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Episode 37

Club Race Meetings:

The Perfect Cheap Day Out?

A last minute idea turned into a fantastic day out. Should more people make an effort to watch grassroots motorsport?

A couple of weeks ago, due to a lack of elite motorsport to *ahem* ‘report on,’ I found myself with a free Sunday. Therefore, having been embroiled in non-stop motor racing for a month or so, I’d like to think that you’d forgiven me for a day off. On the other hand, I didn’t fancy getting withdrawal symptoms, and so I looked elsewhere for my tyre-screeching fix. That elsewhere took me to the fastest race track in the UK: Thruxton.

Sunday morning came, and I assembled the accessories I felt I would need for a day out at the races – a bottle of water, a camera and a friend – before embarking on the short trip down. During my travels, however, I had a thought: could this be the best cheap day out? After all, a day ticket to Thorpe Park can cost around £50 per person, yet for less than half the price, the pair of us were able to watch around 8 hours of entertaining sport. Based on that logic, a day watching some club-level racing seems a bargain, but what did you really get for your £12 entry fee, and having been, would I still recommend it?

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Once we arrived at the circuit and collected our tickets, our first thought was to have a wander round to scout out the best possible viewing spots. Now, Thruxton is quite a good arena for your average club meeting, as there’s only really one stand, situated at the final chicane. Now, that may seem an illogical reason for saying it’s a good circuit to spectate at, but I make the statement because, due to COVID, the stands are out of bounds. Therefore, the grassy verges that surround the majority of the airfield make perfect viewing areas.

For reference, we took in the action from various points around the outside of the circuit, all the way from the pit ‘straight’ down to just before Noble corner, but we settled around the Cobb Campbell Seagrave complex, as this seemed to be one of the focal points for action.

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In terms of the action itself, the race meeting was being organised by the BRSCC, the British Road and Sports Car Club if you’re being pedantic. Therefore, the schedule encompassed all five classes from the Caterham Motorsport ladder, alongside the Milltek Civic Cup, the BMW Compact Cup, and the Project8 Racing series (which had all sorts of weird and wonderful machines in). This gave us a unique variety of sights and sounds across the day, keeping our interest peaked.

Personally, I found almost all of the racing pretty mesmerising, as the Caterham’s were so closely matched that drivers could gain multiple positions in just a single lap, before losing them on the next tour. In fact, during the Roadsport race there was a period where five different cars led into Cobb corner on five consecutive laps! The Honda Civic EP3’s were also fun to watch, and they certainly sounded the part when on track, too! The BMW’s, on the other hand, were quite frankly bonkers. The field was huge, with around 30 cars on track, and that left us with several 4-wide moments in the braking zone.

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Unfortunately, the current situation inhibited paddock access to the average punters like us, which I was a little disappointed by. I can fully understand the decision to shield the competitors as much as possible, and whilst I fully support that decision, I was very much looking forward to interacting with the drivers to learn more about getting started in motorsport. Nonetheless, maybe that opportunity will be afforded to me on another occasion instead.

Overall, then, I would certainly say that the pair of us were thoroughly entertained over the course of the day. The sheer volume of close, hard racing is in another level in comparison to race meetings such as Formula One or British GT, yet prices are just a fraction of those for more prestigious events. Therefore, I would not hesitate to recommend a day trip to your local racing circuit, especially if the schedule features Caterham or BMW Compact races, as those really were awesome to spectate.

Finally, a couple of top tips. Firstly, always check the weather forecast before you go. I didn’t, and subsequently didn’t pack a rain coat. There were showers. All day. Secondly, take a camping chair with you. I didn’t. I had to sit on the wet grass. Finally, beware of sun- and wind-burn. I wasn’t. I had a very red face the next day, even though it was overcast. Oh well, we live and learn, right? I’ll rectify those mistakes next time. Just need to find a weekend without any racing on TV that I need to ‘report’ on…

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