Living in St Andrews one may occasionally feel excluded from opportunities and possibilities offered by universities in larger cities. The absence of more than one club (I’m not sure if the Lizard even counts) and two grocery stores can make life here a little mundane.
However, there is one luxury that St Andrews does possess within its vicinity. It’s the Crail Raceway, located a mere bike ride away in the former WWII airfield in Crail.
The Crail Raceway offers the possibility for anyone with access to a car to test their abilities in either the quarter mile drag race or drifting around in a figure of eight-shaped area. Events are held on most weekends and the atmosphere is fantastic.
Last Sunday I visited the raceway and was greeted with a rather sturdy looking race control lady, who made me pay ten pounds to enter (without a car!) just to see the race.
However, if you do possess four wheels or even just two (motorbike), you can enter and race for the whole day for just 25 pounds.
Sunday saw a great selection of cars, ranging from a TVR Tuscan to a Noble M400, from old Ford Escort MkI to numerous Austin Minis, BMW M3s and the odd Caterham resembling kit-cars.
The contemporary spirit of racing was obvious from the start. Rivalries between cars and drivers heighted the event. The tyre-burning Escort MkI and the Caterham kit-car battled for numerous quarter races, the Austin Mini and Toyota Yaris raced each other to see which was the smallest fastest car and the M3s raced the more ostentatious tuned RX-7s and Supras.
The quarter drag race is by far the main event of the raceway which anyone can enter, whereas the eight-figure drifting is only visited by those with genuine talent for the art.
The figure of eight was almost exclusively all RWD cars, most of them Beemers, which were drifted rather graciously around the figure eight-shape, with only the occasional spin out. It was rather impressive.
My absolute favourite part of the event was the constant racing between the Escort MkI and the Caterham resembling kit-car. Before each race the Escort made absolute mincemeat of his rear-tyres by smoking them until half the crowd was blinded. The kit-car won most of the races, but that was it!
After each race they lined up again and raced again. There seemed to be no real battles or arguments about who had the fastest or loudest car. Everyone just wanted to race, sometimes just by themselves, and sometimes with their newly-made friends.
This brings me to the atmosphere of the event. Sundays at Crail possess the best mixture of the young-just-got-my-licence-and-now-taking-mom’s-car-racing and the mid-life crisis/old enthusiast with spare cash to spend on a racing car.
One would expect there to be groups where each member would meet and they would only race amongst each other, as it is with a lot of car events. The Audi members stick together and ignore all BMW drivers.
At Crail that does not happen – one parks their car anywhere and if they want to race, they simply line up. And it works so very well.
It’s also interesting for the spectators – we see variation between the races, for example the Escort changing to race with a Supra just because it wanted to.
The atmosphere at Crail is the reason to visit. The raceway there celebrates the thrill of racing and driving in general. There are no Ferraris or Aston Martins racing (not that I’m saying I would not like to see them, though). Most of the cars are ordinary Fords and Vauxhalls – albeit slightly tuned. In other words, everyday cars.
The raceway proves that these cars can be enjoyed and can be fun, they can be thrashed around a figure of eight-shaped oval and can be raced at a quarter mile drag strip.
The simplicity of the event is what makes it the most appealing. There is no elitism between the owners of the occasional TVR or Noble, rather they park right next to the old Vauxhall Astra and have no problem chatting about their cars.
One simply comes to race, have a great time in a fantastic location, meet new friends and have unrestrained fun in a safe, relaxed and vibrant environment. Isn’t that what the very essence of racing is?
More information at www.crailraceway.co.uk.