As this season's racing starts at Knockhill, don't expect Damons and Davids - but do expect great entertainment, says Ross Finlay.

SITTING glued to the box watching the Brazilian Grand Prix is all very well, and so is ploughing through the previews, reports, speculation, hearsay, profiles and ``psychological insights'' in the specialist magazines. But there is nothing to beat the real thing, watching and hearing the racing right in front of you, even if the drivers are amateurs and the cars are a world away from Williams-Renaults or McLaren-Mercedes.

The Scottish Motor Racing Club season starts on Sunday at Knockhill, with some small grids because, if the opening day were the December 31, there would be cars still in bits on December 30.

The super sports and super saloons race has a mixed-bag entry. Two of the front-runners may be John Muir in a two-litre Toyota Starlet and Dave Muse in a sports-racing Pulsar.

Last year's Formula Ford champion Ricki Steedman has moved on, but Stewart Roden's Van Diemen was right on the pace towards the end of 1995. Roy Low's Reynard and Jim Forsyth's Swift should press him hard.

Rambo meets Armageddon! Not the latest Stallone epic, but Graham Harper versus Chris Higson, whose car was on pole for last year's Mondello 24-hour race, in the opening round of the Scottish 2CV championship. Most Citroen ``tin snail'' owners give their cars jocular names.

Historic Ecosse has been described as a bunch of enthusiasts who occasionally interrupt their socialising in the paddock to go racing. Their championship has an enlightened scoring system: ten points for passing scrutineering, another ten for finishing a race, and only three if you win your class.

The cars range from Tom Richardson's 1929 Brooklands Riley, via John Romanes's 1948 Frazer Nash, George Cooper's 1950 Cooper-MG and Tom McWhirter's majestic 1957 Tojeiro-Jaguar, to the original 1965 Chevron driven by Geoff Temple.

Allan McGregor's Formula Junior Cooper, this week's Classic Car, may be favourite. But Brian Sarafilovic drives the 1965 Ecosse-Imp, and I propose to cower behind several rows of catch fencing when Ian Forrest, former BTCC driver and chief instructor at the Knockhill racing school, unleashes a 1964 E-type Jaguar.

In testing, Olly Ross's Westfield has neared the road sports cars record. But Dave Muse's Pulsar will be out again, and so will Allan McGregor, this time in one of those beautiful Lotus 23Bs. If you want to know the definition of a road sports car, ask somebody else.

Assuming a dry track, Ron Cumming's Reynard 3000 in the Formule Libre race may crack the embarrassingly long-standing outright circuit record. And there is an intriguing Libre entry from Graeme Wight junior, whose Vision has done so well in hill climbs.

Will the turbocharged Sierra Cosworths last out the road saloons event? Sandy McEwen in the BMW M3 which won the Willhire 24 hours race, and Douglas Anderson in a very fast Peugeot 309, may have the edge. The 1400cc class has the biggest entry, while last year's champion Tony Caig runs an 1800 Fiesta.

Ian Forrest will also tackle the new Tarmac Scotland XR Challenge, which specifies Kumho control tyres. Alan Keith is one more possible top qualifier, and is this really the Alistair Brearley we used to see hurtling through rally stages, on the entry list in another Fiesta?

No. It turns out to be Brearley jnr, moving from karts to saloons. A common situation, because several of us now totter along to cheer on the next generation.

None of the names at Knockhill will be anything like as familiar as Damon Hill, David Coulthard and the rest of the Formula I gang. But the racing, which starts at 1.30pm after morning practice, will be taking place in front of your eyes, not on a screen. And you may identify the driver whose appearance on the entry list was greeted with deleted expletives, by people who shudder at the thought of sharing the track with him.