Beginners Guide to Speed Events
If you’ve ever wondered how you can get to drive competitively at some of the great motor racing venues around Britain, here is your answer – sprints and hill climbs, or ‘Speed Events’ as we know them. For a comparatively small outlay you can drive as fast as you like around some great tracks and up some famous hills. If you own an MG, you have easy access to a well-organised and fun championship, the MG Car Club Speed Championship.
A sprint is a timed run around a track. Only one car starts at a time (though there may be two cars on different parts of the circuit at once). You compete only against the clock. Competitors are grouped together in classes and there are prizes for winners of each class depending on the number of entrants. A hillclimb is basically the same but takes place on a (usually) narrower track and up a hillside.
This article aims to de-mystify what you need to do in order to compete. It is strongly recommended that you first attend a couple of events as a spectator or even a marshal. This will give you a much better idea of the sort of things you need and what you will be asked to do. Nothing beats seeing the action and talking to the drivers.
The first thing you need is a Motorsport UK “Non-race National B” licence at a cost of £46.00. You don’t need a medical or training, just complete the forms. You can contact Motorsport UK on 01753 765000 or you can download a license application form from the Motorsport UK website. Motorsport UK publish the Motorsport UK Year Book, known to everyone as “The Blue Book”. The Blue Book lays down the rule associated with all forms of motorsport.
NB: Licences run from January 1st until the end of the year. If you apply in August, you will pay the full amount but you will have to renew in January.
Joining a Championship
For MG drivers the obvious choice is the MG Car Club Speed Championship. This is split into a Northern and Southern series, as well as a National Championship. The MGCC Speed Championship details can be acquired from Championship Coordinator, John Wilman.
Tel: 01298 812272
The Championship Coordinator keeps you informed of such things as your Championship position, the availability of the regulations for forthcoming events, etc. Each event will cost you between £70 to £140 depending on the venue.
Each particular class has various restrictions on what you can and can’t do to the car in the way of modifications. These are generally set so that if you don’t want to modify your car, you won’t be at a disadvantage against people with more time and money to spend on tuning. Please see out Championship Regulations for further details of our classes.
Personal Safety Equipment
You will need a race suit, helmet and gloves. The Blue Book will give you the current specification for these items. Fire proof boots, while not obligatory, are also recommended, as is a balaclava. If you are running an open car, you will need a helmet with a visor or goggles.
What Your Car Needs
For most speed events, timing is performed by a light beam system. To standardise how cars break the beam to start the clock, the Blue Book lays down rules for a timing strut to be fitted to each car. This is basically just a rectangle of metal that affixes temporarily to the front of the car. The Blue Book will give you details of the colour, size and location of your timing strut.
The MGCC Speed Championship Regulations specify that you must have a fire extinguisher. You need at least a 1.5kg fire extinguisher firmly secured to the car. It is easy to screw this to the floor somewhere in the passenger compartment and it can be left in for normal road use.
Just before each event you enter, you will be sent details of your entry number. This number must be displayed on your car. For speed events, contrasting numbers (say a white number on a red car) are acceptable. You can either make numbers up with masking tape (curved numbers are tricky!), buy pre-cut numbers, or make up sets from magnetic plastic.
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are a couple of things that scrutineers may look for:
- Yellow tape around the battery earth lead, so that it can be cut quickly in an emergency by marshals.
- Ignition ‘off’ switch marked. This is really a rule for the specialist cars which start and stop engines by elusive buttons on the dashboard. A sticker somewhere near your ignition key on the steering column with an arrow pointing in the “off” direction will be sufficient.
- Two throttle return springs.
As none of these things are hard to fix on site, it is sometimes best to just listen to what the particular scrutineer wants, and then comply. If you don’t have the right sort of tape or tool, there is a very good chance that someone in the paddock will help you out!
Car Wear and Tear
It is not necessary to change your tyres to compete. If you are coming up to needing a new set of tyres, however, it might be worth asking around to see what others recommend for your car. You might be able to get a tyre with more grip (but a shorter life) than you would normally fit. The Blue Book has a list of permitted tyres and our Regulations state what tyres can be used in which class.
Obviously, the clutch and transmission are going to take a bit more pounding than in usual driving but you should remember that each event usually consists of around runs (two practice and three timed) each lasting around 60 seconds or so.
About a week before the event you will received the ‘Final Instructions’ which is confirmation of your entry and you will be assigned a competition number. You will also be told what order the competition would run in (i.e. which classes run first) and what time the meeting starts.
The Final Instructions may contained instructions as to where to park in the paddock. Some venues allocate numbered spaces for each competitor corresponding to their competition number, others allocate certain areas for each class while some just tell you which field to park in. Try to follow the rules and if in doubt, ask.
Usually the first thing to do when you’ve arrived and parked is to go and sign on. For this you will need: Race license, Club membership card and anything else the regulations specifically ask for.
Walking the Course
If allowed you should definitely walk the course. There is usually a set time by which the course must be cleared so if you are running a little late you might want to skip signing on until after you’ve walked the course. If you’ve never been to a venue before, walking the course should help you avoid any mistakes on the first practice. The other reason for walking (and the reason why all the most experienced competitors do it no matter how many times they’ve been to a particular venue) is that you can find out the track conditions for the day.
Before you can be scrutineered, you will need to spend some time putting on your timing strut and race numbers should also be applied. Before you have your car scrutineered, you may have to remove unnecessary items from the boot and passenger compartment, including your spare wheel and jack. You can usually find a small pile of bric-a-brac behind each car in the paddock. A small tarpaulin or ground sheet to cover your stuff might also be a good investment.
Scrutineering is the check that must be performed on your car before it is declared fit to run. At your first event your helmet may have to have a Motorsport UK sticker applied to it which will be checked at subsequent events. Your overalls, helmet and gloves will be inspected as well. Then your car will be checked: timing strut, numbers, throttle linkage, tyres, wheel nuts, brakes, etc.. This is all done visually and if your car is road legal you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Some venues will check noise levels, but again most MoT worthy cars shouldn’t have any trouble. When the scrutineer is satisfied, they will give you a sticker for your car, confirming you have passed scrutineering.
If the event is a sprint at a race circuit, there may be a convoy lap. This will consist of everybody snaking slowly round the circuit behind a Pace Car. The idea is not only to get an idea of where the track goes, but also to familiarise yourself with marshal’s posts and other features.
Most events run in class order. Some events are very strict and require all of the competitors to run strictly in numerical order too. When it is getting close to your turn you should start your engine and listen out for announcements. When called you should line up for the start.
At the Start Line
Once you’ve got to the front of the queue you will be lined up for the start. The exact procedure differs from venue to venue so listen to what the marshals tell you. Sometimes you will be held on the line by marshals or with a wheel chock. Most of the time marshals will roll your car up to the line by hand to get the positioning right.
There will usually be a red light and when that changes to green a marshal will tell you to go in your own time. Don’t spend too long waiting after the light goes green but remember that your run time is from the moment when you move, not when the light changes.
Back in the Paddock
Once you get back to the paddock you will be interested in your time. This will usually be displayed somewhere in the paddock or where you signed on. Take a look at other times in your class and get a feel for how well you are doing. Once you’ve done that you basically have all the time until your next run for socialising and chatting. It’s really quite a sociable sport and there is a very good camaraderie amongst the MG drivers who take part.
At the end of the day….
It is worth checking to see if you have a hope of taking away something for the mantel piece! A few days after the event, the organisers usually send out a complete list of the results.
Finally, remember that the idea is to have FUN and with the MGCC Speed Championship, this is guaranteed!