Newcomers Advice When Starting Out
Sun Jan 03 2021 00:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
So, you have perhaps seen the Grand Prix midgets’ race or even seen the various forms of social media and thought “they look good, I wouldn't mind a go at that”. That's great but where do you start?
As a novice driver in 2020 to the Grand Prix Midgets and coming back to racing after a 14 year break, I thought I would put together my thoughts on entering the formula and perhaps help aspiring drivers.
So where do you start? Well, you have found the website, but did you know that there is also the Grand Prix Midgets Facebook page where you can read through all manner of topics and ask your own questions. Here you will find a mix of drivers past and present along with crew members and fans across the UK and Europe. There is a good mix of humour, discussion and for sale posts here so it is a good place to gauge the cost of the type of car you might want.
But calm down, the shiny car is always the best point but there are a couple of things to think of first. When I was starting out there were 3 things I focussed on.
Where do the club race and can I get there? The biggest ongoing cost in the Grand Prix Midgets as with any form of racing is in getting to the races so you need to look at the proximity of tracks and work out if the cost and time in getting to the meetings is acceptable to you. Travelling can be a grind to some but if you are ok with the cost and effort involved then on you go.
Defining your goals? Do you want to be World Champion in your first year or are you looking to start off by enjoying a fast drive round a race track and take it from there? This decision has a massive impact on the outlay and approach you will need to take and for the record, the first option is highly unlikely as the class of driving and ability is very high. Having said, setting your goals and working out what you want from your investment will likely drive many future decisions.
Setting your budget? Sound logical, you know what you want to achieve and from browsing the website and the Facebook group you know that you can get a very good car for the £5000 to £10000 mark. The cost of racing section on the website is realistic in terms of travel and running costs, assuming no significant damage through collisions or failure. But for year 1 that's only a subset of the cost you need to consider in your budget.
So, what else do you need to consider?
Racewear - suit, gloves, boots, balaclava, waterproof oversuit and potentially a HANS / FHR device.
New Harness – Ensuring they are in date and in good condition.
Wheels and tyres - Minimum or 2 spare wheels and tyres for the dry and the same for the wet.
Trailer – No one ever won a race with a fancy trailer.
Depending on what comes with your car, you may need all or some of the above. If we discount tyres for now then my expenditure setting up for last season for racewear, harness and trailer was about £1200 with the trailer accounting for about £500 of that.
With tyres, this is where you can spend a lot or a little. My recommendation on this would be to start off with part worn tyres to get a few meetings under your belt, learn a little and if budget allows then invest in some new ones as you go along. If you were to buy all new everything so 6 wets, 6 dry tyres then you would be looking at a lot of money. Check out eBay for part worn wets and various online selling groups for wheels others are selling.
This is the minimum, you will likely want spares for the key components, but these can be bought/fabricated at a later date.
So now you have an idea of what you have available to spend on the car. Take a look online at what's around, speak to drivers and get their opinion. The one thing about the formula is that because we are quite a small club the drivers and car builders are all very willing to speak to prospective new drivers and help them make the right choice. The key decision is whether to go rear engine or side engine. Opinions vary on the right approach with side engine being favoured by many, but the 2019 championship was won by a rear engine car and in 2020 a side engine and rear engine car fought for top honours with the side engine coming out on top just. Both types can be competitive, but they make their speed in very different ways.
You can only spend your start up budget once and the car purchase is likely to be your biggest expense. Now of course you could build a car and there is plenty of help and advice out there but let’s assume you are looking to buy one. My advice would be making sure you get a car with a proven track record even if you are just buying a rolling chassis. Whilst more power pushes you forward faster, if you don't have a car that corners well then, all the power in the world won't help you. If you are starting as a true novice having never raced any sort of 4 wheeled motorsport before then I would advise prioritising handling over power as it takes time to become accustomed to the power and starting off with a lesser engine for the first season is not a bad thing, you will learn to race your car and then when you add more power you will more than likely be a better driver for it. Of course, if you have raced before then this is a less compelling case.
So now you know what you want, and you have hopefully got your new car sat in your garage and you are desperate to get out in it. Before you do, measure it all, understand how its set up, what the dampers are set to on each corner. That's your baseline and you need that so when you make changes during meetings or testing, you can get back to your base if they don't work. If they do then measure again and so on. While you are staring at your pride and joy it is a good chance to make sure that it meets the rules and ensure that you understand them yourself. If you are confused or have any questions then just ask, you will get help and clarity.
So shiny helmet on a shelf, car painted and raring to go in the garage, there is just one final step and that is to get your license. Firstly, you need the ORCi license and secondly the Grand Prix Midget license. Advice on how to get these can be found on this website but once you have these you are good to go and mix it with the established drivers.
License in hand, season approaching don't forget to book into the meeting, a minimum of 5 days prior to the event and to turn up to the race a minimum of 2 hours before the start time to allow plenty of time for scrutineering then you are ready to race. Have fun.
Reporter: Simon Gleadal