What a year. Where do we even start? The beginning, I suppose, would make sense. We first heard about Motorsport Vision Racing's (or MSVR for short) new EnduroKA series at the inaugural MotorsportDays LIVE event at Silverstone in November last year. Naturally, seeing a Ford KA being assembled by a race team amongst Caterhams, Radicals and more exotic machinery piqued our interest, so we got chatting.
As the largest circuit owner not just in the UK but in Europe, MSV needs little introduction. It already organises and hosts a raft of racing series from MSVT Trackday Trophy to British Touring Cars, so has considerable experience in motorsport. And these aren't just any circuits; they're some of the best in the country, including Donington Park, Snetterton and Brands Hatch. But EnduroKA is its first attempt at a larger entry-level team sport. We love a group outing at PH, whether it's a road trip to Wales or our little summer holiday to Le Mans each year, so it seemed the perfect fit.
EnduroKA is also one of the most affordable ways of going circuit racing and getting a serious amount of track time in the process. Let's face it, though - circuit racing is never going to be cheap. There are plenty of grass-roots motorsport disciplines you can compete in for a round of beer, but to compete on track for a year you'll be deep into four figures - and that's after you've got your race licence and FIA-compliant racewear. The added benefit of competing as a team is that you can split the costs, which makes it considerably more affordable.
The challenge of building the car on a driveway with nothing more than a set of axle stands and some basic tools was hugely appealing for us (or at least Olly and I), too. Which, it turned out, we had to complete in just four weekends, due to the length of time it took to find the right base car. If building the car isn't for you, then have a chat with Moores Motors who've built nine cars this year and can do it for you, or you might be lucky enough to pick one up that has raced this year, but they don't hang around for long.
Teams ranged from two to six depending on the length of race. Most races this year required a minimum of three pit stops, which allowed up to four drivers, whereas the 12-hour race at Snetterton allowed up to six. We had five drivers on our team, made up of yours truly, Pete, Matt, Sam and our ringer from Caterham, Olly. Dan Collett, better known as Geeks around here, stepped up to help manage us for the year. As a team sport, it only made sense to have a few words from each of them on thrills and spills of 2019 in a racing KA...
"When I agreed to help out Team PH this season, I hadn't even considered that we would do as well as we did. Especially so as the driving squad had been described by Ben as "One guy who is very handy but not raced in a while, two complete novices and Sam"; I might be paraphrasing, but from the first session at Donington it was clear we had a great team.
"At times I asked the impossible from them - sorry Pete, for Cadwell in particular - but they enthusiastically went for it at every meeting. It seems my role as Team Manager has rather suited me, from screaming at them during pits stops to analysing driving stints. The inaugural EnduroKA season has been a blast - I'm looking forward to the top step of the podium in 2020, so no pressure lads..."
"While the build may have seemed rushed - and completed on my driveway! - we've been really thorough in checking the car over all year, and it's paid dividends - we still have a racecar in one piece...
"Keeping the car healthy has been a simple case of servicing, changing fluids, checking brakes and suspension. It's really needed nothing more. Finding the right car at the start helped massively; where others had overheating issues and gearbox failure, we made it through the year without any major mechanical failures!
"I'm proud that we've proven that you can get on the podium using nothing more than your driveway and some standard tools, especially so given the limited range of chassis mods possible too - maybe we're alright at this! That the car was driven to and from one or two events made it all the more enjoyable."
"After an hour into my first stint at the 12 Heures du Norfolk, it became clear that endurance racing was very, very different to what I was used to. I was feeling physically and mentally exhausted from leading for 40 laps, and the sight of 'SC' on a white board was welcome relief.
"After years of sprint racing with only myself to look out for, now there was a new level of discipline to learn. I had a responsibility to look after our KA, to give my team a car that would last the 11-hour race distance after me - to not lose concentration and let everyone down, basically.
"I am considering racing options for 2020, but racing by myself again would seem a bit lonely in truth. I loved having not only teammates but friends around me, sharing in the thrills and disappointments of a season. The endurance bug has bitten this old racer - all I want for Christmas is another year of EnduroKA."
"What a year. There were so many fantastic moments on track for me and, yes, one very gravelly low point. But the greatest feeling of 2019 came from the experience of racing in a team with my mates, in a series featuring such a great variety of people. Drivers and team members came from all walks of life and experience levels (how many categories can claim to feature everything from novices to Le Mans winners?), yet the camaraderie between rivals remained excellent.
"Bumpers were borrowed, beams were straightened and advice was passed on; this was a series as much about grid-wide teamwork as it was fierce competition. Sure, we banged wheels and scuffed panels on track, but the smiles around the podium at the year's closing event confirmed it was all in good faith. Best of all, new and lasting friendships have been forged. Let's hope they remain so after turn one of 2020's first race..."
"Regrettably, I've not competed very much in the KA this year, but that hasn't stopped the involvement I have had being superb fun. While that Snetterton 12-hour podium remains a highlight, the fondest memories, and the best way to endorse EnduroKA, are from the achievements as a team. Which sounds trite, of course, but motorsport with your mates is so much more fulfilling than individual endeavours - it's just impossible to know by how much until you finally take part.
"While my team contribution was always modest - blame a dearth of mechanical knowledge, and fairly average driving ability - it always felt, from gaffa taping wings to one more unscathed overtake to buying bacon rolls, that I was contributing to something bigger, something more worthwhile than individual ambition. Because we were Team bloody PistonHeads. And that felt - it still does feel - absolutely brilliant, so I can't wait for more in 2020."
Final cost for the year? Our spreadsheet tells us £17,037, excluding personal costs such as race licence, racewear and personal travel. So that does mean everything else, from buying the car, insuring and taxing it, building it, race entry fees, running, breaking and fixing it.
It could have been done cheaper, but not significantly so without compromise. Or in other words for our team of five drivers, £3,407 each. Given that we each had almost an entire sprint season's worth of track time at the 12 hours of Snetterton alone, that looks like an absolute bargain. Anyone interested in obtaining the full spreadsheet, just drop me a PM. If you're new to racing, you'll be looking at around £1,500 to get everything: to take your ARDS test and get a race licence for the year, then to buy FIA-compliant racewear of helmet, suit, fireproof balaclava, gloves and boots.
As far as next year goes, we've still got our car and it is - somewhat amazingly - still in one piece. The going rate for a race ready car seems to be around £6,000, so we could sell it -?or we could come back for a second year and shake things up a bit with the team. Do we have any willing PHers who want to come racing with us? Let us know in the comments.
Until then, we'd like to say a huge thanks to our sponsors Burton Power, Motorsport Tools, 1st Tickets and Sevens & Classics for their support throughout the year. And an even bigger thanks to Stuart, Sophie and the whole team at MSVR for putting on what has been a sensational season of motorsport.