Welcome to Club Racing!
When you’re racing in the junior classes, it’s pretty easy deciding what bike to ride next as you have a clear pathway to follow from ages 6 to 14. When your young rider reaches 12/13 years old they are able to apply for their 1st ACU licence, which means they can race ‘big bikes’ on big circuits.
The Auto-Cycle Union (ACU) is the Governing Body for motorcycle sport throughout Britain. It is recognised by the Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme ( FIM ) and the ACU was a founder member of this body in 1904.
How the ACU works for British motorcycling
- The main objective of the ACU is to provide all participants in motorcycle sport with enjoyable, safe and competitive days of sporting action. With over 630 clubs divided into 20 Centres, there are many opportunities available for interested parties, irrespective of age or ability.
- It sets the rules for the various aspects of the sport.
- It ensures fair play. It trains stewards, marshals and observers to ensure track safety.
- It sets, checks and revises safety standards, which ensure that motorcycle sport is an insurable commodity.
- It retains a body of medical advisors. It tracks the progress of national championships and contributes to the wider world of motorcycling that makes international competition happen.
- It is in constant contact with many Government departments to defend and develop the sport of Motorcycling.
- It remains independent from the many commercial pressures which inevitably shape and redirect our sport.
To race on big circuits your young rider will need to apply for an ACU License, which entails:
- Completion of application form
- Passing an eye sight test
- Verification and assessment of any medical conditions
- Participation and passing an ‘on track’ assessment
- Riders who are under 18 will require a “Parent consent form” completing as well
There is quite a lot of information to digest at this time as the rules at this level are more strict and the expectations on rider, team and parents are higher. We would recommend finding out more information on the ACU’s website.
This is a very exciting time, but it’s also quite tough as you need to decide what bike to ride and which club to ride with. The choice can sometimes be overwhelming so it’s always a good idea to start researching the different options available well in advance. Below is a short list of the main bikes and clubs your young rider can race with at age 12/13.
Clubs to join…
Aprilia RS125/Aprilia RV450r – Thundersport Club
Kawasaki 300 – BEMSEE Club
KTM390 – BSB KTM CUP
Any Production 125cc in their ‘Formula 125’ class – NG Racing
Typically in the UK you start racing on big circuits like Brands Hatch, Donington Park etc on a road-based production motorbike. They’re normally around 30-35 bhp and are designed to be a slow introduction to big circuits. Here the kids really hone their race-craft and bike skills, often riding against more experienced competitors.
Normally there are 8-10 rounds throughout the year at some very well-known and historic circuits across the UK. The race weekend normally consists of Friday Practice, Qualifying on Saturday and Races on Sunday. In terms of costs, you can expect to pay between £600 – £1000 per round.
Club racing is a great introduction for young riders as the club atmosphere is friendly and sociable with most riders and teams being prepared to help anyone in need. The clubs are also great at nurturing and recognising young talent coming through.
The ACU rank their licences to ensure riders have the right ability and experience for their chosen championship and class. As an extreme example it prevents a brand new racer jumping on a Superbike in BSB.
The ACU license order is…
- International FIM (normally awarded after 1 year riding on National license)
A new, young rider will start on a Novice Licence, but for them to progress he/she need to accumulate signatures from the club organiser after each completed race. Signatures are very important as they are used by the ACU as proof you have raced and reached a certain ability to award you the next license. To be promoted to Clubman License the rider just needs to completed 10 races and obtain 10 signatures. To be promoted to National License the rider must finish 10 races within 110% of the race winners finishing time. This shows that the rider is fast enough to be promoted to National License. When you upgrade to a ‘National License’ you can make the next step to a full on race bike and race in the BSB National Championship.
There is an alternative – European route for youngsters
Currently Spain is producing some of the best riders in the world and when you look at their national championship you can see why. Their RFME National Championship is endorsed by Dorna and is focused on youngsters and giving them maximum track time available. They allow riders as young as 10 years old too ride 80cc race bikes around GP circuits (like Valencia, Jerez, Catalunya)and finally all the bikes they ride to progress to World GP Moto3 are proper racing bikes (not production) keeping them on racing chassis’ such as Moto4 and Pre-Moto3 machines. In addition the grids are always full with about 30 + bikes and as its seen as the best route to GP, all of the best riders from Europe go there to compete.
This is an attractive option to take and keep your young rider on a GP chassis, but the costs are normally significantly higher than racing in the UK and sponsors are more difficult to secure due to lack of exposure in UK.
Welcome to the British Superbike Championship
So your youngster has their National Licence and is 13/14 years old with dreams of becoming a World Grand Prix Racer, what now?
Despite a lot of options at club level, the focus needs to be moving the young rider from a production bike onto a GP Chassis. Thankfully the choices are quite easy as the best option at 13/14 years old is to race a moto3 bike. Whilst there are options in the UK and Europe, there is a growing focus on young British riders at the moment and the opportunities are increasing in the UK. Therefore, whilst racing in Europe may still be the best (and most expensive) option, staying the UK could be a prudent decision.
If you stay in the UK, you only have two choices and both on them are in the British Superbike Championship:
- Honda Moto3 Standard Championship
- Hel Performance Motostar Moto3 Open Championship
The Honda Standard Class is an entry level class on Honda NSF250 Moto3’s in production trim. All bikes have to be equal, with a top horsepower limit of 43bhp. This puts the emphasis on rider and promotes close racing, which in turn develops rider race-craft. The success of this class has resulted in a large adoption across most European national championships and there is now a standard class championship in CEV (junior world championship). As these bikes are straight from the factory the running costs are low when compared to Open Class bikes at around £15,000 – £22,000 – which makes them attractive to run in “lad and dad” and independent teams alike.
The Open Championship is what it says on the tin, it’s open so you can have different chassis and engine manufacturers such as Honda and KTM. The bikes are tuned for maximum performance, so you see ex-world GP bikes on the grid and horsepower is anything between 48-57bhp. As these machines are faster they do need more TLC, so the running costs are much higher, in addition you go through more tyres and fuel so a seasons racing can cost as high as £45,000.
The BSB Championship is considered the premier National Championship worldwide and the most watched series around the world. There are 12 rounds throughout the year across the UK with one round in Assen, Holland. The championship is extremely professional and whilst it can be intimidating at 1st, you’ll quickly learn that the paddock is a mostly friendly place. Most riders stay in these classes for a few years until they are 15/16 years old as it acts as the perfect platform for a young rider to show their talent and impress the right people to make the next step to Jr World Championships and Redbull rookies. After all, in 2016 the champions of the Standard Class and the Open Class have both moved on to these championships on a truly world stage!