Inside Revolution: A message from David Richards CBE, Motorsport UK Chair

Monday 22 January 2024

Motorsport UK Chair David Richards CBE reflects on the way the governing body is changing and looks ahead to the challenges and opportunities for British motorsport in 2024

The role of Motorsport UK has changed dramatically in the last five years. When I came on board and our CEO Hugh Chambers joined us in 2018, we were very much a regulatory-focused governing body. We did a very competent job of supplying the regulatory framework for the sport, but we were missing the fundamental role of promoting motorsport in the UK.

From day one, that was our focus: how would we make Motorsport UK more of a proactive body that represented the sport, promoting it to a wider audience and with a strong
presence in government. I believe we have gone a long way to delivering that and last year saw a lot of elements coming together to steer the way forward.

The headcount on the regulatory side has remained similar but we have significantly expanded our commercial and marketing teams. We are running some British championships
ourselves now and actively promoting the sport – and because we have commercial partners, that part is self-funding, so we have vastly improved the promotion of the
sport at no cost to the licence holders.

We have changed the way we operate, from being a reactive organisation to one that is proactively looking to the future. I would like to think we are also a receptive and listening
organisation these days that responds positively to our members and is always open to discussing new ideas.

We have also changed the role of our Motorsport Council. We now have a Rules Committee that focuses on that area and the Council, which involves some of the most knowledgeable and experienced people in UK motorsport, has a more strategic remit, debating key topics and downloading that experience and information to help direct the future of the sport.

On the international stage, our influence has grown significantly. Five years ago, we were not represented on the FIA World Motor Sport Council, but I now sit on that
body and Hugh and I attend all the meetings. We also have representation on most of the FIA Commissions and, importantly, we are listened to and regarded as a benchmark
for other ASNs.

Over the last five years, we have put all these foundations in place and now is the time when you will start to see the benefits coming through and the development of those
ideas coming to fruition – things such as toolkits for Clubs to develop activities, and a new digital Blue Book, with a better coordinated set of rules for 2025 which will start to
be trialled on events this year.

Clubs are the beating heart

The fact remains that most people in Britain – with the exception of our licence holders – think that Formula 1 is the only form of motorsport that exists. However, while it was fantastic to see the British Grand Prix as high profile as ever this year – and to see two British drivers on the podium – it is the smaller grassroots events that really excite me.

It is great hearing about people taking part in their first event. I still remember the feeling I had on the first Rally I ever took part in, and I am sure newcomers to our sport
still experience the same excitement and enthusiasm as I did back then. There is huge scope for people to get involved and we are working hard to develop easy entry
points for newcomers.

The executive team, led by Hugh, attended many different events around the country last year and I particularly enjoyed the Sprint in Watergate Bay, where an electric car set
the fastest time. That really sets the marker for the future, and it was encouraging that we were able to create the technical and safety environment for it to happen.

I also found it inspiring at a Shenington Kart Club meeting to see an entire family involved in different aspects of the event. It just goes to show how motorsport enables people to share in a common interest. If your son or daughter plays football, you might stand on the side-line, whereas in motorsport you can play an active role in all areas of the organisation.

StreetCar Event

StreetCar is a great example of how we are making it easier to get involved. We have seen very high levels of enquiries and participation for these events, with applications for
our free grassroots RS Clubman licence at an all-time high. 2023 also saw more event permits being issued, while the number of demonstration events and Stage Rallies also rose

Training the community of support volunteers is important too, and the number of training permits issued in the last two years has soared. We, ourselves, have a robust
programme of seminars being carried out all around the country with an increasing number of people attending, particularly from a younger age group.

We have also set up a Club Development Fund to support new projects along with a range of Club Toolkits covering EDI, safeguarding and club management. Nine different
Clubs have attained our new Marketing Accreditation since they were introduced in June, and we have also seen strong participation in member webinars.

Clubs are starting to work more closely together, helped by the Regional Associations, and to this end, we have developed new Regional Association terms of reference to focus on supporting their clubs. A great example of collaboration was the inaugural ‘Motorsport Month Scotland’ which was supported by many different Clubs.

We will continue to help our members implement new ideas and share good practice and we are looking forward to taking StreetCar to the next level this year, with more promotion and more clubs onboard. Likewise, we will be further developing our Club Workshops and use Regional Associations to help clubs work better together.

Building the new generation

Our priority is firmly in developing grassroots and giving people opportunities to participate. At the same time, we have a rich heritage of extraordinary success in motorsport
across all different formulae, from F1 to Sports Car racing to Rallying, and it is beholden on us to show promising youngsters who come into the sport that there is a ladder of

Over the years, the Motorsport UK Academy has supported hundreds of young drivers including Lando Norris, Tom Ingram and Elfyn Evans. It is invaluable in helping youngsters to understand that motorsport is about more than just jumping in a car, providing insight on areas such as nutrition and fitness as well as the technical and promotional demands of the sport.

We have some excellent drivers and co-drivers in the Academy right now, and I am sure we will see the benefits in five-or-ten years’ time as many of them come through and move into elite motorsport. Providing this type of guidance is an increasingly important part of our role and we now are exploring how we expand this into the wider community, with accessible tools to allow all our members to hone their skills.

Since the setback of COVID, many Championships running under the Motorsport UK banner have had a bit of a recalibration but they have come back in a very robust form.
The British Touring Car Championship, for example, delivered bumper crowds and drama again last year and the British F4 Championship is firmly established as one of Europe’s top competitions.

The F4 Championship is now a major stepping stone for young drivers, replicating what we had in the old days when British Formula 3 was the place to go for aspiring drivers
around the world. I also think the seeds are now sown for a very strong future for karting in the UK, with a change to the structure creating a far clearer pathway for progression.

This year, we have the CIK Karting World Championship coming back to PFI, which will be a real focal point next September; whilst the British championship continues to go from strength to strength. I was astounded to discover last year that the British Indoor Kart Championships, under TeamSport, is now the biggest motorsport championship in
the world, with over 5,000 entries each year.

Jon Armstrong

Rallying, by contrast, presents a bit of a challenge – but one we are tackling head-on. We have pockets that are very strong – the Roger Albert Clark event, for example, is hugely
popular – but the cost of running events in forests is very expensive these days and we have seen more people moving to closed road or single venue events.

In the heyday of the British Rally Championship, the Scandinavians would come to the UK as that was where you got noticed and we had the best national championship in the world. Today, events are strong individually but we only have a modest number of entries competing on all the events, so we do not have continuity of participation across the whole Championship.

Rallying still has a very important part to play in the landscape of UK motorsport. We continue to push to get the World Rally Championship back to the UK and domestically we have seen strong events on closed public roads which are being embraced by local communities. The WRC faces similar challenges and, while I fear that all sport goes through
cycles of popularity, there are some underlying issues that we need to address, particularly where it comes to costs. When we address these, things will change for the better.

Growing through technology and data It is beholden on us, as the governing body, to embrace new ideas, look at them thoroughly and see how we can bring the good ones to fruition. We are very open minded and when it comes to technology, we are keen to be at the forefront on alternative power sources, from electrification and with the growth of sustainable fuels over the next few years.

Technology and innovation are enablers for many different areas of motorsport, whether that is the environment, safety, or communications. It is all moving forward very quickly
and to stay abreast of it we have recently employed experts in this field specifically to look at where we could use technology to help the sport move forward.

As an example, we recently concluded a carbon emissions analysis of the sport and we are now using that insight to work with our Committees on reduction programmes. We
also launched the Carbon Calculator, which enables Clubs to measure their own event emissions and explore ways to eliminate or reduce them and offset those that remain.

There are also game-changing opportunities when it comes to entertainment. Imagine, for example, going to spectate at a Rally and being able to see onboard footage from the
car that just went past you, and immediately getting the times from the end of the stage. That would transform the spectator experience and I believe we are very close to being
able to provide this.

New technology has also enabled greater research, and we have placed significant effort on evaluating how Club membership changes over time. A lot of people come into the
sport at a young age and then when they get married and have children other priorities take over. So, we lose a body of people at that age.

This is understandable, but we and our member Clubs have to make sure relationships are retained with these enthusiasts, so that when they have more disposable income and time in later life, they have an easy route to return.

We also have an ever-increasing focus on women in motorsport and there is now a growing number of role models helping to inspire the next generation. The F1 Academy Discover Your Drive Karting UK initiative, for example has seen more than a 200 per cent increase in female participation in the British Indoor Kart Championships. While FIA Girls on Track UK continues to flourish, with many new partners joining last year.

Participation does not just have to be in competition. It could be as an official, a marshal, and it’s our duty to make it embracing for all. To that end, we have also seen great
success with disabled drivers at Loughborough Car Club; secured two more years funding from Mission 44 for the very successful Race for Diversity project with under-represented communities; and delivered training and new policies on LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Much of the work we do is data-driven. We are very much an organisation that collects and responds to data – so I must apologise to any Clubs or individual licence members who
might think, ‘why are we asking all these questions’, but it is necessary if we are going to build an understanding of where we are today and where we want to be in the future.

Building momentum

We are now moving into a new phase of Motorsport UK’s development. In the early stage of my tenure, we established our plan to promote the sport more effectively especially at
grassroots level. In the last two years, we have been putting together the tools to do this and we are now building the momentum to use and evolve these tools, together with
Clubs, to help the sport grow.

One of the immediate tasks for 2024 will be the overhaul of our IT infrastructure as we move towards a digital world for licences, permits and clubs, with significant investment to ensure our digital platform is really fit for purpose going forward.

Securing motorsport venues is another priority, as this is a challenge that we increasingly face. Many historical venues are being lost to housing or becoming uneconomic, but
new opportunities are also opening up and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is helping us build a register of all its sites. We also encourage Clubs to cooperate more with each other
to share venues and create joint events.

I am always pleased to hear the many positive comments about Revolution Magazine and this year we will be expanding the reach still further to tell the story of UK motorsport to a wider audience through non-owned media. Motorsport UK TV was launched last year to great acclaim and will continue to grow this season with more and more content weekly, while our social channels are working harder and seeing increasing engagement.

Motorsport UK is now a far younger, more dynamic organisation than it once was and with a growing reputation, both internationally and inside the UK. When I talk to Clubs, I
am pleased to hear them acknowledge that we are changing, supporting them and being more reactive to their needs. However, we can always do better.

The measure of whether we are doing a good job is the success of the Clubs. We are only as good as the last inquiry we looked after, and we are well aware of that. We are not an
organisation that stands still, looking over our shoulder at what we have done and thinking that what happened in the past will continue to work in the future.

At Motorsport UK we realise we have to evolve, and evolve quickly, to ensure our sport remains relevant in a changing world. The team in Bicester have embraced this mantra
over the last five years and will continue to explore new technologies, new ways of communicating and new ways of operating to ensure that we support you, our members.

David Richards CBE
Chair, Motorsport UK