It's your dream. But, it's not all sunshine and roses. There are some complications that really suck about being a racing driver. Being a racing driver, as it turns out, is really not for the feint of heart. It takes courage and strength, as you'll find in this article.
1: The Stress, Anxiety and Struggles
I'm not going to sugar coat it. Leading a race towards the end of the race is terrifying. The heart rate of even the calmest driver will be approaching 180 BPM in some cases. Try leading the final lap of the Le Mans 24 hours - one of the most prestigious races in the world - with a small lead and some concerns about whether you have enough fuel to make it until the end, for example. Hopefully, your heart is strong enough to keep pumping - cardiac arrest becomes a major concern when your heart rate approaches 180 BPM. People with panic attacks and anxiety? They probably shouldn't be the closing driver of the 24 hour race at all. The panic attacks and anxiety will cause a mistake. You can't argue about the massive psychological factors in racing... That last lap is the scariest, most exhilarating thing in the entire world for a racing driver. Small wonder, some of the last laps are the best racing you'll ever see in your life. Bergmeister vs. Magnussen, I'm looking at you...
2: The "Crash" Hangover
Crashing sucks. One second you're battling for position in the race, and next thing you know, you get shunted off-track, and into a wall. Your safety equipment does its job and you end up surviving without injury, but, the next day sucks. The next day always sucks.
You wake up with the inevitable pain: eye sockets that are strained (causing photo-sensitivity and pain when focusing the eyes, just like an alcohol hangover), the hyper-extended muscles, bruised rib cage, the possible shame or guilt of having made a small mistake, and maybe even some really tender cuts and bruises from the seat belts or the seat itself.
It's the worst hangover you'll ever have. All of the pain without the party. No winning, no party. You get to deal with hospital nonsense for the mandatory concussion checkups - "do you feel pain? Can you look at this popsicle stick?" the doctors ask, while scanning the whites of your eyes for torn blood vessels and other signs of concussion.
Even in grassroots motorsports - even karting - it is possible to get light concussions. I've had more minor concussions than I can count on a single hand from nasty crashes. That's why I can explain what they feel like.
3: The Sponsor Targets and the Team Objectives
Win. Don't crash. Make the car look good while winning and not crashing. Bring the car home without damage. Oh, and do it all without getting in trouble from the organizers. Good luck.
Sponsors want air time - they have marketing goals. They need you to do well so that their product gets attention and seems like a quality product. DMACK tires want their tires to win. Well, they would want their tires to win, if they made an unstudded winter rally tire; they don't, so they can't win. But, you would never guess that this Subaru Rally Team USA car is equipped with Yokohama winter rally tires, since DMACK still puts their name on the car equipped with Yokohama tires. In the end, though, Travis Pastrana still has to win for DMACK to look really good... On Yokohama tires. Yeah. Marketing. They could have fooled you, too.
The stress that comes from trying to meet the marketing goals of the sponsors, in order to keep the team funding coming in, is incredible. You need to meet their objectives, but of course the team hates bodywork, so they don't want you to risk the car too much. Win without damage. Go on. Oh, and do it in style. That's how you'll get even more sponsors. Nail the interviews with the media, so that you can stay marketable. Thank the sponsors. Mention them. Don't mention an old sponsor. Mention every current sponsor. Talk about the car. Mention the benefit of having raced that model of car. "Oh, you know, the Toyota MR2 has traditional Toyota reliability. Of course we made it to the end, the car is great. I'm lucky to be on this team." you say, even though you and the team boss had a fight about the setup during practice and you're kinda mad at the team. Make the team look good if you want to keep your job.
Stress is a big problem.
4: The Internet Haters
"I could do better." - every internet troll, ever.
Your mom told you that you were a handsome boy, and that you could do anything, so you believed her and you assumed that you'd be the best at everything you'll ever try to do. Well, you're wrong. Sorry.
It kinda sucks to be an amateur racing driver, simply because we actually race. We know we suck at racing - at least, compared to the people who win Formula 1 and other world-class races - but we do it because we love it. But, every internet troll who has ever lined up against a pensioner in a Buick at a traffic light has "won a race," so claiming to be a racing driver - not even a professional racing driver - has lost some of its respect. It's no longer a genuine career - it's a mockery by those who think that racing drivers just push the pedal down further than the person next to them and they win every race. There's more to it than that, worldwide web users. Stop trying to make yourself look better. Your feces still stink, by the way.
But, hey, it's not the end of the world. If you're serious about racing and you really want to get into it, there are ways to go about it. In fact, Melons' Better Driving has a program in mind, to train drivers to go faster. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, we'll see you at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario, on April 16th - we're going to a Touge.ca track day.
Drew Geier is a Canadian petrolhead whose main mission is to make motoring accessible, enjoyable, and affordable well into the future, by improving the art, hobby and lifestyle of motoring. He builds cars, and he writes about other builds. He's built a Subaru WRX and is building a Honda Civic EK.