The British GT championship is sure to produce close racing as always. Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography
Despite issues with Covid, fuel and financial costs, the new UK national racing season looks as promising as ever
National racing in the UK is an incredibly broad church. From headliners like the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and the British GT Championship down to low-key club racing and wonderful pre-war racing from the Vintage Sports Car Club, there’s something for all tastes and all pockets.
The new season has begun against a backdrop of escalating fuel costs, financial stress and the ongoing recovery from Covid. Yet the early signs are that national racing is in generally very good health, with strong entries and close racing across the opening events of the season.
The British GT Championship reflects the ongoing global strength of GT racing, with leading teams and state-of-the-art GT3 cars raced by a mix of professional and determined amateur races.
The standard is extremely high at the head of the action, and the fact that internationally renowned drivers like Jules Gounon, Darren Turner and Adam Carroll are on the entry list serves to further underline the series’ status.
In addition, a growing number of young chargers are taking the GT route rather than chasing the single-seater dream, and talented drivers like Jamie Caroline are now making their mark in GT cars.
Reflecting the strength of GT racing in the UK are two more series for current GT cars. The British Endurance Trophy and the GT Cup are both in rude health as drivers use new and recent GT machinery from Porsche, McLaren, Ferrari, Lamborghini and more. The Endurance Trophy opened in mid-March with victory for the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Lucky Khera and Lee Frost.
Away from the BTCC, national level touring car racing is something of a mixed bag. The TCR UK series is steadily gathering support for cars built to Touring Car Racing (TCR), and a very encouraging 30 cars have been registered for 2022, including new-to-the-UK Hyundai and Subaru models.
TCR offers a lower-cost version of touring-car racing and is fast becoming the logical stepping stone for BTCC aspirants. The Mini Challenge, with its permanent place on the BTCC support package, is another feeder for the headline series.
Among the single seaters, one-model categories now tend to dominate the career rungs of the ladder, with GB3, GB4 and Formula 4 all offering subtly different career steps for those seeking to be the next Lewis Hamilton with six-figure budgets.
Away from the professional and semi-professional categories, there are many, many relatively affordable places to enjoy weekend sport for the fun racers. In all, the UK has more than 200 active championships and series.
Those for Mazda MX-5s and Caterham Sevens in particular are hugely popular, with typically more than 100 cars at each event, as one-make racing dominates the lower end of the market.
New for 2022 is the Praga Cup for the Czech-built sports prototypes, running alongside the British Endurance Trophy. The season began with a dozen examples of the 360bhp 2.0-litre Renault turbo-engined cars at Silverstone and more are promised.
Meanwhile, recent sports prototypes are one of the growth areas in the prolific historic racing arena, and the Masters Endurance Legends series, which brings sports-prototypes and GT cars as little as five years old under the historic umbrella, is set for strong support, starting at Donington Park over Easter.
Two of the real club racing success stories of the past decade are the Classic Sports Car Club and the 750 Motor Club, two race promoters that have worked hard and listened to their customers to develop race series that have become enormously popular. By offering good value track time and big grids, these two organisations have taken a lead in the running and promotion of national and club racing.
The two grandees of the genre, the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) and the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC), have had to dig deep to try to match the newer kids on the block, and the latter has created new race series to meet demand.
The City Car Cup for mildly modified 1.0-litre shopping trollies and the Citroën C1 Endurance Series offer some of the cheapest ways into racing, just like the Ford Ka Endurance series from Motorsport Vision Racing. These endurance races for near-standard cars have brought hordes of newcomers into the sport, almost in the style of fun karting and at pretty modest cost. For the first time ever, the UK has three 24-hour races on the calendar.
Elsewhere in the historic arena, the expanding Motor Racing Legends package and the Historic Sports Car Club continue to run well-supported races and championships for a wonderful array of period cars, ranging from pre-war sports cars right through to single-seaters of the 1980s. Then, of course, the VSCC has its own eclectic mix of racers for a fabulous collection of pre-war machinery.
So the stage is set for a very good 2022, despite all the challenges that the sport faces. National and club racing has changed enormously over the last two decades, but it remains incredibly popular and is still affordable, particularly at the lower levels.