BBC commentator and ex-F1 driver David Coulthard has visited two of Britain’s most famous venues to discover how accessible motor sport can be.
David Coulthard and Ian Wright
The Scotsman, 40, was filming a feature for the BBC's BAFTA-winning Formula One coverage, which will be aired during the European Grand Prix as a curtain raiser to National Motorsport Week.
National Motorsport Week is a joint initiative set up by the Motorsport Industry Association and Motor Sports Association to encourage newcomers into the sport, whether they are drivers, spectators, engineers or volunteers – a scheme which Coulthard fervently supports.
"Britain is the centre of the universe of motor sport. There is so much history and heritage here and success with British engineers and designers and racing drivers and we need to keep feeding that. Inevitably, the focus tends to be on F1 so it was great to see just how much more motor sport has to offer. What’s more just how accessible, affordable and fun it can be,” reported Coulthard.
Britain’s all-time top F1 points-scorer first visited a sold-out Club MSV Trackday staged on the historic Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent and was impressed by what he found.
“Anyone who wants to give it a go can take their own car and find out if they have talent for driving or not. The open road is clearly not the place to do that, but properly organised events like these are. I would never have thought you could do this. I literally could have driven down to Brands Hatch in my Mercedes, paid as little as £25, put my crash helmet on and driven that car around one of the world’s most iconic race tracks. What a great way to start in motor sport.”
Coulthard then moved on to Shelsley Walsh, the oldest motor sport venue in continuous use in the world. With a history of staging hill climb events stretching back more than a century, Shelsley underlines the UK’s long-running position at the pinnacle of motor sport. After meeting double MSA British Hill climb champion Scott Moran and inspecting his British-built Gould GR61X single-seater that features a 3.5-litre Nicholson-McLaren V8 engine plus F1 style paddle-shift gearbox, the 13-time grand prix winner joined Moran for a blast up the hill in an entry level Lotus Elise.
Thereafter Coulthard experienced two very different forms of grass roots motor sport, once again with expert advice from reigning MSA champions. First he jumped aboard Ian Wright’s purpose-built lightweight Sherpa Indy for an insight into the world of sporting trials – a discipline, which involves competitors climbing, marked sections of steep hills. Rather than speed, trials are all about finding traction whatever the surface: grass, mud, loose gravel or deep rutted sand. It’s a real team effort, too, with passengers bouncing about the vehicle to create more grip.
David Coulthard enjoying some Sporting Car Trails
Finally, multiple MSA champion Alastair Moffatt in his Mini Special gave the Scot an autotesting master class. Handbrake turns, tightly controlled powerslides and amazing reverse flicks are the tricks of the trade as participants manoeuvre around a specially laid-out course as swiftly as possible.
“As well as celebrating Britain’s unrivalled achievements at the top end, National Motorsport Week is all about showing just how easy it can be for all-comers to have some really great fun. And as I found out all these disciplines create very accessible and affordable opportunities for people to get into motor sport.”
“I’ve discovered that there are people competing in these disciplines for as little as £25 an event, and for a full weekend away, you could do it for £150. Even the more specialist machinery I experienced isn’t going to burn a huge hole in your pocket. Because there are classes for everyday road cars in hill climbs, autotests and trials, there really is something out there for everyone.”