I spent 4 years working for a Young Driver Program who launched and assisted the careers of race drivers, during that time I was lucky enough to coach and talent scout drivers who are now enjoying their professional driving contracts.
This was an eye opening experience that taught me the business side of our sport, plus how to best train, nurture and enhance the future prospects of any driver.
As you can imagine I was constantly contacted by drivers who wanted to join our program, they used to approach us from all angles and be quite creative in their proposals. This allowed me to see what approaches worked and what didn't, above all it showed me first hand what a Driver Program looks for and how a driver can get in.
So it's time to share that knowledge, to give you the chance to attract a Young Driver Program and get what you are after. This is my list of ways of getting a Young Driver Program to help you.
Types of Programs
First you must understand the driver investment arena.
Investing into a race driver's career may seem crazy but it actually provides many benefits for a program, everything from their product advertisement to networking, from tax benefits to being a vehicle for them to maneuver their money (ethically or not).
No matter what their motivation is they can all provide you, as a driver, with the financial help needed to reach your racing dreams.
Some of the programs out there are equivalent to 'doing a deal with the devil' but at the end of the day you share the same goal, you both need your career to succeed, that shared goal is important enough to outweigh the risk in joining them.
Yes you can get unjustifiably dropped from the program after a year but if that one year provides you with a much needed launch pad for the future then it's worth it. There are many drivers out there that were dropped but because of their time with the Young Driver Program they now enjoy a professional driver contract. They may not have got this contract if they tried it alone.
Top 5 Tips For Getting Into A Young Driver Program
If you want to join a Young Driver Program then here are some tips that will help you do this.
1) Talk Their Language - know what motivates them.
Each Young Driver Program has their own set of priorities; some have a product to sell, some want a financial return for their investment, some only back drivers from a certain country, etc. They all have their own reason for founding the program, it's your job to find this out.
When selling to anyone you must find out what they are looking for, you help create the demand and then offer the supply.
It's the same for you, if you are going to approach a Young Driver Program then you must find out what motivates them, what they are looking for and then show them that you will provide this.
2) You - be who they want.
Your image, the way you are and what you stand for must mirror the image of the Driver Program that you are approaching.
If they have an Executive and Highly Professional image then you will not attract them if your image and way of behaving doesn't echo that. It wouldn't go down well if this Driver Program researched you and saw your drunken selfies on the internet.
On the flip side if they saw how professional you look and that people are saying good things about your attitude then they are much more likely to work with you.
So make sure that you are congruent with who you are approaching, be the person they are looking for, inside and out.
3) Results Results Results - never forget the importance of these.
The best way to attract investors and Driver Programs is through your results, this was for sure the biggest factor when we were choosing drivers to join our program.
If someone contacted us after totally dominating a championship then that driver would automatically go to the top of the pile, everyone loves a winner.
So you have to think about this, how can you dominate a championship?
Maybe you could repeat your current championship (or even go down a Formula) instead of stepping up a category next year? This way you could win the championship instead of coming 3rd or 4th in a higher Formula.
For example, the program I was with would have rather signed up a champion of Formula Renault than someone who finished 4th in Formula 3.
Champions have market value, have momentum and have a buzz around them, this is worth a lot.
4) Bring a Double Benefit - what else can you bring?
Along with your winning record and image, what else could you bring to the table? What else can you offer the Driver Program that will aid your case?
Again think back to what they are here for in the first place. If they are company investors than maybe you could create potential business introductions for the program owners. Maybe you could pay for some of your racing budget for the first year to lesson the risk.
If they are using the program to sell products then show them how you could increase their sales, again you could introduce them to other people who could help.
This is where you put your creative business cap on and offer things that other drivers cannot.
5) The First Point Of Contact - how you approach them.
Do not get your parents to email the Driver Program!
The sentence "My son is the next great F1 driver" is a complete turn off, this kind of approach has it's own express route to the trash bin. Multimillion driver investors do not take these requests seriously.
The best ways to get their attention are:
1 - Get someone influential in the sport to recommend you.
When a Driver Program hears about a driver through word of mouth then they cannot resist looking into them. So another question to ask yourself is "How can I get people talking about me?" start with this question and search for the answers, again get creative.
You also need to get people to pass on the recommendation to the Driver Program, work your rapport skills on the correct people and this is quite easy.
2 - Contact them yourselves, go straight for the jugular. Emails are often too soft so pick up the phone and talk to someone on the program. People find it a lot harder to say no if you talk to them, as you can imagine the face to face approach is even more powerful.
So open up your box of confidence and get your face in front of as many influential people as you can, this will always be the most powerful way of getting instant feedback and results when selling something.
To Sum Up
If you want to get a Young Diver Program to back you then you must find out what they are about and make sure that you can provide what they are looking for. Oh and never forget that at the end of the day you must have a winning track record.
It sounds simple and it is, you just have to get on with it and make it happen.
Let me know how it goes