The full story.
RacingLine’s story began in 1997, with the company originally formed as Volkswagen Motorsport UK Limited. The company was fully owned by the Volkswagen Group AG in Germany, set up to run the manufacturer’s factory motorsport programmes.
Back in those days, we concentrated on the British Rally Championship, with the occasional World Championship round thrown in. Firstly with the Golf 3 ‘Kit Car’, then superseded by the wonderful, wide-arched Golf 4 S2000 ‘Kit Car’ in 1999 which we ran in both petrol and diesel form.
The big step for the company came on January 1st, 2001. Sam Roach, himself an experienced racing driver, worked in a management position for Volkswagen UK at the time, and the offer to purchase and take over the full operation of the Volkswagen Motorsport UK Ltd company was made to him by Wolfsburg. This was the point at which we renamed to RacingLine Limited to continue operating the factory’s motorsport programme from our premises in Wellingborough, UK. The next chapter had begun.
For that first year, in 2001, the motorsport programme moved to the FIA’s new Super 1600 category. It was a challenging first year, to say the least. Running the Hannover-built Polo GTI with a tricky high-revving engine, the British Rally Championship was cancelled at the last minute due to the nationwide outbreak of ‘foot and mouth’ disease that saw a greatly reduced calendar of rallies for the team to take part in.
At the same time the team rebranded to the manufacturer’s new ‘Volkswagen Racing’ corporate identity, which we retain to this day.
Changes in British Rallying were afoot by then that moved the regulations away from the front wheel drive classes that we could compete in, towards ‘Group N’ 4wd cars.
Knowing Volkswagen didn’t have a car that could win under those regulations, we re-concentrated our efforts away from the forests and into circuit racing in the form of our Volkswagen Racing Cup Championship, still flourishing 15 years on. A memorable challenge back then involved developing TDI engines for motorsport to promote Volkswagen's push for diesel sales. We proudly took a world-first with that Golf TDI, claiming the world's first ever diesel-powered race win. Well before Audi and SEAT went on to achieve their respective TDI motorsport successes.
Back in those early days, the Events division started to become part of the RacingLine story. Mainly concentrated around our motorsport expertise and contacts, we ran corporate events at Le Mans with Bentley’s return to the famous 24 hour race, and numerous track exploitation events for our motorsport sponsors. Around this time, the decision was taken to relocate the whole business to Milton Keynes – centre of the UK's motorsport valley, and right next door to our biggest client, Volkswagen Group’s headquarters.
As our reputation for putting great motorsport events together grew, we found our clients asking for us to develop other events programmes for them; still automotive events, but now with no motorsport connection. Over the years, our events team grew, and our client list expanded. Fast forward to 2007, and the level of events work had expanded to a point at which it made sense for us to separate out that business into a new company, RacingLine Events Limited.
Today, ten years on, that company has grown into a thriving events agency in its own right, led by our Events Director Claire Williams. Our events work is varied - ranging from international vehicle launches, driving events, to manufacturer training, to conference and incentive work.
Back to the motorsport side. At the end of 2004 RacingLine took on another parallel manufacturer motorsport programme – operating the British Formula Ford championship on behalf of Ford Motorsport Europe. This was a single-seater motorsport championship with an incredible heritage. For 40 years, the series produced almost every household name in racing: Senna, Schumacher, Hill, Coulthard, Button to name just a very few. Some of our best memories from those years involved running the Formula Ford EuroCup, bringing Europe’s top drivers together for a series of international events.
Ever since the beginning of this story, RacingLine has been engaged in a programme of constant engineering development of high quality uprated motorsport parts for our own Volkswagen Group race & rally cars, plus our worldwide customers – with some great success. And it is from this unrivalled experience with Volkswagen Group, both through ‘works’ motorsport and via the relationships that we have nurtured directly with the OEMs over the years that led us to develop the RacingLine Performance Parts & Software range.
Of course, we started only with development of very single-minded motorsport parts for race teams. Gradually, the range grew to accommodate more and more parts of a crossover nature. Parts not just to upgrade cars for extreme motorsport use, but also to improve customers' enjoyment of their road car on track days or even fast road use. As we broadened the appeal and usage of our Performance Parts, so our sales grew. Gradually, our technical development and engineering focus began to migrate away from the pure race parts that could work on road cars, to road car parts that could also function on race cars.
As with our Events business a few years earlier, so the Performance Parts side reached the point at which it warranted becoming its own entity – and so in 2015 RacingLine Performance Limited was born, headed up by our Technical Director Matt Walker.
Today, RacingLine Performance has a network of partner Importers and Dealers in every country in the world where Volkswagen Group's performance models are sold and have become a household name for enthusiast owners. Recently, we have added a sideways expansion through the acquisition of MMR Performance, a dedicated performance brand for BMW and Mini. We're bringing on a full range of beautifully presented, high quality motorsport-proven upgrades for these owners across the world.
Finally, we go back to our motorsport. Our most recent presence in the sport has been our management and promotion of the FIA British Formula 4 Championship, the FIA’s international concept to form a ladder for young drivers aspiring to Formula One. This flourishing F4 series is one of only twelve authorised around the globe by the FIA.
As a sign of the prestigious nature of our series, three of our F4 graduates have made it to the Formula One grid. And without doubt, there are others rising up the single-seat ranks who will reach that same pinnacle. Developing stars of the future, for sure.
Over the years, we've even found time to claim a few World Records along the way -most recently RacingLine's MD Sam Roach was one of a team of 3 that entered the record books by covering the 18,000km from South Africa to the Northern cape of Norway non-stop in just over 9 days, using a Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI purpose built by the factory for the challenge.
The biggest change for RacingLine came in September 2020. The company joined the Euro Motorparts Group, based in California. Our position in this Group places RacingLine alongside EMPI, the original Volkswagen tuning and parts brand for air-cooled Beetles and buses, and 034Motorsports, another Californian company with an enviable reputation in the Audi tuning market.
Joining this Group has given RacingLine the resources and support to accelerate our growth, and fulfil our potential. More inventory, more development cars, more staff to keep on building our dreams.
It’s been quite a ride! Of course, none of this story could have happened without the RacingLine team of people. Many are still here with us, many have moved on to other things over the last twenty years. But even though we have very, very diverse activities and skill sets within our Group today, there’s nothing more important to us than finding the right sort of individuals, those who inherently live our RacingLine values.
The one thing that never changes is our mantra: "What any company can do satisfactorily, RacingLine will do exceptionally, right first time and be a pleasure to deal with". As true today as twenty years ago.
Thanks for reading our little piece of history!
RacingLine Events Ltd became a separate company back in 1997 as our coporate events business grew and grew. Today, we deliver hundreds of beautifully-crafted, one-off events each year for our wonderful clients.
Our Performance Parts and Software business was always merged into our motorsport programmes in the early days, for good reason. But with the continued growth around the world, in 2015 it became its own corporate entity to support these growth levels.