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Episode 03

Autosport International is seen by some as the perfect curtain-raiser to the motorsport calendar, but how was my experience?

Autosport International is seen by some as the perfect curtain-raiser to the motorsport calendar, but how was my experience?

Autosport International, to many a motorsport fan, is as good as racing can get without anything actually moving. Exploring the seemingly endless sprawl of stalls will almost certainly entertain any attendee for the 9 opening hours each day, no matter how specific their vehicular tastes are. Exhibitors ranged from 7 of the 10 current Formula 1 teams, the Formula E brand and the 2018 Le Mans winning Toyota (still unwashed 18 months later), to the majority of leading helmet and racewear providers, motorsport retailers, a multitude of suspension companies, a dozen bucket seat manufacturers and even two producers of sequential gearboxes. Two!

There were plenty of exclusives to be snapped up too, with Pirelli showcasing their new 18-inch wheels for 2020’s Formula 2 season, M-Sport unveiling their Ford Fiesta’s WRC livery for the upcoming season, and the British Touring Car Championship seemingly confirming half the grid for this summer. In fact, the BTCC Kwik Fit stand was so hectic that, at one point, Tom Chilton emerged from under a sheet as the news broke he had signed for BTC Racing.

However, there are hundreds of articles in the press dissecting every morsel of news and gossip to come out of the four days’ proceedings, therefore I’m not about to delve into my opinion about each and every single occurrence from last weekend’s show. What this blog is all about is my journey into motorsport, and with that in mind here is what I took away from my visit to the event:

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Firstly, finding the right racing series for me is crucial for many reasons. Before choosing a racing series to enter there seems to be a lot more considerations to take into account than had I initially thought of. For example, a couple of important questions I hadn’t previously given thought to are “who else is racing when I am?” and “how controlled is the balance of machinery?”

Whilst the first of those two questions could mean who else am I on track against (which in itself could be an important consideration), in this circumstance I am actually referring to other series’ racing during the same weekend. From a marketability standpoint, a competition that shadows a much larger national series such as British GT or the BTCC will offer you a significantly higher level of exposure in comparison to driving in a stand-alone series such as the 750 Motor Club. This not only means gaining sponsors may be easier for me due to more sets of spectator eyes staring at their stickers, but also that the likelihood of someone important noticing any potential achievements is that much higher. Naturally the race organisers are also going to realise this and so entry fees are likely to be substantially more costly, but it needs to be a consideration nonetheless.

The other intriguing question that Autosport International made me ponder was that of the balance between vehicular performance in each competition. It is clear to see that, in Formula 1 where 99% of the competition is based on who can build the best car, sometimes a few participants are rooted at the foot of the timing screens whilst others are seconds a lap quicker. This could be down to skill yes, however chances are the people consistently climbing on the podium are those with the biggest budget building the best cars. Therefore, especially when first competing, it might make the most sense for me to try and scout out something resembling more of a “spec” series, such as the Caterham Academy or the Ginetta G40 series.

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Once again, the expectation would be that initial entry costs are much higher than some other championships, yet with brand new machinery that is closely monitored throughout the season it is much more likely I would leave a season with a much more representative view of my actual driving ability in comparison to others’.

So alongside giving me an opportunity to capture many, many pictures (which you can find all on my Instagram, @TheRacingGrind), Autosport International enabled me to slightly better understand the climate I am aiming to join, alongside giving me more of a representative idea of how broke I just might be in a years’ time. I must say it was a fantastic day out and I would highly recommend attending in 12 months’ time, hopefully just like I will be. Between now and then, however, are another 50-odd of these episodes for me to write, and a whole year’s worth of racing experiences to be had!

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Episode 02

Many non-motorsport fans don’t see racing as a ‘real’ sport. Are they actually right?

Many non-motorsport fans don’t see racing as a ‘real’ sport. Are they actually right?

“Racing drivers aren’t athletes, all they do is sit there whilst the car does all the work.”

Tell that to a racing driver. Tell that to the human who has to sit in 60°C heat for as much as three hours at a time, whilst simultaneously clenching their core, legs and neck to fight against the cornering forces that make their body feel as much as three times heavier than normal. All of this whilst wearing protection that would give ski clothing good competition for body heat retention, and also having to lug around another 2.5 kilograms wrapped around their head. Alongside this skeletal torture, it is expected of you to be able to think clearly and make hundreds of split-second decisions per lap. Oh, and this happens at speeds up towards 200 miles per hour. Believe it or not, racing is a physical and mental endeavour. Racing drivers really are athletes.

As a result, fitness becomes a large differentiator between drivers especially in the lower echelons of motorsport. Fitness is such an important factor to a racing drivers’ results on circuit that almost every top-level driver will have a full-time personal trainer. To clarify, I’m not talking about some bloke working at your local gym who’s on call whenever you need him. I’m talking about 24/7 by-your-side service. During the season Formula One drivers will see their personal trainers more than they’ll see their families.

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So how am I planning to introduce aggressive levels of fitness training into my everyday life? The short answer is: I’m not. Not yet, at least.

Whilst I have devised a fitness plan for myself, this aforementioned plan does not include rushing out to buy a long-term gym membership as soon as I wake up in the morning. This is due to a number of reasons, but mostly because of how busy gyms historically become during the first few weeks of January. Not immediately ‘hitting the gym’ and ‘pumping iron’ five times a week also allows me to better appreciate the difference in performance levels between a complete lack of fitness, a basic level of fitness work and a high-intensity regime.

So, what exactly do I have in mind? The prime focus will be to work on my core. Having a strong core will ensure that, when cornering at high speed, my body is more stable within the seat and I can focus on picking my lines in and out of the turn rather than concentrating on keeping myself from sliding out of the car. The core is also one of the easiest muscle groups to work on at home, as the use of weights is not required for the majority of exercises.

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My secondary training focus will be flexibility. Increased flexibility is key for athletes as it aids injury prevention and recovery due, in part, to the absence of knots within the muscles. Knots can also interfere with muscular coordination, which is vital for driving performance. For these reasons, yoga is extremely popular and widely utilised within the racing community. Therefore, yoga is to become my method of choice for contortion training.

Having disclosed this weeks’ personal challenge it’s now my job to stick with it, all in aid of the #RacingGrind. Alongside the new exercise regime this coming week is an exciting one for myself, as I will be making an appearance at the Autosport International Show on Thursday, January 9th. It is an event I have been planning to visit for a couple years, not through my newfound calling as a blogger but purely as a car fan. It should be a brilliant opportunity to meet a tonne of individuals and brands that work in the automotive sector, and potentially could even be perfect setting to find myself a race seat! I guess we’ll just have to keep watching this space…

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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!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

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 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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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!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

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!