Do you want to get your motor running? Do you want to head out on the highway? Are you looking for adventure and whatever comes your way? Do you want to be the next Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso or Sebastien Loeb? Well, you’re in the right place!
Essentially, racing drivers make their living by competing in motor races against their rivals. This is a sport which demands ultimate concentration, strength, physical fitness, technique and fearlessness.
We’re not only here to talk about Formula 1. After all, there are many different types of motor racing, from rallying and grand touring to cross country and drag racing. Formula 1, rallying and grand touring, however, are the most popular forms of motor racing, and are the only driving disciplines where you can really build a professional career and make a handsome living. Consequently, that is where we will focus our attention. Got it? Good.
If you really want to make a living from motor racing, you will need to make it to the very top of the sport. In order to do this, you will, quite simply, need to practise, practise and then practise some more!
Becoming a professional racing driver is more of a lifestyle choice than a career. It requires complete dedication. You will need to invest time, effort and, quite often, a lot of money into your racing career.
What’s more, in order to be successful, you will need to keep your body in peak condition at all times. You will need to manage your diet, train every single day, and have serious drive and determination.
Before each race, you will work with your team to analyse maps of the circuit, plan your lines and figure out how to take each turn. You will also work with your technical team to make sure your car is in peak condition and suited to the specific course and conditions. Finally, you will plan your tactics for the race and decide when to take your pit stops (if necessary).
When it comes to the race, you’re on your own (unless you’re a rally driver and you have a co-driver). It’s all about using your driving ability, experience and knowledge of the course to maximum effect, so that you finish ahead of the rest of the field.
Salary & benefits
Top racing drivers are typically paid an annual retainer. This can range from £150,000 to £30 million, depending on your reputation, ability and experience. Many professionals also make money through additional sponsorship, endorsements and prize money.
Making a living from motor racing is very difficult. Indeed, at amateur level, it’s very unlikely that you will be paid. What’s more, to get started in motor racing, you will have to fork out a fair bit of cash for cars, track hire, helmets and overalls etc.
Eventually, if you hit the big time, you could end up earning millions of pounds. Fame and fortune, however, is incredibly rare! Only the top racing drivers, such as Alonso, Hamilton, Räikkönen and Massa earn this kind of money.
Understandably, this is not an average nine-to-five job. To become a world-beating racing driver, you will need to eat, sleep and breathe motorsport.
You will be required to travel all over the world for races, which may involve working weekends and national holidays from time to time.
As you must be aware, motor racing can be a dangerous sport. You will be putting your body on the line every time you drive. Crashes and fires are common, and therefore racing drivers are required to wear crash helmets and flame-retardant clothing. Some drivers have even been killed out on the circuit.
There are no academic requirements for aspiring racing drivers.
Most people start their motor racing career by getting involved in karting at a young age. Before you can apply for a Kart Competition Licence, you must purchase a Go Karting Starter Pack from the Motor Sports Association (MSA) and complete an MSA assessment through a racing kart school which is accredited by the Association of Racing Kart Schools (ARKS).
If you want to race F1 cars, F3 cars, touring cars or grand touring cars, you must be at least 16 years old. Before you can apply for your National B Race Licence, you must obtain a Go Racing Starter Pack from the Motor Sports Association (MSA) and complete an MSA assessment through a racing school which is accredited by the Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS). If you are 18 or over, you must also attain a medical certificate.
If you want to get involved in special stage rallying or road rallying, you must obtain a Stage Rally National B Competition Licence. Before you can apply for your licence, you must obtain a Go Rallying Starter Pack from the Motor Sports Association (MSA) and complete an MSA assessment through a racing school which is accredited by the British Association of Rally Schools (BARS). This assessment involves two parts: a practical driving test and a multiple-choice theory test. If you are 18 or over, you must also attain a medical certificate.
To be a successful racing driver, you must maintain an incredibly high-level of strength and fitness.
Training & progression
Aspiring racing drivers tend to join racing clubs, such as the Silverstone Motorsport Academy, and then develop their skills through plenty of hard work and practice out on the track.
Various organisations, such as the Motor Sports Association and the British Racing Drivers’ Club, also run schemes which are specifically designed to help young racing drivers rise through the ranks and compete at the very top of the profession. Indeed, if you’re serious about becoming a racing driver, you should consider getting involved with the MSA Academy, the British Rally Elite programme or the BRDC’s SuperStars scheme.
There is no real career progression. Once you have established yourself on the international driving scene, it will be up to you to stay there, by winning races and training like an absolute dynamo.