If you go on the internet, whether you’re searching for it or not, it won’t be long before you find someone complaining about the cost of trackdays, and how they’ve never been so expensive. So I thought I’d do some digging, to see if I can find out why, all of a sudden they’re so expensive… and it turns out, they’re not actually that expensive at all.
It is true that trackdays are ‘more expensive’ now than they were 20 years ago. Take a trackday at Cadwell Park for example. I can remember 20 years ago (when I started riding bikes on tarmac) a mid-week trackday was about £100. Now they are about £130. Yes, that’s more money, but in real terms, it’s quite a bit less. With inflation alone, you’re £100 2002 trackday ought to cost about £175 today, in 2022. So there’s one school of thought that says trackdays are actually cheaper than they’ve ever been.
Because of that, trackday companies are having to operate leaner and leaner, on tighter and tighter margins. Because the circuits are definitely not cheaper to hire. According to Mark Neate from No Limits Trackdays, a lot of the circuits are now two to three times more expensive to hire, compared to when he started working in the trackday industry back in 1999. That’s probably why there aren’t anywhere near as many trackday companies operating now as there used to be; who can remember Hottrax, Tracktime Promotions, Focused Events, 100% Bikes, Speedfreak Trackdays? And that’s just the ones off the top of my head.
Sure there are a few small trackday companies popping up here and there, that go to smaller, cheaper tracks like Darley Moor and Llandow, but there’s only really No Limits Trackdays and MSV Trackdays to choose from if you want to ride on a proper track. And the only way they can survive and turn a profit is by having literally hundreds of days a year (or by owning the circuits in the first place, like MSVT).
There are good reasons that the circuits cost more and more to hire, and it’s not just because the circuit owners want to fly around in their own private helicopters (it’s only Jonathon Palmer, owner of MSV, who does that, and he’s got his finger in a lot of other pies). The simple fact is, the circuits aren’t as profitable as they once were, because more and more of them are becoming subject to noise curfews and are allowed fewer and fewer days operating.
Take Brands Hatch GP. A lot of people don’t want to pay £200-odd for a trackday at Brands GP. But the fact is, that circuit can only be used 20 times a year; so if you want to do a trackday there, you’re going to have to pay for the privilege. If you don’t want to pay for the privilege (and riding that track is a privilege, trust me), there will be plenty of car trackday companies that’ll snap up any available days. And then there’ll be no bike trackdays there at all. Then if you want to ride there, you’ll have to get really fast and enter British Superbikes; which’ll cost you a lot more than £200.
A numbers game
Croft is another one. Croft used to be able to run 192 days on track, now, since the court action, it’s allowed less than half that. So for Croft to remain profitable, it’s got to charge the trackday companies twice as much to rent it. A trackday company can’t run days there at a loss (although I’m sure some of them sometimes do), so they have to charge more for their days.
A trackday at croft is about £180 now which, according to Mark, is about £30 more than it was before they had to put the price up. If you’re from the north though, Croft’s your only option if you’re looking for a local trackday. So you could pay £180 for a trackday that’s on your doorstep, or you could go to Cadwell to save £30 on the price of your trackday, but you might have to put an extra £50’s worth of fuel in the van to get there.
And then, of course, when nobody ever goes to Croft, because it’s ‘too’ expensive, the trackday companies will stop hiring it. And then when they stop hiring it, it becomes a massive area of real estate that’s earning nothing as a race circuit, but has the potential to earn a shed load as a housing development, industrial estate or retail park; so that’s exactly what they’ll turn it into.
Just like they did with Rockingham. Because whilst some of these circuits are run by genuine motorsport enthusiasts, a lot of them are run by business people. And money talks. Rockingham is a case in point. They knew that they could make more money by closing down the circuit and parking thousands of cars on it instead. So they did, and now we’re one circuit shorter.
And of course it’s not just the cost of hiring the circuit. If you want to run a trackday company, you’re going to have staff to pay, website fees and all sorts of kit to buy. And then of course there’s your public liability insurance, which I can imagine is more than even a very wealthy person might earn in a year.
No, if you ask me, trackdays aren’t too expensive at all. And they certainly aren’t, all of a sudden, more expensive than they’ve ever been, not in real terms, anyway. Nowadays, you’re looking at about £150 for a weekday trackday, in summer on a decent circuit. It would be great if trackdays still cost the same £100 as they did 20 years ago; but let’s face it, there aren’t many things that do. And even at £150, I don’t think anyone’s getting ripped off.