Contrary to popular belief, you don't need deep pockets to get involved in motor sport and there really is something for everyone. You can compete even if you have a very limited budget by using your standard road car, although the higher your budget the more options are open to you.
What can I do for FREE?
You won’t be able to get behind the wheel for free but there are plenty of other no-cost options when it comes to getting involved.
You could offer to be a Trials driver’s passenger, which means you’ll be in the car during competitive sections but as it’s someone else’s car you won’t necessarily have to contribute any funds.
You could also look at options outside the car such as helping out a team, whether as a mechanic or just a general extra pair of hands.
You could also volunteer as a marshal, helping to make sure events are run safely. With a bit of experience you could move up to officiating or scrutineering, which means checking that competing vehicles comply with regulations. Don't fancy marshalling? There are lots of roles on events where help is needed such as Secretary of the event, and Results. Depending on the discipline, some roles require you to be licensed and some can be done as a volunteer. Find your local car club and contact them to find out more.
I have £500 – what can I do?
As soon as you have some budget at your disposal you can look at getting behind the wheel. However you may not be able to buy a car and compete with limited funds, which may mean using your everyday road car.
There are plenty of events in which a standard road car is not only eligible but unlikely to suffer any damage beyond a bit of wear and tear of the tyres and brakes, but that’s where your £500 budget comes in.
Navigational rallies are only open to road cars, as they take place on the public highway. Run by motor clubs across the country, there are many types of navigational rallies from £10 (Scatters/12 Cars) to £80 plus (Road Rallies) to enter. The aforementioned link gives more information on the different types of navigational rallies. For example, Road Rallies have entry fees of £80 upwards and involve getting from a start point to the finish via a series of time controls on schedule. This means maintaining an average speed of 30mph, and the challenge is that the navigator has to work out where to go using a map and a number of clues; not as easy as you might think.
Targa Rallying has entry fees from £40 per event, and a second hand car can be picked up for as little as £300. With the opportunity to double drive with a friend, helping to split costs, and no competition licence needed just a club membership, these are a great way of getting involved and a real team effort.
Car Trials have entry fees from £20 per event. Again, an old second hand car can be picked up for as little as £300 and just a club membership is required.
Similarly AutoSOLOs are only for road cars, which must be driven to and from the events, costing around £30 plus to enter. The name of the game is to complete a cone-marked course as quickly as possible without touching/knocking any of the cones. You can double drive a car on an AutoSOLO with a friend, which helps split car costs and gives some competition with you both competing in the same car. Some AutoSOLOs allow passengers. Oxford Motor Club have produced a guide to AutoSOLOs and you can find many videos on YouTube.
Autotests are similar to AutoSOLOs but slightly more demanding. Whilst the top classes are for modified ‘Specials’ there are nearly always road-going classes for standard road cars, with entry fees also coming in at approximately £25+ for a full day event or from £10 for an evening autotest (normally run in summer months only). Again on Autotests, you can double drive the car with a friend. Some events run as "Production Car Autotests" meaning a passenger is allowed.
If you have a 4x4 vehicle you could have a go at some Cross Country events such as Tyro Trials, which take place on off-road terrain of varying severity and are a good test of showroom standard vehicles and their drivers and only require a club membership to compete. For RTV Trials you will certainly need a more aggressive set of road legal tyres and, depending upon your vehicle, modifications to approach and departure angles may be required. A typical entry fee is £30-35 for the day, and you can take a passenger who can share the cost with you. You will also need an MSA Clubman Licence as a minimum.
I have £1000 – what can I do?
At this level you can enjoy a very full year’s sport using your standard road car. For instance you could do a season's worth of AutoSOLOs, Production Car Autotests, Road Rallies or a combination of all three.
If you don't just want to do standalone events you could compete in a local championship run a Regional Association of motor clubs. The main costs for a typical season woud be an MSA Clubman Licence at £27 (as of 2017) and entry fees at around £25 per event, plus petrol and expenses.
Sprints and Hill Climbs also come into this budget as there are categories for standard road cars and lightly modified road-going road cars. Entry fees are around £85+ per event and you will also need an MSA Competition Licence (a minimum of a non-race National B) and MSA-compliant helmet, fireproof overalls, gloves and for some classes, a Frontal Head Restraint device. You can double drive a car on a Sprint or Hillclimb with a friend, which helps split car costs and gives some competition with you both competing in the same car.
Another cost-effective way into stage rallying or navigational rallying is to navigate for someone else. The driver invariably provides the car and while you will come to a deal on how to split the costs, it’s a great way to compete for little money. It is also a hugely challenging, demanding and fun environment in which to start out. If this takes your interest, read on about other ways of competing.
I have £5000 – what can I do?
This opens up a lot more doors. For example national championships become an option, such as the MSA British Autotest Championship including the cost of an Autotest ‘Special’ at around £1000. Don't forget that you will need a trailer to get it to and from events, though.
Sporting Trials are another option, with second hand cars available from £2000 upwards. Remember you'll need a trailer, but with low entry fees this opens up another discipline for you. Sporting Trials are about how far up a steep (often muddy) hill you can get, not about speed and there's a great deal of skill involved.
Karting also falls within this budget; a complete, ready-to-race kart and spares can be bought second-hand for between £1000 and £2500. Again, you will need a trailer, van or other method to get it to race meetings.
As an alternative to driving, this budget will allow you to compete in one of the many club level stage rally championships as a driver or co-driver. Your main cost is a contribution to the entry fee, and for many multi-venue stage rally events, you will need to buy a set of the organisers’ route notes. An average forest rally entry fee is around £550 per event, and route notes are in the region of £50 per rally. Your other costs include petrol to and from the event, and accommodation.
You could start circuit racing, while on the drag racing front you have the budget to buy a second-hand drag racer for the Pro E.T. series, which will entail tearing down the strip in around 10 seconds.
I have £10,000 – what can I do?
With this budget you could buy a fully prepared second-hand competition car.
If you want to go circuit racing you could contest a series at your local venue. Cars cost from £2000 upwards, while race entries start at £250. There are many motor clubs offering many different championships, ranging from from saloons to single-seaters, which can be tackled within this budget, including the cost of your car.
If you prefer stage rallying, Nissan Micras, Vauxhall Novas, Peugeot 106s and the like are available second-hand for £1,000 upwards. Entries for single-venue events on private land start at about £220 while forest events tend to cost £550 upwards per event to enter. But don't forget that in rallying there is a co-driver to share the costs with.