Brett Fraser, Editor of Total MX-5 magazine, spent a day with me at pre-season testing at Brands Hatch, and I featured in the April 2019 edition in an article entitled “The real cost of racing”. Below you can see what Brett wrote. You can also find out about what it costs to compete in the BRSCC MX-5 Championship in my Getting Started section.
And make sure you sign up for a subscription for Total MX-5 to read about “Everything MX-5 and much more!”
Even a budget motorsport series can be bigger drain on your pocket than you might imagine, as the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship’s Rookie of the Year 2018, Matt Pollard, discovered
So, you want to go motor racing? Grand idea. It’s fun. It’s exhilarating. And it’s the ultimate test of how good a driver you are. But where should you start? Well, a ‘budget’ series seems sensible, so you can find out if you really are as good as you think you are without bankrupting yourself in the process. Another virtue of a budget series is that the regs often decree that the cars are pretty much to the same near-standard specification, so that driving talent rather than the depth of your pockets is what makes the difference on track.
Among the various budget series and championships in the UK, the British Racing & Sports Car Club (BRSCC) Mazda MX-5 Championship for mk1 MX-5s has a sterling reputation. The cars are light, handle well, and generally are robust and comparatively easy on their mechanical components. Within the regulations you can’t make many modifications, and those you can make have to be with components from approved suppliers. The aim is to keep the cars and the racing as affordable as possible.
But what does ‘affordable’ actually mean? Matt Pollard can tell you. The 22-year old was seduced by the prospect of racing after enjoying trackdays in his father’s modified MX-5 mk3. So for the 2017 season he bought an already race-prepared mk1, entered the fray of the BRSCC MX-5 Championship, and was rewarded with the Rookie of the Year title for his performance. He also wrote a blog (matthewpollard.co.uk) detailing everything that went on during the season, including what it all cost – we’re in debt to Matt for allowing us to plunder his experience for this feature.
There will be some tutting, we’re sure, from folk saying you can race an MX-5 much more cheaply than Matt has. And they’re right, you can. But this is what Matt (and his father) have spent with the ambition of not merely competing, but of winning.
The race car itself – £5,900
We’ll start with the fun part, the car, the bit we all get most excited about. Matt bought a mk1 that had already been race-prepared for a different championship for £3,900. But it cost a further £2000 to bring it up to the specification required for the BRSCC MX-5 championship.
Racewear – £1,200
Matt already had a helmet and gloves from his trackday outings – bank on at least £400 for a helmet and another £50-60 for gloves if you don’t have them. As for the rest of the kit, Matt says: ‘I went to the Autosport Show and got a decent discount from Demon Tweeks on a package for around £1,000 that included boots, balaclava, long johns, top, and a decent race suit.
Getting you ready
Go Racing Pack – £105
Includes the pre-ARDS (Association of Racing Drivers) test video and licence application form.
Pre-ARDS test instruction – £230
Not essential but Matt wanted to pass the test first time. ‘You take the ARDS test in one of the MSV (Motor Sport Vision) cars – a front-wheel drive Peugeot, which is a bit different to a rear-drive MX-5, so I invested in a few practice laps before the test.’
ARDS test – £250
Says Matt: ‘It’s not difficult to pass. It’s really intended to ensure that you know the rules of the track and are a safe and competent driver.’
BRSCC membership – £135
MX-5 Championship entry fee – £300
Entry fee per race – £425
Has to be paid in advance of the race to confirm your place.
Support costs (fuel, pads, race team, etc) – £1,000 per race
You can, of course, look after your car yourself, but Matt doesn’t have the time, the inclination, or the skills, to do so. So he has hired the services of an experienced race team to help: the team also stores his car between races and transports it to and from circuits.
‘I’m using AB Motorsport to provide my race support,’ he explains. ‘Costs can vary according to whether it’s a one-day or two-day meeting and whether you do the test day on Friday.’
From Matt’s perspective the other great advantage of using AB Motorsport is access to the team’s wealth of knowledge. Ali Bray’s race experience and knowledge of car set-up, and racecraft is invaluable. The team supports leading drivers in the championship, who are all too happy to share what they know, and provide advice that might take years to learn on your own.
Costs Matt hadn’t counted on…
Data logger – £1,500
A vital piece of kit. ‘Using the software you can compare your laps, or compare laps with another driver to see where you’re gaining or losing time,’ says Matt. ‘We went for the Video Vbox Lite from Racelogic who throw in a useful free half-day training on how to use the software.
‘And if you’re involved in any ‘racing incidents’, the stewards will be asking for the SD card from your data logger and reviewing the footage with you…’
Tyres – £1,100
‘You need to factor in three sets per season (possibly more), two sets of dry, one wet, at £368 per set from the approved supplier MOT Motorsport in 2018. The championship is switching to Avons in 2019 which should reduce the cost a little.’
Engine rebuild – £2,000
‘You never know what kind of MX-5 you’ve bought until it’s out on track. Quite a lot of work had to be done to mine to bring it up to race speed.’
Damage – £2,000 (covered by a sponsor)
‘Sometimes it’s your own fault [Matt hit the tyre wall at Oulton Park] and sometimes it’s unavoidable. Fortunately I have a great bodywork sponsor, Car Magic, a body repair specialist from Chesham/Berkhamsted area. This has been really helpful and saved quite a bit of cash. If you haven’t got a sponsor and want to keep your car looking good, then you need to budget for new wings, panels and a respray over the course of the season.’
Test days – £200-300 per test day
‘What they don’t tell you when you sign up for the BRSCC is that if you want to test the car at the circuit on the Friday before the race meeting, it’s going to cost you extra. It’s way more expensive than a regular trackday and costs vary depending on the circuit.’
As well as investing in test days, Matt also coughed up for a few trackdays to get used to the car before the season started.
Race underwear – £100 per set
One set of racing undercrackers may be insufficient if you’re doing a day of testing and two days of qualifying and racing. Allow for one or two additional sets depending upon your approach to personal hygiene.
Accommodation, food, travel – ££££
These costs will vary enormously according to whether you’re staying in hotels or camper vans, how much you eat and how far away the circuit is. But as Matt discovered, they are major expenses and can mount up over the course of a season.
Matt and his dad approached their first season of competitive motorsport with a budget of £15,000 in mind – Matt reckons they probably spent quite a bit more than that!
As long as Matt keeps away from the Armco, the 2019 season should work out cheaper – no car to fork out for, and engine rebuild, racewear and data logger already purchased. That said, when we met him at a pre-season Brands Hatch test day, Matt did proudly show us his lovely new Sparco race seat…
Despite the considerable expense of racing, though, last season’s Rookie of the Year has silverware in his sights for 2019. We wish him every success.