Subscribe

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe
Opinion

Why launching new national championships is getting harder

OPINION: Starting a new series is never straightforward, but the increasing complexity of modern road cars is making it even more challenging

Louis Woodward (87) won both 116 Sprint trophy & 120 Coupe Cup races

Launching a new series is always a challenge at any time. And, as you can read about here, the fairly modest numbers achieved by many of 2023’s fresh club racing categories demonstrate that it is especially hard when the economic climate is tricky.

After all, there are many hurdles to overcome. Selecting a reliable car to race. Putting together an attractive calendar to tempt competitors. Identifying a gap in the market that is big enough to secure a decent grid but not so small it is of little interest. But there is also another growing problem that organisers are facing: the ever-increasing complexity of modern cars. Take the 120 Coupe Cup that began last year as an example.

The 750 Motor Club sensibly took the decision to launch this alongside a sprint version of its 116 Trophy, which was a proven concept and plenty of cars were out there to ensure grids would still be full even if it took a while for the 120s to prove a hit. This therefore gave organisers vital time to hone the development of the new cars without worrying about small entry numbers. And that was just as well, as things were not smooth sailing with the two-litre BMW E82s that were built from 2011.

“The 120s had a few gremlins, which is often the way with the first year of a new series,” says 750MC competitions secretary Giles Groombridge. “They have an intelligent oil pump that drops the oil pressure to improve fuel economy when on the throttle for a long period of time.”

While that is a very sensible idea for the roads, it is just not compatible with the flat-out demands of racing the cars on track. “As cars become more and more sophisticated, they’re going to be less easy to turn into race cars,” adds Groombridge, who believes this is going to be a major problem moving forwards.

While Groombridge says plenty of work has been undertaken to develop a low-cost solution to the difficulties with the BMW 120s, the challenge posed by the growing number of areas of a modern car that are controlled by ever more complicated computer systems is going to be much harder to fix. And that is especially the case with the rapid increase in electric and hybrid vehicles on the road.

Mini Challenge Clubsport was among 10 new championships to launch in 2023, but not all enjoyed the same success

Mini Challenge Clubsport was among 10 new championships to launch in 2023, but not all enjoyed the same success

Photo by: Steve Jones

This topic is, incidentally, in the news in another way at the moment following Anglesey circuit’s decision to enforce a ban on EVs taking part in trackdays at the Welsh venue. It is important to stress that circuit bosses are not against such cars racing at Anglesey, but instead have greater concern about them featuring at trackdays when there is less infrastructure in place should anything go wrong.

But, returning to the issue of complexity of cars, it is perhaps little wonder that so many club competitors are now going down the arrive-and-drive route as the regular man or woman on the street no longer has the knowhow to turn up at circuits and run these cars themselves.

There are, of course, other factors that explain why so few new club racing categories are being started in 2024. Another key consideration is the growing cost of hiring circuits. This in turn means clubs simply cannot afford to be wasting expensive track time on a new series that may not initially attract large entries. Take a look at the four clubs that are launching additional offerings for this year, and all of them can do so without requiring extra race dates.

Having 10 launch in the space of one campaign is a lot and, until these become more established and achieve a more permanent position within the club racing scene, organisers are reluctant to add more

Equipe Classic Racing has space for its new Equipe F2 Atlantic series as it is no longer administering all of the old MG Car Club categories. The Historic Sports Car Club regularly features guest series at its events, and is starting to amalgamate some of its divisions, so has room for its Touring Car Legends creation. MotorSport Vision Trackdays is aligned with the leading UK circuit operator so securing track time is less of a challenge. And several categories have departed from the British Automobile Racing Club portfolio so it has the capacity to run the new Heroes of Formula Ford 1600 Sprint Cup mini-series.

In a similar vein, the Classic Sports Car Club has bolstered its ranks with a number of existing championships joining the fold for 2024, so it has put its own tentative plans to develop a new series on hold.

Yet, alongside concerns about the complexity of cars and the cost of track time, there is another simple explanation for the caution of organisers and diminished number of new offerings for this season: 2023 was a bumper year for new categories. Having 10 launch in the space of one campaign is a lot and, until these become more established and achieve a more permanent position within the club racing scene, organisers are reluctant to add more.

Ultimately, while it is important clubs continue to evolve and develop new ideas, these fresh categories have got to be justified in an environment where there is still a huge amount of club racing in the UK. With the growing focus on controlling costs, perhaps that message is finally coming through loud and clear.

Given the glut of new series launched in 2023, it's unsurprising that fewer will start out this year as the existing series need time to become established

Given the glut of new series launched in 2023, it's unsurprising that fewer will start out this year as the existing series need time to become established

Photo by: JEP

Be part of the Autosport community

Join the conversation
Previous article How Porsche is preparing its new Junior for the big stage
Next article Caterham Graduates Racing Club to run special first-timers race at Snetterton

Top Comments

There are no comments at the moment. Would you like to write one?

Sign up for free

  • Get quick access to your favorite articles

  • Manage alerts on breaking news and favorite drivers

  • Make your voice heard with article commenting.

Autosport Plus

Discover premium content
Subscribe