Maintaining a professional racing career is a tough thing to do. It’s so tough that even winning races or championships may not be enough to retain a seat for the following season. How tragic is that? Well, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of having a ride. Networking is the best way to search out opportunities or find funding to maintain a professional racing career.
Finding a ride in today’s economy can be tough and seem nearly impossible, but there are opportunities out there, if you know where to look. The best way to find these opportunities is by talking to people around you. Your network of friends, competitors, and acquaintances is a valuable way to search for rides or funding.
Networking may sound intimidating, but it can be rewarding and fun, even if you’re shy or feel like you don’t know that many people. The vast majority of pro rides are never advertised. They’re filled by word of mouth. That’s why networking is the best way to find a ride. Unfortunately, many drivers are hesitant to take advantage of networking because they’re afraid of being seen as pushy or self-serving. But networking isn’t about using other people or aggressively promoting yourself. It’s about building relationships. In many cases, finding a ride or funding comes down to who you know, so give yourself the opportunity to meet as many people as you can. You’ll soon learn that the most successful racers aren’t necessarily the most successful on the track, but they are off the track. For instance, Michael Waltrip’s racing record was far from outstanding, but he was able to maintain a long racing career with his skills off the track.
Your network is bigger than you think it is. It includes your entire network of friends, competitors and even casual acquaintances. Start writing down names and you’ll be surprised at how quickly the list grows. You may be even more impressed with who your friends know. It’s important to attend every racing event you can in your area, whether it’s a pro or a club event. Introduce yourself and hand out your business cards that include you contact info, social media handles and personal website. If you’re nervous about making contacts, try to keep the following things in mind:
- People like to give advice and like to be recognized for their expertise.
- It feels good to help others. Most people will gladly assist you if they can.
- Reconnecting with the people in your network should be fun—even if you have an agenda. The more this feels like a chore the more tedious and anxiety-ridden the process will be.
Now an important thing to keep in mind when asking for help or for favors is to always to maintain a positive and upbeat attitude. Being more likeable will increase your chances of finding opportunities. Having the respect of your peers is important, so focusing on having a good attitude on and off the track will always pay off.
Relying on finding a ride or funding is not the only way to secure a seat for your next season. Teaming up with a gentleman driver is another way to find a ride in a professional series. If you follow sports car racing at all, I’m sure you have heard of the term “gentleman driver.” Currently Patrick Dempsey is the most famous gentleman driver, but you don’t have to be a Hollywood actor to be a gentleman driver. You just need a lot of money. So where can you find a gentleman driver?
Well you can start your search at your local club racing events. Becoming a driving instructor at your local track or club events will give you more opportunities to meet new people who may be interested in teaming up in a professional series. There have been quite a few cases of instructors teaming up with their students for a pro-am series. This is where your networking skills will pay off, so introduce yourself!
Kyle Loustaunau is the winner of the 2014 Mazda Club Racer Shootout. He is currently racing professionally in the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup series.