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Episode 26

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

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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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

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Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 16

Almost everyone and everything has been affected by Covid-19, so what has the virus meant for Living The Racing Grind?

“Is Coronavirus Affecting My #RacingGrind?”

Almost everyone and everything has been affected by Covid-19, so what has the virus meant for Living The Racing Grind?

The current worldwide situation is unprecedented in its global impact, with huge effects being felt on both humanitarian and economic levels. The vast majority of people, in the UK at least, aren’t even allowed to leave their homes unless they are performing one of a small number of permitted tasks, such as daily exercise or food shopping. As a result, most businesses have seen either a large reduction in service or have temporarily ceased trading in a bid to conserve their cashflow.

This is all information you most likely know already, but what does it mean for me and, more importantly, my #RacingGrind? Well, there are of course disadvantages, but there are also upsides for this blog. What exactly are they? Read on to find out.

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Firstly, the short-term disadvantages, and most notably, blog ideas. You would have already noticed that my #RaceWatch series has fallen flat, and frankly that is because there are no races to watch! Yes, I could work around that by reviewing sim races, however they do not interest me from a spectator viewpoint. Yes, I would love to compete, but watching virtual racing is not my cup of tea.

In terms of the main #RacingGrind blogs, you can probably tell from this article that these ideas are also starting to run dry. Actually, that’s a little unfair. I have plenty of ideas, but not many are possible to follow through with because of the current climate. This is because they may involve attending race meetings or car events, or simply because nobody is available to answer my research emails. As a result, there may be more design-related content coming in the next few weeks (such as helmet, race suit and livery designs), as this is content that I don’t rely on anyone bar myself to make.

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Another point to address concerns the cover photos. Up to this point, every photo used as the cover for each blog had been shot by myself or my father. Now, however, I have reached a point where I don’t have enough pictures in the bank, meaning I’m having to improvise. Where possible I will endeavour to continue to use first-hand imagery, although this might not be entirely possible, and so solutions such as this article’s cover will be utilised.

On to the advantages, and the most notable advantage is that of time. Current circumstances mean that I am able to invest much more time and effort into producing a much higher-quality blog. All aspects of the blog, such as website appearance and usability, social media content and blog marketing are all being reviewed, with the idea to improve ease of use, aesthetics and professionalism of the blog in all areas.

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Some changes have already started to occur, with new, bold templates having been rolled out on the @TheRacingGrind Instagram page, making each post unmistakably ours when seen by other users, whilst also providing more continuity on the profile page.

Of course, there are also long-term effects to come for most, if not all businesses. Whilst Living The Racing Grind itself is not a business, as there is no cashflow, our future plans are directly affected by other entities. One foreseeable issue is that of sponsorship. The notion of going racing in 2021 is entirely dependent on securing sufficient sponsorship, and with purse-strings being pulled tight by the virus, businesses will almost certainly have less cash on hand to spend on sponsorship.

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One thing to reiterate, though, is that this blog is all about a journey onto the racing grid. Every journey encounters hills, and all that’s required to scale those hills is a bit more effort. I still enjoy writing this blog, and so I’m still going to write it, no matter how many people read it. Thank you, though, to those of you who do take the time to digest my ramblings. I promise it’ll get better soon. And I’m not just talking about the blog.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 13

Nearly 4 months into my #RacingGrind and I hadn’t even hit the track yet! I had to get a quick race in before lockdown, though…

“How To: Bottle Podiums”

Nearly 4 months into my #RacingGrind and I hadn’t even hit the track yet! I had to get a quick race in before lockdown, though…

So far, I have created 12 episodes about my #RacingGrind, my journey into racing, and yet I haven’t once actually been to the track. And now, with the new UK government regulations surrounding social contact, it’s unlikely that any of us will be racing any time soon. With that in mind, I decided to head down to my local karting track to get some practice in before it was too late.

Daytona Sandown Park, a nice little arrive-and-drive circuit in Surrey, is my “local” outdoor track, despite the fact it’s not really very local at all! Regardless, alongside a friend of mine, I turned up for my first seat time since starting this blog. The challenge: a 40-minute race in their Sodi RT8 karts.

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The karts in question were your run-of-the-mill hire karts – 4-stroke single-cylinder engines capable of up to 55mph. With little in terms of low-end torque, it can be very easy for these karts to bog down after slow corners, so it’s vital to carry momentum into corners in order to have the best acceleration on the other side, and therefore the quickest lap times. Naturally, though, due to a complete lack of familiarity (this was only the second time I had driven these karts, and just the third occasion visiting the track), I didn’t do this.

If I was to compare my driving to a professional racer, it would certainly be Jarno Trulli. Very often I’m able to set competitive times quickly, but I’m unable to string a series of fast laps together to make a good race pace, creating a bit of a “Trulli Train” behind. In fact, this pretty much summed up my race.

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With just a 10-minute qualifying session to adapt myself to the kart and track conditions, I was able to piece together a 50.266. Good enough for second of 22 on the grid, and three tenths ahead of third, albeit another three tenths down on pole.

From there, though, my day went a bit downhill. The start of the race was fairly unspectacular, as the pole sitter (who was about 14 and weighed 3 stone) just took off, and I settled into second. I struggled, however, to adapt to the tyres, which had cooled off considerably whilst we were sat on the grid. This meant that I was facing a lot of pressure from behind, and on the last corner of the second lap I ran wide, dropping down to third.

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After my little grassy excursion, the race settled down. I chased down second and we swapped positions for a while, until the final corner on the 21st lap of 46. At this point I was back into second, and the racer behind me lunged up my inside, clipping the rear of my kart and sending me into a spin. As a result, I dropped from second to fourth, and the race turned from consolidating a comfortable second (as I was clearly quicker than my opponent) into a chase back to the podium. Or so I thought.

Just two laps later I had caught back up to third place, and our small group of three (second, third and I) were running nose-to-tail once more. That was until we encountered a lapped karter heading into turn two. The two racers immediately ahead of me managed to pass the lapped driver fine, however I was not so fortunate. At the last moment the backmarker cut into the corner, tagging the front of my kart, and putting me into a second spin in three laps. This one was more detrimental to my overall race, too, as I dropped from fourth to seventh, putting me firmly out of touch of the podium battle.

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The second half of the race was very much a recovery drive, and at least this time round there were no incidents to halt my progress. Whilst simultaneously weaving through traffic, I was able to regain fourth position, and finish a second ahead of fifth, although I crossed the line twelve seconds away from the podium and a resounding 25 behind the race winner.

Interestingly, analysis of each drivers’ lap time improvements from qualifying to the race proved my suspicions that I’m comparatively slower in races. In 46 laps of racing, I completed just one lap quicker than my qualifying time, and the improvement was less than a tenth. In comparison, the average improvement between qualifying time and fastest race lap was more than half a second per driver, meaning I effectively “lost” four tenths of outright pace to my competitors in the race. This is clearly something that I’ll need to address in order to fight more for wins in future races.

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In conclusion, I gave an expert account on how to bottle a safe podium. Throughout the first half of the race I was comfortably second-quickest on track, however two spins sent me firmly into the mid-pack. The race was fairly educational for me, too, as I learnt where some aspects of my race-craft were not quite up to scratch after a few months of no racing. For example, I struggled with consistency and outright pace, although I felt my overtaking was a strength of mine during this race, something that historically has not necessarily been true. At least I’ve plenty of time to work on ironing out my flaws before can once more go racing…

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 10

Why have I decided to create this blog? What’s the aim? And why do I think my advice will be any better than anyone else’s?

“Why Me? Why This?”

Why have I decided to create this blog? What’s the aim? And why do I think my advice will be any better than anyone else’s?

Why do I think I’m in a suitable position to document how difficult (or otherwise) it is for a driver to work their way up the motorsport ladder? After all, I have no experience of being part of a paddock before, so I don’t have any experience I can pass onto you readers. Yet I speak about my previous racing experience, so I can’t be a complete novice, which is what I’m painting myself out to be? What exactly is my racing history, and why do I think that I’m an ideal testbed for other novices to maybe learn from in the future?

My first memories of driving go-karts are a little foggy, as they happened the best part of 10 years ago. Whilst I don’t remember setting the world alight with immediately blistering times, I do remember the elation that I felt after getting out of the kart. Those occasions were few and far between, however. Extremely few, in fact, as I can only think of three occasions between the ages of 9 and 11. That didn’t stop me from catching the bug, though, as I spent the next few years dreaming of excuses for my parents to take me to the track.

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I didn’t start regularly karting until about 5 years ago, then, when I was about 15. The Duke of Edinburgh award is fairly well known here in England, where it is basically a programme that aims to help prepare young people for adult life. When I took part, there were 3 main sections: sport, volunteering, and learning a skill. For me the sport and the volunteering sections were easy, as I’m a keen cricketer and coached a little. Finding a skill to complete was tricky, until I read one of the items on the list: Go-karting. Being forced to go to the track every week for three months? Sounded like hell, but I was sure I could endure the hardship.

It was during those three months that I improved to a slightly-above-average standard, and so I thought I’d enter a competition that was being run by the company that owned the track. I breezed through the qualification rounds, and was really quite confident going into the day of the finals, but it was the sort of confidence only naivety would create. Almost every single one of the 29 other drivers had their own suits, helmets, gloves, the lot. I didn’t, I just wore what they gave me. Safe to say it didn’t go so well, but still my hunger to get quicker didn’t wane.

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The next few years went by with semi-regular practice and the occasional local competition, but nothing serious. That changed in late 2018, though. October 2018 was when I first went to university, and entered my first championship. I went from mixing it with middle-aged blokes on a Friday night, to racers around my age, yet accomplished in their own right. I was up against British champions, world champions, Formula 4 drivers, and even one guy who’s competing in British Formula 3 this year. Safe to say it was the deep end!

Whilst initially I was a long way off the pace, I also think last year my learning curve was the steepest it had ever been. During a six round championship I went from 14th in the first round, to having three consecutive fourth-placed finishes, even taking a fastest lap in the final at the fifth round. After all of that, I somehow managed to finish second in the championship. Second! Safe to say last year was my most enjoyable so far behind the wheel.

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This year is different, however. Due to various reasons I haven’t gone back to university, so I’m without competition. Something that I am doing now that I wasn’t at university, though, is earning money, and that got me thinking. I want to keep improving myself as a driver, but I feel like I’m probably fairly close to my potential in a hire-kart, so I need to step things up. Therefore, I want to use what disposable income I do have to go racing for real.

So that’s my racing career to date. I’m not a complete novice, but I’m not the best in the world by a long shot. I’d say I’m good. Just being good doesn’t satisfy me, but I feel like it does give me some valuable experience on this journey over a complete novice. For example, if an opportunity presents itself, I feel I’m in a position where I have enough ability to not completely embarrass myself! After all, writing a blog means I talk a lot of talk, so at some point I’ll have to walk the walk. So if places heightened expectations on me, why would I write the blog?

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Whilst there are thousands of racers out there, not many of them actually talk about how they got to where they are now: what skills they thought they needed, what skills they didn’t think they needed but really did, what eye-opening experiences they had, what mistakes they made etc. What I want to do is be that person, so that future racers can learn from my experiences. After all, one way of making racing more accessible is by making it cheaper, and whilst I can’t dictate the actual cost of entering races, I hope I can at least stop drivers from spending their hard-earned racing budget on experiences that won’t necessarily further their racing careers.

That’s the aim at least. So far, we’re ten weeks in to this journey, and whilst I’ve made some lifestyle adaptations to maximise the little ability I have (click here and here for more on these), alongside looking at what race series I might enter in 2021 (to read further on this click here and here), I’ve not actually visited the track at all this year, probably the longest period of time I’ve gone without karting in some time! Don’t lose all hope, however, as there may be a big event coming soon. My #RacingGrind might actually feature some racing!

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!

Episode 01

Starting up a racing career is hard, they say. Just how hard is it though? I’m making it my mission to find out…

Starting up a racing career is hard, they say. Just how hard is it though? I’m making it my mission to find out…

“New year, new me.”

“New year, new me.”

The cliché that almost all of us use to convince ourselves that we can make a difference to our lives for the better. After all, what better time to make a change than when the whole planet (near-as-makes-no-difference) simultaneously celebrates a change. Beginning a new challenge at the start of a new year means it’s easy to calculate how long we’ve successfully stuck with our new habit, or as with the vast majority of us, how long we lasted before we gave up.

So, here is my “new year, new me” challenge. Writing. Well writing and racing, but I’ll touch on the writing bit first. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever been particularly gifted at writing in my 20 years of existence to date, but I’ve always enjoyed stories. Be it reading stories, reciting stories, being immersed in the portrayal of a story by people much more talented in the field of acting than I, a good story draws people in. It draws them in to the point where they don’t want to get out, they happily embrace each word right up until the final full stop.

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But it’s all well and good knowing what a story does and wanting to write one, but where does the inspiration come from? Where do you find that gripping storyline? For me, in this instance, I feel that subject will be myself.

“But who are you? Why are you so interesting? I’d never even heard of you before clicking on this post!” I’m sure you’re thinking, although I expect there isn’t quite as much emotion behind your thoughts as those expressions just had. This brings me onto the racing. I, just like a lot of you I’m sure, want to go racing, but don’t have millions of pounds of backing. I don’t even have thousands at this point. It’s just me. I want to go racing, but I don’t have a race team, a car or even a race licence. I do, though, have a desire to race.

Regardless, my “new year, new me” plan is to live a racing life. Every aspect of a racing drivers’ life will be documented, be it mental and physical health, raising finances to race, finding the best competition to race in, how to improve as a driver, everything. Every sacrifice, every triumph, every setback will be lived and written about, all for your reading pleasure. Together we will discover just how hard it really is to get into racing using just my own two feet.

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Ideally, this culminates in “racer realises lifetime dream” rather than “racing blog stalls at the start line.” Ideally, I don’t give up in two weeks’ time like most “new year, new me” challenges. Ideally, I haven’t lost the interest of both of you readers by now. “Ideally” is a very easy word to use far too many times in a row, it seems. I think I’m now rambling on a bit…

Let’s get things back on track (I promise the puns are really not intentional). Now that you know, and hopefully understand, what this blog is going to contain over the coming weeks, months, years, I hope you find it an entertaining enough concept to stick around with, as I prepare to dedicate my life to the racing grind.

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Enjoyed reading this article? Let us know your thoughts with a comment below! All that’s needed is an email address, and don’t worry, there’ll be no junk mail!

Excited about the #RacingGrind? Sign up to our mailing list to receive every new post straight to your inbox, as soon as it’s published!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (click the icons at the top)! Our socials are the best place to get all the latest #RacingGrind information, so check them out!