So You Want to Be A Racer?
Do you dream of going racing? Let’s have a look at what is actually involved?
Frequently asked questions by wannabe racers include:
- What skills do I need?
- How do I start?
- Will I get paid?
- Why is it so expensive?
- Can I become an F1 driver or MotoGP rider?
To answer the first question, a top driver or rider needs to be the complete package, a mixture of skill, talent, experience, work ethic, communication, fitness, commitment and of course money!
There are various ways of getting started.
The simplest and cheapest is online sim racing. All you need is a computer, screen, steering wheel and pedals, and you can race from the comfort of your own home. eSports is one of the biggest growing tech industries in the world and is developing as the first leg of grass roots motor racing. Simulation is a good inexpensive way compared to other forms of motor racing and such is the interest and momentum that even Formula 1 has developed its own eSports series:
An entry point into the real world is karting, where drivers can learn and fine tune their racing skills and race craft. Whilst purpose built kart racing can be expensive, there are more cost effective ways to get started. Firstly, just to whet your appetite and see if it is for you, try fun karts, at tracks such as at Shah Alam, Sepang or Elite.
If you think you want to progress further and go racing you could try Initial Karting Competizion (IKC), which provides the thrills and excitement of competitive racing with easy access, plenty of laps, and a relatively level playing field. Karts are provided and no race gear is required, although you can bring your own if you want to. It's geared for novices and experienced kart drivers alike, providing the challenge of real motor racing, driving skill development, and a format which draws on elements of Formula 1 and other open wheel categories.
Another way to start is through the Malaysia Speed Festival (MSF) Racing Series, which provides affordable wheel-to-wheel sprint racing, with circuit days, street drag racing, and caters for touring cars as well as superbikes.
Motorsport is very complicated with so many variable factors that have to be taken into account and racers need to develop some basic technical understanding such as the difference between oversteer and understeer. Then there are the basics of actually driving such as brake and accelerator control, cornering, field of view and understanding the all important reference points on the track, which are essential.
You also need to learn the importance of fitness and the essential training racers require, such as upper body strength, cardio, plus core and leg exercise. The physical fitness can be put into practice on the kart track which have a range of corners to test the skill of the drivers. Preparation is particularly important and before you start racing, try and walk the circuit to learn what the track looks like and what are the racing lines.
An often asked question by wannabe racers, especially in Asia, is will I get paid for it? The blunt honest answer is no. Normally you don’t get paid until you reach the top and that’s if you’re lucky with the right breaks.
There is no getting away from it - motorsport is expensive! It is probably one of the most expensive sports to compete in because it involves machinery, technology and disposable materials which when pushed to the limit, have a relatively short life.
Therefore, you need money and someone has to pay for it!
A frequently held view is to get a sponsor to pay. However, be careful, there is a lot more to it than asking a sponsor to fund your hobby!
One vital process a lot of people miss out on during their sponsorship crusade is that they don’t put themselves in the sponsors shoes. You need to ask the questions from the sponsors perspective: “would I give money to fund this?” and “what return am I getting out of it?”
No matter how many races and championships you might have won in the past, or how much faster you are than the competition, no company is going to give any amount of money to something that doesn’t produce for them a return on investment. You need a business strategy.
A lot of success in competition is about networking, PR and developing a following, such as through social media. You can be the greatest racer out there but if no one is aware of you, you are not going to get the same following and you need create interest to progress.
The biggest lesson to learn is that motorsport, does not owe you any favours. It doesn’t matter how fast, or how good you think you are, you have to look at it without any emotion. Focus on where you want to go and keep pushing for it.
You’ve got to be the complete driver, the complete package.
There are a large group of drivers who fit into the very good category and on their day they can win races and championships, but exceptional drivers are the ones who sit in a very small bubble at the top and can win consistently. Those are the ones who may succeed and reach F1 or MotoGP.
Double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso has given some very useful tips for wannabe racers:
Firstly, enjoy yourself and have have fun. Don’t get too caught up in your ambitions, enjoy the moment. Whilst a number of F1 drivers get paid very well, this is essentially for the commercial commitments, but they love driving and in their hearts they probably would drive for free!
Start with karts, it is the best schooling to learn race craft.
Master high speed corners, this is one of the important skills you will need to master.
Practice overtaking and make killer starts.
Train on simulators, eSports is not only great fun but also great practice on many circuits.
Learn to work with engineers. Motorsport is very technical and you need to be able to clearly communicate with your engineers.
For the full Fernando Alonso advice visit;
Another useful link on race driver career development and how to make it to the top, is an interview with with McLaren CEO Zak Brown:
Fundamentally for success in motorsport it’s important to have a good team behind you and you need a supportive family.
You’ve got to stay focussed, stick at it, keep your head up, and keep pushing. A lot of people give up before the good times come. There will be hard times and many give up, but if you can stick at, you have the potential to reap the rewards.
They say that the cream normally rises to the top, if you are good enough and have the talent, determination and the work ethic, then you have the potential to make it happen.