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Classic Motorsport

Classic Motorsport Published: 7th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Ever yearned for some action with your car? Then try classic motorsport this season – there’s something for everybody! Here’s all you need to know

Just because we’re not all Lewis Hamiltons doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t take your place on the grid – with your classic! And you don’t need the budget of the Mercedes-Benz racing team either because there’s some events that you can compete in for under a tenner. Furthermore, you don’t even require a competition driving licence either because, more than two-thirds of all classic motorsport categories don’t demand one!

Physical disabilities and ages needn’t be barriers as there are many championships which happily accept disabled drivers, too plus you can start from as young as 14 to make it an adult/children thing if you wish – and many do. At the other end of the scale, 70 year old Rick Morris has competed in Formula Ford since 1971, beating Senna in several outings – he’s still at the wheel, as are specialists still preparing and racing cars they drove decades ago… It’s an addictive habit that’s hard to kick… This special motorsport supplement gives you the encouragement and the basics of all you need to know and while you may not make it onto the podium you’ll have a lot of fun trying. Here’s how!

Slowly does it…

The slowest way is the fastest way Sir Jackie Stewart was fond of saying and you know the old adage about walking before you can run?

By this we mean don’t go full throttle into it just yet without some serious thought. Before you decide on what motorsport category to excel in (racing, rallying, hillclimbing etc), attend many events to get a feel of things. Speak to competitors and possible future rivals for advice as the majority are only too willing to help.

It may look easy enough on the tele but isn’t because competition driving is far removed from the daily grind. Specialist driving schools will help you develop the minimum skills needed and are good value, as are the lighter-hearted ‘driving experiences’ which give you a taste of the action but without wishing to take it further.

To gain a full-blown competition licence you have to enrol in the Motorsport UK-approved (formerly Motor Sport Association) special race and rally schools to take it further. Driving courses are in addition to the essential ‘Starter Packs’ supplied by Motorsport UK. Then you may have to take an ARDS driving course to satisfy the authorities that you are good enough to compete safely. But if all this sounds too involved remember that some 70 per cent of classic motorsport activities don’t require any.

Keeping the car in tip top nick

Given the added speed and strain that your classic will be under, it not only needs to be roadworthy at the very least, but be in better nick than MoT standards. Some categories demand your car is checked by scrutineers at each event before it’s allowed to compete. If you don’t think that you have the skills to keep your car top notch, many specialists will prepare and look after it during the season.

Health & safety

Many competition categories allow standard road classics to compete in normal factory trim while others demand mandatory extras such as a full race harness (around £80), roll cages (say £400) and FIA approved fire extinguisher systems at less than £500.

For serious rallying, special ‘tripmeters’ are essential for navigation purposes (£200+). You’ll possibly also need a brace of stopwatches or digital displays and an intercom to communicate with your co-driver/navigator, less than £150. You’ll probably need to kit yourself out with a quality approved crash helmet, fireproof overalls, gloves and proper socks, boots; all this caboodle can run into four figures, depending on spec but you can find used kit (either because the competitor is trading up or giving the game up) in good quality at agreeably lower prices although FIA controlled competition means only special types are allowed and have to be replaced periodically.

One make competition

The beauty of classic competition is that many makes and models have their own racing championships which are tailored for both standard road-legal models and fullblown competition cars so everybody can join in the fun. Most popular marques are MGs, Triumphs, Caterhams, Morgans, Minis, Mazda MX-5s, Toyota MR2s, Hyundai Coupé and even Austin’s A30 and A35. You’d be surprised at how one make competition classes are on offer.

Join the club

Many classic car clubs are involved in motorsport so it’s a good idea to join one because usually they operate minor low cost events both for standard and modifi ed cars, thus making them ideal for novices or those who simply want to do it for fun and aren’t bothered being at the back of the pack.

Try a track day

Using your classic on a race circuit without any experience can be a daunting prospect which may put you off because the high speeds attained far exceed normal road velocities. So if you’re looking for a cheap way to experience driving on a race circuit to get a feel for it, you can’t beat track days, which generally cost from £100 per event. They are non-competitive, yet still one of the best ways to learn about driving around a race circuit at your own pace. Believe it or not, but a slow non sporty car is often easier to use for novices and because you can concentrate on learning your racing lines instead of having to contend with its performance. As you’ll quickly discover fast road driving bears little comparison to that on the circuit or rally stage.

Some track days have race tutors on hand who charge a small fee to sit in the passenger seat and guide you around the circuit. Bagging a ride with other track day drivers also helps to learn about driving around a race circuit.

The smartest (and safest) way is to treat a track day like a race and prepare yourself and your car. There’s no need for licence or membership, although the latter is worthwhile as these organisations may well hold special days. Costs vary between £100 for a simple airfield event to around £500 at an established prestige circuit.

Most organisers require a car to be road legal (current MoT test certificate), although some allow racing slick tyres to be used. A crash helmet must be worn by the driver and any passenger, and the driver must have a full road licence.

Try the scenic option

If track days can be likened to non-competitive circuit racing, then Scenic Tours are the rallying equivalent (a number of car clubs run both). Tours are relaxing yet lively jaunts over some of the best driving roads. Standard classics are more than welcome but obviously your car needs to be up to the job and you’ll need to take spares and so on, although some outfits can even provide top notch cars to tour in.

Cheap thrills

The cheapest forms of motorsport are autotests, drag racing hill climbs and grass racing plus normal road going categories mean there is very little preparation required of a vehicle to enter, providing it is a road legal specification. Drivers in many catagorgies in autotests can be as young as 12- 14 with a production car and costs appear to start for little more than £25 for entry fees.

Drag racing, especially ‘run what yer brung,’ meets cater for road legal cars and drivers with a full licence. Typical charges are £15-20 per person at the gate to enter the grounds and £10 per run. The driver must wear a helmet and be fully clothed (no shorts and tee-shirts). Hill climbs are a little more expensive at upwards of £100, but cater for road legal cars and require the same aforementioned safety standards as drag racing.

Buying former glory

Buying any second-hand car is a minefield and classics are much harder. Yet both are a walk in the park when compared to purchasing somebody’s old racer! But follow these steps and you could be halfway to success.

1. Find out what classic(s) is doing the winning in the event and the class you are considering entering.

2. Never buy a competition car until you have checked out its specific competition history and inspect the car as you would any old vehicle. Are any historic competition papers applicable? Look for recent ‘scrutineers’ stickers’ on the vehicle, this is evidence that it is in good racing order and likely to pass the sport’s authorities for the events you may have in mind.

3. Try before you buy if that’s at all possible. Can a track test also be arranged so you can gauge its condition? Even if you pay for the day out and expenses such as fuel, etc, it could save you thousands in return. But if you crash it then you have to buy it…

4. Beware of buying a box of bits with a view of restoring it for competition work. To retain the original registration mark, the car must have the original, unmodified chassis or monocoque. The vehicle can have a new chassis or monocoque providing it has been made exactly to the same specification as the original, but the vehicle must also have two major components from the original racer, i.e. the engine, suspension and so on.

5. Why buy at all? One make series can often provide lease racers, and it may be better to go this route rather than own something that you have also to store, maintain and fix, especially if spares and race support are also included in the package.

VSCC

Established in 1934, the Vintage Sports-Car Club is one of the most highly regarded organisers of Pre-war and Historic motorsport in the world, with some 7000 members worldwide, hosting almost 50 competitive and social events each year for Pre-war car enthusiasts at venues and locations in the United Kingdom. Marking its 85th birthday iin 2019, despite the age of the participating machinery, the VSCC is undoubtedly one of the most active Car Clubs today, being one of the few to host events annually from January to December across a wide array of motorsport disciplines, from Circuit Racing, Sprints and Hill Climbs to Club Trials, Navigation Rallies, Driving Tests and AutoSolos, as well as non-competitive Concours, Scenic Tours and hundreds of local Pub Meets.

VSCC events feature extraordinary cars from across a golden era of motoring, including Edwardian (1905-1918), Vintage (1919-1930), and selected Post-Vintage Thoroughbreds (1931-1940), whilst Pre-1961 Grand Prix Racing Cars, 1950’s Sports Racing Cars, Formula 3 (500), Formula Junior and other historic machinery also compete at the Club’s Race Meetings and many Speed events alongside other celebrated Historic and Classic series.

With such a diverse range of motoring disciplines on offer there is plenty of scope to become involved at any level – Marshalling at Club events is a popular option and offers those who no longer compete or don’t have the appropriate car the opportunity to be involved with the Club’s activities and get close to the unique and historic machinery in action. For more information on its special anniversary year visit the Club website http://www.vscc.co.uk.

A specialist view

Robin Lackford is one of those enthusiasts who lives and breathes classic cars. A leading specialist (Robin Lackford Engineering) he has raced for longer than he cares to remember (nearly half a century probably) and, after racing MGs and Healeys, he has sponsored the newly rebranded MGCC Sprite and Midget Challenge – the only exclusively ‘Spridget’ race series in the UK catering for all models, road going to full race – for almost a decade.

He agrees with the HSCC that there’s now too many racing categories resulting in thinly-spread grids and championships but he also feels that the culture of competition is changing. Call it the ‘Lewis Hamilton effect’ if you like but youngsters increasingly see motorsport as a career and not a weekend fun thing and so club racing holds little interest, with the exception of historic Formula Ford 2000 single seaters (which Lackford also sponsors the series) which is posting very healthy, competitive grids.

Another increasing factor are track days which, due to their reasonable costs, gives enthusiasts a lot of cheap ‘stick time’ and experience compared to traditional practice testing, although Robin warns that in no way can a track day compare with competition driving.

Only a few disciplines can be regarded as cheap these days; Midget racing used to be one of the most affordable categories and it still is – to a degree. Even so, Robin Lackford says budget on well over £10,000 for a good competitive second-hand racer and that much again to properly run it for the season. His company offers levels of support to cater for this from the basics to full ‘turn up and drive’.

Useful contacts

Motorsport UK (formerly MSA): 01753 765000
Historic Sports Car Club: 01327 858400
Vintage Sports Car Club: 01608 644777
Historic Grand Prix Cars Association: 0207 785 7204
Historic Rally Car Register: 01332 672533



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