OCT 31st 2014

Elegibility vs. invitability... How to get a start in Historic Racing

So you’ve been to the Revival every year, ached with envy at those on the other side of the tyre barrier and finally decided you want to go historic racing. You may or may not have the considerable resources required to get you onto some of Goodwood’s more valuable grids, but there are all sorts of historic series run by different organisers for owners with a wide range of budget. So the big question is what do you buy?

“At Goodwood I’d race it if it were powered by lead acid batteries and sponsored by Unigate…” 

Of course the answer may seem simple: in your price range there may be a type of car you’ve loved since childhood or one that’s clearly the class of its field. But actually and for the more popular series, it’s often more complicated than that.

Andrew Frankel GoodwoodYou might, for instance, decide a Jaguar E-type is what you really want, and having driven a few racing Es, I can hardly blame you. Or a Mini. But you have to consider whether your race organiser really wants another E or Mini on his or her grid and if the answer is no, you have a racing car you can’t race. So rule one is to remember that just because your car is eligible doesn’t mean it’ll get invited.

Indeed you’re far more likely to get the call if you choose a car no one has thought of. I know someone who discovered Isabella Borgwards used to race at Goodwood, bought such a car and has raced there ever since. And what glorious slice of left-field thinking led to a Tatra 603 racing at Goodwood?

Whether a car is competitive or not, an organiser would far rather have variety on the grid than more of the same. 

So next ask yourself why you’re doing it. Are you out there to win, or are you happy to make up the numbers? When I first started racing old cars I drove a Chevrolet Camaro in HSCC events and if I didn’t go home with at least some kind of pot, I’d consider the weekend if not entirely wasted, then seriously compromised. By contrast if I’m lucky enough to get an entry to Goodwood, I’m delighted to make up the numbers in an uncompetitive car: at Goodwood I’d race it if it were powered by lead acid batteries and sponsored by Unigate.

Andrew FrankelYou’re part of a pageant, putting on a show and while I still want to race, it’s of little odds to me what position it’s for. Then again having not yet been in a position to win a race at Goodwood, perhaps I might say that anyway. But I don’t think so.

Finally, you must be sensible about the costs and I am aware that sounds a bit rich coming from a bloke so far removed from the financial realities of racing his pitboard says ‘A&D Frankel’, the A&D standing for ‘Arrive and Drive.’ Even so, I’ve seen enough to know that the enthusiasm of the talented self-spannering amateur will only get you so far. And if you go to the big meetings like the Revival, Spa Six Hours, Silverstone Classic and so on, you’ll notice that most of the cars at the sharp end of the grid are prepared by teams that would not look out of place in the more senior formulae of modern motor racing.

Despite its relaxed, genial atmosphere, behind the scenes historic motorsport is as competitive as any other form and like any other form, the further you progress the more competitive it becomes.

Then again, the sport also abounds with club meetings where anyone with a decent car, a bit of talent behind the wheel and the time to do the prep themselves can expect to do well. And while I love the big occasions, these smaller events have a charm of their own: you turn up in the paddock, park where you like, qualify, race, have a beer around the barbecue and are home in time to say goodnight to the kids.

And when you’re out there it hardly matters whether you’re in a Ferrari 250GTO or an Austin A35: the fact is you’re racing, and there’s no feeling quite like it.

Andrew Frankel Goodwood

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