First formed in 1912 as The Cyclecar Club, today the British Automobile Racing Club organises races at almost every venue in Britain
The Cyclecar Club, grew quickly and organised events at Brooklands as well as rallies and touring trials on the open road. In 1919, following World War One, with cyclecars on the decline, the name was changed to The Junior Car Club (JJC). Club members owned light cars, which were defined as four seater’s weighing less than 15cwt., or two-seater’s weighing less than 13cwt. Both categories had an engine capacity limit of less than 1500cc (four stroke) or 1100cc (two stroke).
Membership grew quickly, a secretary and key staff were appointed in 1921, while regional centres were formed in the North, South West, Yorkshire and North Wales. In 1921 the JCC organised the first long-distance race in Britain. The 200 Mile Race at Brooklands was won by Henry Segrave’s in a Talbot-Darracq.
The “200” was run at Brooklands until 1928 and was the highlight of the JCC calendar. In 1932, a 1000 Mile Race, also organised at Brooklands, was won by Elsie Wisdom and Joan Richmond in a Riley. The JCC was one of the first clubs to allow women to compete against men.
Rallies were also organised, including The British Rally to the United States and Canada held in 1936 and 1939.
After the Second World War, the Junior Car Club was amalgamated with the Brooklands Automobile Racing Club but Brooklands as a racing venue was gone forever. The new home of the club, with its name changed in 1949 to The British Automobile Racing Club, was Goodwood circuit on the outskirts of Chichester in West Sussex.
The BARC was involved at the reopening of Crystal Palace in 1953 and the opening of Aintree the following year. Indeed, when the British Grand Prix was run at Aintree in 1955, 57, 59, 61 *and *62 the BARC was the organiser. The 1955 race witnessed Stirling Moss’ first ever World Championship Grand Prix win.
Goodwood was the venue of many important BARC promotions, with at least one International fixture each year until the circuit was closed on public safety grounds in 1966. Easter Monday Internationals often featured a Formula 1 race. In 1952, 1953 and 1955 a nine-hour sports car race was run, the first after-dark racing ever organised in Britain.
Goodwood’s closure was serious; the BARC had no “home”. The 1967 Easter Monday International was switched temporarily to Silverstone, while its new circuit, Thruxton, was transformed from a bleak wartime airfield into a permanent motor racing facility.
Since its opening in 1968 the Hampshire circuit has developed into one of the major circuits in the country and since 1974, the BARC Headquarters have been at the track. Major meetings held each year have included the Easter Monday Formula 2 race, while there were also major races for the British Formula 1 Championship and saloon car championships.
Recently, the BARC has been instrumental in introducing several important new formulae. Formula Vauxhall Lotus in 1988, Formula Renault in 1989, and Formula BMW in 2004. There is a similar story with Saloon cars, including the Renault Clio Championship and the SEAT Championship.
The club currently has six active centres throughout the country, based in the South East, Midlands, North West, South West, Yorkshire and Wales plus a centre in Ontario, Canada. The BARC operates three UK circuits at Thruxton in Hampshire, Pembrey in Dyfed, Croft in North Yorkshire along with two hillclimb venues at Gurston Down near Salisbury and Harewood Hill near Leeds.
On the social side, the BARC organised its first Beaujolias Challenge in 1981. This very popular fun motoring event, which ran every year up to 1997, started at Lacenas in France on dates which coincided with the annual release of the Beaujolais Nouveau and raised a considerable amount of money for charity.
Yet another milestone in the Club’s history came in 1990, when BARC signed a 50 year lease on Pembrey Circuit in South Wales.. During the following two years race administration buildings and a restaurant were erected and 1992 saw the first visit of British Formula 3 and British Touring Car Championships to the circuit.
In June 1993, following an idea from BARC Council member Ian Bax, a hillclimb event called the Festival of Speed for cars and motorcycles of different eras, was held at Goodwood House, the home of the BARC president, The Earl of March. The following year the Goodwood Festival of Speed celebrated 100 years of motorsport. The now annual event has grown into what is described by the press as the premier event in the Historic motorsport world calendar. Cars are flown in from around the world to be driven by stars such as Moss, Surtees, Gonzales and current Grand Prix and GT drivers.
August 1995 saw the Club organising the BBC Top Gear World Electric Challenge featuring a round of the FIA Electro-Solar Cup 1995 – the first ever race meeting for electrically-powered vehicles run under FIA rules in the UK.
In July 1995 at Donington, the BARC organised the first ever UK round of the FIA International Touring Car series. With the main race organisers in Germany and support races coming from Italy (Maserati) and France (Eurocup Renault Clio) this was a truly international event that called for immense planning and organisation.
The BARC are responsible for organising some of the highest International race meetings in Europe and have one of the best worldwide reputations for race meeting organisation and promotion. The complete success of these, plus other races organised by BARC is well documented by the media.
Following the death of Ian Taylor, the BARC purchased the Ian Taylor Motor Racing School in 1998 (now trading as Thruxton Motorsport Centre) and have developed this school into a first class driving experience centre, offering drives in both exciting and exotic machinery such as Formula Renault Single seat racing cars and Ferrari and Lamborghini super cars. A purpose-built Kart centre and Four-Wheel-Drive facility have also been added to the Thruxton Motorsport Centre’s portfolio.
In 2005 the BARC were also able to purchase the TOCA Company who operate the British Touring Car Championship, thereby adding another prestige Championship to its portfolio. During late 2006, the company invested in the purchase of Croft PromoSport Ltd, previously owned by the Croft Estate in the North of England, and has therefore taken over all motor sport activities at the Croft circuit near Darlington.
For 2015 and beyond, The BARC was awarded the organising rights to the MSA British Rallycross Championship and the prestigious end of season British Rallycross GP and at the same time a state-of-the-art purpose built skid-pan was opened at Thruxton, complimenting the other great driving experiences already on offer.
The BARC is awarded the organising rights to the British round of the World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill in 2016 and the Mighty Minis join.
In 2017 the BARC continues to spread it's wings. Four championships join; Two brand new, the Renault UK Clio Cup Junior Championship and the UKV8s. The others, joining the Classic Saloon Car Championships is the Honda V-Tec Challenge and the Smart 4Two Cup. The BARC is also awarded the managing of the prestigious FiA World Endurance Championship at it's UK round at Silverstone in April.
All of these investments hold great promise for the BARC, broadening the geographical and operational spread of our existing activities and further enhances the club’s standing within the motor-racing industry. The BARC will forever continue in its aim to be the best!