Autocross as a Gateway to the World of Motor Sport

Autocross as a Gateway to the World of Motor Sport
Autocross as a Gateway to the World of Motor Sport

If the inner petrol head is unsatisfied by the limited fun allowed on public roads, the sensible thing to do is look into the world of motorsport. The choice of discipline can be overwhelming, as well as some of the bureaucracy and, of course, the expense. But there is a way of getting into the sport without needing to sell the farm, and which also happens to be an enormous amount of fun – autocross.

Autocross is a type of motorsport that has largely retained its grassroot heritage. In the UK autocross began after WWII, when racing infrastructure didn’t really exist as such, and empty airfields were used for car racing thanks to their flatness. If tarmac of sufficient quality was present, the airfield would be used for fancier motorsports that had an element of commercialisation behind them. Others were left to use flat fields of grass as their infrastructure, and they made the best of it. A course was laid out using make-shift flags or cones and cars would be raced around the track for several laps against the clock. Not much has substantially changed since those days.

But to get started you will have to jump through some hoops. The best thing to do is join an autocross club in your area that is registered with Motorsport UK, the official governing body nationwide. You will need to obtain a licence, but there isn’t much of a test that you’ll need to pass. It is more to do with familiarising you with the few rules that exist. What makes autocross the perfect entry into motorsport in general, is that the event organisers will be more concerned with what you wear during the event, than what you drive. If you drive in an old, battered, but still road-worthy car that you paid someone 400 pounds for, you’ll be allowed to race it within its class. The safety officer (also called the scrutineer) will check for basic stuff, like poorly attached wheels, or cracked glass that can easily break and injure you in the intensity of the race. If you haven’t made contact with other cars during the race, you’ll be driving your car back home. Just don’t forget to wipe the mud off the licence plates, at least.

You will need some gear, however. A helmet and a racing suit is a must. The exact specification for these items can be found in the Motorsport UK Yearbook. Make sure you follow those rules, as failing to meet those standards will preclude you from getting on the track. Helmets are necessary from preventing head injuries, since airbags are rarely a thing in autocross. Also, the racing suit is fire-resistant, making sure you don’t immediately burn should your car catch fire for any reason. Other than that, you’re set. If you consider all the aforementioned items, the cost of entry isn’t steep. With a very old used car factored in, you’re looking at a budget of about 2000 pounds. In motorsport terms, it’s as cheap as it gets if you want proper racing with lap times and a real test of vehicle control to start building skill.