How Do You Become A Racing Driver?

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Michael Schumacher driving for Scuderia Ferrar...

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Motorsport has been big business for over half a century, and rightly so. Whether it’s the glitz and glamour of open-wheeled Formula One racing, the all-American thrills of NASCAR or the more obscure feeder series’ for these and other high profile racing events, seeing those death-defying vehicles race around might well inspire you to ask ‘couldn’t I do that?’. This blog post aims to answer that question with some simple tips and difficult truths:

The Age Question

If you’re a fan of motorsport, it won’t have escaped your attention that drivers are often very young. Michael Schumacher is the oldest racing driver in Formula One at 42, and despite being seven time world champion, he is considered past his prime (as he was five years ago, when he announced his initial retirement). The last time anyone over forty one a world championship was Jack Brabham, back in 1966. In the last decade, the only person over 35 has been Schumacher himself.

If you’re reading this how-to guide for yourself whilst seriously considering a career in motorsport, you will have to understand that starting young is considered essential for competing in most of the big-name championships. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions (Damon Hill started motorcycle racing at the age of 21 and didn’t step into a racing car until the age of 23).

It also doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of opportunities for competitive racing out there. Anyone who has obtained a driver’s license can then train for a racing drivers license at a number of centres. There are also plenty of local (and legal) racing events for everything from clapped out old commercial cars to pickup trucks and stock cars. With a little investment, you could have a fun new weekend hobby!

Starting Young

The reality is, if you haven’t started racing by the time you’re a teenager, you will almost certainly never make it to the higher echelons of motorsport.

Why is this? Well, progression in motorsport certainly isn’t any different to progression in many other sports. Footballers (American or ‘Soccer’ players), tennis pros, athletes and more start very young and become full professionals around school leaving-age. Just because driving is something that millions of people do, doesn’t mean we’re all trained to racers: billions of people can run, but a statistically insignificant number of us can compete with Usain Bolt.

Racing drivers must learn racing skills: how to overtake, how to find the correct racing line, how to belt it round a track at the highest speed possible. The vast majority of drivers start learning this in local karting championships, usually in their preteens. With practice, some will show their talent. For others, it’s simply not meant to be.

Next Steps

Depending on what area of motorsport you’re aiming for, the step after karting is to jump to through advanced cars in the intermediate and advanced local-level divisions below your target sport. In American stock car racing, hopefuls aim for the ‘Late-Model’ local divisions. Those targeting Formula One go from karting to the one make Formulae (like Formula Renault, Formula Toyota and the like), before making the leap to feeder series like Formula Two, Formula Three and GP2.

Of course, there are regional biases: it’s difficult for a British racer to take the stock car route, for instance. Drivers frequently crossover between the various types of racing, being taken wherever they feel the thrill of speed (and sponsorship money) is to be found. It’s tough to make it as a professional driver, much less a driver who makes it to the top. You get there by winning races, getting sponsored and getting noticed. You’ll notice that there are holes in this general advice, because neither talent nor blind luck are things that I can prepare you for!

Jo Johnson is a copywriter working on projects for MWVC, a Vauxhall vivaro hire company.

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Formula 1200 Is The Racing League For The Rest Of Us

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Emerson Fittipaldi dominated the 1994 Indianap...

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Race car driving is challenging, fun and expensive. Many people who have the talent to become a competitive driver and appear on television in the Indy 500 or on the streets of Monaco in a Formula One car never get the chance. The sport is simply too expensive for most young talents to give it a try.

Harry O’Neal believes that just isn’t fair and knows an affordable way for boys and girls to test their talent on the track. Harry is the president of the Ontario chapter of the Formula 1200 Driver’s Association. If you aren’t familiar with Formula 1200, perhaps you have heard of Formula Vee. They are the same international racing league.

A decent Formula 1200 car costs between $10,000 and $12,000. Fees and expenses for a race weekend run from $350 to $500. Expenses will be higher if the car gets damaged, but not significantly. O’Neal points out that rebuilding the front end costs about $500 for a Formula 1200 car compared to $2000 for a Formula Ford.

O’Neal is quick to point out that the key to success in Formula 1200 is the driver’s skill. The rules dictate that every car in the field has nearly identical performance. Stock Volkswagen 4 cylinder, 1200 cc, air-cooled engines are in every Formula 1200 car. They cannot weigh less than 464 kilograms and the wheels, brakes and transaxle are all VW stock.

Even though the engines only produce 55 to 60 horsepower, the cars can reach 200 km/h on a long straight. Because these are small cars, with a low center of gravity, it feels much faster to the driver. Formula 1200 is an exciting racing league and a great way for young drivers to experience the sport of open wheel racing. Best of all, this is a league that doesn’t require a huge budget to compete.

Make no mistake, however, if you have the talent in Formula 1200, there is every possibility you could pilot a car in one of the major racing leagues down the road. Nikki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi and Bobby Rahal all proved themselves in Formula 1200. This is a growing sport in Canada and around the world. If you know a youngster with a passion for racing but lacking the budget to compete in Formula Atlantic or Formula Ford, introduce them to Formula 1200. There is no telling how far they might go.

 

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Things To Do During the Indy 500 Race Season

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INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 24:  Danica Patrick, driver...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

The Indianapolis 500-Mile race takes place every year during Memorial Day weekend in Speedway, Indiana. Thousands upon thousands of people show up to experience the joys of car racing at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in the world. The year 2011 is a special year for the Indy 500 – it’s their 100th anniversary.

Allison Transmission Balloon Festival

In addition to the main race on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, the weeks beforehand are filled with events and activities. Many of these events are sponsored by the Indy 500 itself. The fun starts on Saturday, May 7th with the Allison Transmission Balloon Festival. This festival, which was first held in 2009, features 33 hot air balloons that are launched above the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the delight of onlookers. The Emerging Technologies Day occurs on this day as well. At the Emerging Technologies event, many innovative renewable technologies for the auto industry will be on display.

Fast Cars = Fun Times

On Friday May 13th and Saturday May 14th, Indy 500 marks its 100th anniversary with a celebration of automobiles. 250 contestants will showcase their classic cars as they compete for blue-ribbon awards. There are several open practice days where you can watch hopeful drivers practice in an attempt to win a spot in the race. On May 21st and May 22nd you can watch the thirty three competitors being selected. Then there’s the Firestone Freedom 100, held the Friday before the Indy 500. You can buy tickets to watch both the practice and the actual race. By May 28th, things really start to heat up as it is the day before the Indy 500 race. You can watch the pre-race meeting, get autographs from current and past drivers and check out the memorabilia show. The official race begins on May 29th at noon.

Non-Sponsored Events

The above mentioned events are all officially sponsored by the Indy 500. There are several other events sponsored by others going on during this period of time as well. For example, on the first Saturday in May is the Indiana Life 500 Mini Marathon, where 25,000 people run in the largest half marathon in the entire country. During this 13.1 mile run, runners start downtown, go all the way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and back. There’s the CARA Indy 500 Fashion Show and Luncheon held on the Thursday before the race and the 500 Snakepit Ball, held on the Friday before the race. The Ball is a black tie gala official race event party where race fans and celebrities mingle. On the day before the race is the IPALCO 500 Festival Parade. More than 250,000 people show up to watch the parade, which includes over one hundred floats, bands and qualifying race drivers.

 

This is a guest post from the cheap van rental website CarRentalExpress.com.

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