Hillclimb Newby Debate

There is a fascinating thread running on the ever excellent Uphill Racers forum at the moment about Grass Roots Motorsport in general and how to attract more newcomers to hillclimbing & sprinting.

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This issue has long been debated and obviously there are no black or white answers to this situation, but there are some common threads which always run through these discussions…

It is often stated that our sport has excessively expensive start-up costs, especially when compared to other forms of Grass Roots sport.

As I am on the verge of participating in competitive motorsport this year for the first time this year, I think that I have a little bit of first hand insight into this.

One thing is for sure, at all levels MOTOR SPORT IS EXPENSIVE! I never expected it to be otherwise, but it is surprising how expensive it can be to start from scratch on a ‘normal’ wage even with a normal road car.

I have a company car for daily use, so needed to find a road-going car (not being able to tow due to the company car) which could be fun and reliable enough to cover the reasonably long distances to events. Also, as I live in a rather car-unfriendly city, I needed to find somewhere to store the car. The expense of this took my entire competing budget for 2012, hence why 2013 will be my first year despite having a suitable car.

Next came the safety kit. Due to some parental pressure, I agreed that I would not use second hand kit, I am sure that there is nothing wrong with most ebay purchases but Mother knows best! I am very fortunate in that I have many industry contacts so I managed to get very friendly prices, but that suit, lid & gloves still set me back over £300. I have had to make the decision not to install a roll hoop or harnesses into the car to start with, otherwise I would not be competing until 2014.

The license is the next issue, and I seem to be in a minority with this as I think that £42 for a National B Speed Event License is a bargain. I have never ‘signed on’ to take part in any form of team game, but I am sure that the governing body fee for football or rugby is in that ballpark.

My feeling is that the personal safety kit requirement is excessive for road-going vehicles. If you consider that I have been forced to buy a racesuit, yet I am able to choose not to buy a rollhoop or harnesses it seems a little strange. In an ideal world I would have had the hoop & belts before a suit.

On the road I can take my car upto 70mph (which is more than it will likely achieve at Wiscombe or Prescott) and I can do that in shorts and a t-shirt, with the potential for cars coming the other way, horses and bikes around and no orange angels to mop up after me, then something is wrong. Sure, you shouldn’t be pushing on the road, but in the course of my 35,000 or so miles a year on the road I see plenty who do push hard believe me.

In my opinion crash helmets should be mandatory for all, but there should be an optional  ’rookie’ license, and a class (or catagory Wilko!) for the novice contenders, which allows newcomers in production road-going cars under 2-litre to wear sensible normal clothes (jeans and a cotton jumper for example) and then the additional kit should be requirement for year two. This will allow people to try the sport for just the cost of a lid, and if they like it (and why wouldn’t they?) then they can invest and join the club properly.

Our sport is expensive, and it always will be, but if it is to continue to be strong then we need to find a way to get people to try speed events rather than going straight to drag racing or autograss or track days or auto solos or any of the other rival competitions out there.

What do you think? Let us know using the comments form below….

Comments

  1. Skip says:

    I have only been competing for a few years. My thoughts about the initial outlay where similar. However I have come to think in a different way. Once you have invested in the necessary equipment it will last, if looked after, for a number of seasons. If you think of the cost in those terms and consider the benefit you receive from the kit should something go wrong, it is good value for money!

    Yes Motorsport is expensive. However I think that our form of Motorsport is exceptional value for money.

    • James says:

      Very valid point, it certainly is a great investment. And will serve you well for many years if you continue in the sport.

  2. Tim says:

    Know what you mean James. But a race suit does makes sense. My original is 18 years old and still legal (and serviceable) So a good investment. If the worst happened it would be reassuring to know you had some protection with fuel spilling about! Hill climbing is still a good way to start. For Bens junior rallying project we have had to source roll gage, extinguishers, one plumbed, one hand held, in date seats, in date harnesses, suit, helmet etc etc plus Bars rally test and loads more. Massive hurdles just to sit on the start line! I would say the best way to see if someone likes the sport is to enrol at some Hill climb schools. Loton park is excellent!!! Plenty of runs, good advice and really good taste of the sport without the initial expense. ( that comes later when you’ve hooked yourself) looking forward to seeing you perform.

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