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Episode 26

Racing Drivers – More Than Just Driving

What do racing drivers really do, after all they must do something other than just driving all day, right?

The majority of people, when asked about the job role of a racing driver, will assume all that a racer has to do is fling a car around the circuit as quickly as possible, collect their paycheque, and leave.  Well, we all know what happens when you assume…

Contrary to said belief, the modern racing driver needs to be able to perform in many different aspects to be a true asset to both their team and sponsors. From technical feedback, to media relations, to interactions with the crowd, to a positive, engaging social media outlook, there are many, many subsidiary aspects to a racing driver’s job. But what exactly makes a good driver personality? Let’s have a look at what, other than outright speed, is desirable in a modern-day driver.

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First and foremost, any team will be looking for someone that has the ability to improve the car. After all, a slow car is a slow car, and won’t challenge for victories even if its pilot is the quickest in the field. If, however, a race team has the option of a second driver that, whilst only 90% as quick, has the technical ability to improve the car during testing and effectively set the car up on race day, that’s who the seat is going to. From a team perspective, drivers are disposable, so whilst a quick driver may be a good short-term solution, an improvement in the car will see a longer-lasting change of fortunes.

Next up, you’ve got to bring the funds in, so you’ve got to be a perfect match for your sponsors. Now, there’s quite a few different ways you can appease those who assist your racing career, from slapping their stickers on your motor through to full-on brand ambassadorial roles, but the absolute key is to be excited by their product. So far, in my own quest to go racing in 2021, I’ve been approaching companies where I myself have been a consistent customer, as I feel like I can empathise with the brand, and therefore market it well.

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All too often we see people of influence posing for a picture with random tat they’ve never seen before, and it’s simple for the public to see straight through. Therefore, it’s vital to be able to prove to sponsors you can genuinely help them out. This doesn’t just have to be a sticker on the car and a social media shoutout too, it could be things like public speaking on their behalf, or anything you can think of really!

So, once you’re in the sponsors’ good books, it’s time to win over the media. Depending on the status of your race series, this will mean one of two things. If you’re in a small, grassroots championship, an ability to weave your achievements into the press will give you an unrivalled affinity within the paddock, whereas if you’re partaking in a more widespread series where the press is actively following you, it’s imperative you’re staying on it’s good side.

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Whilst in some industries the term “any publicity is good publicity” most certainly applies, motor racing is not one of them. Just ask Daniel Abt, for example. He thought it would be a good idea to “publicise” the skills of a professional e-sports driver when Abt himself should have been driving, yet those exact actions cost him his job. Admittedly the consequences may have been exaggerated because Audi and the rest of the VW Group are trying to get away from the whole “cheat” association, but still.

At the beating heart of motor racing sit these automakers, and if you do something to infuriate them, you will be thrown out the door at a moments’ notice. There are thousands of racing drivers, meaning you’re very much disposable. If you get on the bad side of the media, you’ll have a tough time trying to land a new ride.

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Finally, there’s your own, personal social media. Having a strong social media following can help prove to both teams and sponsors that you’re very much a well-liked personality. The way you build your following matters to a much lesser extent, as whether you do it through an entertaining personality or by making the most of your appearance won’t affect too much, as either way it proves to potential employers you can build a loyal, engaged fan base, which is a valuable trait to have.

Of course, there’s a common aspect to most of the points I’ve listed above, and that’s being a nice, likeable person. Generally, in life, if you’re nice to people, it pays off in the long run, and when it comes to motor racing the rewards might just be that bit better still.

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