Be prepared for all kinds of weather – it may sound obvious, but we can’t stress this enough. Some circuits are notorious for having their own microclimates so whatever is happening when you wake up and look out of the window will not be happening by the time you arrive and take your seat. Dress in layers and take a lightweight waterproof, a hat, a drink and some suncream.
Wear comfortable shoes – depending on your ticket and where you are able to park you may be walking some way to your seat. Once you get there, trips to the toilet, the merchandising stalls and the burger vans are going to have you walking many more miles. Be kind to yourself and wear comfortable, waterproof shoes. We have occasionally been known to adopt hiking boots if we know we’ll be on our feet for hours.
Plan your journey carefully, including parking arrangements – sometimes race tickets are not inclusive of parking so check beforehand if there’s an additional parking fee and how far the car park is from the grandstands. Roads or public transport might be much busier than usual, so allow plenty of extra time for your journey. (This counts double if you happen to be travelling to Snetterton, as anyone involved in British motorsport will ruefully confirm.)
Real men and women wear ear protection – earplugs are not for wusses, and only fools leave their ears unprotected. If you’re lucky enough to go to a Grand Prix or any event involving powerful open-wheel cars, you need proper ear protection in order to prevent yourself having a miserable time. The basic foam variety from the chemist are adequate but many people favour the headphone style, preferably as battered and sticker-adorned as possible, in hopes of suggesting that they actually work for a race team. This is really telling – you’ll never find an engineer or driver skimping on ear protection.
Get informed and stay that way – it can sometimes be surprisingly hard to work out what’s going on at race meetings and the trackside radio commentary is more often than not inaudible. At the very least, make sure you know what races are due to happen and when they will be run, by printing out a timetable from the event website if you can. Buy a programme or, even better, rent the trackside gadget that offers you access to live timing and audible commentary. Worth every penny.
At popular events, the good seats sell out quickly – so if you have an urge to sit at a particular corner of a classic racetrack, book nice and early. Plenty of others are experiencing the same impulse. As for which seats or grandstands are worth booking, and which give restricted views or involve long walks, there’s nothing better than asking experienced racegoers where they recommend – as well as finding out which locations they try to avoid.
Smaller events are considerably less formal than big ones – while you’ve got frankly no chance of talking your way into a Grand Prix paddock, many smaller events are much less formal and may have an open paddock policy where you can go behind the scenes and see what happens there. Find out beforehand if there are any times when the pitlane is accessible, as often happens for an hour or two at BTCC meetings, and make sure you take advantage of all possible opportunities such as driver autograph sessions. This is one reason why we recommend going to many different motorsport meetings rather than concentrating solely on the pricey and exclusive top flight.
Motorsport is dangerous – yes, really. You need to keep your wits about you when at the track and ensure you don’t become so preoccupied by the action that you put yourself in danger. This extends to an awareness of moving vehicles in the support areas as well as safe trackside behaviour. Always do as instructed by the marshals and certainly don’t cross into any dangerous areas such as those immediately behind safety fences or on emergency access roads. Anyone (such as a marshal or accredited photographer) who is allowed there knows the drill – and they realise that things can become highly dangerous in a fraction of a second. Be prepared and make sure that any youngsters with you understand the rules.
If you have special dietary requirements (or a limited budget), take your own food – racetrack fare is often of the fizzy drink plus burger and chips, bacon sarnie, ice-cream cone or deep-fried donut variety. Brilliant if that’s what takes your fancy, frustrating if not. While you often can get more sophisticated (and nutritious) stuff, it can be bloody expensive, and don’t for goodness sake rely on it. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, or have a condition like diabetes which means you must eat regularly, you’d be very well advised to take a packed lunch rather than relying on the food you need being available at the track.
Wear your battered old Brawn cap or Arrows shirt with pride – in the big-bucks world of football it’s this season’s shirt or nothing and fans are strictly segregated. Fortunately the exact reverse seems to operate in racing, where old-school items reek of credibility. They position you as a fan with a long and loyal history rather than a johnny-come-lately with the packing creases still in your shiny new top. Additionally, the atmosphere is entirely friendly and hassle-free, based as it is on people of all ages enjoying a shared interest. In other words, no-one’s going to start a fight with you for visibly liking Ferrari. Well, probably not…