I firmly believe that every true petrolhead has considered the move from the grandstand to the grid at some point in his or her life. It’s a huge decision to make.
Much like having a child, you’re never quite the same again and neither is your household budget.
The percentage of people who actually make the move is of course unknown, but clearly the number is low. Whilst budget is no doubt part of the issue, I actually don’t think it is the biggest constraint. The rows of gleaming sportscars parked in the spectator parking at Killarney on any given raceday are proof of this.
Even if you aren’t arriving at the track in one of Stuttgart’s finest, with some sacrifices in your monthly expenditure (goodbye DSTV) and some perseverance in talking to sponsors you’ll probably find a form of racing that suits your budget. Yet, the grids grow at a stubbornly slow rate. Some of them are sadly shrinking.
My view is that the true issue holding petrolheads back from fighting for space into Turn 1 is logistical rather than financial.
Our parents grew up in an era of gardens with storage space and garages full of spanners that were being used on a regular basis. The current crop of 20- and 30-somethings live in residential complexes and have close to zero experience in searching for the elusive 10mm socket.
The thought of storing and preparing a car just makes the entire thing feel incredibly daunting.
Luckily, there are solutions.
Option 1 is to race on the main circuit, but to work with one of the teams at your local track to store and prepare your car. There are classes specifically designed to offer an arrive-and-drive solution with costs that aren’t nearly as prohibitive as you might think. Examples at Killarney include GTI Challenge for smaller race budgets and V8 Masters for those with deeper pockets.
Either way, in classes where the racing is tight and racing incidents are common, it’s almost a necessity to have a team on call who can assist you between races.
Option 2 is to start out on the kart circuit. The benefits of this are clear to see across driving skill and ease of maintenance. With practice, any budding racer can learn to spanner his or her own kart. I went from being utterly useless at DIY and any form of spannering to being able to run my own kart with little or no assistance over a race day, including dealing with major breakages.
Trust me – if I could do it, so can you.
Perhaps the easiest thing about karting is that all the spares you need are readily available at the track, along with all the expertise you could imagine if you get stuck. If you work a normal job and have limited flexibility during the week, this is a huge drawcard. Main circuit cars sometimes need to visit the panel beater or specialist workshops, which can create major logistical headaches during working hours and put pressure on your day job.
Before you think “but karting is for kids,” do yourself a favour and speak to people who have competed in main circuit and karting races before. They will likely tell you that karting is far more physically demanding and has the closest racing you could ever ask for. Any serious racing driver has nothing but respect for the sport.
Main circuit certainly has its own drawcards. The romance of a thundering V8 down the straight is something close to our hearts. Ultimately though, success in club classes is often determined by the quality of the racecar rather than the driver, unless you choose a class with tight regulations designed to replicate the gladiatorial nature of karting on the larger stage.
Regardless of which form of motorsport grips your heart, the best thing you can do is watch as much racing as possible and speak to the participants. Club racing drivers are the friendliest bunch on the planet. We are always keen to grow the sport and get new faces on the grid.
Don’t be shy to come forward and admit that you don’t even know the basics. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how drivers will move heaven and earth to help those who show a genuine, keen interest to get into the sport. This is the perfect time of year to do it too, as there are probably cars or karts available for sale and the class representatives are busy planning for next year.
Get ready to get your hands dirty…and your heart pumping!