Note: Advice can vary
These are the frequently asked questions I get about establishing a career in motorsports. The answers are generated from my own perspective and experience working for a USA Auto Manufacturer in Global Sports Car Racing. Usually there is no one size fits all when it comes to career opportunities - and often being in the right place at the right time is part of it. Hopefully this can help you on your journey.
I want to work in Motorsports. How do I achieve this goal?
First you need to ask yourself: Why do you want to work in Motorsports?
Its important to make sure you are chasing the right dream. Motorsports is a grueling environment in which to work. Work-life balance is not really a thing in Motorsports, and by the nature of the schedule, you are working on the weekends. Important personal events are often missed if they fall on a race weekend. Deadlines are tight (green flag falls when it falls) and there is little to no down time. You will see what you are made of. You'll get immediate feedback. The technology is exciting. Creativity thrives. You are surrounded by passionate people that are willing to do whatever it takes and will hold each other to an incredible standard. If this environment sounds like heaven to you and you are ready to set aside most of your life to experience this, then Motorsports could be a good fit.
If your attraction to Motorsports comes from a shared experience with family and friends where you regularly watch races together as a leisure activity, you need to be OK that you may no longer be able to participate in the same way. If your job in Motorsports has you supporting races, you will be working during the race focused on your job. You also may have access to behind the scenes information that is considered proprietary to the program and cannot share this with anyone outside of your employer. It makes participating in discussions around Motorsports outside of "the paddock" very tricky.
What type of role do you want in Motorsports?
There are so many different jobs in Motorsports. I have the most experience with engineering and management positions so I will be sharing my thoughts on those. Other positions include driver, mechanic, fabricator, logistics, catering, PR, photography, graphics, medical, events planning, security, and many more. If you are hoping to get into fields outside of engineering or management, I recommend you seek advice from those more familiar with the field you are exploring.
When it comes to engineering and management roles, you have to decide if you'd prefer working on a race team or working at a manufacturer/constructor. Sometimes these two are the same (you see this most in F1). Also in some series, like NASCAR, the teams do more of the racecar design work. In Sports Car Racing. the manufacturer/constructor is responsible for designing a winning capable racecar and working with the race teams to make sure they have as much information as possible to be successful. Race teams take the racecar and determine set up and call race strategy. Choosing where you want to be is a trade off between an area with more design influence but playing a supportive role when it comes to executing the race (manufacturer) versus owning the race execution but having to accept the majority of the car design as is (team).
Finding a job on a race team.
Race teams vary a lot in size. Some of the larger teams race in a collection of series, which means they have more jobs available and can offer more movement into new challenges as you grow in your career. These teams often are big enough to post positions available, whether it's on their own website or a generic one like motorsportjobs.com. But both large and small teams will lean on their network when it comes to finding candidates. If you don't already have a connection within the industry. find a local team and start volunteering with them. It doesn't have to be a team racing in the top professional series. The racing industry is a tight knit community so once you get to know some people, you will find it's easier to grow your network. Understand that your first jobs may be sweeping a floor, sorting parts, or doing the less glamourous tasks and you may not get paid, but by showing you are willing to work hard and do a good job, you will stand out. Then you have to wait for the right place/right time part of being available and known to someone who's hunting for someone to join their team.
Finding a job with a manufacturer.
All of the open positions for Motorsports at General Motors are posted on careers.gm.com and I assume many other manufacturers are similar. There will be a few entry level positions but we are often looking for people with some Motorsports experience (which usually comes from working on a team). All the entry level positions are offered internally at GM as well (sometimes only internally). Opting to start your career on the production side of the manufacturer and then looking to move into Motorsports as a future job is a path option. In this path it's important to select production jobs with relevant skills for Motorsports and keep connected to the Motorsports industry by giving your free time outside of work to racing things - volunteering for a team, doing your own racing, creating your own database, simulation, or part design in your basement, etc.
Advice: You are only as good as your last race.
We are all judged on our last performance. Even if you dominated two races ago, if your car failed at the following race, you are the team that is walking away embarrassed. This applies to everything and the advice is to make sure you are giving your current position 110% even if it isn't your dream job. Technical skills and background are important but attitude is even more. For some, they are in the right place at the right time and get into Motorsports quickly. But that isn't normal - be patient, dont give up, and embrace parts of your current job that challenge your and/or prepare you for your career goals. The first 8 years of my career at GM were not in Motorsports but I gained experience in each job that has benefited me in Motorsports. Keeping pushing yourself to grow and don't give up.
What skills are in most demand in Motorsports? What education and experience should I pursue if I want to work in Motorsports?
Job postings will usually list out what skills are being requested for that specific role. However, as a general rule of thumb, the skills and experience we are looking for most frequently in engineering include simulation, controls, and calibration. The good news is these are skills you can develop outside of Motorsports. People with practical applications of these skills have an opportunity to stand out more even if they have less Motorsports specific experience.
For Engineering roles, a Bachelors degree in Engineering is important. Any additional education preferences usually depend on the role and the hiring manager. If the role is extremely specialized, then a Masters or PhD could be considered a must (and would be listed as such on the job posting). For more general roles. my personal hiring preferences are around the person's hands on experience of what we are hiring them to do. I want to see proof that you were doing the work and examples of projects showing your capabilities. That is more important to me than additional degrees. But I know other managers that will rate someone higher if they have advanced degrees.
Having professional Motorsports experience is the best. Second to that are experiences that mimic the high pressure Motorsports environment. Involvement in collegiate projects like Formula SAE, Baja, EcoCAR, or anything of this nature, will bring a resume to the top of the pile. Once graduated, volunteering for a team, doing your own racing, creating your own database, simulation, or part design in your basement, etc are also items that catch our attention so make sure you include your relevant extra curricular activities on your resume.
Are there internship opportunities in Motorsports?
My limited experience on internship availability is limited to the USA - I do not have much insight into what European and Asian based manufacturers and teams offer. In the USA, there aren't many. General Motors offers a very small number of them for the summer - these are posted on careers.gm.com when they are accepting applications. Bigger race teams will have a few, which I believe they usually fill through established relationships they have with certain colleges and they may also post them. Some will recruit at the Formula SAE USA competitions (and likely other projects like this).
As of the publishing of this FAQ (Dec 2023), GM does not have any offerings for longer internships outside of the traditional summer timing. Nor does GM have the option for someone to do project work as a volunteer. We do not offer job shadowing at the track either. There is more bureaucracy at big manufacturers; look to local race teams for volunteering opportunities.
Tips on applying and other resources.
We get a lot of applicants for each job posting. Here are some tips for how to make your application stand out.
Write a cover letter explaining what you bring to motorsports. I am less interested in what motorsports will do for you.
Most resumes can be one page - edit yours thoughtfully to highlight experience that is relevant to the job you are applying.
Make sure you highlight any extracurricular work that builds skills that would be useful for Motorsports.
Include examples of past application work that shows you have a foundation of skills for the job.