How To Get Started In Racing - The Ultimate Guide
One of the biggest driving forces behind why I wanted to start Racers360 was a single question I got from many fans during my pro racing career, “How do I get into racing?” The fact that some of our most die-hard fans didn’t know that they could get behind the wheel themselves and feel the exhilaration that is driving flat out on a race track for relatively little money was disappointing to me. Yes, relative is the key word there, but my goal here is to show all of the different ways you can get on track yourself.
No matter your age or goals you will find something that fits your goals here. It is a big belief for me that if professional racing wants to grow dramatically the single best way to do that is by growing its grassroots form of the sport.
So, if you are already racing please share this article with a friend that would love to get behind the wheel. And if you aren’t a driver yet, continue reading so we can help you get on the race track!
Types of Motorsport
Motorsport comes in many different forms. Some drivers want to go door to door racing with their rivals, some have no competitive edge at all it is all about self-improvement, and others battle their rivals based purely off of the stopwatch. Each form has certain aspects that may make it the right form of motorsport for those drivers. Below we will go into detail on each form of motorsport beginning with types of car racing so you can learn more about all of the options and find the right one for you.
Hopefully, these will help you find the best way for you to get started!
High-Performance Driver Education Track Days (HPDE)
I list this form of motorsport first because it is one of the easiest ways to get on track today. The great thing about an HPDE track day is that you don’t have to buy your own race car. You can take your street car on the track today without any mods.
Although some slight ones like better brake fluid are recommended. Road and Track has a great article about the basics that you may want to take to your first track day.
HPDE track days are best for drivers that are looking to keep risks to motorsport as low as possible. It is the type of motorsport I recommend for all drivers looking to get into car racing but not sure where to start. Most clubs have a fantastic education system for brand new drivers. They will have classroom settings to introduce you to the most important concepts and will have more experienced drivers sit next to you in your car for your first few days in your car on the race track.
To help lower risk these days are not about “racing” or about going fast. For most of these events, there is no overtaking without the car being overtaken signaling the car behind to pass them in a very specific way. There are also no lap times being taken, these days are about a community of drivers looking for self-improvement in their driving and having a great time doing it.
How Much Do Track Days Cost?
The entry fee for a day is usually around $300 for the weekend. There are other fees to take into account for track days such as fuel and most likely tires. Most of the time the track isn’t within driving distance of your house so you may have to pay for hotels as well. Most drivers seem to be paying around $1k per weekend for their track day events.
Where Can I Go To Find An Event?
We have a few partners that we love to work with. There are lots of organizations in the U.S. and many of them are fantastic, but here is where we recommend you start looking:
West Coast Drivers - Hooked On Driving
East Coast Drivers - Chin Track Days
Car Clubs, such as Audi Club
So, what is autocross? Autocross is probably the cheapest and easiest way to get into motorsports. Typically autocross is where an organization rents a parking lot and sets up a temporary race track using cones. Drivers then take their street cars (sometimes heavily modified but that is not necessary) and drive as fast as possible from start to finish for one lap.
Again here there is no door to door racing, but it is more competitive than HPDE track days. There is a stopwatch and people most definitely care about beating their friends. The great thing about autocross is it is the form of motorsport that is least demanding for the car so you really don’t need to modify your car at all. But, over time most drivers make small changes to them.
How Much Does Autocross Cost?
Most local autocross events have an entry fee between $25 - $50 for the day. You will get a lot less track time at these events, each run is 1 lap and some days you may only get 5 runs. But, these events are held in cities in parking lots so it is highly likely you can find one very close to you and not need to pay for hotel rooms and travel. Aside from the entry fee, you will use a little additional fuel and they can be quite hard on tries the faster you go. But, by far the cheapest option and lowest risk option!
Where Can I find Autocross Events Near Me?
SCCA is the largest motorsport organization in the U.S. they will have events all across the country
This one is relatively new and is taking amateur racing by storm. Here drivers drive on purpose-built race tracks, the ones we all dream about racing on like Watkins Glen, Sebring International Raceway, Virginia International Raceway, Laguna Seca and many more. But, there is no door to door racing.
Instead, it is a race against a stopwatch to see who can get the fastest lap in. Here you will find a mix of slightly modified street cars (similar to what we see in HPDE track days) and full on race cars.
For those of you that are looking to experience driving on proper race tracks and want some form of competition but are a little bit apprehensive about going door to door racing with your racecar, this will be perfect for you!
How Much Does Time Trial Racing Cost?
These will be a little bit more expensive than our options so far, but still cheaper than actual door to door racing. Entry fees will be in the range of $400 for a weekend. Most of these events are a Saturday + Sunday event held on the big race tracks, so additional hotel costs are likely.
Most drivers here will buy a race car to compete in. Later in the article, we will share some links on sites you can search for potentially buying a racecar if you are interested.
Money spent on tires, parts, fuel, and car related things can be expected to be more frequently needed to be spent in this form of motorsport compared to HPDE track days.
Where Can I Find Time Trial Events?
SCCA has just made a big announcement of a brand new national level time trial series that will be fantastic! You may even find Racers360 there ;). You can find out more about their events here
For those of you wanting to go door to door racing, this one is for you! There are local races all around the country on all of the big race tracks. Here amateur drivers battle for the glory of crossing the start/finish line first when the checkered flag flies.
This type of motorsport is my personal favorite, but the issue it brings up is trying to find the right class and place for you to race. There are many ways drivers end up spending way more money that is necessary to go racing. For beginners in wheel to wheel racing, I recommend the classes that aren’t “sexy” but provide the best bang for your buck. The two categories I heavily recommend are Spec Miata or Spec E46.
Sure, the Spec Miata is slow and not sexy to tell your friends about but I tell you what, from all the cool cars I have been lucky enough to drive I still have an absolute blast driving spec miatas. They are relatively cheap and the best thing about this class is no matter where you go, you will find someone to race with. The competition level in this class is extremely high!
Just remember if you are starting in this sport, don’t spend the money on the big sexy car or trying to make your car faster. Spend the money on more time enjoying yourself on track and coaching to improve yourself and your safety as a driver. That is the number one piece of advice I have for anyone new to this sport.
How Much Does Club Racing Cost?
This one is almost impossible to answer. The range is all over the place! What we can recommend is starting to look at a few series and give you some places to potentially find yourself a race car.
Where Can I Go Club Racing?
Where Can I Find Race Cars For Sale?
Our first piece of advice here would be to look for local events from the organizations above and then go visit a race and talk to people. The best way to look for buying a race car is by networking in the paddock. We have no experience in buying race cars online so we can’t talk from personal experience, but here are some options for websites:
Go Kart Racing
This is one of my personal favorite options!! It has been a long time since I was racing go karts competitively but man do I miss it! Some of my favorite racing memories were from go karts. This will be the cheapest option for those looking to go wheel to wheel racing but not wanting to pay the costs that we see in car racing.
We aren’t talking about your normal electric indoor karting here either. The real outdoor racing go karts are crazy machines that reach speeds of 100 mph, and when your butt is only 1 inch off the pavement that feels extremely fast.
If you go ask any pro driver where they started or where they had the most fun racing the answer will be almost unanimous, go karts. For any kids looking to one day become a pro racing car driver this is where you HAVE to start, but it’s not only for the kids. If you have always dreamed of becoming a pro and you are an adult that can now afford to pay to live out your dream there are lots of competitive classes in karting for you as well!
Once again it is easy to end up spending way too much money in karting (this is a theme for this sport) what we recommend doing is looking for a local Rotax class. There are hundreds if not thousands of go kart tracks around the country, a simple google search of “go kart racing near me” is bound to show you many results for almost everyone in the U.S.!
Just going to the local go kart track is exactly how my career started and how the career starts for nearly all pro drivers. I can not recommend this option enough!
How Much Does Go Karting Cost?
Once again the costs can seriously vary here. For adults we recommend buying a Rotax 125 kart, you can go to your local track and talk to teams. New these karts run around $3,000 but you can find decently priced used ones. You will be buying fuel, tires and potentially lots of parts, but the amount of parts totally depends on how much you crash and how much you want to spend. Some drivers can get by with one set of tires for a very long time, and some buy a new set every weekend. Remember focus on spending more money for more track time and not on going fast initially!
Where Do I Find Go Kart Races Near me?
Rotax Max Championship is a great place to start researching
World Karting Association also has races all over the country and a lot of different classes
We Hope To See You On The Race Track
We really hope this helps some of you out there live out your dream and get on the race track. Wheel to wheel racing isn’t for everyone and you don’t have to do that to get on track, but if you want that extra adrenaline you most definitely can find it!
Our main goal at Racers360 is to help grow amateur motorsports and help the education of those drivers. We hope we can be apart of your racing journey from helping you start to then helping you learn how to become a race car driver!