The following gives you all you need to know about how to start racing with BMW Race Days
For the beginner, stepping up from track days or karting and actually going racing might seem like a daunting…or almost impossible task! From the paperwork required to obtain a race licence, through to what car or equipment you’ll need, it can seem very complicated. Fear not though, as it’s all fairly simple and quick. You could actually be racing within a matter of days if necessary – and here’s what you need to know to get on track with us in 2016.
Join the bmwracedays.co.uk forum
Cost – FREE!
No matter whether you’re an experienced racer looking to join us, or a complete circuit racing novice, the forum is a great place to discuss plans, ask questions and search posts for guidance. There’s no such thing as a daft question as everyone has been there, and both fellow competitors and the BMW Race Days staff will be quick to help out online.
Buy your ‘Go Racing pack’ from the MSA (www.msauk.org)
Cost – £95.00
This is the first step you will have to take in order to gain your race licence, and the pack can be with you in little more than a day. As well as the obligatory application forms, your pack will include some niceties and a DVD, which contains the yearbook and a video to watch and learn about racing. This pack is your key to the next step.
Book your Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS) test
Cost – Between £200 and £400
The only way to obtain your first race licence is to pass the ARDS test. The test can be booked directly with most UK race circuits and normally takes around half a day.
One half of the test is a practical element. Quite simply, you will be invited to drive a normal road car (supplied by the circuit) around a few laps whilst accompanied by an ARDS Examiner. They will provide you with a helmet and you won’t require any specialist equipment. Should you be ready to live the childhood dream of going racing but have little or no prior circuit experience, the best advice here is to speak to the circuit in advance and try to arrange a bit of track tuition before the test itself. This will ensure you are comfortable with the basics of track driving before being assessed.
In this assessment the examiner is not looking for banzai cornering speeds, drift demonstrations or race pace lap times. The generally considered advice is that, as a racer themselves they are looking at your driving with the question “would I be happy sitting alongside this candidate on the grid?” As long as you listen carefully to the examiners instructions, then drive smoothly and within the limits of the track, the answer is usually yes and they’ll tick the “Pass” box.
The other part to the ARDS test (performed either before or after the practical) is a brief written exam, which is largely multiple choice. Some are general racing questions, however the flag section is crucial and you must score 100% to pass. The DVD included in the Go Racing pack offers a very through explanation, so the best advice is to watch it as many times as necessary to make sure you know them without hesitation. It’s not just for the sake of passing the test – recognising and understanding a flag signal whilst you’re racing on track is vital.
Book a medical
Cost – From £50 to £175
To ensure that you are deemed fit and well enough to be placed in control of a race car on track, you must first pass a simple medical examination. This is fairly routine, and some racing clubs and organisations offer discounted checks, often in conjunction with ARDS tests. You don’t have to see your regular GP, so look elsewhere if the quoted price seems high. (Ask the circuit you’ve chosen to take your ARDS test, as they may be able to advise you on someone local who can provide this service)
With your test and medical both hopefully passed, you can then send away the application for to obtain your first ‘National B Race Licence.’ from the MSA.
Register for the BMW Race Days championship of your choice
Annual fee cost – £195
To enter Compact Cup or 330 Challenge races you have to be a fully paid up member of BMW Race Days. This fee also covers your racing membership with the BRSCC, the club who are hosting BMW Race Days races for 2016.
Compact Cup or 330 Challenge?
For someone taking to the track for the first time, we would recommend that you opt to get involved with the BMW Compact Cup Championship. This is a fantastic place to learn what circuit racing is all about! The cars are great fun to race, cheap to buy and maintain, and the standard of competitor ranges from complete novices, to ex British GT racers. It’s no coincidence that the BMW Compact Cup Championship is the most successful club racing championship of recent years, with full grids and the closest most competitive racing anywhere! Whether you’re an ex karter, or someone who’s done a thousand track day laps, you’ll be surprised just how competitive and quick you’ll have to be to find your way onto a Compact Cup podium step! One thing is guaranteed…and it’s that you’ll have a whale of a time learning the cars and race circuits along the way.
The BMW 330 Challenge is more suited to drivers who have already “cut their teeth” in Compact Cup racing or in other race series. The cars are bigger, more powerful, more complex and more expensive than the Compacts. In this series you’ll be up against some very experienced and able drivers, and it would be unusual if a novice could turn up and be competitive. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you racing in the BMW 330 Challenge as a novice and you’ll be made most welcome, however just be mindful that your confidence as a race driver could end up being dented by not having the levels of experience to allow you to keep up with the cars around you on track.
Buy your safety equipment
Cost – From around £600
An essential part of racing! Your safety gear is not just box-ticking to allow you to race, it’s tightly regulated with specific safety standards to ensure that you can enjoy your motorsport in as safe circumstances as possible.
You will need the following:
– Helmet – to the latest standard (your supplier will be able to advise on this). Ensure that it has ‘HANS posts’ fitted to the sides for the next point.
– FHR system. Standing for ‘Frontal Head Restraint’ (more often known as a HANs device), this device sits under your race harness and attaches to your helmet to restrain it in the event of a forward-facing collision. This has become mandatory for circuit racing in 2016.
– A fireproof race suit, fireproof boots and gloves. A fireproof balaclava, gloves and both top and bottom underwear are also highly recommended.
Most suppliers will do you a “full kit” deal, so pick up the phone to one of them and ask for their advice. Always buy the best that you can afford as it’s your own safety that matters, and your kit will last longer too.
Race car transport
Cost – From £1000
Although there’s no reason not to drive to races, transporting your car means you don’t have the cost of MOT and tax, and will usually allow a much more enjoyable race weekend unless you live near the circuit – race cars do not generally make the greatest long distance vehicles.
You’ll need a car or van/camper and trailer with a suitable towing capacity, and it’s worthwhile remembering that the former needs to be in good working order. For example, if you have an issue with your race car then there’s a good chance that you’ll find someone in the paddock with the tools, knowledge or part to help before the race. If your tow vehicle doesn’t work, you’re not going anywhere.
Don’t forget that if you passed your (road) driving test after 1 January 1997 then you’ll need to take a B&E towing test to be able to tow the weight of a BMW (1100kg or 1200kg approx) and trailer (from 400kg approx) legally.
A race car
Cost – From £4000 for a good Compact Cup car.
The most exciting part! There are two realistic options: either buy a pre-built race car or build your own. You can usually find an example or two for sale in the forum classifieds.
Remember that a used car might need a once over or a bit of a “refresh” if it has just finished a season, and the BMW Race Days team will be happy to advise on companies who can assist if needed. Don’t assume however that a pre-owned car will be worn out and tired, as most race cars are maintained meticulously throughout their lives.
Building your own car is a fundamentally satisfying way to get on the grid, and can be very cost effective if you have the ability to do much of the work yourself. It is also a great way to become familiar with the way your race car works from the inside out. Should you not be confident working on cars though, then the BMW Race Days team will be happy to recommend companies able to assist with building your car.
If buying a pre-owned race car, remember that Race seats currently don’t have to be in date to race in the UK, but they do need to be properly mounted and in good condition. Race Harnesses are ‘lifed’ and have an expiry date for competition use – something worth checking well in advance of your first race date, as is the service date printed on the mandatory fire extinguisher. For any questions at all, just ask on the forum.
Cost – from £300 entry fee (double header)
And that’s it, you just need to enter your first race, and don’t forget to take all of the above (including your licence) with you, as well as a big grin. We look forward to seeing you on the grid.