How Do I Become a Professional Racing Driver?

  • It’s impossible to put a hard figure on the cost of becoming a racing driver
  • Obtaining SCCA or NASA licensing will help you become legit
  • Racing without money means you have to make yourself marketable to teams

We all fantasize about champagne-soaked victories, supermodels of your preferred sex, Monaco-bound yachts, and as Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton says every race weekend: “the best fans.” But what are the realities of becoming a racing driver? Are you too old for a career in motorsports? Too slow? Too poor? Maybe not.

How do I become a racecar driver with no money?

Professional racing driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates a Formula 1 victory with champagne on the podium
Racing isn’t all champagne and wreaths | Mario Renzi via Getty Images

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If you haven’t guessed it already, going racing isn’t cheap. As with many things in life, having money as you set out to become a racing driver is only going to make things easier. If you don’t have money, you’ll need to focus on ways to get that money that’ll help you become a racing driver. I spoke to our very own Shields Bergstrom for some advice. Shields has been a factory test driver for brands like Aston Martin, as well as racing GT3 cars, and racing at Le Mans.

Shields told me that if you don’t have money, the best thing you can do is market yourself. That means maintaining a presence on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. “Learn everything you can about marketing, social media, business, and networking. Figure out what makes you unique and different from the 100,000 other racers seeking money and use that as your marketing hook.” Bergstrom also says that who you know and meet is imperative. You never know who’s going to give you a test, or who you’ll meet at the track.

How much does it cost to become a racing driver?

Racing driver and Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton races a go kart
Lewis Hamilton started karting at an extremely young age | Carl De Souza via Getty Images

Speaking of the track, Shields says just being there is invaluable. Aside from the near-limitless networking possibilities, learning from watching others can be incredibly useful. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to put a hard figure on how much it costs to go racing. That said, one of the best ways to do it is to get an SCCA or NASA (not the space guys) license. Like a driver’s license, both of these will show potential teams and sponsors that you know what you’re doing.

As far as getting into a real race car? Take a performance driving course and then rent or buy a seat. Turns out, this strategy isn’t just for hyper-wealthy folk like actor/ 911 racing driver Michael Fassbender. Again, it’s almost impossible to put a hard number on the cost. Of course, the lower the series, the better. Renting a karting seat will be cheaper (and better for your racing career) than trying to hop right into an open-wheel Formula car, a hard lesson I’ve learned myself.

A career in racing is just like any other career

At the end of the day, becoming a racing driver is much like any other career. Shields says it’s all about time and dedication. “I was prepping the cars at home, working several jobs, and scrapping every cent I had to travel across the country to race.” It’s no easy path, and this guide will hopefully serve as a small starting point to get you racing. Go fast, don’t die, and good luck.

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