In my previous post I talked about the Formula 1 mindset and how critical it was to demonstrate to potential employers in Formula 1 that you have the right attitude and work ethic to make it in motor racing. Formula 1 teams want the smartest and the best qualified people that they can get but if those people can’t be relied upon then they won’t make it in F1. Finding people who are well qualified AND who can demonstrate that they have the right attitude are quite rare and are prime targets for F1 teams looking to take on new people. You can be one of these people if you get the right experience.

How can I get experience in motorsport?
In the UK especially, and in many countries of the world there is some kind of motorsport going on somewhere almost every weekend. The Formula 1 circus might only come to town once a year but the crowds and the security that surround it make it the worst place to start if you want to get involved in motorsport.

The money and facilities that Formula 1 enjoys come to an abrupt halt the moment you walk outside of the grand prix paddock and the remaining 99% of racing relies on volunteers and enthusiasts to make it happen. This is fantastic news for anyone looking to get experience in motorsport because if you present yourself well then many team owners or weekend enthusiasts will be more than happy to have an extra pair of hands. The so called ‘weekend warrior’ is the mainstay of amateur motor racing without whom most of the races would not take place.

motorsport volunteering
Photo Credit: Tom Kempers via Compfight cc

The best way of cutting your teeth in racing is to compete yourself but that is understandably expensive and prohibitive for the vast majority. If you can’t do that you need to get down to your local club or circuit and just take a look around and see what appeals to you. In the UK (apologies to those from overseas but this blog will necessarily be centred on the UK as it is where most of my knowledge of racing is based) the RACMSA or Motor Sports Association have a list of clubs and venues covering everything from touring cars, karting, rallying to drag racing. The wide array of cars and events that are run is pretty impressive and something is sure to take your fancy.

One step at a time
If you are serious about starting out in motorsport then don’t aim too high! As I mentioned earlier, the F1 Grand Prix is the worst place to look for volunteer places as its high security and full of professional teams. High profile national races such as the BTCC are also going to be a difficult starting point unless you have an established background in racing.

The MSA Yearbook or Bluebook as it is commonly referred to has details of every club, championship and regulation governing UK motorsport, all in handy .PDF format. From here you should be able to find circuits local to you and find a meeting or race event that interests you. Its incredible what kind of machinery you find at very low key race meetings in the UK and the proud owners of these cars are typically bursting to tell you about them rather than shroud them away in secrecy. Most of these club meetings are very cheap and paddock access is normally part of the entry so it shouldn’t cost the earth.

historic mclarens
Photo Credit: p_c_w via Compfight cc

If you are looking for an even more grassroots part of the sport to get involved with then karting is probably the best option to you. Here you will find many of the budding Lewis Hamiltons and Jenson Buttons desperate to start their racing careers. Whilst many karters spend enormous budgets on their racing, a spare pair of hands is always welcome and you are bound to find someone who is happy for you to help, even if it is just for a push-start. Racing karts are relatively simple machines but much higher technology than the indoor types you may have driven yourself. The attention to detail required in a race kart’s preparation is very similar to that required for a single seater car and someone with solid background in working with karts is likely to be of greater use to a race team than a complete novice.

If you can’t afford the ticket prices you can even marshall at many events as a volunteer and get full access to the paddock and circuit facilities. Many marshalls have been around in racing for years and might know someone who needs a little help or might be able to point you in the right direction. The MSA have a separate site to encourage people to do exactly that at Volunteers in Motorsport.

The secret is to get out, have a look and to talk to people. You’ll be surprised how many of these people have either worked in racing or actually work for current F1 teams and run their own cars at the weekends. When you hear tales of people ‘knowing people on the inside’ then this is often how its done and if you aren’t there getting involved then you won’t be making those contacts ! The opportunities are out there, it’s up to you to make a start.

Feel free to comment on or ask questions about what I’ve talked about here either on this blog or via my Facebook page.

Thanks for reading and maybe see you on the grid someday.