What’s the most underrated motorsports series?
© Fun Cup
In this week’s Big Question, we seek out the racing championships that deserve some more love.
Which motorsport series is the most underrated? It’s a question with a million answers depending on your persuasion, especially with a wide and varied motorsports spectrum that takes in everything from traditional circuit racing and rallying to more obscure spectacles like motorcycle trials and tractor pulling.
We asked four racing drivers, all of whom are still competing (not in tractor pulling though), for their thoughts.
Touring car legend and current European Le Mans Series racer
The Fun Cup. It’s a one-make series for spaceframe single-seater chassis with Volkswagen Beetle bodywork and 1.6-litre Golf engines. Races are four to six hours long so each car has three or four drivers. This allows the costs to be split and the series as a whole provides excellent value for money.
I’ve done a few races last year and this, and the endurance element actually made it decent preparation for when I had a last-minute call-up to race an LMP3 car in the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone recently. There are some damn good drivers dipping in and out of the series too, like Phil Keen and Oliver Bryant, who have both been impressive in the ELMS and Blancpain over the past couple of years.
There’s even a taxi class where you can take a passenger.
The pièce de résistance is the Spa 25 Hours, which is held annually and has something like 300 cars. They allow Fun Cup cars from across Europe to contest that race, so you get different classes of car – the Belgian series, for example, runs with different aero and a more powerful engine than the British – and there’s even a taxi class where you can take a passenger. As the name says, it’s great fun too.
Factory Audi sportscar driver, LMP2 driver in the FIA World Endurance Championship
It’s a tough question. It used to be pretty easy to turn up at a circuit, see a championship and think ‘Wow, the racing’s great. How have I never seen this before?’ But now it doesn’t happen so much. Because it’s relatively easy to go online and get the results of V8 Supercars, or see a live stream of a Super Formula race, it’s hard to think of any series as underrated.
The Blancpain Endurance Series used to be, but the promotion of GT3 racing has got so much better over the past three or four years that everyone knows about it now and it’s full of top drivers.
Not many people realise that the ADAC GT Masters is the best national GT series in the world.
Perhaps one that’s still a bit unknown is ADAC GT Masters – the German GT championship, in other words. It’s popular in Germany, but outside of their borders, not many people realise it’s the best national GT series in the world. Laurens Vanthoor, Markus Winkelhock, Marc Basseng, Guy Smith and Christian Engelhart are just a few of the big names from GT racing in there. I’d like to give it a go myself one day.
Fifth Gear presenter, Le Mans podium finisher and ex-F1 racer
I’d like tell all the kids out there who spend £50,000 a season on karting and who moan that they can’t afford £100,000 to do Formula 4 that there is an alternative. It’s called Formula Vee and it’s a series for cheap, lightweight single-seaters powered by VW Beetle engines.
If you can win the Formula Vee title, I’m sure you could go and run strongly at a higher level.
It used to be the staple for youngsters with single-seater ambitions in Germany and Scandinavia in the 1970s and 1980s, but there has been a thriving series in Britain, run by the 750 Motor Club, for a long time. You can buy a car and run it for a full season for a lot less than £30k. The racing is close and there are guys competing who have done Vees for years, so a teenager would be learning against drivers with good racecraft.
If you can win the Formula Vee title, I’m sure you could go and run strongly at a higher level. Just look at Ash Sutton; he started his career in Vees in 2010, won the Clio Cup last year and has already had a BTCC pole position in his rookie season.
Factory Aston Martin FIA WEC racer, Le Mans and Sebring class winner
I regret not taking the plunge into the VLN earlier.
I had dinner with Anthony Davidson a few nights after my last VLN race and he was telling me how he’d love to do some events in the future. He’s not the first one to say that. It made me regret not taking the plunge earlier. 200 cars, from the top-class GT3 machines like the Aston Martin Vantage I race to Porsche Carrera Cup cars, slower saloons and even an Opel Manta from the mid-1980s.
Since GT3 became so popular and manufacturers have begun to take the Nürburgring 24 Hours very seriously, the VLN has become a way of professional drivers learning the Nordschleife ahead of the big race. Events are four or six hours and the most you’ll ever have clear track for is about a kilometre. It’s the most demanding circuit I’ve ever raced at and it gets no easier with experience, but I just can’t stop myself going back. I’d recommend it to anyone.