Five years. That’s at least how long it will take for one of British motorsport’s most influential organisations to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) runs more than 30 of the UK’s best racing series, including the British Touring Car Championship. It also operates three permanent circuits – Thruxton in Hampshire, Pembrey in Wales, Croft in Yorkshire – and the Gurston Down and Harewood hillclimbs. Track days, driving experiences and race meetings all feed into what was a thriving business – until the shutters came down in March.

The BARC offers a sobering snapshot of the devastation wrought by Covid-19. But it’s also a beacon of how an industry brought to a standstill can come together to find a way not only to survive, but also thrive – at least one day. As for us all, there are hard miles ahead for British motorsport in the years to come.

Venues take the brunt

Ben Taylor, former boss of Motorsport UK’s commercial arm, took over as chief executive of the BARC 18 months ago. He’s led the group through the crisis while plotting its revival.

“We’ve borrowed a lot of money from the government to stay in business, but it’s at a level that ensures the future,” he says. “The profit we made in 2019 will be the amount we need for each of the next five years to pay the loan back. So in effect we’re committing ourselves to being a break-even business for the next five years – which means we’ll find it increasingly difficult to invest. It’s not just the racing club, it’s the venues. They all need constant management and maintenance. At the start of this year we were talking about how we raise the finance to make substantial investments in our facilities, but we’ve spent that money on staying alive. It’s put us back five years.”

3 Ben taylor