Motorsport in the UK

The UK leads the world in motor sport with a turnover of 9 billion GBP and more than 4,500 businesses operating in the sector.

The global home of motorsport

UK-based businesses act as major suppliers to teams competing in everything from NASCAR to Formula E to the China Touring Car Championship. Famously, 6 out of 10 Formula One racing teams have their headquarters in the UK.

Firms that supply motorsports operate throughout the UK. The largest concentration of motorsport firms are located in ‘Motorsport Valley®’, a world-renowned business cluster in the south east of England with Oxford at its centre. Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and founder of Monitor Deloitte, has described it as, “A mature economic business cluster, which is number one in the world…the jewel in the crown of British engineering.” In the 50 years since the modern Formula One era began in 1967, only 2 teams have won the Constructors Championship with a car designed outside the UK and one of those used a British engine.

The Formula One teams with headquarters here are:

  • Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
  • McLaren Honda in Woking, Surrey
  • Mercedes AMG Petronas in Brackley, Northamptonshire
  • Renault Sport in Enstone, Oxfordshire
  • Williams Martini Racing in Grove, Oxfordshire
  • Force India in Silverstone, Northamptonshire

Formula One research and development centres here are:

  • Haas in Banbury, Oxfordshire
  • Toro Rosso in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

From race to road

The UK has made more motorsport innovations in the last 60 years than any other country. Many have found their way onto road cars. These include:

  • 1950s, disc brakes produced by Jaguar
  • 1960s, 4 valves per cylinder engines produced by Cosworth
  • 1970s, ground-effect aerodynamics produced by Lotus
  • 1980s, composites produced by McLaren
  • 1990s, active chassis with traction control and driver aids produced by Williams
  • 2000s, Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems produced by Williams
Pioneering technology beyond Formula One

The UK provides a base for the new global electric racing series Formula E. It is a major supplier to IndyCar and NASCAR in the USA, the China Touring Car Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans series.

These racing series benefit from new technology developed by UK companies. Cosworth, based in Northampton, is a global leader in engine electronics and telemetry (and now supplies data logging and telemetry for the road-going Chevrolet Corvette). While Berkshire’s Xtrac is world-renowned for the design and manufacture of transmission systems.

UK motorsport companies are also going beyond racing into sectors such as energy storage, marine and defence. Williams Advanced Engineering has installed flywheel energy storage technology in two remote Scottish island communities. And Wildcat Automotive has transformed its Wildcat 500DKR off-road racer into a specialist military all-terrain vehicle.

Some are even going beyond physical engineering. McLaren has applied pit-stop techniques to reduce waiting times and increase operating theatre efficiency at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Our talent leads the way

The UK is home to 6 of the 10 Formula One motor racing teams. McLaren, Williams and Mercedes-Benz have all made the UK their Headquarters.

We have world-class universities. According to the QS World University Rankings, 4 of the world’s top 10 universities and 9 of the EU’s top 10 universities are in the UK.

We have leading engineering companies like Ricardo and world-class automotive research facilities thanks to the recently established Catapult network.

Support and incentives

The UK government is committed to the continued success of the UK car industry. It’s contributing over 1.2 billion GBP to automotive research funds, covering low carbon propulsion, lightweight materials plus connected and autonomous vehicles.

We’re also creating the right environment for new technology to thrive. Our regulatory framework for connected and autonomous vehicles is the most progressive in Europe. This enables car manufacturers and major component suppliers to develop and test their technology in the UK with the minimum of bureaucracy. Volvo has already committed to the UK as the only ‘neutral’ testing venue outside its own factory locations.

A supportive business environment, focused on the future

The UK benefits from a supportive business environment, offering the most competitive and flexible labour market in western Europe. Workers in the UK car industry add more value per car than anywhere else in Europe.

The UK government is implementing a long-term strategy focused on further developing the skills of its workforce. Working with the Automotive Council, it’s also looking to improve the competitiveness of the UK supply chain and support emerging technologies. This will create even more opportunities for companies investing in the UK.

The government also has up to 50 billion GBP available to support finance and insurance for supplies from within the UK to buyers outside the UK. This support takes the form of guarantees, insurance and loans issued by its export credit agency, UK Export Finance.