Two-thirds of the 44Teeth posse (Fagan and me, Boothy) cut our teeth racing bikes. It’s all we’ve wanted to do since we were kids and we’ve been lucky enough to have a good go at it. We’ve raced in all different disciplines over the years, at different levels – from wobbling round doing grassroots stuff to serious international competition. Not bad for a couple of fat boys, eh? Anyway, there are plenty of reasons why we never made it to MotoGP, but the two main reasons are quite simple: we weren’t good enough, and we didn’t have enough money. The cash that gets spunked into bike racing every season is beyond a joke and the higher up the food chain you get, the bigger your wallet needs to be. That’s until you get to a point where it would be impossible for a ‘normal’ person to fund their racing without a big cash injection from a generous sponsor, or drug dealer. So for those of you who are yet to experience the joy of setting fire to your pay packet week-in, week-out, we thought we’d put together some numbers to show you just how much it costs to go bike racing.
First of all, before you even start racing, there’s a bunch of stuff that you need to sort out. Let’s assume you already have a helmet, a one-piece race suit, boots, gloves, back protector and all the necessary riding gear (all up to a decent standard and in decent nick), so you don’t have to fork out for all that. Let’s also assume you’ve got paddock stands, tyre warmers and all the tools you need to strip your bike and rebuild it, should you need to. If you haven’t got a van, you’d better get one. And if you try and spend less than about £3,000 on it, you’re asking for trouble. Your £3,000 transit isn’t going to have an awning on it, so I’d suggest spending (minimum) £150 on a 3m x 3m pop-up awning – spend any less than that and you’ll only get one round out of it. An ACU licence is the next thing you need to apply for which will cost you £52, plus the £7 that they charge you for the orange nobber vest – £60 by the time you’ve put a stamp on and sent it. First time road race licence applicants need an eye test done by a doctor or optician, which is probably going to cost you £50 or so. And then, before the ACU grant you a licence, you’ve got to complete and pass a Competitor Training Course (classroom session with an exam) and ACU Basic Rider Assessment (a bit like a CBT on a circuit and we’ll be doing a video on this with Sue Perkins). Last time we checked, that was about £150.
Eye test: £50
Training and assessment: £150
Setup Total: £3,410
Your First Season
Now your paperwork is up together, let’s look at going racing on a budget. And it doesn’t come much more budget than CB500 racing. There are a few clubs that run championships for CBs, these days, and they never struggle to fill a grid. But how much does it cost? Well, you could pick up a serviceable, race-ready CB500 for about £2,000 and race it in a seven-round EMRA championship against a grid full of other CB500s and have a whale of a time. Entries will cost you about £160 a round (once you’ve paid your £50 membership), or £200 if you want to race in two different classes (for the extra £40, you might as well, whilst you’re there). A set of £150 Bridgestone S20 will last you about three rounds. You won’t use a lot of fuel, ripping round on an old CB, so let’s budget £50 a round for that. You’ll want a bit of a spares package in case you lob the thing down the road (or when you lob it down the road) but the CBs are pretty hardy, so you’d have to really launch the old girl to break anything other than handlebars and foot pegs. We’ll throw £200 into the pot for a season’s worth of crash damage, and £500 into the kitty for the bar bill – club racing is a thirsty sport.
Crash damage: £200
The Next Big Thing
Once you’ve done a season or two on CBs, you’ll probably feel as though you’re ready to start racing proper bikes. By ‘proper bikes’, I mean bikes that were intended to be ridden hard, and/or raced. Like a Yamaha R6. All the racing clubs have got a strong 600 class, be it Supersport or Superstock 600, so you’ll always have someone to race against if you decided to go down that route. If you did decide to, you’d probably want to spend at least £5,000 on a bike. Entries and membership fees are probably going to be similar, but now you’re racing at a level where you’ll want to get a bit of pre-season testing nailed. Let’s stick another £550 on there for a foreign trackday to take entries up to a nice round £2,000. With the extra power (and testing) you are going to shred a lot more rubber. Bridgestone’s R11 would be the kind of tyre you’d want to run on your R6 and realistically, you’re going to want at least a set per round, plus maybe three sets for your testing regime. At £250 a set, sticking to our seven-round season (plus testing), you’re up to £2,500. You’ll use a bit more fuel (call it £500) and now you’ve got a fairing, crash damage is automatically going to sting a lot more. And that’s not to mention the fact that your sexy little R6 isn’t going to be anywhere near as tough as the bulletproof Honda was. If you can fix a crash for less than £500, you’ve not done too badly and you’re likely to have a couple over the season, so let’s put £1,000 down for crash damage this time.
Crash Damage: £1,000
Billy Big Bollocks
Once you’ve served your time club racing and taken home more plastic trophies than you can shake your cock at, you might just be ready for the big leagues. You’ll have seen the odd BSB backmarker come and clean up at your club meeting and the lure of fame, fortune and as many grid girls as you can finger will be too great to resist; next stop, BSB. But you better make sure your chequebook and pencil are on hand, because gone are the days of £5k a season CB500 racing. If you want to do a season of British Superstock 1000, a bike alone can set you back about £20,000. More if you want something really trick. Less if you manage to sweet talk a dealership into sponsoring you and knocking you a few quid off the retail price. Entries are £2,350, but you will need (never mind ‘want’) to do some serious testing before the season starts as well as during it (oh and that £2,350 doesn’t include the official BSB tests) so we’ll call it £3,000 for entries. The control fuel comes in 25 litre drums which cost £63.60 each and you’ll need a couple of them (or so) per round, say £125’s worth, which is £1,500 over 12 rounds. And you’ve no choice but to run Pirelli tyres at BSB, which’ll set you back £325 a set. To be anything like competitive, you’ll need three sets per round which comes to £975, or £11,700 over a 12 round championship. That’s without any testing. Add another six sets for testing, at £1,950, and you’ve got a tyre bill of £13,650. Ouch. Speaking of ‘ouch’, when you’re racing in British, you’ll have to push harder than you ever have to go as fast as you can every single lap of every session. That means you’re going to crash. Potentially a lot. And modern superbikes don’t bounce like old R6s, never mind CB500s. Frames get snapped, wheels get bent and whole wiring looms get ripped apart on the regular when you go superstock racing, so you’d be foolish to budget less than about £5,000 a season for crash damage. You could quite easily do £5k and more in one fell swoop. It’s not for the fainthearted.
Crash Damage: £5,000
All these numbers are, of course, very rough – and optimistic – estimates, and they don’t take into account things like van fuel to get to the circuits (because that depends where you live). The sandwiches, crisps and biscuits that you and your crew will eat when you are away racing (because you have got to eat anyway). The cost of time off work for all the testing and travelling that you’ll end up doing (you’ll use 24 holiday days just for the race ‘weekends’ – Thursday to Sunday – in a full BSB race season even before you throw any testing in). And of course the copious amounts of condoms you’ll go through when you are a BSB star. Chances are, unless you are the son of an oligarch or you’re really, really good at brown-nosing sponsors, if you start racing bikes, you will bankrupt yourself double quick. But it’ll be worth it. There is nothing else that money can buy, and no drug on earth that will give you the same buzz; well nothing I’ve found anyway and trust me, I’ve looked.
There is, of course, another option; an option free of ACU licences, general faffery and the copious amounts of cash required to go racing. And that’s the Freetech Endurance Championship, where 125cc four-stroke, happy shopper road bikes (and 50cc two-smokers) are easily transformed into budget racers in a paddock full of fun-lovin’ loonies. Did we mention we’re 2020 champions?