Australia has a rich motorsport history, from hosting rounds of the World Rally Championship to holding the ultimate motorsport event, the Formula One Grand Prix.
The country has also produced some exceptional drivers, such as Jack Brabham, Mark Webber, and current hero Daniel Ricciardo. If you love the thrill of speed and want to test your own abilities, there are numerous ways you can get involved in motorsports at an amateur level – and who knows where that may lead?
What do you need to start competing in motorsports?
The first requirement is a licence, which is issued by the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS). There are different licenses that start at the entry level and go right up to international level. The entry level licence is either a Non-Speed or Speed licence, and it permits you access to a number of disciplines without having to participate in any training or have your driving skills assessed.
A non-speed licence (L2NS) entitles you to compete in:
- Introductory rally events
- Motorkhana and Khanacross events to international level
- Observed section trials
- Touring assemblies and other non-timed road events
- Touring road events that don’t have closed road sections or speed sub-events
A speed licence entitles you to compete in:
- All the same events as the L2NS licence
- Regularity trials up to national championship level
- Single and multi-car non-race speed events up to international level
- Some touring road events
Choosing your event
There are a good few options for racing under an entry level licence, including:
- Motorkhana and Khanacross: These are timed events where you have to drive around a course marked by flags. If you hit a flag, you incur time penalties.
- Rallycross: Usually run on dirt or other unsealed surfaces, so they’re a perfect introduction to off-road sports such as rallying.
- Drifting: this sport is all about car control, being judged on how well you can handle the car around a series of corners, and producing maximum yaw rate whilst staying smooth and in control.
- Hillclimbs: Run against the clock, as each driver aims to go as fast as they can up a series of hills and turns. They can be run on tarmac or an unsealed surface, and there’s a range of classes including performance saloons, sports cars, and race cars.
- Super Sprints: Usually run on a circuit, with the same objective as a hillclimb – get around the course as quickly as possible.
If you’re not sure which discipline you’d be best suited to, there are Motor Sport ‘Come and Try’ Days held in every state in Australia, so you can have a go. You can give each sport a try in your normal road car, so there’s no need to spend any money on a car before you know where your talents and interests lay.
There are training courses available too, so you can learn about handling the car, how to improve your driving and gain time, and how to handle the car if anything goes wrong.
The cost of participating in motorsports
The question of how much it costs to take part in these events is hard to define, because a great deal of the investment is going to be in your car. You’ll need to pay for your licence, club membership, and all your safety gear, including approved racing suit, helmet, gloves, and footwear. You’ll need a timing bar to go on the front of your car for timed events, and numbers for your car so you can be identified. Some events require other safety features such as fuel cut-off switches, racing harnesses, roll cages, and exterior bonnet release catches, but you’ll need to check the regulations for your event and class.
The main cost of motorsports is what you want to invest in your car. First there’s buying it, then there are the upgrades and improvements you may wish to make. It’s vital to check what you are allowed to do in each class according to FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) rules, otherwise you’ll be excluded when your car is scrutineered before the race. It’s possible to spend thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on modifications, but you don’t have to – you can have a huge amount of fun running a cheap car with no mods.
You should find a good selection of events in your state, but given that Australia is such a vast country, you may want to travel further afield if you get the bug for racing. If you take part in a non-roadgoing class, you won’t be able to drive your car to events, so you’ll need a trailer and a decent towing vehicle to transport your race car.
Many venues don’t have onsite accommodation, so you’ll need to have a vehicle you can sleep in comfortably overnight. You’ll probably have access to catering and bathroom facilities, but it’s a good idea to take your own provisions. It’s also a good idea to have a generator to power your equipment as there may not be access to electric points onsite. You can get some efficient, compact models that are ideal for travelling from a range of suppliers such as diesel generators Perth for example.
You should always aim to get to your event in plenty of time, and take a selection of tools, spare parts, and wheels just in case you have a problem. You’ll find the other competitors are almost always happy to help out if you do run into difficulties, and there’s a great sense of camaraderie at these events. Make sure you get yourself registered when you arrive, and collect your paperwork from the admin office or secretary. Once your car is ready to race, you need to find a scrutineer to perform safety checks on you and the car, so you can be passed for racing. Listen for your class being called, and always pay attention to the stewards.
It’s a thrilling experience, and you may well get hooked on the whole motorsports scene; but for now, all you need to do is get out there and have fun!