British Motor Sport and the Rise of the Garagisti

Mark Jenkins, Nick Henry, Tim Angus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter charts the chronological evolution of the UK’s ‘Motorsport Valley’ which today is recognised as a globally significant economic cluster, centred in the South and Midlands of the UK.

In this chapter we consider seven key periods in the rise of the Garagisti in the UK:

The beginnings of the cluster: 1920–1950. In which we describe the beginnings of the car clubs and hobbyist engineers who began to develop light, nimble race cars, using a bricolage of technologies and components, ideal for racing on closed circuits.

The birth of motorsport valley: 1951–1960. The evolution of specialist race car constructors, such as Cooper, Lotus and Lola. All of whom were selling their products to aspiring racers using technologies which focused on creating light, nimble and extremely fast racing cars.

The Garagisti take charge: 1961–1970. Led by Cooper and Lotus, the Garagisti develop the dominant designs in Formula 1 motor racing and force the great Enzo Ferrari to put the ox behind cart, something he had thus far refused to do!

Technological innovation: 1971–1990. The technology now builds on aerodynamic expertise from the UK aircraft industry to further extend the dominance of the Garagisti and to require the evolution of new expertise and facilities based around the use of the wind-tunnel. Further technology transfer from the aircraft sector and the development of ‘smart’ racing cars is led by the Garagisti.

The professionalisation of the Garagisti: 1991–2000. Exponential growth in the industry—fuelled by record audience numbers on TV, leads to the constructors growing and branching out into supercars and related businesses.

Globalisation and recognition: 2001–2010. Research into the size, scale and scope of the sector leads to growing evidence of its contribution to the UK economy and, perhaps more importantly, international recognition of the UK’s capabilities in high-performance engineering, technology transfer and continuous innovation.

Post financial crisis and the sustainability challenge: 2010–. Bounce-back from the global financial crisis and continued globalisation, accelerating technological and commercial change driven by the low carbon and environmental sustainability agenda.

We conclude with a summary of the evolutionary process that has allowed the development and sustained success of the cluster, and consider some of the future challenges and how the cluster may be able to adapt.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe History and Politics of Motor Racing
Subtitle of host publicationLives in the Fast Lane
EditorsD Sturm, Stephen Wragg, D Andrews
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9783031228254
ISBN (Print)9783031228247, 9783031228278
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2023

Publication series

NameGlobal Culture and Sport Series
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2662-3404
ISSN (Electronic)2662-3412


  • Motorsport Valley
  • Cluster
  • United Kingdom
  • Garagisti
  • Performance engineering
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Motorsport
  • Automotive
  • Innovation
  • Formula 1


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