Whether it's Formula One or British Touring Cars, you may have fantasised that one day you'd be beating Lewis Hamilton or our own Árón Smith to the chequered flag! There's only one thing that's stopping you though – how exactly do you get started in Motorsport? In Ireland, it's actually pretty simple once you make a few straight forward decisions. The first choice is what type of car do you actually want to race? We're quite lucky in that we have a number of very competitive classes on our doorstep ranging from budget single seaters, right up to factory built Touring Cars. For the purpose of this exercise we'll look at getting straight into a Touring Car, but the basics are pretty much the same for any class.
Ok, you've figured out that you want to race a Touring Car, so what next? As a novice, there's a number of options available but you now have to figure out how much punishment your wallet can take! In terms of your soon-to-be race car, where do you start? Do you buy a car already built and proven, or if you're more a hands on type person, do you build your own from scratch? Some classes also have the option to rent a car for a season. We'll look at how to build a car in a bit more detail later on in the season, for now let’s assume we want to buy a car that's already built. Some people will already have a car almost race-ready, having graduated from track days but it's possible to have a competitive car bought and on the grid for as little as €4,000 the sky, of course is the limit in terms of how much you could spend.
The actual car you buy will have a bearing on the classes that are open to you and how competitive you can be. The main class for saloon cars in Ireland is the Irish Touring Car Championship which caters for all kinds of car, ranging from a home built Honda Civic right up to a Works prepared SEAT Supercopa, there's something for everyone. You’ll need to take a look at the regulations for the class to ensure your car meets the requirements to race. These will vary from simple things like engine size and vehicle weight, right down to the type of tyres or exhaust used, they can be quite specific so it’s a good idea to have a chat with one of the class coordinators who can talk you through the nitty-gritty and guide you to ensure all is ok. To get in touch with the ITCC class coordinator, Brian Sexton email firstname.lastname@example.org
At this point, you have a nice shiny Touring car sitting in your shed but you don't really know what the next step is. As all circuit racing in Ireland falls under the watchful gaze of Motorsport Ireland and ultimately the FIA, you'll need a racing licence and thankfully it's a pretty simple process. For first timers, a course and an exam needs to be completed, just like your road licence. To get started, Motorsport Ireland have a very good pack which introduces you to the world of Motorsport. Once you've read through that, the next step is to complete your course and exam. Mondello Park hold these days pretty regularly, and the course itself is straightforward enough. It consists of both classroom activities and some time on track to assess your ability (don’t worry, it’s not an assessment of how fast you can drive, it’s more to ensure you are not a danger to yourself or others and can understand the rules, regulations and flags that are in place during a motorsport event) . It will teach you the basics of certain things like what flags mean what, and roughly where you should place your car on the circuit. Assuming you pass, it's then a very simple process of filling out an application form, getting a standard medical check done (can be done by your local GP for the standard consultation fee) and hey presto, you've got an FIA Competition Licence!
So, now you've got the car and the licence to race it. What next? Some safety equipment is required but you'll be no stranger to this stuff having watched your heroes on TV using it! Just like the car, this stuff can be bought on a budget and again there isn't really a limit on how much you can spend. The basic personal safety equipment that’s mandatory for circuit racing in Ireland includes a fireproof racing suit, gloves and boots, and of course a helmet. Certain classes also make the HANS device mandatory, and for others it's up to you but we would recommend it regardless of what you want to race. Local suppliers such as Murray Motorsport stock all the gear you need but it may also be worth checking out ebay or Amazon if you know the sizes you need. All of these items have a sell-by date after which time they no longer can be used for official competition use, so if buying second hand equipment make sure they're not out of date!
Now you have your car, the licence to race it, and all of the safety equipment needed, so now it’s time to get out there and go racing! All you need to do now is register with the championship of your choice, and send your entry form into whatever circuit you happen to be racing at. The paddock is thankfully a very welcoming place for a newcomer, and there will always be someone around who can give a hand or some advice.
There you have it, it really is that easy to get started in motorsport!
Not ready to go racing just yet? why not check out our blog on buying a track day car on a budget!