 winners and 9 drivers on the podium. In terms of the actual racing, Austria was entertaining, as were the last 4 laps of the British Grand Prix, the 70th Anniversary GP and the Italian GP. Mugello was certainly an entertaining race, however the on-track action was almost non-existent (crashes aside). That makes 3 and a bit races of entertainment out of a possible nine. Not a great return, really.

Formula 2 has also completed nine rounds of its championship, although that equates to 18 races due to the double-race format of the championship. Those 18 races have produced 10 winners, although if we look exclusively at the Feature Races (the ones most similar in format to F1) that total becomes 6 in 9. Immediately, we see a 50% spike in the unpredictability of the main race result over Formula 1. Expanding to podiums, we have had 12 podium finishers in the nine feature races, an increase of 25%. Finally, when it comes to the subjective ‘quality’ of racing, I must admit I haven’t seen all the races yet I have thoroughly enjoyed all those I have watched.

Formula 3, like F2, has had a 9 round, 18 race season. Focusing once again on Feature races, and we have an astonishing 8 winners in 9 rounds (yet just 9 winners in 18 races in total!), making it the most open championship of the three. The number of unique podium finishers in those 9 rounds does drop in comparison to F2 with just 10 (15 in 18 races), however this could point to a more distinct skill gap between the best drivers and the rest of the grid. When it comes to the metric of whether races were ‘good’ or not, though, F3 blows its faster siblings out of the water. Almost every race gave the viewer something to get excited over, especially during the title-deciding round at Mugello this past week, where there was a tie for the championship lead going into the final race of the year, but both championship contenders were starting down the grid. Add in a third contender who started fifth, but needed to close a 9-point gap to the top two, and the scenario was mouth-watering. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the result.

Moving back to my point, and the stats speak for themselves. The slower the cars, the more exciting and unpredictable the results were. This trend can also be seen outside of the Formulae, as LMP2 fields are much more competitive and unpredictable as LMP1, for example. Even taking things down to club level, the Caterham Academy races I saw at Thruxton a couple of weeks ago were all more thrilling than the Caterham Seven UK Championship race.

The thrill of speed is clear: it makes the pilots seem superhuman, the engineering is remarkable and to say that something is the fastest gives a clear edge in the ego stakes. However, if you want to watch good, close, exciting racing, then don’t go searching for the fastest racing.

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