I raced as amateur-hour with AFM (CA, USA) 1996-7.
My objective was never to win prizes. This differs from many of you. I had a career and day job that paid very well, something I wasn’t willing to throw away for motorcycles. If you want to win prizes, however, there will be significant sacrifices to make. The number of guys “making money” racing is vanishingly small, last time I heard, unless the game’s changed radically in six years.
If you're just out there honing your skills and doing the best you can within your means, you'll have a good time but win little or nothing. My highest finish was a sixth, for which I won Top Novice in Class (May 1996, Super Dinosaur). Not much, but it was everything to me. The guy who won first had a lot more investment in time, effort, and equipment than I did. I respected him, but racing was essentially his “mission” in life. He was one of many in AFM like that.
I couldn't agree more with guys who suggest buying used from Roadracing World or your local race club. Most clubs have websites. Almost all have fliers. Between them there are used racebikes ready for guys like you. Throw them down, it's not the end of the world. The cost of a "serious" race effort with a new bike can be frightening, even in the economical world of 600's. I laugh and walk away at the price of performance products and high-quality engine work. Well, if you need it, time to stop laughing and start paying. Go into this eyes-open. A guy on the Aprilia list recently had a serious racebike in his shop with $8,000 Ohlins forks, e.g.
I bought a used clunker and fixed it up. Bad move. It blew up constantly and I never really knew if it'd be there for me when I needed it. Thankfully, I spent all my (modest) dough on the suspension and brakes. As a result, it handled and stopped! The engine and chassis were sad and just got worse over time. Finally it chucked a rod, the best thing that could’ve happened in retrospect. Somehow I did not crash and take out three guys in the process. I parked it and sold the lot for $200, in pieces. Time to move on, so I raced my streetbike (Gixxer 750). That is another story.
Point is, start with something halfway-decent, albeit used. Something you can trust to "probably" not blow up mid-race, dumping you, the bike, and three other guys into the bushes. Something you can learn on, crash on, and by golly one day become fast on, too. If you want to win prizes, study and emulate those who do. Preparing to win is a whole different subject.
Hope that helps.
* No points awarded for
* "speed reholstering"