Q: “I’m an aspiring rally driver who just finished reading your book Speed Secrets 5: The Complete Driver. In Chapter 5, “Career Steps,” you discussed getting started in racing as well as choosing a series. As a driver, I have done a season of competitive karting, a season of rallycross, and been to two racing schools. I plan to attend one more school and do some rally sprints before eventually getting my full competition license, but the question I have is: When is the right time (if there is one) to contact a team to show your interest in joining them for the next season? Should I wait until I have more experience later in the year and a race license, or is it best to let them know as soon as possible?”
A: There’s not one right answer to that question. It depends. If I had to pick one way to go, though, I’d suggest communicating sooner rather than later. Hey, what’s the worst thing they could say? That doesn’t mean you don’t need to get experience – the more, the better. But it’ll at least tell you what the team wants, giving you the information you need to go get what they want.
I think it’s important that drivers not get overly-focused on a set ladder, or specific steps, but instead be flexible in their career progression. In my own career, I was too caught up in making the next step. I didn’t “stop and smell the roses” along the way. There were years where I should have enjoyed my racing more than I did, but because I was so caught up in making it to the next step, or landing the next sponsor, I didn’t. It was all work, and no pleasure. But when I backed off, relaxed, and got focused again on the reason I was racing – for the pure enjoyment – I actually drove better, which led to more opportunities to move up the ladder.
Having said all that, I’d recommend you contact the teams you want to drive for now, but be flexible in what you do with that info. And then do everything you can to get more experience. The more variety you have with your driving, the more valuable you’ll be to any team. Have fun!