Motorsport is exciting to watch on TV, and the speed, noise and drama attract massive crowds to the race events themselves. In fact, there is only one thing better than being a motorsport viewer or spectator and that’s driving a race car yourself! You might have the skill and the desire to get behind the wheel of a race car, but have no idea where to start.
If you participated in go-karting as a youngster, you’ve already tasted the adrenalin-charged thrill of going as fast as you can, while staying in control. And whether you’ve got a performance road car or the budget for an entry level race car, you’ll find it’s not that hard to have a blast on a race track without burning a ton of cash.
Feel the need for speed and want to get behind the wheel and enjoy the thrill of an on-track drive experience? Experience why participation levels in motorsport make it one of the biggest sports in Australia and the world! This article provides info on what to consider first, some of the various options, how to give car racing a go and some helpful tips and tools.
Things to consider when deciding how to start racing:
- What sort of driving experience appeals to you… circuit, rally, off-road, maybe something else?
- Is this something you want to share with family or friends?
- Is there a type of motorsport that appeals to you the most and is that what you’d like to do yourself?
- Are you interested in the mechanical side of preparing a race car or do you just want to drive?
- Is your car preference a performance street car that can be road registered or would you prefer to have a purpose-built track car?
- Would you like to try it first by driving an experience provider’s car before investing time and money into your own car?
- How much can I realistically afford to participate on a regular basis?
- How do I find out what it costs to race the way I want to?
- Do you want to join a car club and participate with owners of similar cars to your own?
6 exciting ways to feel the thrill of racing
Many people know they want to speed around a track, but they don’t know what track, or what type of vehicle they want to do it in. Here’s a range of options for entry level motorsport to consider:
Just about everyone has tried indoor or outdoor karting. If you love it and want to do it regularly it’s one of the cheapest options to race competitively. Most venues have a competition series and the rates for competing are pretty affordable. If you want to increase the intensity, attend a karting club day and talk to those competitors with their own karts.
There’s a range of power and speed options in outdoor karting, right up to superkarts – that go up to 160kph. Yes, that’s correct. And you’re so low to the ground that it feels even faster! So if you’re a little nervous about normal-sized racing for now, find a local go-kart track and satisfy your need for speed.
Karting is also very family-friendly, as go-karts have long been the best entry-level motorsports for children. This is worth considering if you want to get into racing with your whole family.
Motorkhana is a fun, low cost option that’s a great way to try a friendly, low-pressure ‘fang around’ in your own street car. You can find these events run regularly in every part of Australia. They are usually organised by Car Clubs or local Motorkhana enthusiasts and use a variety of venues, each with enough room to mark out a short course using flags and often witches’ hats. Generally, there are two cars competing to drive around parallel courses, trying to finish in the fastest time without ‘destroying’ the course. They accelerate, brake, skid and generally have a blast trying to set a good time and testing their skills.
The circuit lengths and complexity vary. They can be on bitumen, concrete, grass and even off-road tracks. If you’re looking for an extra thrill, some venues like Sydney Motorsport Park have a ‘skid pan’, which is a smooth, hard surface with water sprinklers that make the surface wet and more slippery. This really adds to the fun and challenge!
It is cheap, fun and relatively easy on your gear; there’s low wear and tear and not much chance you’ll ‘prang’ it. So this is a great way to have some fun with your friends while tasting motorsport at the same time.
With this driving activity available for youngsters who don’t yet qualify for a road driver’s licence, it’s a great family activity and a good way to increase skills in a safe environment and then transfer a higher level of ‘car control’ onto the road. Also, due to the compact area, it’s good for spectators as there’s usually free entry and you can plant yourself in one spot and enjoy all the action.
Regularity is a popular form of circuit motorsport where the competition is all about being consistent rather than who’s the fastest. You can use your own street car, or a relatively low spec track car. And while you’re out on the track doing laps, usually in timed sessions, you’re not racing.
Generally, you have a familiarity or practice session to see what sort of lap time you can achieve. Then you nominate that time, and in the competition that follows the aim is to get as close as you can to that time. The timekeeping each lap calculates points based on how much faster or slower you are against your lap time and this adds to your points tally for the day.
If there are trophies they go to the ‘most consistent’ driver rather than the one who does the fastest lap or fastest lap average.
So as you can imagine, it has the thrill factor of being in a bunch of cars going fast, but you don’t need to feel like it’s all about the chequered flag. And because there’s no racing, there tends to be less car damage.
4. Circuit Excel Racing
Circuit Excel Racing gives you the opportunity to race at a more affordable price than a lot of other categories. It is one of the fastest growing categories of racing and it now appears all over Australia.
This truly is a cheap way to race competitively. Most Excels you’ll buy close to race-ready will be at least $6,000. Eligible Excels can sell for less than $1,000 these days, and it’s typically between $8000 and $15000 to build one into a competitive race car. Of course, you should always be wary of a used Excel going for a few hundred dollars; it might be in very bad shape. A positive of all this spending is you could find yourself with quite a valuable car in a couple of years, so long as you take good care of it.
Excel racing generally has different sprint and endurance events. These usually cost a few hundred dollars each to enter.
5. Fastrack V8 Race Experience
This performance driving experience is an affordable and exciting way to see if you like the concept of motor racing without having to initially spend money on a car, car club fees, helmets and other apparel and a motorsport licence. If you feel the need for speed, you can buy a voucher and book into one of the many days they run on virtually every championship race track in Australia. You just rock up and on the day you’ll get a race suit, driver’s briefing and helmet so you’ve got the gear and some idea of what to do on the track. The best thing is that not only do you get to drive, but you’ve got an experienced coach in the passenger’s seat providing instruction, so you come up to speed fast and you can get around safely. It’s a good way to know if you ‘love’ it before you take the next step of actually starting to get a kart or car prepped for competing.
There’s a full range of driving and hot lap experiences at some of Australia’s most iconic race tracks to get you started. If you’ve never sped around a race track in a V8 Race Car (or even if you have), this is a great way of discovering if you’re up to the rigours of high-octane competition.
6. Come and Try days
You still might not know what your favourite type of racing is. That’s okay! Come and Try days give you the opportunity to see which ones suit you the best. The good news is for a lot of these you can bring your own car, so a large portion of the costs is already covered. But be sure to check the car requirements for each event, to ensure your car meets them. These events are held all over the country so they’re also a great way of immersing yourself in motorsport culture. There will be lots of other motorheads there as well.
Once you have settled on which motorsport suits you the best, you need to know how to start racing!
Licence, car, club… green light
Get a motorsport licence
Having a motorsport licence can be a significant addition to your regular licence. It opens up many motorsport-related possibilities, and you will need one to compete in certain events.
Motorsport licensing is handled by the sports national body called Motorsport Australia, formerly CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sport). The two entry level licences are known as Non-speed and Speed licences. The Non-speed licence allows you to compete in drifting, rally events, non-timed events and a number of other races. With a Speed licence, you can compete in some touring road events, regularity trials up to the international level, and other things as well. You can find out all the specifications of these licences to work out which one would suit you best.
You need a car!
So you’re thinking about buying your first track car, or perhaps even building one yourself?
First, you have to be strategic about how you spend your money. If you’re clever about it, you can find a cheap car that needs some work, adding new parts until you’ve got the finished product. You want your fluids, tires and brakes in perfect order. If you’re building it up yourself, you’ll have to consider things like wheels, shocks and roll bars. And remember, stiffer doesn’t mean faster. You’ll need your suspension to be able to move so you can grip around corners.
There’s also the time factor. If you can find a ready-made track car needing little or no work, the higher price might be worth it when you consider future costs and even time spent maintaining it. Keep track of what’s selling on websites like my105.com, motorsportsales.com or justcars.com to find yourself some potential bargains. These types of websites provide an excellent indication of how much you’ll need to pay for a car in whatever type of racing you’re interested in.
Car club participation
Finally, car clubs are great both for meeting like-minded people and for getting into competitions. Some car clubs hold competitive events; you just have to know where to find them. There are hundreds of car clubs registered in Australia, representing the passion Aussies have for their cars, particularly performance or classic ones. There’s a car club in virtually every town where you can meet enthusiasts who generally volunteer their time to hold local events. Here’s a selection of only three to show how you can review their interests and make contact online Sporting Car Club South Australia, Hobart Sporting Car Club or MG Car Club of WA. Be sure to research car clubs in your area, giving special attention to what cars they prefer and what sort of motorsport they connect with.
Ultimately there are many ways to start your motorsport in Australia. Whether it’s through karting, Excels, or joining a car cub, there is a racing option for everyone!