Motor sport is not a cheap hobby but it does not have to be eye wateringly expensive.
Granted if you want to rally or circuit race you are going to need deep pockets but there are alternatives which can get you racing at a reasonable cost. As you will guess from the title I am talking about hillclimbing and sprinting.
So what is hillclimbing, although many people think it’s scrabbling up muddy hills in a car that looks like it was made from two motorbikes it is in fact racing uphill, on tarmac, with bends, against the clock.
Sprinting is the same thing, on the flat, usually comprises 1 – 1.75 laps of a racing circuit.
The top end of the sport involves driving specialist race cars or extensively modified saloon cars that can cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds, but at entry level it can be a standard road car, a daily drive even.
OK, let’s look at what you need to get started.
The class to begin in is called Standard Car (SC)
Or Standard Production Car (usually A1, A2, A3, etc)
It’s best to find something light(ish) with a reasonable amount of power for its capacity. It can be quite old, I have used an 18 year old SC car quite successfully.
Cars can be of any age. (Except in the SC class where the car can not be older than 1st Jan. 2000.)
It MUST be in good roadworthy condition (you might want to think about new brake pads and possibly shock absorbers (standard ones) if the car is oldish)
It must be registered for the road, taxed, insured and MOT’ed.
You will need an approved set of tyres, it’s OK there are some cost effective tyres on the approval list.
There are four modifications you must make for the car to be approved for racing:
- You need to identify the battery earth lead by wrapping it in yellow insulation tape. Click on the image for the regulation.
2. There need to be a label on your ignition switch indicating in which direction is off. Click on the image for the regulation.
3. You must have a timing strut on the front of your car. (this is a flat black vertical plate about 60mm x 300mm and is used to break the timing, light beam) . Click on the image for the exact specification required.
4. The car must have a tow loop on the front and rear. Click on the image for the regulation.
You don’t need and should NOT make any other modifications.
There are also some modifications that are permitted in the interest of safety but I am not going to cover them here. In short if it adds weight don’t do it. Any other changes can make your car ineligible to compete in the SC class and would push your car into the Standard Production Car class with cars with, potentially, a large number of modifications.
If you are thinking of using a turbocharged/supercharged car the maximum engine capacity is 1176cc.
For most hillclimb & sprint events you need the following:
An FIA approved fireproof race suit.
FIA approved fireproof gloves.
And an FIA approved fireproof crash helmet.
Fireproof racing boots are also recommended.
Brand new that little lot would set you back £800+ but to compete in SC class you must have an FIA approved helmet (~£150), everything else is optional.*1
Although I would recommend fire resistant overalls there are much less expensive options (e.g. Proban fire resistant overalls).
And track day gloves and boots are quite cheap.
Do not wear any synthetic clothing, go cotton!
You MUST have your arms, legs and feet covered.
*1 The MSUK is the minimum requirement, even organisers may impose extra requirements.
Entering an event
A good first step is to join one of the Facebook hillclimb & sprint groups as you can find help here.
Next you need to join a motor club. Don’t initially go for one of the big name clubs as they can be expensive £100+ per year.
Go for a club that is local to you, these clubs usually cost ~£20 per year to join.
Next you will need a competition licence from Motorsport UK. An RS Inter Club licence will cost £69 per year, there is no cheaper alternative to this.
Finding an event, members of your motor club can probably help you with this (or Mr Google!).
Entry fees can be anywhere from £75 – £150 per day so look for something at the lower end, sprints are usually more expensive than hillclimbs.
Look online to find events and download the reg’s (the regulations) read them, then read them again.
You can now fill in the event entry form and pay to enter the event (some events are very popular and fill quickly).
You need to check the reg’s carefully for the safety equipment requirements for the event as these are in addition to the MSUK.
On the day
OK so you have your entry confirmed, your competition licence, your club membership card, your helmet and overalls/clothes. You know what time to rock up because it told you in the reg’s.
When you get to the event there will be Marshalls who will help direct you to your spot.
Next you need to sign on, take your club card and competition licence. This is to confirm you have turned up and you have all the necessary documents.
Unpack your car, take out everything that is not screwed down, including the spare wheel. Lots of us take a small tent to put our stuff in.
Put your competition numbers on the car, usually on the doors.
Change into your racing togs and put your helmet (and gloves) on the passenger seat.
A scrutineers will come and check your car, helmet and clothing. If they ask you to do/change something, DO IT!
Now you need to wait for the event to start, it won’t be that long, it’s a good time to get your flask out and have a cup of tea, or whatever. Keep an eye on the cars on either side of you when they get ready, you get ready, when they go you go.
Follow the cars in your batch (don’t worry about batches at this point) to the start, when it’s your turn the Marshalls will line you up, there will be a red light, when it turns green you can go, you don’t have to panic, go in your own time, the timing will not start until you start to move.
Drive to the finish learning the course as you go. You will be directed by the Marshalls at the finish where you will have to wait until all of your batch arrives, then you will all drive back to the start in convoy, slowly. You need to wear your helmet and all other safety equipment on the return run.
Return runs may not happen on sprints as you usually return to the padlock.
Structure of the day
So after sign-on and scrutineering the race runs will start. There are usually four runs:
Two practice and two timed.
Or one practice and three timed.
(you get times for all of the runs)
Practice means PRACTICE this is your opportunity to start to learn the course at a safe, sensible speed. It you are new to racing then all your runs are practice runs, just quietly push the envelope as you become more confident. *2
There are usually two runs before lunch and two runs after.
One of the great things about hillclimb & sprint is it is very social and there is time between runs to be social, look at other cars, talk to other competitors etc.
*2 Don’t forget if you drove to the event you have to be able to drive home.
That is pretty much all you need to know, its a good idea to read the following sections of the MSUK Blue Book (Its not an easy read!)
Section K 2.1.1
Section K 9.1.2
Section K 10.3.1
Section S 9.2.1 – 9.5.8
Section S 10.10
Section S 10.11 all
Section S 11 all
© Lyndon Evans 2022