If you can’t wait until you’re old enough to drive on the roads, don’t worry. You can compete in most kinds of motorsport, although age restrictions vary depending on which particular discipline you want to take part in.
Here’s a guide to how old you have to be to compete in each different form of the sport:
A junior Autocross class exists which allows competitors from 14-16 years of age to compete and is included in regional and national championships including the MSA British Autocross Championship. Autocross is an excellent, low cost way to compete.
You can compete in AutoSolos from the age of 16, but you must only use standard road cars of up to 1400 cc. Autosolos require that competitors’ vehicles must be driven to and from the events, so you will almost certainly have to share a car with a driver who has a full RTA road licence. On the plus side, Autosolos are simpler than traditional autotests, and are an ideal first step into motor sport. All tests involve driving in a forwards direction only, and each course is clearly marked with cones and tape so you are free to concentrate on setting competitive times rather than trying to remember which way the next corner goes.
Autotests welcome competitors from the age of 16 onwards, but there are also Production Car Autotests, which cater for drivers of at least 14 years old. For PCAs, you need to be accompanied by a passenger in the car, who must be an experienced autotest competitor.
You can compete in single-seaters, saloons and sportscars, in many national and regional championships from the age of 16, especially those that require just the basic MSA National B licence. It’s best to check with the organisers first, though.
Additionally, there are two national championships created specifically for junior drivers, aged 14 and above. The Ginetta Junior Championship (for Ginetta G40 sportscars) has a coveted slot on the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship support package for 2010, while the Sax Max Championship (for 1996-98 model Citroen Saxo VTRs) is organised by the 750 Motor Club.
Those aiming to follow in the wheel tracks of Lewis and Jenson should consider junior single seater formulae open to those aged 16 and over such as the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain, the traditional circuit racing launch pad for budding F1 stars.
Junior trials cater for eight years old and above, competing on ride-on mowers and lawn tractors with the appropriate modifications.
Tyro Trials allow those aged 13 and above, driving standard production four-wheel-drive vehicles that are road-legal.
Junior dragsters have been specifically designed for 8-year-olds and above, and are an ideal cheap entry point to drag racing. First you’ll need tuition, then to gain your licence at a ‘Run What Ya Brung’ day. You can find more details at www.santapod.co.uk/dr_junior.php or click here to see junior dragsters in action at the Shakespeare Raceway.
You can begin hill climbing at age 16.
Karting is the ideal grounding for young drivers. Starting in Cadets from the age of 8, moving onto Juniors (12 and above), it is the established form of motor sport if you want to move on to car racing. Of the 22 drivers who started the 2008 Grand Prix season, 21 of them started in karts. There are some notable exceptions such as Damon Hill and Mark Blundell who didn’t start here, but it’s the accepted first rung to the top.
The Motor Sports Association has recently launched a nationwide campaign to give thousands of young people a taste of the excitement of kart racing for just £5. Let’s Go Karting will provide karts, equipment and instructors at locations throughout the UK so that you can experience the thrills of karting without having to purchase your own equipment. For a full list of participating venues and more details on the scheme, visit Lets Go Karting
There is also a British Schools Karting Championship which is a nation-wide arrive-and-drive karting championship for anyone aged 13 to 18 in full time education at either school or college.
The budget consious Easykart Championships are probably the best place for youngsters to start. The organisers keep costs down while providing a very competitive environment for juniors to learn.
But don’t be put off if your plan for karting is just a bit of weekend fun for the family. There is plenty of club-level karting for youngsters, and you don’t have to go any further than your local track.
The Junior Rallycross Championship is open to drivers aged 14 and above, competing in one-litre Minis (www.mini-cross.co.uk) and running at the same meetings as the prestigious British Rallycross Championship.
From 2009, junior competitors aged 14 to 16 can compete on single venue events in the budget Formula 1000 Rally Championship. Being based on single venues, you don’t need a full RTA licence, although you will be required to complete a series of tests. Don’t panic though, if you take a sensible approach, you will have no problems passing.
Now, you can also co-drive on single venue events from the age of 14, as well as being able to navigate on road rallies from the age of 12. Like the sound of that? Go to the Formula 1000 website and make your way to the forum where enthusiastic members will help you with any questions you may have.
Similar to hill climbs, sprints are open to 16-year-olds and above.
You can compete in sporting trials from the age of 16, as long as your passenger has a full RTA driving licence.
Car Trials are open to 15-year-old drivers, but again you must be accompanied by a full RTA driving licence holder.
Unfortunately, junior drivers cannot compete in Classic Trials because they use public roads at times.
If you don't fancy a go behind the wheel but want to get close to motor sport, cadet marshalling could be a great opportunity for you. Those aged between their 11th and 16th birthdays and appropriately supervised by a parent/guardian or temporary carer when not in spectator areas can undertake a wide variety of roles at all kinds of events.