Why get into motorsports?
If you’re a bit of a speed freak, you could always pursue the long and rocky road to becoming a motorsport driver. It’s one of those things that you really need to get into from an early age to reach the top. After all, you always see videos of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton racing go-karts from the age of about 18 months. That’s not to say that this is the only way into the sport, but it certainly shows the need to be passionate about motorsport from an early age.
Whether it’s MotoGP, F1 or rally driving, it can all be very expensive. Engine parts and equipment costs alone can be thousands of pounds. On top of this, you’ll have to be able to travel the country attending various events.
However, like any sport, there’s always a chance you could make it.
Of course, if you don’t quite make it as the next Michael Schumacher or Carl Fogarty, there’s no need to worry – there are plenty of other ways you can get into motorsports careers.
The other careers in this industry may not bring in the same pay packet as that of a racing driver, but you’ll be doing something you love and bringing a paycheque home for your troubles each month. Perfect!
What does it take to get into motorsports?
First things first, for any career in this industry, you will need to have a genuine passion for motorsports and an eagerness to learn. Get this nailed and you could have a long and prosperous career ahead of you.
For many of the roles in this area, you don't necessarily need formal qualifications. A relevant degree might give you a leg-up when it comes to automotive engineering or marketing roles, but this is by no means a prerequisite for getting hired. A range of colleges and universities do offer motorsports courses. However, your passion and keen interest in motorsports is far more important. It’s all about getting some work experience in the industry. Try to get involved in any way possible, like volunteering at local events or maybe even working at a go-kart track.
You’ve got to be confident and perhaps a little bit cheeky at times too. When you’re volunteering and attending events, chat to people, build up a network and ask people for advice. The main problem is that this is an incredibly niche and highly-competitive industry. You’ve got to stand out from the crowd and demonstrating a well-informed insight into the industry is definitely one way of doing this.
What's it like working in motorsports?
Before we get into the technical side of motorsport, such as engineering and vehicle dynamics, we should firstly discuss the other areas you can get into. All large motor sport companies have a marketing team, like BMW and Ferrari in F1, Honda and Fiat in MotoGP, and Citroen and Subaru in rally driving. These are the guys who work on anything from the PR and marketing of the team, to sorting out all those adverts you see emblazoned on the side of the cars and bikes.
You could also find yourself working as part of a corporate events team. In any form of motorsport, there’s a huge corporate following, which means there’s always plenty of demand for events managers and event planning assistants, who will liaise with sponsors and put on motorsports events.
On the technical side of things, you could become a motorsport technician, a motorsport engineer or a vehicle dynamics engineer. All these positions are massively hands-on and each role involves huge amounts of responsibility. After all, just one mistake can cause a crash.
If you’re an engineer or mechanic in any of these sports, you really have to be passionate and fanatical about everything to do with motorsports – even to the point where you like the smell of burning rubber! These careers can take you all over the world and can take over your life. You’ve got to get used to working in some seriously high-pressure situations. When the cars are out on the track it's exciting, but at the same time your job will demand exceptional problem-solving skills and extreme attention to detail.
You have to adopt a systematic, calm and logical way of approaching dilemmas. Even when the adrenaline is pumping and you’re surrounded by the noise of the raucous crowd and the deafening scream of engines you have to be organised, methodical and confident in your practical knowhow. Working under pressure has got to be your forte, as you may have to do something crazy like changing an entire engine in half an hour or changing tires in a matter of seconds.
Of course, it’s not all fun and games. A lot of the time you’ll be expected to work long hours. If a driver crashes his precious vehicle, you’ll have to work your socks off until everything is working again and the car/motorbike/ice-cream van is safe to drive. These jobs are not easy, but if tinkering with engines and other car parts gets you hot under the collar, then a motorsports engineering career could definitely be for you.