• Friday 2 August 2019

    What it takes to be a racing driver

    Whilst many young people might dream of following in Lewis Hamilton’s footsteps and making racing their career, it is unfortunately a dream that only comes true for a select few. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be your ambition, as with the right amount of focus, dedication and skill, it can become a reality. An understanding of what it really takes - and all the hard work involved - is crucial to making it to the top of the podium. So, do you know what it really takes to be a racing car driver?

    In this article, we look at the necessary steps to build a fulfilling and exciting career in racing. Besides an unwavering love for driving, cars and lots of time on a driving simulator  as well as behind the wheel of the real things, there are many other requirements that you need to meet to realise your dream of participating in elite racing. Here’s a few.

    Learn about racing
    Not surprisingly, attending races is a really good way to learn about driving. Whilst there might only be a Grand Prix you can get to once a year (if you’re lucky), there will be plenty of other types of races you can get to in between. Check out the pro-level racing events that are on locally as well as smaller dirt track, or track day events and take whatever lessons you can from watching those who have just as much love for racing as you do. 

    If you have aspirations to become a racing driver, it’s highly likely that you have a few heroes in the sport.  Spend time reading about their backgrounds and learn from their struggles and lessons. Their path to success will help you to carve out your own.
    Besides following your favourite racers, it’s a great idea to read, learn and watch videos about the mechanics of vehicle operation and the safety guidelines that need to be followed. 

    Go Go-Karting
    If you are under the impression that go-karting is only for children, then you are labouring under a misconception because go-karting is the way almost all pro-drivers start out. 

    Go-karting will help you work out whether you’re destined for driving or not, and allows you to test the waters and learn your craft. You’ll learn about tactics, the racing line, how to overtake, reaction times, how to keep calm under pressure and think like a racer. It’s no surprise that the vast majority of the current batch of Formula One drivers made their way up the go-karting ranks before ever setting foot inside a Formula One car.  

    Sign up for race car driving classes
    In larger cities, there is a good chance that you may find racetracks that offer racing driver classes. Generally, they offer a variety of different classes depending on whether you are a rooky or you have a bit of experience. 

    By joining in with these, you then usually gain the opportunity to take part in competitive races which will give you a good idea about what it really takes to become a part of the world of professional racing. It will also present you with opportunities to interact with people who are already a part of the industry. With their guidance and support, you may find some doors and opportunities opening up for you. 

    Get a car
    You will need to invest in a vehicle if you are really serious about making it big in the world of racing. Getting a car is necessary if you wish to take your game to the next level. 

    If budget is a concern you can buy an older model sports car and make the vehicle track ready with the help of a professional mechanic. You must ensure that all safety features are in place however as you will not be allowed to enter without them.

    It goes without saying that you will need to utilise the open track time at a racecourse or local track as you cannot practice this sport on the public highways. 

    It is common for team owners and potential sponsors to visit local racing tracks and with a combination of preparation and luck, you may even get noticed by them. However, you will find that the harder you work, the luckier you get. 

    Become a part of a professional organisation
    Get in touch with professional organisations. Becoming an active member of these organisations will unlock a wealth of knowledge and opportunities, whether you’re a beginner or pro-racer. 

    Not only will you be able to locate events but you will also come into contact with other drivers who have the same aspirations as you. Getting in touch with people who are at your level may increase the possibility of finding opportunities to participate in amateur events. 

    A lot of money
    You may have a lot of talent and you may have the dedication that it takes to be a racer, but sadly, in this sport, it will not amount to much if you don’t have the money to keep your career propelling along. This is where many aspiring race drivers hit a roadblock. Unfortunately, just having talent doesn’t ensure that you will get a seat on a racing team.

    Name any prominent driver and you will find parents with a lot of money, or parents who had to work extremely hard, taking on second jobs, just to fund their child’s go-karting passion. Having talent is a minimum requirement, but it is certainly not the only factor. After you have gained sufficient experience of karting, you may have to spend the next 2 to 5 years trying to prove your worth in the professional motorsport arena. The estimated cost of participating in these professional racing events such as Le Mans, WEC or GT4 is approximately £1 million. Seeking sponsorship is the only way most people can afford to finance their racing passion once you reach these levels, so you need a business head as well as a petrol head to make it to the top.

    Sadly, even following all of these steps won’t necessarily guarantee you a top spot or a podium finish, or even a place on the team, but that’s not a reason not to try! To realise your dream of becoming an elite racer, you will need hard work, determination, talent and a lot of money, but it will be the best journey of your life, and who knows, you might just be the next Lewis Hamilton.

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