Racing In The UK – Earning Your Racing License

In this article, we take a look at some of the safest new and used cars you can buy in the UK in 2021.

Being a car lover and a racing enthusiast often go hand in hand. While most car lovers are drawn to the variety in feel, aesthetics and experience of different cars, many are just as passionate about competition racing: witnessing machines being pushed to their limit as drivers go head to head with one another. And for most of us, the closest we’ll ever get is watching a professional race or playing computer games. 

But it doesn't have to be this way. Legal, organised car racing in the UK is far more accessible than you might think. In fact, there are over 30,000 competition licence holders registered in the UK alone. 

Racing in the UK is governed by Motorsport UK (previously known as the Motor Sports Association or MSA). From licencing to getting involved in events, it’s surprisingly easy to get started. Motorsport UK is involved with over 5,000 events per year, many of which are open to the standard road cars. If you have a valid standard driver’s licence and a passion for cars, you may already have what it takes to take up racing as a hobby. 

Getting Started: Licencing 

To start off, you’ll need a Go Racing Pack from Motorsport UK, which you can order on their website. The standard racing pack costs £99 and usually arrives in the post within a few days. In the starter pack, you’ll find a Competition Licence application form, a booklet outlining the next steps, a USB stick featuring the Motorsport UK Yearbook and an instructional film, and a Motorsport UK keyring.

Your next step will be to take the official NDTC (ARDS) test to gain your Interclub racing licence (formerly National B). Qualifying for this license will involve passing both a practical and written test. These will be administered through one of Motorsport UK’s car club partners. There are a number of these around the country; do some research online to find the closest one to you. Some clubs also offer training sessions with seasoned drivers to help you prepare for your practical.

Completing your written and driving sections of the NDTC (ARDS) test takes about half a day all in. The written test is 30 minutes and covers your knowledge of Section Q (Circuit Racing) of the Motorsport UK Yearbook, as well as your understanding of the flag signals used on circuit. All of this information is on the USB stick that comes with the Go Racing Pack, so if you study it carefully you should be fine.

Following this is the practical test. This may be done in your own car or one owned by the driving school, depending on the centre you’re doing the test with. It consists of a 20-minute lapping session focusing on safety rather than speed. The idea is to demonstrate that you can lap consistently in a safe and controlled manner amongst other cars, choose the best racing lines, and that you’re a safe and highly capable driver. 

If successful, your instructor will then sign off on your application form for you to send back to Motorsport UK, who will then issue your Interclub racing licence. Congratulations, you’re officially a racing driver !

Finding Events and Starting Off

Motorsport UK recognises a number of racing disciplines, and some of these are open to regular road cars. Road Rallying is a navigational challenge that takes place on public highways and is only open to regular road cars. Drivers work with their navigator to drive a prescribed set of checkpoints in precise times; checking in too early is just as bad as checking in too late.

Autotest and AutoSOLO organise events that are very similar to one another, where drivers have to complete courses that are marked out by cones on the tarmac. The goal is to complete the course as quickly as possible. While some of these events are for specially modified cars, most are available to regular road cars.

While many Drag Races are open to modified cars or bespoke drag racers, there are also ‘Run What Ya Brung’ events which are specifically for regular cars.

Rallycross is best described as a cross between Circuit Racing and Rallying. It involves a series of short races on circuit courses that include a mix of surface types, from asphalt to gravel or dirt. While most Rallycross events are specifically for rally cars, there is an entry level version known as Clubcross which is open to road cars.

FInding events is easy, and once again being a member of a car club will help you here. Not only will your club have a calendar of upcoming events, they will help you through the processes of payment and registration.

So You’re On a Tight Budget...What Are Your Options?

Even if you have no money to spend or don’t want to go through the process of obtaining a license, there are some ways you can get involved in races for free. 

Firstly, Motorsport UK is always looking for volunteers to help run events. This may involve marshalling, officiating, scrutineering and/or timekeeping. Volunteers can help out with everything from directing crowds and racers to administration and safety duties.

Clubs and individual racing teams are also regularly on the lookout for volunteers. If you have the technical skills, you could help out as a mechanic; if not, you can be an extra pair of hands in the pits. 

Finally, Trials events require both a driver and a passenger, meaning that solo drivers are often looking for volunteers to act as their required passenger. Although this does require an RS Clubman Licence, it can easily be obtained through Motorsport UK and is completely free.

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