Motorcycle racing is an exciting sport which matches speed with skill and provides the ultimate thrill for both riders and spectators. With the 2018 MotoGP, World and British Superbikes racing seasons well underway, you may be feeling inspired to start road racing yourself.
The UK has some of the best and most famous circuits in the world accessible for track days and to racing clubs to host their race meetings. Whether you’ve been riding on the road for a few years, or done your fair share of track days, there’s a racing series to suit you. But before you start, there are a number of things you need to do to make you eligible to race, and to get the best out of your season’s racing. Here’s our guide to starting club racing.
Get some track experience
If you already have a full ‘A’ motorcycle licence, you can begin getting some track experience on track days. Track days are great to learn track craft and the rules you need to know when riding on any circuit.
There are three categories when you sign up for a track day; Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. If you’re inexperienced on track, the Novice group is perfect for building your confidence, as the faster and more experienced riders will be in the Intermediate or Advanced groups.
Regardless of which group you’re in, before any on-track action begins, a safety briefing session is held where a circuit official will explain to all riders how to behave out on track, what each flag means and what to do when they’re shown, and explain the racing line around the circuit. This information is invaluable, and can be applied when you start racing.
To ride a track day, you will need either a one-piece leather suit, or a two-piece which zips together all the way around, gloves, protective boots and an Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) certified crash helmet.
It’s also worth considering some track training before setting out on your racing career. The most famous of these is the Ron Haslam Race School, held at Donington Park, but others such as James Whitham’s Track Training courses are a great way to learn tips from former and current top level racers.
Joining a club & getting your racing licence
So, you’ve completed some track days and feel ready to take the next step into competitive racing. First thing’s first, you need to find an Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) affiliated club. The ACU is the UK’s governing body for motorcycle sport, and you can find a list of affiliated clubs on their website.
Once you’ve joined a club, you can work on getting a road racing licence. To do this, you will need to complete a Competitor Training Course (CTC), which is classroom based, and an ACU Basic Rider Assessment (BRA), an on track practical assessment of your riding ability. A list of dates and venues for completion of the CTC and BRA is available on the ACU website.
Once completed, you can send your application for a road race licence to the ACU, with a unique code from your club and an eyesight report. You will then receive either a Novice or Intermediate Novice road racing licence.
A Novice licence doesn’t require a full bike licence, but is restricted to racing machines up to 600cc only. For full bike licence holders, you will automatically receive the Intermediate Novice road race licence, and can race any capacity machine. When racing on either licence, you must wear an orange bib, and to upgrade (Novice to Intermediate Novice, or Intermediate Novice to Clubman), you will need to complete 10 races at three or more race circuits.
Beyond the Clubman licence is the National licence, which is more difficult to gain as you are measured on your performance as well as number of races completed.
Enter a class
Finally, you’ve got your licence and you’re ready to go racing. You now need to choose a racing class to enter, and with different clubs hosting a range of different series – from 125s to 1000cc machines – there’s plenty to choose from.
When you’re starting out in your first season, it’s advisable to look for a ‘rookies’ series. This will allow you to race against riders with similar experience on similar machinery, which is a great way to gauge your ability, and to hone your skills. It’s worth bearing in mind that to go fast and have fun, you don’t need to be racing a 1000cc sports bike.
When you’ve found the class you want to enter, fill out the relevant forms, pay the fee and prepare for your first race!
Prepare your bike
Now you’ve chosen a class to race in, there will be a set of rules and regulations specific to that class which your race bike will need to adhere to, like what modifications are and aren’t allowed, what tyres are permitted and minimum and maximum weight.
Before your first race, check that your bike is compliant with the rules and regulations of the class you’ve entered. If you’re not sure on how to do these checks yourself, get an experienced mechanic to do them for you. If you make modifications to your bike during the season, you will also need to make sure the changes are compliant.
Motorcycle racing isn’t the cheapest hobby in the world, so here’s a few costs that you need to keep in mind before you decide to start.
Entry fees: On top of the cost for your racing licence and club membership fee, you will need to pay an entry fee for each race. These costs vary, but are often around £250.
Transport & fuel: An obvious one, but you’ll need reliable transportation to get you, your bike and tools to and from each circuit, as well as your bike’s fuel cost for a weekend’s racing.
Accommodation: Race meetings are usually held over a weekend, and often on Fridays too. Many top racers like Guy Martin roughed it in the back of their van for race weekends when they started out, but if you don’t want to do that, you’ll need a caravan or tent. Hotels aren’t advised as you’ll be away from the circuit, your bike and equipment, and have extra travel between the hotel and circuit.
Mechanic: If you’re not able to set up or tune your bike yourself, or don’t have a family member or friend who can help you out, you’ll need the services of an experienced mechanic to do that for you.
Protection: To be eligible to race, you’ll need a full one-piece leather suit, race boots, leather gloves and an ACU approved crash helmet.
Tyres: To be competitive, you’ll need fresh rubber for each race.
Damage: Unfortunately, with racing sometimes comes crashing. Depending on the severity of the crash, you could end up forking out a lot of money to fix your bike, or buy a new one.
Now that you’re fully prepared to begin your racing career, make friends with fellow riders and officials at the various races you enter. Club racing is a close-knit community who are happy to help each other out and share advice, which will help you improve your skills and may get you out of trouble if you forget your spanners!
Also published on Insidebikes.