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Episode 27

Sure, circuit racing is the most common, most popular form of motorsport, but what’s out there if you want to do something different?

What If You Don’t Want To Drive In Circles?

Sure, circuit racing is the most common, most popular form of motorsport, but what’s out there if you want to do something different?

In the first six months of this blog, I’ve pretty much exclusively spoken about circuit racing. However, circuit racing is just one of many different classes of motorsport, and whilst I certainly have the intention of competing on track alongside my competitors, some of you reading this blog may not share the same interest.

With that in mind, how do other categories of motorsport compare in availability and price? Is traditional circuit racing really the best way for me to go, or should I be striving to race in rallycross, hill climb or rally? Let’s find out.

First up, it’s the class of motorsport I’d certainly choose as my personal second choice: it’s Rallycross.

27. What If You Don't Want to Drive in Circles?
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From my research, it seems that the entry point into rallycross is the Swift Rallycross Championship. Using cars based on 2006-2010 Suzuki Swift Sports, the cars use standard engines (albeit with spec ECUs), standard gearboxes and standard brakes, meaning the cars are cost effective to prepare and run, whilst also using controlled tyres, limited to six per round. The Swift championship also boasts the largest grids on the British Rallycross scene, meaning healthy levels of competition.

In terms of pricing, membership cost is £100 for the season, whilst entry costs £380-£450 for each event. Considering there were originally nine planned rounds in 2020, meaning the total season costs would have been £3,520. Pretty cheap, I would say. On the flip side, however, stand the travel costs. The main problem with rallycross stems from the fact there aren’t many facilities for it. Therefore, the venues for the 2020 British Rallycross are Lydden Hill in Kent, Pembrey in South Wales, Mondello Park in County Kildare, Ireland and Knockhill in Fife, Scotland. Not exactly on each other’s doorsteps, are they?

With the exception of the travelling costs, then, I’d say the Swift Rallycross Championship makes for a good introduction to the Rallycross discipline, especially considering the race organisers offer an arrive-and-drive package if you want a taster, or just can’t justify owning your own car.

27. What If You Don't Want to Drive in Circles?
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Next up, Hill Climb. Immediately, hill climb seems to be the most inclusive form of motorsport I’ve researched so far. For starters, hill climb events occur up and down the country, and the class structure of competitions means you can enter in pretty much any vehicle you wish, even the one you turn up in. Many hill climb events are one-offs, too, meaning you could enter as many or as few events as you please, and the only costs would be the initial entry fee into your hill climb club, and each subsequent event.

Based on this, I’d very much class hill climb as a much more relaxed form of motorsport. For sure, it could get extremely competitive, for example in the headline British Hill Climb Championship, but the grassroots elements seem much less formal.

Finally, let’s have a look at entry level Rallying competitions. For clarity, I’m going to be referring to Stage Rallying, rather than Road Rallies. More specifically still, the BTRDA Rally Championship.

27. What If You Don't Want to Drive in Circles?
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The 2020 BTRDA Rally Series was due to include seven events, mostly around the Lake District and North Wales, whilst also featuring other areas in the North of England. Within the BTRDA are many sub-championships involving a myriad of classes, meaning a vast spectrum of machinery can enter. Whilst I haven’t been able to find specific event entry costs due to the cancellation of all 2020 rallies, the pricing for membership works out at £80 for drivers and £50 for co-drivers, which I personally see as quite reasonable.

Due to the abundance of classes, there’s also ample opportunity for silverware, which is always aids motivation, especially when you’re just starting out in motorsport. Therefore, whilst geographically I don’t live in the best location to join this series myself, I’m sure it’s a great opportunity for someone who lives further north than I do.

There we go then, proof that circuit racing isn’t the only option for motorsport and, depending on where you live, there’s even some pretty strong arguments to say that it may not even be the best option for motorsport either. Certainly, I may have to look into running a one-off Swift Rallycross event at Lydden Hill if the situation allows, because it’s a class of motorsport I’ve always enjoyed watching, and something I would undoubtedly enjoy, even if I am terrible!

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Episode 10

Why have I decided to create this blog? What’s the aim? And why do I think my advice will be any better than anyone else’s?

“Why Me? Why This?”

Why have I decided to create this blog? What’s the aim? And why do I think my advice will be any better than anyone else’s?

Why do I think I’m in a suitable position to document how difficult (or otherwise) it is for a driver to work their way up the motorsport ladder? After all, I have no experience of being part of a paddock before, so I don’t have any experience I can pass onto you readers. Yet I speak about my previous racing experience, so I can’t be a complete novice, which is what I’m painting myself out to be? What exactly is my racing history, and why do I think that I’m an ideal testbed for other novices to maybe learn from in the future?

My first memories of driving go-karts are a little foggy, as they happened the best part of 10 years ago. Whilst I don’t remember setting the world alight with immediately blistering times, I do remember the elation that I felt after getting out of the kart. Those occasions were few and far between, however. Extremely few, in fact, as I can only think of three occasions between the ages of 9 and 11. That didn’t stop me from catching the bug, though, as I spent the next few years dreaming of excuses for my parents to take me to the track.

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I didn’t start regularly karting until about 5 years ago, then, when I was about 15. The Duke of Edinburgh award is fairly well known here in England, where it is basically a programme that aims to help prepare young people for adult life. When I took part, there were 3 main sections: sport, volunteering, and learning a skill. For me the sport and the volunteering sections were easy, as I’m a keen cricketer and coached a little. Finding a skill to complete was tricky, until I read one of the items on the list: Go-karting. Being forced to go to the track every week for three months? Sounded like hell, but I was sure I could endure the hardship.

It was during those three months that I improved to a slightly-above-average standard, and so I thought I’d enter a competition that was being run by the company that owned the track. I breezed through the qualification rounds, and was really quite confident going into the day of the finals, but it was the sort of confidence only naivety would create. Almost every single one of the 29 other drivers had their own suits, helmets, gloves, the lot. I didn’t, I just wore what they gave me. Safe to say it didn’t go so well, but still my hunger to get quicker didn’t wane.

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The next few years went by with semi-regular practice and the occasional local competition, but nothing serious. That changed in late 2018, though. October 2018 was when I first went to university, and entered my first championship. I went from mixing it with middle-aged blokes on a Friday night, to racers around my age, yet accomplished in their own right. I was up against British champions, world champions, Formula 4 drivers, and even one guy who’s competing in British Formula 3 this year. Safe to say it was the deep end!

Whilst initially I was a long way off the pace, I also think last year my learning curve was the steepest it had ever been. During a six round championship I went from 14th in the first round, to having three consecutive fourth-placed finishes, even taking a fastest lap in the final at the fifth round. After all of that, I somehow managed to finish second in the championship. Second! Safe to say last year was my most enjoyable so far behind the wheel.

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This year is different, however. Due to various reasons I haven’t gone back to university, so I’m without competition. Something that I am doing now that I wasn’t at university, though, is earning money, and that got me thinking. I want to keep improving myself as a driver, but I feel like I’m probably fairly close to my potential in a hire-kart, so I need to step things up. Therefore, I want to use what disposable income I do have to go racing for real.

So that’s my racing career to date. I’m not a complete novice, but I’m not the best in the world by a long shot. I’d say I’m good. Just being good doesn’t satisfy me, but I feel like it does give me some valuable experience on this journey over a complete novice. For example, if an opportunity presents itself, I feel I’m in a position where I have enough ability to not completely embarrass myself! After all, writing a blog means I talk a lot of talk, so at some point I’ll have to walk the walk. So if places heightened expectations on me, why would I write the blog?

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Whilst there are thousands of racers out there, not many of them actually talk about how they got to where they are now: what skills they thought they needed, what skills they didn’t think they needed but really did, what eye-opening experiences they had, what mistakes they made etc. What I want to do is be that person, so that future racers can learn from my experiences. After all, one way of making racing more accessible is by making it cheaper, and whilst I can’t dictate the actual cost of entering races, I hope I can at least stop drivers from spending their hard-earned racing budget on experiences that won’t necessarily further their racing careers.

That’s the aim at least. So far, we’re ten weeks in to this journey, and whilst I’ve made some lifestyle adaptations to maximise the little ability I have (click here and here for more on these), alongside looking at what race series I might enter in 2021 (to read further on this click here and here), I’ve not actually visited the track at all this year, probably the longest period of time I’ve gone without karting in some time! Don’t lose all hope, however, as there may be a big event coming soon. My #RacingGrind might actually feature some racing!

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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!