UK's Motor Racing Industry

The UK's motor racing industry: How it all began

The motor racing industry has hundreds of thousands of followers all over the United Kingdom. This is by no means a new sport, as motor racing is deeply embedded in the British sports scene. It did not take long before the motor racing industry began to develop following the appearance of the first motorised vehicles in the 19th century.

The history of British motor racing begins with the creation of the Automobile Club of Great Britain. This institution was founded in August 1897 and was initially headquartered in Whitehall Court (London). The number of motor vehicles in operation all over the country kept growing at a very fast pace, which led the authorities to devise a legal framework that materialised in the Motor Car Act 1903. King Edward VII actively supported the creation of the Automobile Club, which soon became the leading authority in the British motor racing industry.

This is not to say that there wasn't an interest in motor racing before the establishment of the Automobile Club (currently known as the Royal Automobile Club). The seaside Sussex town of Bexhill-on-Sea is considered by many as the birthplace of British motor racing. Back in the late 1890s, the wealthy 8th Earl de la Warr worked tirelessly to promote motor racing as a new and exciting sport. Through the late 19th and early 20th century, the Earl worked closely with the Automobile Club of Great Britain in order to develop what would later become the country's first motor racing event. Wide avenues, spectator pits, and promenades were purpose built to accommodate motor racing in Bexhill, and soon the sport began to gain in popularity just as the Earl had intended.

Initially, most races consisted of speed trials, but this changed following the safety fears prompted by multiple accidents and near-misses. This is the case of the Tourist Trophy Race, one of the oldest and most challenging motor racing competitions. The first edition of this world-famous time trial event was organised by the Automobile Club in 1907, and it has always been characterised by its narrow and dangerous twists and turns. In fact, several fatal accidents have taken place over the years at this event.

Soon afterwards, the motor racing industry turned to less dangerous but not less exciting races, like the British Grand Prix. This renowned event was first held in Brooklands (Surrey) in 1926. By that time, the sport was already well-established in other parts of continental Europe, mainly in France and Spain, so it was only a matter of time until the motor racing fever reached the United Kingdom. In just a decade, the Grand Prix became the country's most anticipated motor racing event, although its growing popularity came to a halt with the onset of World War II. The Brooklands circuit had been badly damaged during the war, so event organisers looked for an alternative in Silverstone and Donnington Park. The layout of these circuits was substantially modified during the 1950s, and it was also at this time that the highly successful Formula One races were introduced into the British motor racing scene. Names like Cadwell Park, Brands Hatch, Castle Combe, and Anglesey became firmly entrenched in the motor racing panorama, and the rest is history. And by the way, Bexhill-on-Sea continues to be an important meeting point for motor racing enthusiasts, as annual moto gymkanas are held at this location.

Facts and figures in the British motor racing industry

So where is the British motor racing industry right now? No one doubts that this sector enjoys a privileged position in the international scene. According to the Motorsport Industry Association, the national motor racing industry is in fact in pole position with regards to revenues, number of spectators, and technology. The latest statistics have shown that there are at least 4,500 companies involved in this industry. It is estimated that all in all, the motor racing industry generates more than £6 billion a year in revenues, and a substantial part of it (more than 50 per cent) goes to the export market.

This sector is particularly strong in terms of its R&D potential, as this industry spends more on researching innovative formulas than any other sector in the UK, including pharmaceuticals and computing. But motor racing does not only benefit researchers and engineers, as the industry's success depends on the work of a wide range of professionals, which include marketing specialists, event organisers, public relations executives, sponsors, and many more. All in all, it is believed that the British motor racing industry provides more than 38,000 jobs.

In view of the figures state above, it is not surprising that the motor racing industry continues to receive support from top-level government officials, and at this point, nobody doubts about the industry's potential to become an important generator of economic growth.