Simon Taylor's notebook
HSCC Roadsports is one way you can go historic racing without a millionaire's budget, or a trailer
The generally accepted wisdom is that if you go motor racing it will cost you, and if you go motor racing in an old car it will cost you a lot. At the major historic meetings, priceless cars arrive in huge transporters operated by hired hands who maintain and mend. The owner just turns up to drive, and to pay the bills. And the car he races may well be worth more money than most of us will ever earn in a lifetime.
But if you feel it's only a lack of dosh that's keeping you off the starting grid, take heart. You too can go circuit racing. Campaigning a classic car need not involve a giant outlay, nor spare engines, skilled mechanics, racing tyres or trailers.
The Historic Sports Car Club runs race meetings at most British circuits, not just for old sportscars but also for saloons and pre-1980 single-seaters, right from Formula Ford to Formula 5000. Racing is both close and highly competitive, but it's all meant to be good clean fun. Race director Grahame White, who has seen it all before in a long career of race organisation, will have a quiet word with anybody driving over his or her head and spoiling it for the others.
I like to get to an HSCC meeting from time to time, because the racing is always entertaining, the cars interesting and the people friendly. And it was high time I went back to Mallory Park: I hadn't been since I raced a single-seater there 32 years ago. But I had fond memories of the days when top drivers didn't just do one race a year in this country: I saw John Surtees win an F1 race there in a Lola, Bruce McLaren in one of his first outings in the Zerex Special, and drivers such as Clark, Stewart, Rindt and Peterson in F2.
Years ago Mallory Park used to be part of the Brands Hatch group, but it is now totally independent and belongs to former racer Chris Meek. Ron Overend, who ran the circuit for so long in concert with his sadly departed wife Edwina, is still in charge, along with his son David. I was delighted to see that the little circuit is unchanged in layout, apart from a couple of chicanes for the bikers which do not affect the car circuit. Steady rain somehow only served to add to the atmosphere of grass-roots British club racing as it always used to be.
The HSCC hires the circuit — Mallory's fees are reasonable — and recoup their costs out of the entry fees charged to the competitors, which are £140 a race. Every driver gets a 15-minute qualifying session and a 15-minute race, and the eight-race programme included events for the likes of Classic F3, Historic Racing Saloons, Formula Junior and Historic Roadsports.
This last is particularly attractive for shoestring racers. It's open to production sports and GT cars built between 1947 and 1969, and 1970-79. The key is they must be road-registered, taxed and MoT'd, and be running on road tyres. No nonsense about trailers and tow-cars — you drive the car to the meeting, and if you don't you earn fewer championship points. The entry was a motley mixture: Jaguar E-type, MGB and Lotus Elan, of course, but also XK120, Turner, Marcos, Triumph GT6, Lancia Aurelia, Datsun 240Z and even Pontiac Firebird. They run in classes according to capacity and type so, despite wide performance differentials, almost everyone seems to earn points.
Some of the humbler Roadsports cars could be put on the grid for less than £5000 and, given a reasonably reliable and accident-free season, a year's racing needn't cost much more than a smart two-week holiday for two. There is also a '70s Road Saloons series, which could be even cheaper. Many of the drivers have come to racing comparatively late in life, after mortgages and families are sorted: a market gardener, a doctor, a criminal lawyer. Several raced in their youth and are returning to it in middle age. One man raced his 1300 Mini in the 1960s, then put it away and somehow never got around to selling it. Now he's dusted it off and is racing it in the Historic Saloon Championship.
So if you're about to sign on for that holiday cruise, or order your new BMW 3-Series, don't. Spend that money on a tired TVR, or a doggy Alfa GTV, or a wobbly X1/9. Clean it up a bit, put in a roll-cage, and go motor racing.