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12/26/2011: Racing blogs

Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I started my blog here just about 3 years ago. I was just getting started with actively racing and felt I needed a website. However, I felt it would be a bit futile to post up a standard racing driver website with no experience or achievements, and I also wanted to write more frankly about racing, both my personal racing and general racing topics, and found that there were not many sites like this. So I figured why not and created whatever I have here now.

Over the past few years I have found several blogs that are more similar to mine, which offer real insight to a verity of aspects in racing or detailed personal racing accounts in a more traditional blogging style, not just a rehash of results that say "I'm awesome and I didn't win because this guy took me out!". So I've added a few links to my "blogroll" which is in the right menubar.

Here's a summary of a few:

Martin Galpin - Formula car racer based in the UK and current engineer on the Force India F1 team.
Chump to Champ - Karter, Skip Barber Shootout Attendee and current SCCA racer.
The Gearbox - Former Star Mazda racer currently in the UK looking to race in British Formula Ford.
Mork Racing - Another aspiring racer.

I love to read other people's racing blogs so if you have one post a comment and if I like it I might link to you. And I'd definitely encourage anyone who's actually reading this to create a blog, I certainly don't regret doing it.
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
So what does it take to “make it” in racing? Is there a formula for success? Can we quantitatively determine what it takes? I can certainly try. Here is my revolutionary new formula, based on years of experience!

Success in racing = 40% work, 30% money, 20% luck, 10% talent. Pretty simple. Let's set a 100 point scale, one point for each percentage point in the formula, and say you need over 70/100 points to make it to a professional level in racing.

40% work means 40 points are up for grabs based on your determination, passion, commitment, desire, persistence, grit and tenacity. How bad do you really want to race? Do you have good work ethic or do you sit back and think you deserve something because of your “talent”? Do you put in hours off the track learning the mechanical, engineering and business side of racing or do you just drive? Do you spend hours studying video and data or would you rather just rely on your talent? Are you willing to work a job that might not be what you really want to do so you can make money to race, or do you lack that willpower and end up just moping around with no focus when you're not racing? Or do you volunteer in racing off the track to learn and build connections or just sit back again? And what are you willing to sacrifice? Fancy street cars? Vacations? Your social life? There's no right or wrong answers to these questions. In fact it's probably better if you aren't willing to sacrifice everything for racing and prefer to lead a more balanced life. But the more you are willing to sacrifice and the harder you are willing to work, the greater your success in racing will be. You are 100% in control of these 40 points.

30% money is how much money you have to spend on racing, simple as that. There is an extremely wide range of racing budgets so we are talking about a logarithmic scale here. Is your yearly racing budget $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000? Four digits might get you a few points. 5 figures may put you around 5-10 points, then a solid 6 figure budget gets you into the teens, and 7 puts you into the 20s. Depending on how you look at it you do have some ability to increase your budget through hard work. Still, if we talk about the context of making it as a professional racer, typically as your age increases your earning potential increases but your chances of making it as a pro decrease, so these points are still mostly out of your control. Let's say you're in your 20's, the ability to raise your budget yourself from $10,000 to $100,000 through hard work (either from a job or finding sponsorship) would be extremely rare. Working hard to double your budget from $10,000 to $20,000 might only yield you one point in the grand scheme of things.

20% luck is just that, what you have absolutely no control over, on and off the track. You could get lucky with meeting the right person at the right time or winning a race due to a mechanical failure of an opponent or hundreds of other things.

10% talent – yes talent is the smallest of the four major factors. Talent in a race car to me is a drivers “feel for it,” which allows that driver to drive the car as close to the limit as possible while remaining consistently in control. An average racer may have a talent level of, say 7/10 (no one perusing racing seriously has no talent). The most talented racer in the world, at 10/10 would only have a mere 3 more points on the grand scale of 100, 3 points that can be easily made up by working harder, having more money or being luckier. However, talent is certainly not irrelevant, and I do believe most championship winning drivers of major professional series are near the top on talent. At that level it is so competitive, those few points can make the difference between a solid, qualified driver who may win a race in the right circumstances, and a champion. Also, you could say it's definitely possible to cultivate and develop talent. I doubt anyone is born a 10 in talent, but I also think some people will never achieve that 10, no matter how hard they try.

So what does this all mean? All the money in the world (30), combined with great talent (9) and good luck (15) won't set you over the threshold of 70 if you don't have any desire to work for it. Hard work (35), good budget (20) and great talent (9) is not a guarantee for success and luck is still a factor. An important distinction is that with max work (40), max talent (10) and max luck (20), it is theoretically possible to make it with just a tiny bit of money to put you over the edge. Obviously this would be extremely rare, and I don't even know if a real life example of this exists in modern racing.

So in the end you do have a decent amount of control over your own destiny in racing, but hard work is certainly no guarantee, not even close! Make sense? Feel free to post a comment if you agree or disagree.
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
Here's an interesting interview with Daniel Harrington, part time Indy Lights driver over the last few years. Freakonomics Radio did a show about the upsides of quitting, and Harrington talks about weighing the upsides of quitting racing.

No doubt there's a lot of upsides to quitting racing. However, what the economists don't consider (not surprisingly) and what Harrington only seems to touch on, is that racing is a sport driven on passion, which is not measurable. If my passion for racing wasn't there I wouldn't have even bothered starting racing. Humans are emotional beings and can't always just follow the most logical and rational paths. That applies to racing and many other things as well.