What is a Clubman?
The term 'clubman' can trace it origins to a period in the late 1920s / early 1930s when groups of men formed gentlemen's clubs. Relieved to be free from the physical and physiological impacts of WWI, many got together to enjoy their leisure time in the interest of the spirit of competition. Whether it was socialising, cycling, running, football or motor racing, most of these active club members were likeable and approachable characters who valued the importance of group activities. Club-level participation was a type of therapy if nothing else, a way to escape the horrors of the past whilst having jolly good fun.
Some early football clubs awarded a Clubman Award to the player that wasn't the best player or top goal scorer, but turned up to training/games the most and didn't moan about not playing. Many aspired to win the Clubman Award, as winning it guaranteed you a place on the squad and all-important respect from your peers.
A clubman is not a professional, nor does he focus solely on winning or take things too seriously. What concerns him long term is the means and the ability to compete, his club and his team mates.
One definition of "Clubman" is that of an amateur enthusiast, someone willing to partake in his sport without necessarily being a winner or serious contender, for the love of the sport. The founder of the Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin said: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part: the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."
Introduced on the Isle of Man in 1947, the Clubmans TT motorcycle races were to many, something very special. They offered an opportunity for the up-and-coming amateur on board road-based machines to try his hand at what is normally the reserve of the factory riders. Due to various reasons, (a future story in its own right and the subject of a brilliant book by Fred Pidcock and Bill Snelling) the races were stopped in 1956.
In car racing, purpose-built Clubmans cars evolved from categories of the long-established 750 Motor Club's entry-level formula. It was originally intended as a low cost form of racing for lightweight, front-engined road-going sports cars such as the iconic Lotus 7, Chevron B1 and Mallock U2 of the mid fifties, giving way to the development of mid-engined racing cars such as the Lotus 23 and Cooper-Climax. Popular in hillclimbing, the formula still exists and has been well-supported in Scandinavia since the 1980s. Again, expect future stories on these handsome and beautifully made cars.
The other main use of the term 'clubman' is for club-level competition licences. The two main organisations that currently issue competition licences in the UK are the Motor Sports Association (MSA) for car drivers and the Auto-Cycle Union (ACU), for motorcycle riders. Both offer entry-level novice licences that allow inexperienced competitors to go racing, whether it be road racing on track, sprints, hillclimbing or another non-tarmac event. For car drivers, a club membership card is often enough to permit entry to some motorsport events, others require at least a MSA National B or Clubman licence. It differs depending on your chosen discipline. In motorcycle road racing, an ACU Clubman licence is only issued once ten signatures are obtained on your Novice Race Card. Each signature signifies that the competitor has demonstrated a level of competence, and of course, finished the race.