If you’re an ambitious young person who dreams of becoming a professional racing driver, the path to success is far from clear. You’ve seen the pros do it on TV or even live at the track. But how can you gain the skills and the experience to take the first step on that path yourself? After all, it’s not like you can go down to your local race track the way youngsters head to the park to throw a ball around. It’s different, you have to have complete dedication and passion for this sport.
How do you build and hone your skills? How do you make a reputation for yourself? How can you get the right people to notice you? First of all, you’ll need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
Why Do You Want to Become a Race Driver?
Becoming a racing driver is neither easy nor cheap. If you expect to get behind the wheel of a formula car you need to have a firm idea in your head why. There are no right or wrong answers, but your “why” will propel you into action. As South African GT racer David Perel says “If you put your mind to it you can accomplish anything, you just have to want it so badly that you would give up anything to do it. But that doesn’t mean that you can give up in other parts of your life, it means the opposite. You need to strive for excellence in every aspect of your life, as this will transcend into success in what you want most.”
“If you can’t motivate yourself to get out of bed every day and do exactly what’s required to achieve your goals, then you will stumble and fail. Dedication is not just being able to exercise every day or watch what you eat. Many other elements will challenge you. These include raising the funding to support your racing career, sacrificing certain luxuries and mundane items, dealing with friends and family questioning your life choices and of course the challenge of learning to be a fast racing driver.”
The desire to be a racing driver needs to be inspired for the right reasons. If you are interested in doing it for the money, fame or lifestyle you are in the wrong sport. True racing drivers are in this to be able to drive a race car at its limit, fight for pole positions, race victories and championships.
What Is Your Ultimate Ambition?
As in almost every career, there are different segments that offer different opportunities that require specific training and preparation. What kind of racing really inspires you? Be specific in your targets.
It is important that you set realistic goals. F1 is the highest level of motorsports and is the ultimate goal of almost every aspiring young driver. However, only 2 or 3 seats open up each year, normally going to drivers aged below 20 that have been involved in high-level motorsports at an early age. Most new drivers to F1 have a pedigree that includes championships at almost all levels prior to gaining their entry into F1.
Remember that the talent pool is deep, starting with thousands of drivers that are actively kart racing at an early age where the cost to race is moderate. Most of these drivers will do anything to win. Then there is the quantum leap from karting to entry-level race cars, where equipment costs are higher and travel becomes more of a factor.
As you move up the racing ladder, regardless of the type of racing that you pursue, the costs go up significantly. You need to ensure that you have the proper funding in place before making a move to the next level. Additionally, the next level up typically attracts the best drivers from the previous level, so as you move up the competition becomes tougher. If you are not ready for the next step either financially, experience or ability, don’t make the step. We recommending becoming the most complete driver you can at each level, including racing for victory or contesting for championships. Moving up too soon can be a career-ending mistake. If you start too late don’t be discouraged, there are multiple disciplines to choose from. However, we always recommend getting involved with racing for the right reason – the sheer exhilaration of driving.
Form a Plan
With a realistic goal in mind, you need to determine the steps to be taken and accomplishments needed to reach that goal. Do your research, plan your route, determine what it takes for each step along the way. Having this career plan will assist you in making your end goals. A driver that starts out with an aimless desire to simply drive professionally will rarely make it. Success in racing comes from preparation: in the shop, in your marketing, networking & finances, in the gym, at the track.
Get the Funding
This is the most common career ending barrier We are often asked by young drivers that after taking our racing school can they become a professional driver. Racing is like most professional sports. Athletes need to fund their participation to the point that a pro team will consider them. Bear in mind that this is on the mind for every young driver. Paid / fully funded drives in racing are extremely rare, so the competition for a paid seat is fierce.
Much can be written about this and there is ample information available. Funding your career comes from many sources. Most common is family funding. If you are not in this situation you will need to find someone to pay for your racing. The cost of motorsports has drastically increased over the years, traditional forms of sponsorship do not provide a justifiable return for sponsors. You need to be a business-person and be creative to provide a plan that provides a return on their investment. Ultimately, the ones that will support your career will do so because they like you and/or enjoy involvement in this sport, however, they need to justify their support of your career for business reasons.
Seeking sponsorship from a company based on a ‘cold call’ is increasingly more difficult and corporations have endless marketing opportunities, most having an identifiable rate of return compared to Autosport. Sourcing the funding to support their driving career has become the biggest challenge facing racing drivers.
Build on the Fundamentals
Driving your usual car is a different discipline to driving a high-performance formula race car. Nonetheless, all great drivers (like any athlete) build based on strong fundamentals. You can rely upon these every day by working on your driving skills in day-to-day life. Focus on developing your awareness, new hazard perception, braking distances, balance shifts & grip levels.
Of course, driving a formula race car is a different level than driving your daily driver road car. At Allen Berg Racing Schools, we offer an experience that is as close to professional racing as you can get. Our race cars use a carbon fiber chassis (while other schools use outdated tube frame technology). What’s more, we use real racing slicks (where other schools use road car tires). This combined with the use of video, data systems and a vastly experienced staff of coaches is essential to provide a high-quality introduction into the realm of motorsport.
Do Your Research
We are often approached by individuals that aspire to be a professional racing driver, without knowing very much about this sport. There are now many excellent online sources, one of the best being Safeisfast.com, an FIA funded website that produces a line of videos with interviews with some of the world’s top professionals. Another source is Speed Secrets Weekly, a subscription service that provides weekly articles about driving written by some of the sports most respected driver training authorities. Be sure to learn what you can online which will ultimately save you valuable time in your path towards stardom!
Watch and Talk to Other Drivers
Just as an athlete is motivated, inspired, and informed by watching their heroes perform, professional drivers must also observe the greats to study their techniques and pick up tips. Of course, seeing is not the same as knowing. It’s like watching an elite athlete at their game, they make it look easy but when you try it yourself, it usually doesn’t go well as you expect and you realize that you have to develop your technique and skill. That goes for racing as well.
Race driving is an aspirational sport and gaining inspiration by, watching your heroes can inform your technique while also keeping you motivated and passionate.
However, nothing compares to direct communication with real drivers. That’s why we are the only school in North America to offer training from a team of pro drivers including former FIA F1 World Championship driver Allen Berg.
Get Familiar with Your Local Racing Scene & the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA)
If you want to race professionally, you’ll need an SCCA competition license. The good news is that even if you have no driving experience, you can still apply for a novice permit that will enable you to learn to drive high-performance vehicles and participate in organized racing and driving events in your area. You can find more information and relevant forms for getting your SCAA license here.
We are one of few racing schools to provide skilled drivers with the accreditation they need to get their SCCA racing license.
As most drivers start their career at the local level become familiar with the options available to you. We always recommend the route that provides the greatest level of competition accessible to you.
Get to Know the Mechanics of Your Race Car
The better you understand your vehicle, the better able you are to master it. The better you know how your car works, the better you know how to use it to your advantage. There is no better experience for a young driver than to work on his own equipment to gain an appreciation and understanding of this. Learn from mechanics, engineers and anyone else around you that is involved in the design, maintenance, and repair of race cars. YouTube is an excellent resource for this!
Enroll in a Racing School
The most efficient use of your time and money is to invest in a recognized racing school. There are many driving experiences available that encompass the use of a variety of vehicles but few of these will impart to you with the fundamentals you need to get behind the wheel competitively. Entry level performance formula race cars remain the best learning platform for all racing disciplines. You will learn the fundamentals of driving in a purpose-built race car that requires smoothness, precision and focus at a high level, that transcends into all other aspects of racing. You will also learn more about the sport, make friends, build contacts, and have an amazing experience!
How Can We Help?
At Allen Berg Racing Schools we have a range of courses to suit all levels of drivers, from those that simply want to experience a thoroughbred race car to those that have ambition, commitment, and dedication to pursue this for many years.
A Wide Range of Learning Options
We have many different ways in which you can learn how to drive a racing car. The programs on offer cover a variety of competency and experience levels, as well as different levels of depth, so you can get a learning experience that’s suited to your needs.
Whether you’re looking to build a foundation or hone your skills to a professional standard, we have the tuition on every level of formula car racing.
A Truly Authentic Formula Racing Experience
When you take advantage of one of our courses, you can be sure that you’re getting a formula racing experience that’s genuinely authentic using real, cutting edge technology. With carbon fiber chassis, real racing slicks and wings that offer up to 2Gs of cornering force, rest assured our vehicles are the real deal.
Come join us and BE A RACER!