VSCC Lakeland trial
How far can you get up a slippery hill course? Production car trials (PCTs) are for production cars of any age, including vintage, but sporting trials are where the need for specialised kit begins. A BTRDA PCT (it also organises rallies, rallycross, autotests and autosolos) costs as little as £20 to enter. Typical Vintage Sports-Car Club trial entry £85. Historic Sporting Trials Association (with two categories: 1953-1970 and 1970-1978): £40.
No competition licence is required at their most basic level, and you can use your road car to tackle a twisty course on tarmac or shale marked out by cones – you’ll rarely be out of first or reverse gears. It’s about precision; if you touch a cone or take the wrong route, you get penalties.
Autosolos are very similar, except that you never stop moving and you’re always going forwards on a larger, less twisting course, so it’s easier on the transmission. These events are very democratic – each competitor takes stints at marshalling between runs.
Needs only a National B speed licence, as cars are timed separately around three or four laps of a circular course, usually in a stubbly field. Cars range from near-standard to wild specials.
‘Run what ya brung’: that says it all. You can have a go in your road car from £25 (£35 at Santa Pod, both for unlimited runs), and at that level all you need is a helmet and a street licence. Beyond that – and there are over two dozen classes for modified road cars and bespoke drag racers – you’ll need a National B non-race licence (£46).
Sprints are essentially hillclimbs on the flat, and in both there are categories for just about every type and age of car. Drivers tackle the course from a standing start, one at a time, crossing electronic timing beams at the start and finish.
You generally get two practice runs and two timed runs, so if you get it wrong there’s a chance to improve on your next run. The joy comes from stringing together the perfect run, which doesn’t happen often. Only a National B non-race licence is required, costing £46 and for which there’s no medical and no exam – see motorsportuk.org – though some events require a National A speed licence (£96) which you can upgrade to after four events. One of these can be at a Motorsport UKrecognised sprint or hillclimb school.
Peking to Paris(Image: Gerard Brown)
You need to join a motor club. A good starting point is hillclimbandsprint.co.uk, as is the Midland Automobile Club which runs Shelsley Walsh, the oldest motorsport venue in the world still using its original course. You will need a fireproof race suit (starting from £265), gloves, boots and a helmet (at least £100) plus a head restraint device for some classes, and a few basic safety details on the car. Entry per event is typically around £120, though the VSCC’s flagship two-day Vintage Prescott meeting costs £170. MAC members pay £130 at Shelsley, non-members £145. The driving schools at both Prescott and Shelsley Walsh are highly instructive, making you faster up the hill without spending a penny on the car. They’re a great day out, too.
These cover everything from gentle Touring Assemblies following road books to fiendishly complicated and tightly timed road rallies, which set a deep intellectual challenge as the organisers do their best to confuse you. All you need are the maps, a map light, maybe a magnifying glass and an accurate watch, though proper dash-mounted rally clocks are better.
Rallies vary from a simple 12-car event at night (where often you are handed the map co-ordinates only as you leave the start line, just to add to the challenge), to long-distance runs the length of the UK (Le Jog, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year). Or you can battle halfway across the globe on events such as Peking to Paris, London to Sydney and others with the Endurance Rally Association (now part of the HERO group), Rally the Globe, Bespoke Rallies and Rally Round. You’ll need extensively prepared machinery for these.
As a taster, both the Historic Rally Car Register and HERO operate very useful training days to learn all about navigation. Entry to a 12-car, in which the navigators can start at the age of 12, starts from just £2.50; a National B road rally such as the Knutsford and District MC Tour of Cheshire costs around £135, and at the other end of the scale a marathon such as Peking-Paris costs in the region of £40k to enter. That’s before you add the car, shipping, fuel and other expenses.
These are in effect a long, timed sprint, usually on rough or varied surfaces, with a navigator whose job is mostly to call the severity of approaching corners from pacenotes rather than to read maps, although he/she does have to get the crew from the end of each stage to the beginning of the next.
You also need specialised kit: a used Impreza from £20k, a ‘new-build’ Group 4 Escort nearer £150k. The driver needs to complete a British Association of Rally Schools (BARS) assessment (cost from £195) to obtain a National B stage rally licence before taking part (start by getting the GoRallying pack from Motorsport UK), and the safety gear requirements are stringent, with rollcages, lifed seats and harnesses, plus plumbed extinguishers.
This is where it gets more serious, and expensive. To race you need to pass an Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS) course (£270) before you can take part, and pass a medical (cost varies; some GPs will do it for £50). Kick off the process by getting the ‘Go Racing’ starter pack from Motorsport UK at £107, which includes the cost of your first licence.
All this is before you spend money on a dedicated race car and trailer, though there are categories for road-legal cars such as the HSCC’s Road Sports series – and even a one-make race series for 2CVs! The annual cost of a National B race licence is £64, plus the medical, but some events require a National A (available after you’ve completed six races, one of which can be replaced by a day’s marshalling) costing £101. International licences start at £214, and every two years you’ll need a stress ECG test (where you’re wired up to heart monitors, on a treadmill), which costs at least £200.
VSCC Donington(Image: Peter MacFadyen)
In the UK, this is run under the Formula Vintage brand by the Vintage Sports-Car Club. Many members compete in road-legal cars, which they also use in other disciplines, and safety requirements are limited (no roll cages or seatbelts required). But there’s still the cost of the ARDs course, fireproofs and helmet.
Races (15 minutes) typically cost £278 each, or £175 for shorter distances, and are split into sets: Set 1 for vintage racing cars; Set 2 for pre-1961 front-engined racing cars; Set 3 for standard and modified sports cars; Set 4 for special sports cars; Set 5 for a short scratch race; and Set 6 for a short handicap race.
Competitors in pre-war cars always have the opportunity to take part in a number of races per meeting, which include heats for later cars such as Formula Juniors, F3 500s and 1950s sports/ sports-racing cars.
This has its own organisation, the Formula Junior Historic Racing Association, which runs championships in both the UK (14 rounds) and mainland Europe (six rounds). Its website includes cars for sale, with competitive runners from around £55k.
Masters, Peter Auto and – for older cars – the GT & Sports Car Cup are the organisers here. Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends caters for cars (not just Astons) that were eligible for major endurance racing events from 1995 to 2012, which means the Le Mans 24 Hours or any of its feeder series (FIA Sports Car Championship, IMSA, Sports Racing World Cup, International Sports Racing Series, FIA World Endurance Championship, LMES, ELMS, ALMS, ILMC). International licences are required. Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance Racing takes in cars from 1966 to 1981, and GT & Sports Car Cup is an invitation-only four-round series for genuine pre-66 GTs and pre-63 Sports-Cars of a type raced in the World Endurance Championship in period.
And don’t forget the wonderful Spa Six Hours in September!
Not for the novice, nor the impecunious, but for many this series represents the pinnacle of endurance racing. Unlike many other formulae, the cars are pretty strictly defined as those that ran in Group C from 1982 until the mid-1990s. This throws up huge variety in values from the fiercely expensive likes of the Jaguars (XJR-9 etc) and Mercedes (C11) via the Spices, Tigas to the less-known Argos and Domes, but there is no cheap way in and the competition is brutal. Organised by Peter Auto, the series visits a range of bluechip events, kicking off in 2019 at Espίritu de Montjuïc in Barcelona in April. Open to Group C, IMSA and GTP (1982-93) cars, prices are equally brutal with a single meeting – two 45-minute practice/qualifying sessions and two 45-minute races – costing €3500. A season ticket for Montjuïc, Spa, Hungaroring, Monza and Castellet will set you back €16,000, but includes hospitality.