Racing, and racing fast, is something most people will have dreamt about being able to do professionally. The biggest names in the sport, your Hamilton’s and your Button’s, are either seen pushing themselves and their vehicles to incomprehensible speeds, or lounging around the world city by city with their significant others, wearing sponsored watches and living life without a care in the world.
For the majority of us, that will always remain just a dream. However, up and down the country, motorsport isn’t just reserved for the privileged few. For a couple of hundred quid here, and another couple of hundred quid there, you can build yourself a vehicle worthy of racing in and not trouble the bank balance too heavily at all.
That affordable alternative is of course banger racing. Perhaps a name that lacks affection, it’s a sport that has it in abundance. The time and effort that goes in to taking a car off the scrapheap, restoring it to working order, converting it in to a race appropriate vehicle and then pushing it to its limits surrounded by hundreds and thousands of like-minded souls sounds like a much more grounded and less cynical prospect than professional motor racing.
How do you start? Well, it all seems fairly straightforward, really. First things first, of course, is to find and buy the right car. Usually, this means a saloon car under 1600cc, front or rear wheel drive. Once you have that, you need to start dismantling it, piece by piece by piece.
The car must have all exterior moulds removed, the headlamps, door handles, bumpers and exterior mirrors must also be taken off. So should all glass, interior trim, floor covering passenger seats and headlining. Should you wish, any unessential wiring can also be torn out. Old fuel tanks must go, as should spare wheels and tow bars, along with window mechanisms on the driver’s side door.
Essentially, all that should remain is you, a seat, a chassis, and the relevant components to make the car move.
Once you’ve welded everything shut and bolted it for good measure, including fitting a new steel panel on the driver’s side for much needed protection from various shunts, you’re almost good to go. What is left is aesthetic, making sure your new pride and joy looks presentable before being smashed to pieces. A fresh lick of paint, including a name and number on both sides of the car are compulsory.
In all seriousness, there are lots of pre-existing rules and regulations involved in banger racing, and they’re largely in place for the safety of those people competing. It would be more than advisable for you to make sure you’ve read up on everything you need to have before taking part, and a conversation with the track supervisors you’ll be at wouldn’t go amiss either, as some rules vary from venue to venue.
Lewis Hamilton has around £240m put aside by his constructors to make and maintain his car across the season, not the mention the several millions more spent year round in development and testing. You, for around £1000, can build your own racing car, and experience every last drop of adrenaline he does. The only difference is that you’ll like be in a field in Manchester, not Monaco.
However, all that’s been discussed so far in the individual benefits of going banger racing, and that’s just scratching the surface. As a relatively unknown, and let’s face it, apparently unfashionable sport, banger racing has become its own sub-culture and event. Racers are known countrywide from track to track for their driving heroics. Friends are made off the track and rivalries on it.
It may sound slightly forced, but banger racing is really a community sport. One quick google reveals a variety of message boards and websites dedicated to the sport, companies built around helping the contraction of cars, companies selling pre-made cars and others offering to rent. Dig deeper, and you can find tracks and regular events close to or in just about every major town and city in the UK, with tales of tours and holidays based around racing those budget bangers.
Usually something your mother told you because you weren’t very good at sports day – it’s not the winning, but the taking part that counts – is actually fairly representative of the attitude around banger racing. Drivers and constructors share tips, teams are usually made up of several generations of the same family and the feeling of belonging, rather than an attitude of solitude, appears to be what makes people go back to the sport time and time again.
A summer sport, you’ll likely find tracks surrounded by beers and BBQs if the weather permits, and that just adds to the warm atmosphere. Compared to professional sports, where winning is the be all and end all, with drivers in the same team largely unable to coexist peacefully, banger racers yet again sounds like the much more appealing venture.
So, if you don’t mind the odd car shunt here and there, have an appetite to drive fast and push yourself to limits you didn’t know you had, have around £1000 spare and the time and effort free to commit to a sport that deserves it and the people skills necessary to embrace and entirely new community and sub-culture, banger racing could be the new hobby for you.
Who needs millions of pounds in wages and car technology, model partners and endorsement deals coming out of their ears when you can have a warm beer and a burger from a van across various tracks in England amongst friends? Banger racing makes you the hero, it makes you the constructer and it gives you a new community to enjoy all of that with. It’s time for you to embrace the fact that less is more and get involved. We promise you that you really won’t ever regret doing it.