Inside Revolution: Club Demonstrations

Thursday 23 February 2023

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In recent years, the sound of Group B Rally cars has been heard rumbling on Special Stages for the first time in decades and fields of classic Karts have returned to the UK’s biggest circuits. Meanwhile, passionate AutoSOLO, Off-Road and Sprint drivers have got behind the wheel to showcase motorsport to eager audiences all around the country.

All of this has been possible thanks to the wide-ranging – and often unrecognised – permit for Demonstration events. It allows clubs to run events with cars that otherwise could not be driven under modern regulations and to participate in local shows that are unable to host a full-blown competitive event.

“Demonstrations are about promoting the sport, promoting clubs, getting new members, and putting on events that would otherwise not be able to happen under normal regulations,” explains Simon Fowler, Motorsport UK Competitions and Clubs Manager. “They give clubs extra opportunities, but many don’t even realise they exist.”

Demonstrations are specifically non-competitive and nontimed events. They must be set up to the same Motorsport UK safety regulations as competitive events and all entrants must hold competition licences. In return, the permits include insurance to protect competitors, marshals and organisers and enable events to run safely.

“Almost any discipline can be run as a Demonstration,” adds Fowler. “Last year, we had more than 50 Demonstration classed events, including an Autotest at the Farnborough Motor Show that drew in the crowds and a stand-alone two-day Stage Rally demonstration that attracted thousands of people.

“Many club motorsport events happen on closed sites where there is little or no access to go and watch, so people have no idea that events are taking place. With Stage Rallying, for example, some people don’t even know what it is, so these kinds of events are fantastic to make people more aware of motorsport in general and what is going on in their region.”

Two years ago, Farnborough District Motor Club (FDMC) was invited to participate in one of the region’s major events, the Farnborough Motor Show. Working with the organiser, they developed the concept of running a small AutoSOLO in the main arena, and it immediately proved to be a popular attraction.

“Our aim is to make people aware they can use road-going cars in motorsport, that it’s not expensive and that it exists in the local area,” says club Competitions Secretary Simon Taylor. “The arena is much smaller than the area we have for a real event, so our pitch is ‘if you like what you see, come to a real event and if you like it join up and join in.’

“We design the course to bring the cars into the centre and that allows them to do a dramatic turn, go sideways or, if they are front wheel drive, perform very skilful moves. We also offer passenger rides, where people can make a contribution to a charity and experience it. We probably do about 50 rides in an hour.”

The club pays a permit fee for the event but is not charged by the venue, because they are adding a display performance to the headline show. Equally, many club members get involved because they can use it for three days of free practice, and those who are good at speaking to the public particularly encouraged to go along, to help promote the club.

To spread the opportunity, FDMC invites other local clubs to join the event and members from Basingstoke, Southsea and Oxford all attended last year. Each club is encouraged to put up banners around the arena, give out flyers and chat with the public, with the aim of encouraging people to get involved in motorsport, wherever they live.

“The crowd really enjoys it but when we speak to some of them, the number one reason they say they can’t get involved is ‘oh, I don’t live locally’,” explains Taylor. “So, having different clubs there shows that they don’t need to live locally. Motorsport is all over the country and we can help them find their local motor club.”

Herts County Auto and Aero Club, which is also part of the wider Anglia Motorsport group, have also run a demonstration at the request of an external event organiser. The club regularly holds events at Debden Airfield, next to Carver Barracks, and last year the MOD asked them to create some entertainment at the end of a major regimental exercise.

“We suggested instead of just displaying some cars we could put on some rides,” explains Pete Walters, who runs the club’s sprint events. “One of the other Anglia Motorsport clubs marked out a Targa course so people could have a go as navigators and someone else brought some large scale model radio control tanks, which were entertaining!

“We collected 60 signatures to go on different rides and afterwards we got a letter from the Staff Sargent thanking us and saying we must do it more often in the future and build on, what he termed, an ‘already strong relationship.’ I also got a regimental Christmas card from the Commanding Officer of the site, thanking us for doing the event.”

Clubs should not just sit and wait for an inbound request, however, as Buchan Off Road Drivers Club has shown. Four years ago, they approached the local Royal Deeside Speed Festival and asked to run a Demonstration event. They have been involved in similar events – most recently the Royal Deeside Motor Show – ever since.

The pitch was simple: the show gets an additional attraction, and the club gets valuable promotion. Clerk of the Course Alistair Tong explains: “At the end of the day, we are offering them something for nothing, so going and saying ‘we’d like to do a bit of demonstration for you’ becomes an attraction.

“In the past, we ran a ‘Safari Experience’ up a trail and into the woods and it gave people a fantastic experience. Last year, we worked with the landowner of a field right next to the venue to section off a flat area and make a rocky road. We had static vehicles at the show and sent people across to passenger rides run under a Certificate of Exemption permit.

“There are various other fairs and shows around Aberdeenshire that we also go to. At the Steam and Vintage Rally, for example, we put on a static display then go into the show ring and do a winching Demonstration where, in a very controlled and risk assessed manner, we find the tipping point of a Land Rover. They are delighted and it’s great to watch!

“We also got a fantastic amount of coverage from the Press and Journal, the local press, at our last event. They came along and did a full centre page spread on what we were about in the run up and afterwards we got spoken about too, which was fantastic. We did really well after it and that was a huge benefit to the club.”

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