How to Become a Racing Driver

The number one question I get asked all the time is “How do I become a racing driver?”

It’s a question I had to ask as well, particularly when I got back on the horse to pursue a GT Career, in 2014, after a six year break. I mailed a Semi-Pro driver called David Heinemeier Hansson, on the weekend of Le Mans that year and to my surprise he responded immediately…

Since that day I promised to reply to every single person who asked me the same question but maybe it’s time I write something more substantial instead.

The first thing to recognize is that becoming a Professional Racing Driver takes a lot of time and A LOT of money… and of course a decent dose of talent.

If you didn’t race a kart or a car before your 20’s it does get considerably more difficult. It’s much like someone saying they want to become a Premier League Football player, having never played a serious game of football their whole lives. Professional racing drivers are on a similar level, aka brilliant.

Don’t let that get in your way though, I was 29 years and 6 months old when I decided it was time to take it seriously. What I did have in my favour was a decent karting career in my late teens to early twenties… and a total obsession since I was 3 years old.

So to become a racing driver, fundamentally you need to tick these items:

  1. Unbelievable dedication
  2. Talent behind a wheel
  3. Money, a lot of it

Unbelievable Dedication

This is the number 1 requirement to becoming a professional sportsman. If you can’t motivate yourself to get out of bed everyday and do exactly what’s required to achieve your goals, then you will stumble and fail.

Dedication is not just being able to exercise everyday or watch what you eat. There are many other elements that will get in your way. These include raising a ton of money, sacrificing certain luxuries and materialistic items, dealing with friends and family questioning your life choices and of course the challenge of learning to be a fast racing driver.

Standard questions I ask young kids who want to follow in my footsteps:

  • Are you willing to sell your Playstation to become a racing driver?
  • Are you willing to sell your car, couch, tv, watch, shoes etc to become a racing driver?
  • Are you willing to break up with your girl/boyfriend to become a racing driver? (yes really, it can get to this level)

If you answer “No” to any of those questions then we have a problem because the person who’s going to get your seat has likely gone to that level and way beyond to become a Pro. I know I ticked all those boxes, as painful as they were.

Talent Behind the Wheel

So we have ticked the dedication box, you’re willing to pack it all up and leave town but before you can do that… you need to find out if you have the ability behind the wheel.

I am not talking about being able to drive your road car fast, a billion people can do that. I am talking about being able to drive fast while being precise, never missing apexes, doing the same lap times over and over, dealing with the pressure of racing and the disappointments of being beaten.

You’ve got talent? So what, so does everyone in Pro motorsport. Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Senna, Mansell – you name them – they all had to find ways to fund their junior careers.

Luckily to find out is not so difficult. Ok, it’s not the cheapest, but there’s no better way: Karting.

Most Pro’s started in karting, of course there are exceptions but they’re just that, exceptions.

Karting teaches you how to do all of the things I mentioned above and because it’s so physical you will also learn if you have the fitness to keep up.

To get started in Karting is really easy. Simply use Google to search for your local kart track and then find out the best karting teams and karting shops nearby. Give them a call and ask them if you can buy a pre-owned kart and engine.

If you’re based in South Africa then visit the Race Driver SA website and give them a call.

Do some practice and then sign up for a season of racing. See where you land up and don’t worry if you finish last in your first few races, this is completely normal. What you’re doing here is proving to yourself that you have what it takes, because Karting is like the big thing but with less pressure and less money required.

If you choose to skip karting then I highly recommend a cheap ‘tin-top’ series like Polo, Clio or Scirocco cup (depending on where you live, you’ll need to research this). BUT BE WARNED, these are much more expensive exercises and you get much less mileage.

Money, A Lot of It

We’ve got the dedication, we have bundles of talent… but do we have One Million Euros?

And this is where 99% of aspiring race drivers fail.

For many of us we believe that because we’re talented we deserve a free or paid seat at a racing team. But this is where most people get it wrong.

You’ve got talent? So what, so does everyone in Pro motorsport. Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Senna, Mansell – you name them – they all had to find ways to fund their junior careers.

Having talent is table stakes. That means it’s the minimum requirement, not the defining factor.

You will spend at least 2 – 5 years, after karting, trying to prove yourself in the dog-eat-dog world of big circuit Professional Motorsport. Everyone who is a Pro had to fight tooth and nail to get there and they’re not going to let a ‘no name’ take their place easily.

Team owners aren’t going to give you a shot just because you want to become a racing driver. Instead they’ll offer you a seat in their car at a certain price and as you prove yourself, so those prices may decrease or even go to zero… and in the very rare case they’ll pay you to race (I haven’t figured out the last step yet).

To give you an idea of costs (please note these are just rough estimates)

  1. €150,000+ for a season in a GT4 Championship
  2. €300,000+ for a season in a GT3 Championship
  3. €500,000+ for Le Mans
  4. €1,000,000+ for WEC
  5. Add 20% to those numbers for LMP2
  6. Double those numbers for Single Seaters

These prices can go down depending on speed, reputation, results and politics.

How do you raise money? Well this is not an easy answer. Some drivers are lucky enough to have friends or family who fund their entire careers and good for them. But most of us have to get creative.

This can include marketing yourself via social media, networking in the right circles, meeting someone who’s willing to back your talent & dedication, winning the lottery… or just working your ass off in a well paying job or business you’ve founded.

In my case I stopped karting at 23 and then focused all of my efforts on my business, along with my brother Marc, and when I had saved enough money for a full season in GT Racing (±€150,000) I cold-called racing teams and spent every dime I had.

I learned how to market and sell by watching people like Gary Vaynerchuk and reading books about marketing and business.

The following year I found a personal sponsor who covered half of my budget and I came up with the rest by using social media and my personal income. The rest is history.

The truth is that there is no easy answer to how you raise money, which is why Unbelievable Dedication is the number 1 requirement. There will be times where you have done exceptionally well on track but you still find yourself without a drive because you don’t have the money to pay for it. This is par-for-the-course and you need a thick skin to fight through those moments.

My mistake was only realising this after my karting career had failed. But if you can make fund-raising your main practical focus then the rest will fall into place.

I need to add that you must not let these CRAZY numbers get you down. I took it one step at a time and when a door opened I figured out a way to walk through it.

You may notice that I haven’t mentioned stuff like training 2 hours a day, using a simulator to stay sharp, eating the right foods or putting together the perfect qualifying lap.

Don’t worry about those things, if this is what you really want then all of that will come naturally. But focus on the first step, buy a kart, or a simulator, do some local races, see if you have what it takes and then go to the next level.

Good luck and believe in yourself.

UPDATE: I have long held a strong belief that the best place to get started in racing is with Sim Racing. If you are looking to start sim racing or want to take your skills to the next level, check out my new website: Coach Dave Academy.

On the Coach Dave Academy we provide sim coaching lessons, incredible Assetto Corsa Competizione car setups and one-on-one sessions with real race engineers.

58 Comments on “How to Become a Racing Driver

Mark Daitz
January 8, 2018 at 8:39 am

Fantastic article David – it is wonderful what you have achieved and the way in which you have done this – well done DP walk tall – I am proud to know you !

David Perel
January 9, 2018 at 10:27 am

Thank you Mark, I will never forget what you’ve contributed to my dreams and ambitions. Yourself and Mischa are always top of mind. Dave

Drew Halloran
September 5, 2019 at 2:18 pm

I am 14 years old but my parents have no money but Im doing a rental kart league. I recently applied for a job so Im gonna use every dime on karting so I can learn to take apexes and corners. Do you think its too late for me?

November 28, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Finish school and then start a business. Focus on this business until you’re 25-28 years old. Then use the money you saved from your successful business to become a racing driver. This is how I did it.

Alejandro Colon
November 15, 2019 at 1:41 am

Wow, I was driving my way home after work asking myself, how can I at least put myself in the right track in what I know I love the most and will make me happy by doing it as a living. I have spent hours on GT games in consoles(due to lack of resources, aka money) and recently decided to do a crossover to PC simulators to feel closer to that world since I heard pros are actually using them to train. Still today I felt like I was wasting my time in the simulators and started to feel insecure about that decision which, funny enough led me to start listening to some Gary Vee’s videos in my way home to fuel me up and to see if I could come out with some new ideas on how to pursue that goal since I knew money is a big factor(GT3 is my goal). I have considered Karting but I have my doubts since I’m 33 years old and will turn 34 in January but, as you can see I’m still trying to figure out how to get there. I consider I have an excellent mindset, I love learning from my mistakes, I work hard and I love criticism if it makes me push harder to be the best. I became an automotive technician just to have the thrill of driving fun cars and make my days more exciting(I’m a MINI master tech, I recently started working with Porsche’s, Mercedes Benz, BMW’s, Audi’s in an independent shop) but, it doesn’t feel fulfilling. Playing racing sims for 2 to 6 hours a day comes natural for me since I enjoy it. Should I still try Karting at my age, is it possible to have a chance to be a GT3 driver one day by doing this? I would love to hear your angle on this. Thank you David!

Thomas Kemenater
January 8, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Hi David.
Nice and interesting story. Quite similar to mine story starting with my first race licence at 40 years ?. Hope to see you soon … on a circuit obviously! Cheers. Thomas

David Perel
January 9, 2018 at 10:27 am

Awesome Thomas! Let’s hope we meet on track!

January 9, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Great article David… Keep on being creative!!

David Perel
January 11, 2018 at 7:06 pm

Thanks mate!

January 9, 2018 at 8:13 pm

Hi David, nice story, I find it very motivational, keep up the good work.

January 10, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Hi David.
I’m Jody Litago and I want to thank you for sharing your story, it really motivated me to not give up on my dream. I’ve always had a passion for cars and speed ever since I can remember. My father told me that when i was 3 years old he had me on his shoulders in the mall and when we came to the toy cars section he said that he could feel my heart starting to pound as we came closer to the cars. So this really is my dream, I go to KILLARNEY international raceway any chance I get.

Given Mkhwebane
January 11, 2018 at 12:50 am

This is exactly what I needed to hear! I’ve been looking everywhere about how I could also start a racing career. I’m doing Mechanical Engineering at the moment and I was hoping that could bring me closer to the racing industry

January 11, 2018 at 2:49 am

Great article – thanks for taking the time to help others. My nephew has just completed his first year in karting……he is very quick, regularly getting fastest lap……it’s race-craft and driving in traffic he needs to work on, overtaking slower karts without losing time or position. Any tips on accelerating the learning process? Thanks

David Perel
January 11, 2018 at 7:06 pm

Hey Arch, I highly recommend buying a Playstation, Gran Turismo and a Steering Wheel/Pedal setup. I use mine 2-3 hours per day and treat it as deliberate practice – racing online and perfecting my racecraft, racing lines etc. There is no other way, it’s relatively cheap and can be done without leaving the house. You can read about my setup here:

January 11, 2018 at 8:37 pm

Thanks David, top tip and a very cost effective way to build up mileage and experience.

Best of luck with the 2018 season.

January 15, 2018 at 2:17 am

Hey David. Thanks for finally letting me know how to become a racing driver. Is Forza Motorsport 7 also good for the simulation racing ?

David Perel
January 15, 2018 at 8:54 am

Sure, as long as you have a steering wheel and pedal setup 🙂

January 11, 2018 at 9:45 am

I’ve always wanted to get involved in F1 racing and didn’t know how. Now thanks to you David, maybe I could pursue my dream.

January 12, 2018 at 10:14 pm

I always wanted to more about what to do after karting
But i know and understand

David Walker
January 16, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Great article David, always an inspiration to younger drivers, my daughter got much racing skills racing against you when you returned to karts in 2012, I think it was

David Perel
January 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

Thanks so much for the kind words David! I’ll be at the kart track on Wednesday and Thursday (24 + 25 Jan). Welcome to come say Hi / chat if you have time. Dave

Robert Koenig
April 24, 2018 at 2:41 pm

Pleasure to meet you David and appreciate your instruction in the 488 Challenge at Hockenheim last week Wednesday! I’ll definitely remember the harder initial braking and opportunistic short-shifting! Your article is brilliant and anyone can tell its from the heart! Wishing you continued success!

David Perel
June 26, 2018 at 10:42 am

Hi Robert, I completely missed this comment. It was a pleasure coaching you in Hockenheim! Thanks so much for the kind words and I hope we can meet at the track again in the near future.


June 27, 2018 at 9:00 am

Hey Dave, great article and thank you!
But I’m having an solid issue here. I’m 17, live in the Netherlands and my parents nor anybody else can back me up. And jobs pay kids my age fairly bad. I haven’t done a proper race with my own kart yet but I have done karting before. I have no idea where to start and where to go. Since I have to stop school and get a full-time job to pay for my career. I’m kind of lost at the moment, but I don’t want to give up on my dream/ goal. Could you please help me out?

David Perel
June 27, 2018 at 12:20 pm

Hi James, I understand your problem 100% It’s not an easy situation to be in. The problem with racing is that you need some money to get going, and you have to figure out how you can raise that money. It’s either by working yourself or by asking friends and family. To find a ‘real’ sponsor to support you before you’ve set foot on a race track is incredibly difficult. Whatever you do, do not stop school for racing, that is a huuuuge mistake. Rather try think of creative ways to make money outside of school hours (which does not involve anything illegal). There are many stories of kids below the age of 20 who’ve managed to find ways to make money while still finishing school, it’s not impossible 🙂

June 28, 2018 at 2:48 pm

I am 13 and doing auto tests. Will this still get me somewhere. I plan to do APRA (Australian pulsar racing association) in the future which will cost about $5000 for the car and about $1000 a year in running costs which is super cheap but if I could get some reputation if that is the word for it so some doors can open in the future. Is that how it works? Anyway I would love your feedback on this

David Perel
July 10, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Hi Ethan

Developing a reputation is important but even more important is developing the ability to find sponsors and raise money. All racing teams up until F1 require money to go racing and in 99.9% of cases that money is supplied by the driver. If you want to become a racing driver you also need to become an entrepreneur, because without the budget you cannot be on the grid. Unfortunately that’s just a fact of motorsport.


September 19, 2018 at 9:06 am

Hello David perel. I’m from Sri Lanka. I’m 18 years old. I’ve always loved racing. From a 30 minute training at our international karting circuit, I’ve set the fastest rental kart timing. Well I think I’ve got the skill to be a racing driver. But my parents don’t wanna pay me for my expenses. They say it’s too much for us. In my country there’s no part time jobs to earn money. Will you suggest me what to do. Here’s my email . Here’s my what’s app number .+94711551261. Please drop me a text. Thank you..

David Perel
October 11, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Hi Dinura

If you cannot earn enough money in Sri-Lanka then you have to move countries to pursue your dream and find a job in the new country. That is the only solution because to find a sponsor in the early part of your career is very difficult. It depends how much you want it, if you want it more than life itself then moving to a country where you can earn a living which allows you to save for racing is an option.


October 12, 2018 at 5:07 am

Hey David,
I came across you on YouTube on one of Super GT’s videos. You have written a wonderful article. Having said that, I wanted to ask whether you stream or not. If not – I seriously think that lots of people would love to watch a professional racer’s stream and entertain themselves/learn some tricks.
You can earn lots of money by streaming nowadays too – just saying!
You practice and you stream (potential money) on the same time.

Good luck eith your future races.


David Perel
October 12, 2018 at 10:40 am

Hey Ismail, thanks for the message! I do have a YouTube Channel but I currently don’t give commentary. I am hoping to change that in the coming months though as I look to share some of my “real racing” thinking in Sim Racing.

Timothy chambless
August 24, 2019 at 5:25 am

Hi my name is Tim I am 53 years old is that’s too old to race car I race car went I was 16 years old now I am a truck driver

August 26, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Tim! Do some sim racing, it’s hugely competitive online and will help to fill the void that real racing leaves out.

August 24, 2019 at 1:48 pm

David Perel I kinda need your help because I’m going though midlife crisis and been having little bit suicide thoughts and been drinking little for past 2 weeks. Because I`m trying be race car driver as well my main goal is get in F1 and FIA WEC others people said Im too old for F1 but im still young Im 18 about to turn 19 I did go karting little bit but not too often but I did very well at it but dont got enough money for it. David Perel you look like been struggling just like me but your dream finally came true how did you do it? There a chance for me? Only thing im lack of is money because me and my family we kinda poor.

August 26, 2019 at 4:25 pm

Nick if you’re struggling for money then I recommend getting into Sim Racing first. Focus all your efforts on Sim Racing and then go from there.

Shema Shakur
August 30, 2019 at 3:05 am

Hello I’m Shakur, I’m I’m 20 years is it possible for me to start racing schools to achieve to the formula 1 seat without Karting because I’m old for that, thanks

November 28, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Hey mate, 20 years old is a bit late to pursue a Formula 1 career. Rather focus on GT Endurance Racing.

September 17, 2019 at 4:49 pm

David Perel I need your help because I am into motorsporting ,I am 16 years old and I am struggling with money and finding someone who will motivate me and will sponsor me , the issue is that what must I do so that I came be a motorsporter at this age?

November 28, 2019 at 1:54 pm

Hey mate, to find sponsorship is very difficult. I don’t have the answer for you unfortunately. Focus on building a career where you are paid a lot of money. Then save that money and try make your dreams in motorsport come true with your own money.

Evan Hexter
September 26, 2019 at 10:14 pm

Mr. Perel,

How do you think outdoor off-road RC racing compares to karting in terms of exposure, sponsorship, and getting into higher levels of racing? My end goal is to race Pro4 Unlimited Trucks. I currently race two classes in rc and have gained a few sponsors and was selected onto a local racing team. I started racing a little over a year ago, but have had the driving passion to race for my entire sixteen years of life. I do not have financial backing- I pay for my racing. I’m thinking going to college for automotive mechanical engineering would be smart, so I could get hired by a racing team as a mechanic and then get lucky like Ricky Bobby. Do you think that’s the right route? What would you change about it? I can’t afford karting and I can barely afford RC racing. I always run people’s takeoffs and manage to take first place finishes frequently with the bald tires. I’m working my tail off to buy an old Silverado from a family friend so I can work my tail off more to race more. It’s rusty and I’m going to need to put a lot of work into it. Lots of things on it don’t work and the transmission is probably going to give out soon. It needs a lot of parts. 100% of my money is put towards racing and that truck. I checked those three boxes in less than a heartbeat and I can assure you that my desire to race is stronger than anyone else’s. I’m the hardest working teen you’ll ever hear from…but I’m lost. I’m working so hard and I feel that I’m not going very far. I used to watch Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing on TV but got tired of wishing I was in the driver’s seat of one of those trucks. I don’t have time for TV because I work so hard. I work at a lawnmower repair shop for a guy who races roadcourse with 1980’s Mazda RX7’s. I get to work on those when I’m not working on a lawnmower. I’m hoping that maybe doing this will give me a foot in the door to racing. When I can’t work there some days, I mow lawns. I have other jobs. I’m looking into applying for another to squeeze in. Gosh, racing is expensive. It seems that I’m too old and too late to be a pro racer. Shoot, I have work do do.

Thank you for reading,

-Evan Hexter

November 28, 2019 at 1:53 pm

The answer if very simple: How many people watch you race RC cars? Do you see any big sponsors in the RC racing space? If the answer is ‘not very much’ then you can see already that it will be an uphill climb. To raise enough money in motorsport is something I’ve never managed to do so I cannot give much advice here. Rather focus on building a company which can make you enough money to pursue your dreams later in life. This is what I did and it seemed to work. Alternatively if you have some wealthy friends or family then I recommend asking them for help to get you into a Kart and eventually GT4 racing.

Andrej Stojanovski
September 29, 2019 at 8:03 am

Very good read David. It is not only about talent as you said, for me it is different I’m currently 16 years old and my dream is to be a racing driver I started sim racing 2 years ago been enjoying that won a championship in one of my leagues. I live in Macedonia where motorsport events aren’t really a thing I would like to become a GT driver. But I can’t even have the chance to kart and to try racing atleast I have thought about moving to another country when I finish with high school do you think it would be too late to pursue a career at 19? I am willing to dedicate my whole life to become a racing driver I have no other passions I really don’t have anything else I would want to do with my life.

November 28, 2019 at 1:51 pm

Pursuing a GT career is possible if you have the talent but to become and F1 driver is probably too late now. As described in the post you will need a lot of money to get started. So focus on starting a business first and then use the money you make from that to pursue a racing career later in life.

October 6, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Hey David I’m Santiago! I have the dream of becoming a racer since I’m 4… Starting this year I went to some karting classes to start my career but had to left because it was so expensive… When I was there my trainer said that I had the skills and determination to become a racer.. and now that I think about it.. it’s true.. the only thing I need is money… Lots of it… What can you recommend me to do?
Thanks for you’re time David, greetings from Costa Rica…

-Santiago Soto: the first Costa Rican driver 🙂

November 28, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Hi mate, I recommend starting a business and focusing on that for 10 years. Then use the money/savings you gain from that business and fund your career. This is what I did.

October 29, 2019 at 8:58 am

Hi David. I will be 24 soon. I live in south africa. Ive been playing Gran Turismo simulator my entire life, and whenever I do go-karting with friends or work events, I set great times, and there are skills that i can only attribute to years of Gran Turismo. Cars are really are a passion of mine. How can I take this further than a sim? What is the first step I can take? Am i too old already?

November 28, 2019 at 1:49 pm

Hi Wesley, as described in the article you should called Kartsport SA or visit for more information.

Harley A. Garcia
October 29, 2019 at 3:41 pm

Hey David im a 15 soon to be 16 in texas this article helped me find the missing pieces to racing in the gt class or maybe who knows F1, and show my parents that a racing sim actually can help me improve/practice. I do have one question would it be better to keep go karting or if I have the opportunity go into a racing series along the lines of lightly modded street cars at say circuit of America.

November 28, 2019 at 1:48 pm

Awesome that this post helped you mate. Good luck with your future ambitions!

Imanuddin Rayees
November 23, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Imanuddin Rayees
hello sir my age is 18
can i become a track race car driver
and how much money is needed to to become a track racer
what are the salaries ?
what are the qualifications ?
In school what should i take science or maths
how much cost for a training school ?
is it necessary to buy a kart ?

i want to become a racer
i have play-station 3 and have gran turismo 6
but i dont have steering wheels and pedals

can i still become a racer ?
do we really get time to meet our loved ones ?

plz give me every detail because i want to become race car driver

i will be thankful if u help me in these
and solve my problems

November 28, 2019 at 1:48 pm

Hi mate, I cover the costs in my post above. If you come into racing because of the salary then you are aiming for the wrong sport. This isn’t a sport where you can make money. Please re-read the post and take the advice I give you there.

Imanuddin Rayees
December 2, 2019 at 12:55 pm

than why people waste money on these races
how do they make money than

December 3, 2019 at 10:08 am

If you have to ask that question then you will never make it in this sport 🙂

Arvid Bergström
December 1, 2019 at 7:22 pm

Hi, I’m 14 right now and I want to be like you. I think I have some talent but I don’t know. I need the money but just don’t have it, what do I do?

December 3, 2019 at 10:08 am

Get started in sim racing, try prove yourself there. If you have talent you will find out via Sim Racing. Then you can consider how to find money for the real thing. But start with sim racing first.

Jake Tran
December 1, 2019 at 11:28 pm

Now this was an amazing article. Thanks for taking the time to write it, David!!

December 3, 2019 at 10:09 am

Thank you Jake 🙂

Imanuddin Rayees
December 11, 2019 at 6:57 am

plz tell me how much money is needed to start my career with basics go karting

if my parents salary is 1400$

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