Types of UK Motor Sport

Types of UK Motor SportThere are various motor sport disciplines recognised by the Motor Sport Association (MSA), the UK's governing body for the sport. Many disciplines, such as circuit racing and rallying, are diverse with a range of vehicle makes and types. Others are highly specialised that require specific skills and feature distinct circuits.

Car Racing

Car or circuit racing is the most well-known motor sport discipline, in large part due to the popularity of Formula 1 racing. Car races feature a variety of types and makes of car, which are often modified for speed. Competitions may be based on the type or make of car, as well as regions or individual circuits. According to the MSA, there are over 200 race meetings at 17 circuits throughout the British Isles each year.


Rallying is one of the most popular motor sport disciplines in the UK. Almost any car can be used for rallying, which involves a driver and a co-driver or navigator. Special stage rallying involves specialised cars and car preparation and focuses on speed and driver ability, while road rallying generally features simple road events with unmodified and everyday cars. Cars are typically run at one-minute intervals rather than a mass start used for car or circuit racing. Participants compete against the clock rather than each other in rally competitions.


Karting is often a stepping point for racing drivers, with legends including Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher starting their careers as kart racers. Karting attracts young and aspiring racers. It involves various classes, often depending on abilities. Two basic categories include karts with direct drive racing on short circuits and karts with gearboxes racing on long or short circuits.


Trials are the oldest form of motor sport and influenced the development of other disciplines such as rallies, hill climbs, sprints and autotests. Trials involve vehicles climbing gradients of varying difficulty. Competitors do not compete against the clock, but rather try to complete obstacles in each section. The winner is the participant that covers the longest distance without stopping. Generally organised on off-road circuits, trials are classified depending on skill and vehicle type. Car trials feature standard road cars while sporting trials involve cars that are built for off-road trials. Classic trials have tougher sections and cars are generally modified as a result.

Cross Country

Cross Country events features difficult circuits across harsh terrains. Events range from competitive safaris and team recovery competitions to hill rallies and trials. The common thread between these events is the difficult terrain and specialist vehicles, often with four-wheel drive, used for the competition. Certain events, including competitive safaris and hill rallies, are run against the clock. These events also demand skilled driving and vehicle preparation, similar to special stage rallies.


Rallycross combines head-to-head competition that is the trademark of circuit racing with challenging surfaces found in rallying. Competition circuits often feature a mix of surfaced and off-road sections. Depending on the length of the circuit, events include six to ten cars that compete against each other and the clock. Qualifying heats are used to narrow down the number of cars for the final race. The main types of cars range from entry-level hatch and minicross vehicles to modified two-wheel drive cars and top class Supercars.


Autocross features cars that typically compete individually against the clock on a circuit, although in some cases more than one vehicle may depart together depending on the circuit. Unlike rallycross, autocross events are run on temporary circuits with a grass surface. Events generally involve everyday vehicles, although they are slightly modified to meet safety requirements. Certain events may also involve cars that are specially designed for autocross.


Autotests test driving precision and ability rather than speed. One of the more affordable motor sport disciplines, cars compete individually and against the clock. Drivers manoeuver around a set route between obstacles, which are typically plastic pylons or cones. Typically, the route includes sections where participants must drive in reverse. Spin turns and handbrake turns are also common. Events are generally staged on smooth surfaces, such as tarmac, and are classified depending on the size or technical specifications of the vehicles.

Hill Climbs and Sprints

Hill climbs and sprints are staged on smooth surfaces over a specific distance. They are also run against the clock and cars typically start separately. Hill climbs and sprints differ in that sprints take place on flat surfaces while hill climbs are organised on courses with varying gradients. Events are classified depending on the type of vehicle and engine capacity.

Drag Racing

Drag racing is extreme sprinting with an emphasis on maximum speed. Races are straight-line contests involving two vehicles quickly accelerating over a specific distance. Traditionally, races are run on a quarter-mile route. Competitors qualify against the clock with the loser of each round being eliminated until a single winner remains. Events generally feature highly specialised vehicles, although everyday cars and sports cars are used. The fastest drag racing cars are capable of reaching 300 miles per hour.