How to get into racing

If you dream of becoming a racing driver, then follow my top 10 tips to get your feet on the top step of the podium!

Before we get started, a quick intro is in order. My name is David Pittard and I race cars for a living. In my career so far, I won the British Endurance Championship 2012 and was recently chosen by BTCC driver Jason Plato to be part of the Tesco-backed KX Akademy competing in the Ginetta GT4 Supercup; I won that too.

In between racing, I’m also a keen writer, which explains my first CT article (I’m hoping you guys will find this useful enough to welcome me back). Without further ado – and based on my experiences – here are 10 things you need to remember to become a racing driver.

1. Networking is everything

Have personal business cards at the ready at all times! Motorsport is a very small world. Make sure everyone knows what your ambitions and achievements are. You never know who you might meet.

2. Don’t get a manager

No one can sell yourself as well as you can. No one can manage you as well as you do. It’s up to you to build the contacts, sell your passion, and work extremely hard at making your business package successful.

Maybe when you get to the big time it’s worth considering a manager – what with all the funny worded contracts and negotiations – otherwise it’s a drain on your financial resources.

3. Be the entire package, not just a driver

Practice interviews, be proactive on social media, and grow a fan base. Build your brand around everything in the sport, to be as attractive as possible to those… yup, you guessed it, sponsors. Jason Plato is a sponsor’s dream and a fine example of a racing personality who has made racing in the UK his living for the past 17 years.

4. Do something different

Hundreds of drivers are winning races in championships across the UK and the world. So how are you going to stand out from the crowd? Get inspired by finding out about motorsport marketing over the history of the sport.

5. Get out of karts and into cars ASAP

Karting does teach you race craft, useful driving skills, and is the ideal start to your motorsport career. However, once you get into the world of cars, no one’s heard of you. Get into cars ASAP and start making a name for yourself in UK motorsport. Ideal championships are the Ginetta Junior Series, Junior Touring Car Championship and Junior Rallycross.

6. Get qualified as an ARDS Driver Coach

Instructing has multiple benefits to a racer’s career. It helps you earn money early on, it keeps you in the motorsport network (ideal for creating those all-important contacts), and it ensures that you spend as long in a car as possible; this means you’ll know a variety of circuits inside and out, which helps you develop as a driver.

Learning how to teach others to drive also helps better your own understanding of driving technique. And hey, getting paid to hoon around a circuit with an inexperienced driver at high speeds is quite an adrenaline rush!

7. Train yourself above your current level

Always be ready for the next stage in your career. Make or break opportunities can come at a drop of a hat with very little preparation time. Train yourself mentally, physically and virtually to make the most of each opportunity when it comes.

8. Have cash

Whether it’s daddy’s money or if you’ve worked hard for sponsorship deals, you have to have cash. Do what it takes to get the readies (within reason, people), because only then can you prove to the world that you’ve got what it takes!

9. Learn the business

To get the cash you need to realise that motorsport is a business. Exploiting all there is from the marketing side of it will help you raise your profile and become more attractive to sponsors.

10. Win

“Winning is everything. The only ones who remember you when you come second are your wife and your dog.” – Damon Hill.

Even if you’ve had the best race of your life, there is no substitute for crossing the line first! Serious momentum builds behind you when it happens and everything seems to happen that bit easier (note the emphasis on easier, not easy). This counts for everything that you drive, whether it’s GP2 or an MX-5.

Follow David’s progress on his website and find him on Twitter.

Racing is something many people would love to do but don’t know how to start. Unlike traditional sports such as baseball or football, motorsports does not come across as easily accessible. While motorsports are not as widely available to the masses as traditional sports, that doesn’t make it impossible for mere mortals to experience the rush of going wheel to wheel. So how does a normal person get themselves into some form of racing? The answer lies in what you want to do behind the wheel.

How to get into racing

What aspect of motorsports you get into largely depends on your goals behind the wheel. Fighting wheel to wheel against skilled drivers in karts or simply enjoying the rush of driving your weekend toy at a race track, there are numerous ways to get an octane fueled fix. If you are someone who wants an accessible way to face off against serious competition, then karting would be for you. Karting is easily one of the most cost-effective ways to challenge your driving skills and racing craft. Getting into karting can be as simple as participating in a rental kart series at your local kart track.

How to get into racing

Taking karting a step further, you can purchase your own chassis and start racing in the spec series. Deciding on a kart chassis might seem complicated for the uninitiated, but it is far from. Like any hobby, karting comes down to what you’re wanting to spend. The most popular class is LO206 which feature 4 stroke engines capable of reaching speeds of 60+mph. Turn key packages sell for less than $5,000 and have the lowest cost of running. HP, speed and cost all go up from there, but you are guaranteed to find healthy competition no matter what kart you choose to run. Every year more tracks are opening and offering competitive series. Sanctioning bodies like WKA (World Karting Association) travel regionally hosting large scale championship series and karting events.

With as much fun as karting can be, it is not for everyone. Some people prefer full sized vehicles. Most racing enthusiast already own a sporty 2 door weekend cruiser, all they are missing is the track. Accessing a race track is not difficult. The most immediate way to get on track is signing up for an HPDE track day. HPDE stands for High Performance Driving Experience and there are several organizations that rent out circuits so they can charge a fee for individuals to come out and drive that track. If you have ever wanted to experience the Daytona banking or ride the eses at COTA in your personal vehicle, then track days are the perfect option. Most major racing circuits both in the US and overseas offer track days throughout the calendar year.

Competitive wheel to wheel options are also available for racing street vehicles. This is good for anyone on a budget that still wants to go wheel to wheel on a road course. Organizations like Champ Car or WRL are great promoters who host events at many different tracks. These series are designed to keep budgets low and excitement levels high. With the help of a few friends you can get a low-cost car, put in required safety equipment, and go racing on a relatively small, family friendly budget.

How to get into racing

Still need more? There are a handful of series and classes within SCCA and NASA that seat you in some form of prototype or open wheel formula car. Most of these series require some form of licensing to compete. Licenses are obtainable through racing schools such as Primal Racing or Lucas Oil School of Racing. By this point, you are someone who really wants track time and the best way to get tailored access to your favorite tracks is by looking into their club membership options. For example, top level members at Atlanta Motorsports Park have access to 180 track days a year.

How to get into racing

Getting yourself behind the wheel of something fast is not difficult. Whether you want a fast-paced hobby or want to see how far racing takes you, the options are greater than one would think. Motorsports is not a cheap hobby by any means, but the stigma that racing is only for the financially blessed is far from fact. A rich business owner who wants to be a gentleman driver or the average nine to five Joe looking for something competitive to do with friends, both can easily find a form of racing that suits their budgets and tastes.

I am a 16 year old Canadian and I am wondering how I could get into racing? Specifically track racing. One day I aspire to become a professional driver in Formula 1 or Nascar. So far I have been able to locate very little information on this as Canada is not a very large racing country, unlike Europe or the US. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Regarding F1, unless you are insanely talented (demonstrated karting), you need to start in your single digit years with parents who provide you with the best karts and instructors). Not sure about NASCAR, but a specialized sub might help there.

NASCAR is basically going to be the same thing. With any top level form of racing, the drivers that compete there have been racing since long before they could get a license.

99% of f1 drivers raced go karts their entire childhood and were the number 1 or 2 drivers in their class and then moved up to formula 3 and 2 where they were once again a top driver. The 1% who weren't top drivers and still raced in F1 where pay drivers with billionaire parents.

Even F2 and F3 is full of untalented drivers with rich parents lol

Lance Stroll has entered the chat

Best advice so far lol

You're 10 years too late

Still can't say impossible. Hey, look Takuma Sato, he entered motorsport at 20, and he became F1 driver in 25.

Ok, a lot of people are down on you here and they’re not entirely wrong. But if we widen our purview somewhat, it’s not so bad. F1 is straight up not available to you, it’s true. But there are a bunch of road racing series, there’s rally racing, and there are series that are “professional” but not a career. Hell there’s also Formula Drift.

As an adult, the main path to get into racing is through nationally ranked auto cross. If you can survive there, then you can at least plausibly say to someone that you actually know how to drive. And the first step is simple: show up. There is a lot of info out there about how to begin auto crossing and you can start (but not necessarily win) in almost any working car.

You should also consider a racing school. There are a number of them around and for an attainable price ($1500-2000 per day usually), you can be in an actual car learning to actually drive on a track.

Lastly, pursue a highly paid career for your day job. Racing costs an absolute bucketload of money and either your family needs to bankroll it or you do. Engineering or finance, maybe.

Auto racing often seems like a sport that many aspire to, but few succeed in. While it’s true that the road to professional racing is a long and narrow one, there are ample opportunities for the novice enthusiast to have fun on the track as well.

Here’s a list of 10 ways to get involved in entry-level racing.


1. Autocross

How to get into racing

So many things about autocross make it an ideal entry-level racing event. For starters, you don’t need any special kind of car to get started – just take along your daily driver. Sure, once you get the hang of it and want to begin to be competitive, you’ll need modifications, but that’s not keeping you from getting your foot in the door. Another bonus is that an autocross track can be set up practically anywhere, so it’s inexpensive to be a part of and easy to find a local group who organizes autocross events.

For more autocross info, check out: SCCA Solo | The Learning Curve

2. Advanced Driving School

How to get into racing

While you may think you’re Speed Racer behind the wheel, chances are you’ve got some basics to learn before being able to safely push whatever vehicle you’re driving to the edge. Being a good racer is first about driver skill, and second about the vehicle; so before you feel the need to boost your horsepower or whatnot, get the skills to utilize what you’ve got.

For more advanced driving school info, check out: Danny McKeever’s Fast Lane | Bondurant

3. Amateur Drag Racing

We’ve all done it when an empty and open stretch of road sits before us – pushed the throttle to the floor and seen just how fast we can accelerate. Offering both a safer venue in which to do that, as well as one that can provide you with competition and timing, amateur drag racing nights are a great way to test your skills and your vehicle and get plenty of adrenaline pumping. Again, you don’t need a special vehicle to get started with this – take your daily driver, and with minimal safety requirements (check with your local track), you’ll be chasing your next-best-time.

For more amateur drag racing info, check your local tracks.

4. Drift Clinic

At the end of a day of drifting you’ll probably have a smile smeared permanently across your face. If you love the excitement of Formula Drift and want to try it for yourself, there are multiple drift clinics across the country. These will give you professional instruction to build your sliding skills; just make sure to bring your own RWD car (and another set of wheels is recommended).

For more drift clinic info, check out: Just Drift | StreetWiseDrift

5. Track Days

How to get into racing

Whether road racing, circle track or other track activities float your boat, chances are there’s a track not too far from you that has special track days where you can drive your own car. Many events are open to all drivers and all cars; just inquire with your local track about what local groups to contact that organize such events.

For more track day info, check out: NASA’s HPDE | Speed Ventures


6. 24 Hours of LeMONS

A spoof on the well-known endurance race, 24 Hours of LeMONS is a nationwide series of endurance races for cars that cost $500 or less (before safety equipment that is). A great opportunity to gather a team of your friends, see how on-the-cheap you can pull together a car for and go race to your heart’s content. with plenty of fun and shenanigans thrown in!

For more info, check out: 24 Hours of LeMONS

7. Go Karts

How to get into racing

These aren’t the karts you’ll find at the local mini-golf establishment. Kart racing provides much of the thrill of “real” racing as well as an avenue to tune your skills, with a much easier entry than higher-level racing. If you’re not ready to jump right into owning your own cart, you can check out local competitive karting tracks to get a taste.

8. Rally Racing

How to get into racing

Does zooming down back-roads on dirt, pavement, mud, gravel and more sound like fun? While you can start the most amateur of rally events in your own car, you may not want to take the risk. It is, however, possible to get a cheaper late-model car, do a few modifications and get started. While being competitive requires a lot of cash and experience, there are plenty of amateur rally opportunities across the country. Get involved, gain skills and take part in the thrill of rally racing!

9. Demolition Derby

How to get into racing

Get the toughest car you can find, make sure it won’t overheat, add a crap-load of safety features. and you’ll be good to go. The thrill of smashing into other cars is unlike any other. Before embarking on this one, make sure you like spending time in the garage, because these cars can take months to build and the event is over in about 15 minutes!

For more demolition derby info, check out: Nation-wide Demolition Derby or your local fair promoters.

10. Land Speed Racing

How to get into racing

While most land speed racing endeavors wouldn’t exactly be considered “amateur,” there are plenty of people who find a class with an attainable speed record and decide to build something to try and snag the record in. You don’t need a million-dollar streamliner to go after a 300+ mph record; there are hundreds of car/engine categories with far lower speeds where ingenuity can be exploited.

How to get into racing

While not all of us can be professional sports car drivers or finance a “gentleman” racer’s team, entry-level racing opportunities abound. You probably won’t attain fame or fortune, but the experience will no doubt bring a lot of memories, friends and good times. 🏁

And for our diesel-lovers – check out tips any beginner diesel drag racer should know before hitting the track: Diesel Drag Racing 101.

So you love watching races and rallies, but would rather try it on your own? We have some tips on how to become a real racer instead of an armchair one.

Many of us consider motor racing to be something outside the realm of normal people. A pastime for the extremely wealthy, or a career for the immensely talented. It doesn’t have to be. There are many ways of getting into racing, even on a modest budget and without extensive training. Let’s look at some of them.

How to get into racing

It’s probably the most obvious form of amateur racing, and certainly the easiest to get into. You just find a go-kart track, pay some money and you can start driving your timed laps. Bring a bunch of friends, and a “race” (or rather, a timed event) is on.

However, go-karts are more than just toys. If you get serious with them, you can move on to higher levels, where they become a serious sport. Especially for kids, karting can become a gateway to serious racing – and it’s the first step most pros take in their careers.

How to get into racing

Depending on where you live, you may encounter this motoring sport under various names. Either way, it is a timed event, run on a track set up with cones on a large paved area such as a parking lot or the runway of an unused airport.

The combination of relatively low speeds, no real obstacles and the fact that there’s only one car on the track at any given time makes this one of the safest motoring sports – and perfect if you want to use your everyday car. An excellent start for a beginner.

How to get into racing

Another (relatively) easy way of experiencing the heat of competition is amateur rallying. Timed events have the advantage of you not coming into contact with other cars, so there’s much less risk of damaging your vehicle.

In many rallies, you can even use your street-driven vehicle, without special racing seats, harnesses or rollcage. And who knows, maybe you`ll discover your hidden talent and end up as one of the customers for our Fabia R5!

Historic Racing or Rallying

How to get into racing

Are you a classic car enthusiast? You can take your oldtimer racing or rallying! While full-fledged historic racing can be expensive, there are many events that are not. In particular, classic car rallies are often open, even to stock cars without racing modifications.

There are even circuit races that you can run with your street classic. Or you can go full crazy and build your own replica racecar. Maybe you could take a look into Škoda history and pick one of our classic racers? A 130 RS, or maybe a 130 LR?

Amateur Track Racing

How to get into racing

Maybe you lust for wheel-to-wheel, action-packed, “real” racing with other racers on the track around you. Unlike timed events, the track races are harder to get into, because you usually need a dedicated racecar with safety equipment.

Even so, you can get into it on the cheap. In many countries, you can find various racing series open for street or lightly modified cars, like the American series of 24h LeMons, which we will talk about later this week.

Interested in going racing? Pick one of these and do it – you only live once! Or just take your street car and go to a trackday on some circuit near you. It’s the best way to find out if racing really is for you!

Unless you’re filthy rich, your options to get started racing are fairly limited. Deciding what will provide the best experience relative to your talents, car, and desires is important.

How to get into racing

The best advice I ever got about starting a career in racing came from a fellow who sat next to me during lunch at MSR Houston nine years ago. “If you want to go racing,” he said, as I stared longingly at his GT3 Cup Car parked in pitlane, “start by becoming a success in your day job. Then you can pay to go racing, which means you have all the options and all the power. If, on the other hand, you spend your youth learning how to race at the expense of your career in the real world, then the best you can hope for is to spend all your time kissing some rich guy’s butt so he’ll pay you starvation wages to drive his car.”

I’m passing this advice along to you just in case it’s not too late for you to become filthy rich in your chosen career. Then you can be like the very successful lobbyist I know who went from doing casual trackdays to winning a Grand-Am championship in something like seven years. He surrounded himself with talented people, and he spent what it took to win, and now he has the satisfaction of being both wealthy and well respected as a driver.

That path isn’t open to those of us who can’t write seven-figure checks on a whim. In fact, when I talk to enthusiasts in what is rather depressingly called “the real world,” most of them tell me that they have to budget and save pretty diligently just to do anything more exciting than attending the local Cars and Coffee. The question that many of them ask me is simple: If I can only afford to do a few events a year, should I go autocrossing, or should I start on the HPDE/trackday ladder with an organization like NASA, PCA, or TrackDAZE?

I’m no millionaire lobbyist—more like a thousandaire cubicle drone—but I was lucky enough to be able to pursue both of those paths at the same time from 2001 to 2009. I followed both of them to their logical conclusions, eventually competing in the SCCA Solo Nationals at Topeka and racing wheel-to-wheel in the Grand-Am Koni Challenge. As a consequence, I think I have some reasonably informed opinions about the pros and cons of following either path.

Let’s start with this: If you live in an area with a strong SCCA Solo program, there is absolutely no reason why you should not spend at least one season as an autocrosser. The chances of you damaging your car are very low, and the chances of you significantly improving your understanding of vehicle dynamics are very good. Most regions run a Novice PAX class nowadays, which uses an adjustment factor to put Corvettes and Miatas on common ground, so you’ll have real competition from your very first run on course.

As a committed autocrosser, you’ll also learn the rhythms and habits of a motorsports competitor.

As a committed autocrosser, you’ll also learn the rhythms and habits of a motorsports competitor. You will get used to the early mornings and the constant checking of tire pressure. If you are not mechanically inclined, you will have the chance to learn how to perform simple tasks on your own car. My younger brother made it through the first 25 years of his life without ever holding a wrench in anger, but after two years on the Solo circuit, he could put his RX-8 in the air and swap wheels in 10 minutes or less.

If you have a late-model car in decent shape, you can get through a Solo season for under a thousand bucks. Even seasoned National competitors often spend less than $10,000 in a given year, including travel. It’s not wheel-to-wheel racing, and no amount of wishing will make it so. But it’s legitimate motorsport, and if you don’t get nervous when you’re about to make your last run of the day, then you’re either dead inside or the greatest talent that the SCCA has ever known.

What you will not get from autocross is that sensation of having cheated death at 150 mph or whatever speed sounds suitably impressive to your co-workers back at the office on Monday. For that, you’ll need to start at the bottom of a trackday ladder. The typical driver spends two or three years in some sort of instructed “run group” before getting signed off to drive by himself in groups where the speeds are higher, the tires are squealing around every corner, and the passing rules are significantly relaxed.

Obviously this is more expensive than autocrossing, but if you already have a car that is acceptable for track work, there are ways to do it without taking out a home-equity loan. A decent set of summer tires will last you a year or more unless you’re driving a 911 or Corvette. If you can learn to swap out brake pads, bleed your brakes, and perform basic mechanical safety checks yourself, that saves money as well.

Typical costs for running something like a Volkswagen GTI in a five-event season should land somewhere between $2000 and $4000, including entry fees, safety equipment, and consumables like brake pads. If you have a Corvette or Viper, multiply that by two or three. If you have a Ferrari . . . let’s hope you didn’t spend all your money on the Ferrari.

Don’t track a car that you can’t afford to write off unless you are prepared to be exceptionally careful.

You also need to consider the idea that you might hit a wall in your car and total it completely, and that your insurance company might not be totally cool with the idea of replacing your car. So don’t track a car that you can’t afford to write off unless you are prepared to be exceptionally careful. Luckily, “metal-to-metal” incidents where one driver runs into another are very rare in the better-run clubs; the novice trackday driver’s deadliest enemy is the combination of his own ego and inexperience.

Most drivers find trackdays to be significantly more exciting than autocrossing. You’re going a lot faster, you’re on a real racetrack like the ones you see on TV, and you’re surrounded by people driving really fast in some really cool cars. With the right combination of car and track, it’s possible to see speeds as high as 175 mph on your very first trackday. It’s also possible, albeit highly unlikely, that you’ll be killed doing that. I always tell my students that their drive to the racetrack is more dangerous than the drive on the racetrack, but there are exceptions to every rule.

It’s also important to understand that non-competitive trackdays are precisely that: non-competitive. If you approach it like you’re racing, bad things will eventually happen to you. The good news is that after a few years of open-lapping, you’ll be ready to go to competition school and try your hand at real racing. The bad news is that doing so is hugely expensive, even at the entry level. I race a Plymouth Neon. I don’t think any non-racer in the known universe has any idea how much it costs to race a Plymouth Neon. Let’s put it this way: It would be cheaper for me to lease a Huracan than it is to race once a month in a Plymouth Neon. A set of tires for the car is $1300 and if you really want to win your race you should get new ones every weekend. That’s just one of the bills that you’ll be paying when you become a NASA or SCCA club racer.

In search of a new hobby? Think go karting might be for you but not sure where to start? Fear not, getting into go karting couldn’t be simpler with TeamSport. Here we explain everything you need to know to hone those skills needed to become the next best racing champion. If you’re a thrill-seeker, a competitive sportsperson, or simply want to try out something new, grab a helmet and let’s go!

For the young ones

If your children have expressed an interest in karting, there are plenty of options available to help them take things to the next level. But first, you can try out a Family Track Day and see if they like it – this will also help you get to know our safety procedures and put your mind at ease.

At TeamSport, we cater for children aged eight and up who are more than welcome to come down to one of our tracks and try their hand at this thrilling sport in the safety of one of our Cadet Karts.

We have Family Experiences or Junior Track Days specifically designed so that you can either compete as a whole gang, or the kids can have competitions against their mates. Before anyone gets in a kart though, our professional team will run a safety briefing, making sure everyone knows the rules of racing. Plus, our teams are always available to make sure everyone has the assistance and advice they need.

You’ll get all the equipment you need provided, such as helmets and overalls, but you’ll need to make sure you have a balaclava if you’re borrowing one of our helmets – you can get disposable ones for 50p, or a reusable cotton one for £3.50 on arrival.

As a safety note, to kart with us children must be aged eight or over, and have an inside leg measurement of at least 25 inches.

Once you’re sure the kids in your crew have found their karting legs, you can book karting lessons with TeamSport Cadet Academy.

Our new and improved Cadet Academy is available for cadet drivers (ages 8 to 12) and junior drivers (13-16). They’ll be put into groups based on their ability, and taught the latest techniques and practices to give them the skills they need to excel on the track.

Academy members will then put their skills to the test, under the watchful eyes of our top instructors, who’ll help them practice, hone their technique and, ultimately, succeed!

Our Cadet Academy is a great way to boost kids’ confidence on the tracks, and get some really useful advice while they’re at it!

How to get into racing

For the adults

Getting into karting as an adult pretty much starts the same way as it does for all ages – the first step is to get down to your local track and have a go. The professional staff at all our tracks will talk you through everything you need to know, including how to drive a go kart as well as some handy racing tips.

You can also read up on some karting advice on our tips pages to get extra prepared before you start – whether that’s go karting for beginners tips or advice on beating the competition with our ten ways to help you win your next go kart race.

To race an adult kart, you need to be age 13 or over, and have an inside leg measurement of at least 29 inches.

We recommend tuition or Ultimate Race Experiences to get in some practice however at TeamSport, we run competitive racing events too. These are great ways to get into karting as an adult, as you can learn and compete with friends, colleagues, or complete strangers if you prefer! You can find out about our track formats here.

Top tips for your first karting race

If you’re heading to our track for the first time, here’s some handy advice on how to prepare:

  • Wear comfortable clothes you don’t mind getting dirty – jeans, a t-shirt and trainers are fine
  • Listen to the professionals – our marshals are there to keep you safe
  • Take it steady – take the time to get to know your kart and learn the track
  • Be wary of other drivers – keep your distance from the kart in front
  • Take a look at our understanding the racing line tip page and check out our videos – these give you a real feel for sitting in the kart and will start to get you used to what skills are needed for you to become a champion karter.

How to get into racing

Want to turbo-charge your confidence?

We offer tuition for all ages, adults included! If you’re looking to step up your karting game, whether it’s with a view to entering competitions or you just want to beat your mates, you’re in the right place. Our professional tutors are always ready with friendly advice that can help you zero in on any issues you’re having.

If you really want to improve, practice makes perfect – and joining our members’ club The #GRID is a great start. Memberships with tuition included are available at a fantastic rate, and it comes with bags of other benefits too.

Take on new challenges

Ultimate Race Experiences are just one of the race formats we offer at TeamSport. Get to grips with other exciting formats like Team Endurance Events, where you’ll battle it out as part of a Le Mans-style relay team, or a 50 Lap Race Event, where you’ll put your knowledge of the track to the ultimate test over 50 laps of high-octane action.

Then there’s the Exclusive Grand Prix, which guarantees exclusive track use for you and your group so you can find out who’s fastest once and for all in a Grand Prix format. Or if you’re arriving with your workmates, check out our Corporate Team Challenge for some teambuilding with a difference!

How to get into racing

#GRID Membership

Thinking of coming back again and again? We don’t blame you – so why not enjoy some big discounts on your track time?

The #GRID is our annual membership programme for regular karters. As well as a 10% discount on all standard-priced karting, you’ll get a loyalty kart giving you a free session with every six visits, a branded cotton racing balaclava, a complimentary birthday session and lots more besides.

Try out different race formats, experience your favourite tracks in reverse and get access to special members-only events and competitions. Get your name on our Hot Lap Leaderboards and compete against the best!

Taking it to the next level

If you feel you’ve gotten everything you possibly can out of indoor karting, there are outdoor karting clubs up and down the country that are geared towards getting you on the tracks and racing to your heart’s content. You can obtain your karting license, get professional tuition, and well and truly make your mark in the realm of professional karting. For more information on the karting options available, useful sites include the Association of Racing Kart School, and the Association of British Kart Clubs.

For driving tips, getting to know your kart and a whole host of handy information to get you started, take a look at our tips pages, you’ll find everything you need to get into karting and more.

Drivers come from around the world to compete in the annual Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. This year, one came from right next door. During the Mazda MX-5 Cup race held during the grand prix, alum Dante Tornello got his first opportunity to race in his hometown.

Tornello was born and grew up in St. Petersburg and attended USF’s St. Petersburg campus, which is next to where the race takes place. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, he credits his college education with preparing him for the business side of professional sports.

“In racing, concepts like sponsors, branding, public speaking and much more have been tied back to my time at the St. Petersburg campus,” Tornello said. “Personal branding and sponsorship development is important to financially support oneself in this sport. Often in the higher levels of the sport, the cost of entry and cost of running are high. Being able to understand best business practices makes a significant difference.”

We talked with Tornello, a 2018 graduate who finished 24th in the race, to hear about his journey becoming a race car driver, how the campus shaped his trajectory and what all fans should know about the exciting world of car racing. This interview has been edited for length.

What was the experience like racing in your hometown during the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg?

For me, it was the moment I realized my lifelong dream to race here, in the place I call home. When I was a kid, I watched the yearly IndyCar races. During my undergraduate studies at USF St Pete, I had the pleasure of being right next to the track, but not yet on it. I’m just grateful to finally have experienced many incredible moments here trackside!

How did you get involved in racing in the first place and where did your passion for the sport come from?

I started out in vintage racing in a series called Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) in 2019, which gave me opportunities to drive a few different race cars to build experience and learn some of the basics as a driver.

My love for racing first began as a small child watching my father race in HSR back in the 2000s. I was around that environment for years, so getting to race in my own car was honestly the first time I was able to understand what my dad felt when he drove years prior.

What’s it like preparing for such a race? What practice and conditioning are you doing leading up to the competition?

Since this year’s season started in Daytona for the Mazda MX-5 Cup series, I’ve focused my training regimen to consist of cardio (high-intensity stairmaster training), muscle building exercises for handling sustained G-forces and mental training to develop my mind into a well-honed system for progress. I also spend time studying video and notes to ensure I have the best understanding of the track before I hop in the car.

How to get into racing

The car that Tornello raced in during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Did going to the USF St. Petersburg campus play a part at all in your interest in the sport?

Indeed, being so close to the track – Albert Whitted Airport next door is the main straightaway – had a major impact on my ever-building desire to drive there. I remember sitting outside by the University Student Center with my laptop for one of my classes, just enjoying the sounds of the race cars as they went lap-by-lap. The St. Petersburg Grand Prix race weekend has always been a time I enjoyed while in college.

Did going to the St. Pete campus prepare you in any way for what you are doing today?

In many ways, I got into racing after first getting an education. It’s always important to have a fallback in order to grow and survive in the world of motorsports. In racing, concepts like sponsors, branding, public speaking and much more have been tied back to my time at the St. Pete campus. To have that fallback has been a blessing.

What is the most surprising thing you found out about car racing now that you are a driver? Or what is something that people should know about the sport?

There are a few things that now looking back on I hadn’t fully understood about racing when I started. The first was the mental focus required of top drivers to push themselves and their equipment to the limit for long periods of time. Experiencing that gave me a new perspective on what to hone in on as a driver while developing my skillset. The second was how important personal branding and sponsorship development is to financially supporting one’s self in this sport. Often in the higher levels of the sport, the cost of entry and cost of running are high. Being able to understand best business practices makes a significant difference. Lastly, the level of competition in many forms of racing is often within very small performance margins among top drivers. Being able to build the necessary skills to compete at that level takes time in order to properly develop. With that in mind, building your own sense of confidence is absolutely key to succeeding in the sport!

Anything else you would like to add?

I want to say a personal thank you for everyone who has been a part of this journey to do what I love. It’s a privilege and honor to compete and grow as a driver. So many people have had an effect on my path, and the USF St. Petersburg campus has always been a metaphorical home to me.

How to get into racing

We’re big fans of vintage racing and try to catch every vintage race weekend we can at our home track of Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. These weekends showcase an amazing variety of vehicles, that span not just decades, but entire generations of motorsports. If vintage racing gets your blood pumping, perhaps you might be motivated to get behind the wheel and drive? The big question then becomes, how do you get into vintage racing?

There are a lot of folks offering advice on the subject and we don’t want to overstep our area of expertise, which is car batteries and chargers, so we’ll do the best we can to point you in the right direction.

1. Go to a vintage race. If you’ve never been to a vintage race in person, this would be the first place to start. Check out the cars up close and talk to the drivers. Many of them will be more than happy to talk your ear off about their car, as long as they’re not busy getting ready to go out on the track. You may find the ones with “for sale” signs on their cars even more willing to talk, especially if they think you might buy their car. Take a look at the massive gallery of cars below from the 2017 Weathertech International Challenge at Road America, to get a good idea of what types of cars typically run in vintage races.

Learn from these racers and get answers to questions that might be important to you- How much do cars in different classes cost? Which cars should you avoid and why? Which cars are best for entry-level drivers? How much does it cost to race/maintain different types of vintage race cars? What mistakes did they make when they got into racing? Which cars and/or classes are the most fun, most or least competitive? Which racing organizations should you look at joining? Even if these racers only have one car (and some run multiple cars in the same weekend), chances are, many of them have experience in racing beyond the car they are running right now.

2. Get a full physical check-up from a doctor. If after going to a vintage race and meeting/talking to drivers, your end-goal is still to go vintage racing, make sure your body is up to the task. Pretty much every vintage racing series out there requires you to get a medical card. If you do have a medical condition that would prevent you from racing, it’s better to find that out before you’ve made a significant investment in a car, equipment and instruction.

3. Get some experience behind the wheel. Did you know you don’t need to own a race car to drive one on a race track? If you didn’t know that, then you should definitely look into driving schools that can help you learn important skills relating to driving a vintage race car in racecars the school provides for students to use. Nearly every road course in the country rents out their facility to racing schools or hosts their own, so your local track should be able to help you find good instruction.

Track day events that allow you to run in a street car with some basic safety equipment can get you familiar with basic track etiquette- what the flags mean, how cars are lined up on grid for sessions, etc. but they might provide very limited instruction on how to actually drive on a race track, what the proper line is around a road course, how to handle yourself when coming up on a faster car or what to do when a faster car comes up on you, etc. The last thing you’d want to do is form bad habits that have to later be un-learned and could end up being quite costly, so it might be best to start with a racing school that offers formal instruction.

4. Find & purchase the race car you want. Some folks might suggest this as the first step in this process and if they do, there’s a good chance they have a racecar they are looking to sell you. If you’ve taken the first three steps, you’ve probably talked to a lot of experienced racers, verified that you are physically capable of driving a race car yourself and have some experience behind the wheel of an actual race car. If that has left you wanting more, it’s time to buy a vintage race car.

The experience and knowledge you’ve gained so far should help direct you to a car that suits your driving ability, your budget and your mechanical ability. Don’t worry if you have little to no mechanical ability either. There are shops all over the country, that specialize in preparing and maintaining race cars for other people. They can also advise you on buying appropriate safety equipment. In fact, you’ll probably meet some when you go to a vintage race. These shops can do everything from “arrive & drive” weekend track support packages, where they keep your car ready to run, to major overhauls and rebuilds in between races or seasons.

If you plan to campaign your own vintage race car and feel you have the mechanical ability to do it, then you’ll want to make sure your tow rig and trailer are well-suited for the vintage race car you end up buying. Finally, if the racecar you end up buying runs a 12-volt, lead-acid battery, we hope you’ll consider OPTIMA batteries, which are sealed, spill-proof and are quite popular in vintage race cars. OPTIMA battery chargers are also great additions for any car that doesn’t see regular use. We wish you safe racing, good luck and hope to get a photo of you in one of these galleries in the near future!