If you can’t wait until you’re old enough to drive on the roads, don’t worry. You can compete in most kinds of motor sport, although age restrictions vary depending on which particular discipline you want to take part in.
Here’s a guide to how old you have to be to compete in each different form of the sport:
A junior Autocross class exists which allows competitors from 14-16 years of age to compete and is included in various championships. Autocross is an excellent, low cost way to compete. From age 16, you can compete in "adult" classes.
You can compete in AutoSOLOs from the age of 14, but you must only use a "touring car" of up to 2000cc (including forced induction), with a passenger who is experienced in AutoSOLOs and holds a full RTA licence. AutoSOLOs require that competitors’ vehicles must be driven to and from the events, so you will almost certainly have to share a car with a driver who has a full RTA road licence. On the plus side, AutoSOLOs are simpler than traditional autotests, and are an ideal first step into motor sport. All tests involve driving in a forwards direction only on a sealed surface (e.g. tarmac).
Autotests welcome competitors from the age of 16 onwards, but there are also Production Car Autotests, which cater for drivers of at least 14 years old. For PCAs, you need to be accompanied by a passenger in the car, who must be an experienced autotest competitor.
You can compete in single-seaters, saloons and sportscars, in many national and regional championships from the age of 16, especially those that require a Motorsport UK National B race licence. It’s best to check with the organisers first, though.
Additionally, there are two national championships created specifically for junior drivers, aged 14 and above. The Ginetta Junior Championship (for Ginetta G40 sportscars) has a coveted slot on the British Touring Car Championship support package, while the Sax Max Championship (for 1996-98 model Citroen Saxo VTRs) is organised by the 750 Motor Club.
Those aiming to follow in the wheel tracks of Lewis and Jenson should consider junior single seater formulae open to those aged 15 and over such as the Motorsport UK Formula 4 Championship, the traditional circuit racing launch pad for budding F1 stars.
Junior trials cater for those eight years old and above, competing on ride-on mowers and lawn tractors with the appropriate modifications.
Tyro Trials allow those aged 13 and above, driving standard production four-wheel-drive vehicles that are road-legal.
Junior dragsters have been specifically designed for 8-year-olds and above, and are an ideal cheap entry point to drag racing. First you’ll need tuition, then to gain your licence at a ‘Run What Ya Brung’ day. You can find more details at www.santapod.co.uk/dr_junior.php or click here to see junior dragsters in action at the Shakespeare Raceway.
You can begin hill climbing at age 16.
Karting is the ideal grounding for young drivers. Starting in Bambino karting from age 6, moving to Cadets from the age of 8 and then moving onto Juniors (12 and above), it is the established form of motor sport if you want to move on to car racing.The majority of the Formula One grid normally started their careers through karting. There are some notable exceptions such as Damon Hill and Mark Blundell who didn’t start here, but it’s the accepted first rung to the top.
There is also a British Schools Karting Championship which is a nation-wide arrive-and-drive karting championship for anyone aged 13 to 18 in full time education at either school or college.
Don't be put off if your plan for karting is just a bit of weekend fun for the family. There is plenty of club-level karting for youngsters, and you don’t have to go any further than your local track.
The Junior Rallycross Championship is open to drivers aged 14 and above, competing in one-litre Minis (www.mini-cross.co.uk) and running at the same meetings as the prestigious British Rallycross Championship.
Rallying (Stage and Navigational)
Junior competitors aged 14 to 16 can drive on single venue events in the Formula 1000 Rally Championship. Being based on single venues, you don’t need a full RTA licence, although you will be required to complete a series of tests to show you know the rules and can safely control a car.
You can also co-drive on single venue stage rally events from the age of 14, and on multi venue stage rally events from age 16. You can navigate on road/navigational rallies from the age of 12.
Similar to hill climbs, sprints are open to 16-year-olds and above.
To drive on a targa rally, you must be a minimum of 17 years old and hold a full RTA road licence. However, you can navigate on targa rallies from age 12.
You can compete in sporting trials from the age of 16, as long as your passenger has a full RTA driving licence.
Car Trials are open to 14 year old drivers, but again you must be accompanied by a full RTA driving licence holder.
Unfortunately, junior drivers cannot compete in Classic Trials because they use public roads at times.
If you don't fancy a go behind the wheel but want to get close to motor sport, cadet marshalling could be a great opportunity for you. Those aged between their 11th and 16th birthdays and appropriately supervised by a parent/guardian or temporary carer when not in spectator areas can undertake a wide variety of roles at all kinds of events.