It can be intimidating to start a career in racing. Actually, it can be downright scary, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to be. One of the best ways to learn is by contacting your local SCCA club in order to get a general feel for the life of racing. You can be a volunteer to learn the ins and outs by becoming a Motorsport Marshal (Course Worker). They are typically stationed at complicated sections of the course as additional personnel to assist with accidents or course hazards. The most basic duty of their position is to ensure the safety and integrity of the drivers and the course.
“But, Chris”, you beckon, “I want to drive, not work the track!” Hold on there, boss. You’ve got to crawl before you can walk, and keep one thing in mind. Even some of the best drivers in the world once worked at race tracks in various capacities. As you hang out and work around the track, don’t be afraid to take tours around the pit crews of the drivers in your events. Most of the drivers or crew managers would be delighted to give you a tour, so long as you’re respectful in your approach. During these tours, you will learn what it takes in terms of money and determination to fulfill your dream of burning rubber on a track.
After you’re comfortable with your feel and some knowledge, I wouldn’t say you’re quite ready go car shopping just yet. You need to learn how to drive before you spend a lot of money. Some people will rent their vehicles, or if you’ve got a real good friend they’ll let you gain a little experience in their car. Depending on your area of interest, there are a number of driving schools where you can spend less money and gain valuable knowledge of how to race. These schools will also help you build your network of like-minded individuals, prompting you to continue to learn and grow as a driver.
So, you’ve made the commitment. You’ve volunteered, toured, and even graduated from a racing school. What’s next? Well… if you’ve got the money, I would invest in a beater. You know, an older model racing vehicle that will suit your needs in this endeavor. Not so beaten to where it’ll need constant work, but a few dings and scrapes would be fine. Once you’ve gotten familiar with your car, enter it in local races to see how you stack up against the competition. If you don’t have the money yet, you can always ask for sponsorship, but typically sponsors come from significant wins. Every now and then you’ll see sponsors take a new racer under their wings, but let’s face it, BF Goodrich isn’t exactly going to be knocking down your door because you finished first in a local race. I’ll cover sponsorships in another post.
Making the decision to pursue this career takes a great deal of time, patience, money and realistic expectations. If you truly believe that your life is better suited behind the wheel, then go for it. You just need to make sure you’re prepared mentally and physically for a demanding sport. Let's be honest, it wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy. Best of luck!