Formula 1 is the ultimate target for nearly all of you I should imagine. If not Formula 1, then you are likely to be striving to reach another pinnacle of motorsport whether that be Le Mans, World Rally Championship or NASCAR. The eternal problem for those in your position is how to get from where you are now, to where you want to be. The chasm in between seems wide and far with no obvious way to cross. My job is to make those ways much more obvious and that is what this post is all about.
Opportunities at the top are limited for those with little or no experience and so you must find another way to bridge the gap. I call these ways stepping stones to motorsport and have talked about them extensively on this blog and in my book on How to get a job in Grand Prix Racing. They involve expanding your knowledge of the motorsport industry and using it to network your way to a position at the top of the sport. Motorsport is almost always about experience and so building up your portfolio is a key part of your career development.
That is all very well I suppose but I am sure that many of you often wonder just where you are meant to find that elusive motorsport experience. It is easy for me to say but seems much more difficult for you to make into a reality. If that sounds familiar then I suggest you read on and take very careful note.
You may not realise it but the motorsport industry is truly huge. Formula 1 dominates the TV and news headlines but a whole world lurks behind the F1 paddock. It’s a world that for many is very difficult to find or get involved with. What is the secret ? Well, where would a large number of motorsport teams and companies get together all in one place and be willing and open to talk about their business and what they do ? The racetrack might be an obvious one but under the pressure of a race meeting there is not often time chat and the paddocks are usually closed to the public. It is worth a try but there is a far better place than that.
The Autosport International Racing Car show at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham is one of the biggest, if not the biggest racing industry show in the world. Taking place from 14-17th January 2016, the live action arena gives spectators thrills and spills of live motorsport in a close-up indoor environment and is justifiably well attended from an entertainment perspective but you, the aspiring Formula 1 team member, should be thinking about this show as an opportunity to network rather than just a good day out.
Many of the Formula 1 teams are in attendance and the crowds flock to see the (nearly) latest machinery on display. Once again this is great entertainment but I hope you realise that you are not going to walk up to that stand and discuss you future career with Adrian Newey or Paddy Lowe. If you are smart, you will take no more than a cursory glance at the Formula 1 displays and carry on walking. The real opportunities lie far away from the crowds.
I suggest you watch the following video and take note from some of the biggest names in the sport about the benefits and sheer scale of the Autosport International show. If this show doesn’t open your eyes to the motorsport industry then nothing will.
“If you want to meet anybody in the motorsport world, this is the place to do it”
Malcolm Wilson, Owner M-Sport World Rally Squad
Shows like this have a wealth of information to help you start your search for a break in the motorsport industry. One of the biggest hurdle to getting starting in motorsport is simply knowing where to find potential opportunities. If you don’t know the industry then the opportunities that are there will pass you by and you will be left standing still wondering where you went wrong.
“Autosport International at the NEC is the place to be if you want to be networking in motorsport”
Andy Prilaux 3-times World Touring Car Champion
There is a comprehensive website to cover the show and within that is a full list of exhibitors (or as far as you are concerned, employers). Even if you are not be able to get there in person this list is a fantastic way to find out about these companies and what they do. Take note that the companies that you have not heard of are quite often the best to follow up with because if they are less well known then you might not have a great deal of competition when it comes to applying for jobs with them. It gets you away from the crowd.
To give you an example, I went to the show in its very early days and spent just about every hour that the show was open walking around looking at racing cars and trying to catch a moment to talk to people about what they did and how their businesses worked. I spoke with one small exhibitor at length towards the end of the day, hearing about his business and what his goals were. We struck up a rapport and having shared with him my karting and single seater experience he asked me to represent him at the exhibitor’s kart race after the show the following day. I was allowed “back-stage” with the other trade companies and race teams, in amongst the motorsport elite and on track was racing wheel to wheel with F1 drivers and rally drivers of the day. That was money can’t buy experience and a big boost to my confidence that I belonged to this motorsport world.
You might not always get that opportunity but if not you could speak to someone and organise a factory tour for your college, find out more about work placements or at least get the email address of someone you can ask questions of and learn from. Find out when teams are testing and ask for a paddock pass. You could then go to the racetrack and find a familiar face that you spoke to at the show. The opportunities are always there – you just need to push for them and make the most of it. If YOU don’t then somebody else almost certainly WILL and you will be left on the sidelines, watching Grand Prix on television rather than being on the inside. Why would you let that slip through your fingers ?
The NEC is a big place and I really recommend that you make the trip to Birmingham for the show. The show is coming up fast from 14-17th January 2016 so why not sign up to the mailing list to find out more? For those without cars, the train can literally drop you at the door. There really is no excuse so get out there and find out what the motorsport industry is all about. The organisers give discounts for students and allow colleges and prospective industry workers to attend the trade show days when the crowds are much reduced and there is time and space to strike up conversation and discuss opportunities.
You never know your future employer might be right there waiting for you. Get moving.