The first step to take is to join a club. You should join at least one club in your part of the country, which takes an active interest in Sprinting. That club will organise its own events and also will receive invitations to events in the locality organised by other clubs. This will provide you with a wide selection of events in which you can take part without having to travel too far. Look at the events page for organising clubs.
You will also need a Competition Licence, issued by the Motor Sports Association, UK Motor Sport's regulatory body, to enable you to take part in Sprinting. You can apply for the minimum licence required (Non Race National B) from the Motor Sport Association. You can apply for this minimal Competition Licence at any time after your 16th birthday.
There are various grades of Competition Licence to which you can upgrade your licence in due course. When you are sent your Competition Licence you will also receive a copy of the MSA's General Regulations (known colloquially as 'The Blue Book' for reasons which will become obvious when you receive yours). This contains many of the rules you will need to follow to ensure both you, and your car, are prepared for events. The sections with which you should initially concern yourself are Section 'E' (which is a general section covering the whole of motor sport) and 'L' (which is a section specifically aimed at Sprints and its sister discipline of Hillclimbs).
Necessary items required are safety related. They consist of flame resistant overalls and a crash helmet. Section 'Q' details the minimum standards for each of these and they will be checked at each event before you are allowed to take part. The advice here is 'buy the absolute best you can afford'. Your head is the only one you are ever likely to have so to keep it safe buy the best helmet! Similarly if in the, admittedly unlikely, event that you are involved in a fire it may provide you with those vital few seconds' protection, which will enable you to escape unharmed.
Many competitors find that in addition to those two minimum items, investment in fire resistant underwear, balaclava, gloves and boots adds to the feeling of security. In addition the latter two items (gloves and boots) offer the 'feel' you are unaccustomed to in your everyday driving which can only enhance your competition performance.
We are going to assume in this short piece that you are going to enter the sport for the first time in your everyday road car. You need to do very little. First and foremost make sure the car is safe and everything is done up as it should be and nothing is in danger of falling off. Basically if it is up to passing an MOT it is likely to be safe. For your own piece of mind that is your uppermost consideration (and again this will be checked before you take part in every event). There is very little else you will require.
First of all safety belts the minimum standards for which are detailed in 'Q'.2 and L.10.1.2 of the "Blue Book". Here again these are for your safety and security. Whilst you car may have lap and diagonal seat belt remember you are going to be going around corners at much greater speed than you drive on the public highway. Having a "harness" type belt will hold you more securely in position so that you can concentrate on driving the car rather than holding yourself in place.
Next a "Timing Strut (L.10.9.1 of "The Blue Book" will guide you as to dimensions and colour and where you should fit it). The purpose of this is to ensure that the "timing beam" which is at both start and finish lines is broken cleanly enabling you to be given a time by the event's timekeepers.
Your battery "earth" cable should be covered with yellow tape immediately identifying it, should that be necessary. You ignition switch should show the positions of both "on" and "off" so that if anyone, other than you, not familiar with the car needs to turn your car off quickly they can do so without having to figure it out.
Lastly you will need a set of numbers, which you can use to show the number your entry has been allocated at each event. L.9.2.5 says that these should be placed on a contrasting coloured background on your car shown and put the number on both sides of the car so that both the Timekeepers and the event marshals can identify you. These must be removed or at least covered when you drive your car on the public highway.
As you enter more events you will see the various types of car, which competitors use and the necessary preparation for these will vary for each. Other competitors will be happy to tell you what owning the various different type of car entails and from this you will be able to judge your next step.
To enter your first event, (through your recently joined local club), you will be able to decide on when and where your first event will be. You will need, from the organising club, a set of their Supplementary Regulations (known as 'Regs'). These will detail a range of information but will include the class structure, the cost of your entry (generally for club events this will be in the region of £60 to £70), the name of the event officials, the planned schedule for the day and the date by which your entry should be submitted. You will be told, shortly after the closing date, whether your entry has been accepted, the competition number allocated to you, an entry list for the event showing everyone competing with you and you will also be sent the 'Final Instructions' which will detail more information relevant to the event, including some which will have changed since you were sent the Supplementary Regulations.
When you arrive on the day of your first event park your car in the space allocated to you in the paddock. The next thing to do is to 'Sign On'. You will need to produce your Competition Licence (which you should have signed and applied a photograph of yourself), which will be examined and then you will be asked to sign an indemnity, which is necessary for the purposes of the event's insurance.
Your next step (if you have time, make sure you leave yourself plenty) will be to walk the course. This enables you to become familiar with the course you are to drive before your first foray in practice. Then you must either be present, at your car, with your overalls and helmet, so that you can be visited by a Scrutineer who will ensure your car and your clothing are both safe and comply with the requisite regulations or you must drive your car to the allotted Scrutineering Bay. The Scrutineers will be able to offer any advice you need to ensure you are aware of what changes or additions you need to make. The 'Clerk of the Course' may call a 'drivers briefing' attendance at which is compulsory. If there is anything upon which you are in any doubt ask him (he is the event manager and in overall charge of everything) and if you are shy, approach him after the briefing.
At about the time detailed in 'the regs' or Final Instructions your class will be called forward for first practice, make sure you are ready and waiting. When you reach the start line marshals will line your car up and when the light you will be shown turns to green it means the course is clear and you can start, in your own time. When approaching the start line, however, do make sure your overalls are done up, so is your crash helmet, your seat belts are tight and, if you are running your road car, your drivers window is closed.
Then you will start to learn what this sport is all about.
Often when watching from the outside it looks easy, it is often said by spectators, 'I could go faster than that'. All you have to do is go from the start to the finish as quickly as you possibly can. However you have to get every turn in point, every braking point, every apex, every exit point and every power application point as well as every gear change absolutely right. It takes intense concentration, do not try to recover time lost through making a mistake, you won't, you'll just lose more by trying too hard! Grand Prix qualifying is akin to Sprinting, just watch on a Saturday afternoon to see how many mistakes are made, and they are supposed to be the best, and you will quickly discover it's not as easy as it looks. However when you get it more or less right it is truly satisfying.