How to get into Karting and motorsport
Getting into Motorsport
If you are reading this then you are probably interested in getting involved in motorsport. Many people think that this is an unrealistic dream. However it isn't, there are many affordable ways to get involved.
This is what I'm involved in, pretty much all formula 1 drivers have started off this sport. however karting is still widely regarded as a "kids" sport. When in reality it is anything but, how childish is it to be speeding along at 80mph only an inch of the ground?. Karting is usually the route people take when they first look at starting motorsport. Reasons for this are that it is cheaper then any other way to race (However still not "cheap"), and it is arguably the most immersive driving experience possible, everything is very simple and the kart is more an attachment of your body than a machine you are controlling.
There are many different class's that you can get involved in.
Firstly there is cadet for kids aged 8-13, these use 5.5hp engines with a top speed of around 45mph. They are a great base into the higher class's. Kids learn racecraft and basic mechanic skills that are invaluable in later life. Around my local circuit they lap in about 27 seconds. The cheapest cadet class is Honda Cadet, they use 4 stroke honda engines. There are also 2 stroke classes such as the Comer cadet class and the new (however seeming to grow rapidly) IAME cadet class.
Secondly there is junior class's for drivers aged 11-17. The most common of these is the junior rotax class that I race, they typically have around 25bhp and a top speed of about 80mph. These have much grippier tyres than in cadet so driving style is vastly changed. Their laptimes around my local circuit are around 24seconds. There is a derivative of Junior rotax called minimax which is for drivers at the lower age range of the junior group, these used the same junior engines however with a carburetor and exhaust restrictor.
Senior single speed class's such as rotax max are for drivers aged 17 upwards, they have about 30bhp and are relatively similar to the junior class's, their tyres are slightly grippier, their lap times are around 23 seconds at my local track.
Gearbox karting, There are two varieties of gearbox karting, 125cc and 250cc, they both can run short circuit and long circuit (kart track, and larger tracks), they can reach speeds in excess of 130mph and the 250cc's are about the same speed as a formula 3 car. You can't realistically go faster without having a huge budget and major sponsorship.
Here is a more detailed overview of the uk classes. http://www.arks.co.uk/page5/page5.html
On the topic of cost, most of these class's are about the same cost for a season, running costs vary from about £2000 a year if you are just looking to practise, a budget of of £5000 grand will leave you confortably able to compete at club events, however at national and international events costs can be astronomical.
The most important advice that I can give you however before buying a kart if to go down to your local kart track on a race or practise days, people there are usually more than happy to give you advice. Firstly decide if karting is for you, then look at what class's are run (the last thing you want is no one to race). If you are set on buying a kart most clubs have a for sale board. If not there look on for sale sections of karting website, one popular market section here in the UK is www.karting.co.uk/MP. Don't bother buying brand new kit straight off as when you are learning you won't get the benefits of it, 3-5 year old kit is ample.
From there go to practise sessions just to learn the basics, and when you feel comfortable get a licence and go racing.
Whatever type of motorsport you may want to progress to karting is a guaranteed good starting point.
2. Track Days
If you don't want to race however want to go fast then track days are a very good option. Most race tracks run days where you can bring your own car to the track and as long as the car is deemed safe and you have a helmet then you will be allowed out on track. Whilst you can use your everyday car for track days most people use sports cars. There are track days for all types of drivers with tracks running "novice" days for drivers with little track experience and tracks will often have sessions for drivers for experienced drivers also.
Track days are the cheapest way to get on track as very little extra expense is needed, you can just get straight out on track. However also bear in mind that track days can put lots of stress on your car increasing the chance of mechanical failure, also if you do have an accident then your car insurance will probably not cover you.
3. Budget Racing championships
There are many championships that exist where keeping costs down for competitors is one of the key aims, here are a few.
- 24 hours of lemons. http://www.24hoursoflemons.com/. This is a championship ran in the United States for drivers with cars that cost less than $500. It is ran at various tracks across the USA and is designed to be the maximum fun you can have racing for the money.
- Single Make championships. This is where all drivers race the same model of car, normally older cars which have to be near stock. These championships run for almost all types of cars ranging from Citroen 2CV's to Mazda Mx5's (Miata's). These can be very cost effective ways to race, however depending on the class damage to the cars can be expensive to fix. Also you need to consider how you will get to and from the track with the car, and also your level of mechanical ability to fix the car.
You see on Formula one all the people in the florescent jackets, well those are marshalls, and without them motorsport wouldn't be able to go ahead. Becoming a marshal is a great way to get close to the action for free (or sometimes even payed a small amount), and also to help the motorsport community, marshalls really are the unsung heroes of motorsport, standing out there what ever the weather to help us race. I as a driver myself sometimes help marshal at my local kart track, and I'm amazed how good a view you get of the racing, and you really feel part of the motorsport scene.
If you want to become a marshal then look online for your national or regional marshaling association, they ussually have guides of how to become marshals. Or give your local track a call and ask them, they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction, because in the end it helps them out. This website is also useful for those in the UK looking to become marshals http://marshals.co.uk/
There are many ways to get involved in motorsport that don't take a huge bank balance all of which are very enjoyable and allow you to get the adrenaline flowing. If you have any more questions about getting involved in motorsport then don't hesitate to message me or post in the comments below.