Your First Few Races

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Your First Few Races

Having decided that motor racing is for you and you want to compete rather than marshal or officiate, the next decision is to what championship you want to get involved in and also the car to be driven. That really is up to you but once you have made that decision and sorted out your car and got the necessary licence and medical certificate ‘it’s off racing for you’. Below we have documented some hints and tips, do’s and don’t’s for those first few races. You may find them helpful. My thanks go to Gareth Newton for providing the original piece from which I have updated it and made it fit closer to the Sports/Saloon Championship.

1 – Race Entry

Having registered for the championship the first step is to enter your first race. Entry forms will be sent to you upon registration or can be downloaded from the website. Alternatively and this is definitely the best method use the on-line system at If sending your entry by post ensure that it is sent to the correct person at the correct address! You will be surprised as to how many do not do this and there is then a time delay in the entries being received, which can be important.

About a week before the race you’ll get some tickets, some vehicle passes (if required), together with final instructions, a timetable, paddock plan and any other race documentation. Notwithstanding the tendency to bin everything except the tickets, it does make sense to read the instructions, in fact most important to read them. This documentation will confirm all you need to know plus some specific things for the meeting and your race. Read them, keep them and bring them to the meeting.

2 - Getting to the Circuit

Remember it will take considerably longer to get to the circuit than your Sat-Nav claims with a car on a trailer, so leave plenty of time. Before you set off, make sure you have everything- it sounds simple but it makes sense to do a list. It’s easy to forget something and it could lead to you not getting a race. You may well have the meanest looking race car on your trailer, but if you haven’t got your tickets, you won’t get in! Likewise, No Licence or Membership Card = No Race. Make sure your Crash Helmet and Clothing is in good condition and has all the right labels to comply with the rules (see the RACMSA blue book to see if there have been any changes since last year). You will also need Tools, Petrol Cans (ideally with petrol in……. you wouldn’t be the first!!) spare tyres etc. Write the list and check the stuff off before you go!

3 - Setting up at the Circuit

Go to the part of the paddock allocated in the Paddock Plan you were sent with Finals. If you arrive on the day rather than the day before you may find that other championships have encroached on your allocated space, if this happens try to find some space that is unallocated and camp there. Park considerately as space is at a premium, use as much space as required but don’t try to save space for numerous hanger’s on cars. If you are lucky enough to be allocated a pit garage there will usually be space allocated behind for trailers/cars, though you may have to wait until drivers testing vacate if you arrive the day before. You will find some of the drivers & teams arrive the night before the race. Accommodation options range from local hotels, tents, motorhomes or “The White Van Hotel”. If you do plan to stay in the Paddock, bring some burgers as there is usually a BBQ fired up that you can jump on and share a few beers and racing tales into the night.

Got loads of time to kill before you sign on? Why not walk around the track while it’s closed (check with the circuit office for times). It sounds a lot of effort but it will provide you with some very useful knowledge of the corners………. And it’s an opportunity you only get as a ‘racer’ (it’s also a touch more realistic than any computer game). Better still; try to walk round with an experienced fellow competitor. As well as familiarising yourself with the track if you have time it is worth checking where such things as signing on take place, the location of the scrutineering bay and assembly and Parc Ferme. Things may get busy on race day and it is useful to know where everything is located.

4 - Before Qualifying

The first task is to sign on - check the time in the Finals/Timetable and arrive at the time indicated, please don’t go too early as this will delay others from earlier races. Walk over to the official’s office and sign on, this may be in the Secretaries office or Registration. You’ll need your competition licence and your BARC membership card, annotated to show you are a North Western Centre member. You will also have had to have had your medical which will be indicated on your licence. As you are a newcomer to this great sport you will want your ‘licence signing’. To get this done simply hand your upgrade card to the person signing you on - remember to collect it after your final race (wait 30 minutes after race). If you are in more than one race at the meeting you can have up to two signatures on your upgrade card. For those of you unsure your upgrade card is in your MSA Blue Book (you remember the book of rules that you must read before racing!).

In return for your signature you will be given your scrutineering ticket and a programme and any important bulletins that refer to your race. That is signing on completed next task is to get the car scrutineered.

5 - Scrutineering

Get your car and your safety clothing (helmet and race suit - make sure these comply with latest regulations, especially important at the beginning of the season) and set off to scrutineering (remembering to take your scrutineering ticket which was given to you when you signed on!). It makes sense to ask an experienced driver to assist here until you get used to the routine. Remember that the scrutineer is there to look after your safety, the safety of the marshals and the spectators. Chances are he’ll find something that you missed, i.e. loose battery or a hole in the fire wall, in which case a minor repair may be required. If you need help Ask! And ask quickly!!

If you fail you will then need to go back to the Scrutineering bay to be rechecked after you rectify the problem. Once the Scrutineer is happy you’ll get through at which point you will be given a sticker to confirm that he thinks your car is a work of art and/or legal. Stick it on the inside of the window/ roll cage immediately behind the drivers seat ideally- i.e. so it can be clearly seen by the eagle eyed marshal who won’t let you anywhere near the track if he can’t see the sticker.

As well as the MSA Scrutineers who check for Blue Book compliance, the Sports/Saloon Championship has an Eligibility Scrutineer, Peter Gorrie. Peter is in attendance at most rounds and will be on the lookout for any cars in the championship not running to championship regulations. (Scrutineering simply checks that the car is safe and does not check compliance with championship regulations). Peter will at meetings decide to check for specific things on all cars (or cars chosen at random). At most meetings Peter will weigh cars at various times, particularly after qualifying and racing (it is surprising how often an experienced driver forgets to put ballast in or swaps to a lighter extinguisher rendering the car illegal and excluded from that session!) This may all sound draconian but it is simply to ensure safety and fair play. Peter’s main job is to help competitors (especially new ones) as much as possible, if you have an issue or question then ask Peter.

6 - Drivers Briefings

If you haven’t raced at that specific circuit before, you’ll have to attend a ‘New Drivers Briefing’. The times are shown in the Finals. In some cases an actual briefing is replaced by an A4 handout to read. Failure to attend or pick up a handout will result in a visit to the Clerk of the Course, not something you want in your initial meetings. If you do have an actual briefing and have a question, then ask, don’t be reserved in front of others - it is most likely they have the same question! Make sure that you understand ALL the flags and where you enter and exit the circuit. These ‘New Driver Briefings’ are not just for new drivers but for any driver who has not raced on the circuit configuration for that day.

In addition to the above there will probably be a Championship Drivers Briefing arranged, again this is mandatory. Make sure that you sign on for it or you will face another trip to the Clerk! These championship briefings are arranged for a reason, usually some specific issue for the championship at this meeting and are important.

7 - Preparation for Qualifying

So, you’ve signed, you’ve attended all the meetings and pretty soon you’re going to be ready to qualify. Get yourself prepared in good time. It is a friendly series and drivers will be willing to help provided they aren’t in the middle of a major rebuild or you expect them to assist you whilst you wander off for a coffee!! REMEMBER TO PUT ENOUGH FUEL IN YOUR CAR, the sessions are normally 15 or 20 minutes long. Be ready to go to the Assembly Area 20 minutes before the designated time. Keep listening for paddock announcements or ask another competitor if you‘re not sure what’s going on. Quite often the timetable is changed so don’t decide to go 6 miles down the road for a spot of breakfast. Make sure that your scrutineering label is attached and visible.

You will be fully aware that motor racing at some circuits runs under strict noise regulations. Up to this point your noise level will probably not have been checked. It will be checked usually on your way to the Assembly Area. If it is over the limit you will not be allowed to qualify (or race if checked then) and will be returned to the paddock. Ideally you will have ensured the car is under the limit before you came to the circuit but, and it is a big but, levels can vary in different locations so ideally prepare the car with some leeway just in case.

8 - Qualifying

Make sure your pin is out of your fire extinguisher. Qualifying is to establish grid positions for the race. Also, it’s qualifying- not racing! You have to complete 3 laps to be allowed to enter the race, so use the first few laps to build up some confidence by gradually increasing your speed. Familiarise yourself with the track, braking points, marshals posts etc. Keep a look out for faster cars. In this championship the speed differentials can be enormous and for the novice driver these differences are perhaps the most difficult thing to get used to. The basic understanding is that you should keep to your line and not try to suddenly move off line or try to point where the faster car should go. Just ‘keep calm and carry on’ thefaster and probably much more experienced driver will find his/her way past. They’ll brake later and will probably make it look all very easy, do not be tempted to try and keep up with them, as they will have vastly more knowledge of racing and of the circuit than you. You don’t want to end up in a gravel trap or worse! At all times look out for the flags, especially the blue and yellow (if you are not sure what they mean then check now!).

If for some reason you were not ready for qualifying (and it does happen, even to the most experienced drivers) then usually all is not lost. If you think you can get the car ready in a reasonable time then immediately go to the Secretary of the Meeting and our Clerk of the Course and explain the situation. If time allows (and it usually does) you may be allowed out in another session or over the lunch break to do your three laps to qualify. If in another session come back to the pits once you have done your three laps. Unfortunately you will have to start at the back of the grid. If there happen to be reserves for the race then as you have qualified out of session you will drop to the bottom of the reserve list so may not get a race.

9 - Parc Ferme

Once you have completed qualifying the marshals will direct you into Parc Ferme where the Scrutineers and Eligibility Scrutineer may want another look at your car. Now they are checking to see that it’s legal - if it’s not (and it should be because the rules are pretty simple) you will be excluded from the qualifying session. You will get the opportunity to correct the misdemeanour but it will be back of grid for the race. Common reasons for exclusion include being underweight. If you’re exactly the right weight before qualifying, you’ll be underweight afterwards. If in doubt, ask to weigh the car at the circuit before you qualify. Bear in mind that it’s the weighbridge at the circuit that counts, not the one in your mates garage 200 miles away. Once back in the paddock and you feel you have accidently held someone up during the session then choose the right moment to apologise to them. Remember it is a friendly championship and we all make mistakes at times so an apology is usually accepted and you may get some constructive advice.

10 - Getting ready to race

Once again, make sure you have got the car sorted and fuelled before you are called up for the race. Be ready to go to the Assembly Area 20 minutes before the designated time. Keep listening for paddock announcements or ask another competitor if you‘re not sure what’s going on. You will probably be noise tested again. Normally you will be parked in the Assembly Area in grid order such that when you are released in that order you will arrive at the grid in the correct order for the Start Line marshals to grid you up. You will have picked up a qualifying times sheet with the grid on it. It is worthwhile memorising where you are on the grid and perhaps wandering down to look at the grid and note which is your grid slot and any memorable features around it. This will make it easier to find when you return from your green flag lap (even F1 drivers get lost sometimes!).

11 - The Race

It is worth mentioning that the procedure for starting the race may vary so ensure that you have read the Final Instructions and are familiar of the procedure at the meeting. It may differ from the method described in the championship regulations. In the vast majority of cases you will be sent out from the Assembly Area (perhaps behind a course car) to the grid, maintain your positions and no stopping and doing practice starts. The marshals will direct you to your position (which you will have checked earlier). Make a mental note of your position as the next thing is that you’ll get a green flag lap and will be asked to return to that position. Watch for the ‘minute boards’ which may come up quickly so be prepared! On the green flag lap maintain your positions and no stopping and doing practice starts. If you are passed by all other competitors on the green flag lap then you may be told by the marshals to start from the back of the grid.

Once the grid is in place the lights will begin the start sequence, this means they will illuminate one/multiple red light, after a 2-6 second wait, the lights will go off and that’s it YOU’RE RACING. Again as in qualifying watch for faster cars, (it is worth checking to see if there are faster cars out of position on the grid that will be steaming past you in the first few hundred yards. It is the same etiquette as in qualifying regarding letting faster cars which are lapping you past and remember ‘it’s for real now’ and lapping cars may come in battling groups so it may be wise to gently lift on the straights to let a group past. You don’t want to be seeing the Clerk after the race having accidently knocked a leader off. One new’ish rule to remember is that appertaining to track limits. Basically keep all four wheels on the track (which includes kerbs) as multiple abuses of this regulation will result in time or stop/go penalties.

12 - After the Race

Once the race is over follow the marshals directions into Parc Ferme and if you are lucky enough possibly the podium. The car will be checked again for eligibility.

If you have left your upgrade card for signing then don’t forget to collect it before leaving the circuit.

If at any point before the meeting you have any questions/concerns either ring/e-mail a Drivers Representative (details on this website or in the Championship Regulations) if at a meeting then speak to a fellow competitor or Drivers Representative. We pride ourselves on being friendly and helpful as a championship.