The Path to Racing: How to Become a Race Car Driver

If your answer to, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” was race car driver, you’re in for some serious leg work. Race car drivers do more than just slide in behind the wheel and slam their foot on the gas pedal. It takes years of practice and a good knowledge of the vehicle to be successful in this industry. Take a look at a few of the steps you need to take, if racing is your future goal.


Know Your Stuff



It isn’t enough to want to be a race car driver, you have to understand the mechanics of the car you’ll be sitting in. Sure, you’ll have a pit crew and mechanic to change tyres and maintain engine trouble, but if you don’t understand what happens when your foot hits the gas, it’s like walking into a test without studying the night before. Sometimes racing is about making split second decisions which can save a life and win a lap. You won’t be able to make these snap judgements if you don’t understand exactly how everything works and why.


There are plenty of self-help books and online courses to help you get an education. It’s especially important to know your car of choice inside and out. If you hope to race the latest McLaren on the F1 track, get to know the car, the engine it uses, the tyres it rolls on, and how the mechanics make it faster than competitors on the track.



Racing is a Young Man’s Game


This isn’t really true, as plenty of racers are still on the track in their 40’s and 50’s. Stefan Johansson of American Spirit Team Johansson is still racing in the UAE at the age of 60. The point is not to be young as a racer, but to start young. Most Formula 1 racers begin training as early as 14 years of age, with many starting even long before that on the go-kart track.


Go-kart tracks and cars are different than the real deal, but there are training courses you can use which are designed to mimic professional tracks. Some of them use smooth polished surfaces, or wet road to recreate the sensation of being on a true track. It takes years to hone your instincts and master the movements necessary to succeed, so starting as young as possible will give you an edge over possible competitors.



Start off Small


Just as you began your racing education on the go-kart track, you can’t aim to step into professional racing at the Formula 1 level. It takes many years of successful races to prove that you’re good enough to man one of these cars. Start in the amateur level and make yourself a name. Aim to be the best at whatever you’re doing, and you’ll show the world that you have what it takes to do more with the big dogs. It pays to work as part of a pit crew, cleaning race cars, working as an assistant to a driver, or becoming some other behind the scenes member of a team. This gets you a real feel for the sport, passes your name around among big players, and will help you find a start.


Be humble in the beginning, because it can be a long ladder to climb and you’ll want to have good connections to big race sports names by the time you reach the top.



Practice Makes Perfect



This isn’t necessarily true, but practice certainly makes better, and you will need to be the best if you want to beat the best on the track. Becoming a race car driver is a huge commitment. It’s about more than seeing your face on the cover of motorsports magazines and being handed expensive contracts. Racing is a lot of hard work, with long days and grueling bouts of practice. Be ready to commit yourself to the sport long term.


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