Race Car Driver  What They Do

Just the Facts

Athletes and Sports Competitors Career Video

Insider Info

dotSome people have all the fun. Michael Schumacher dons a fireproof suit and a high-tech helmet when he goes to work. His office is the cramped quarters of a Formula One racer cockpit. He drives around a course for two hours about 16 times a year, and takes home millions.

dotIt's not all that easy becoming a race car driver. First of all, race car drivers must be in top physical condition. You might not expect that, considering drivers sit in a car all day, but race car drivers are among the world's best athletes.

A two-hour race requires a great deal of endurance. The driver experiences strong gravitational forces while going around corners. Drivers can lose up to 15 percent of their body weight in a race due to dehydration.

"You're in a car for two hours with temperatures in the cockpits up to about 110 degrees with a five-layer fire-retardant suit and underwear and headgear. It can be very physically draining," noted Formula 1600 racer Marybeth Harrison in a radio interview.

"In Indy cars, they can shift up to 2,000 times per race. So if you think you're having to move your hands and feet, and braking, it all requires leg muscles. And with turning the steering wheel, it's arms and upper back."

dotWhat's the issue with strong gravitational forces? Everyone on Earth feels the downwards pull of one unit of gravity, described as one G. In space, where there is no gravity, astronauts feel zero G. Fighter pilots experience five to nine G in sharp corners. The race car driver faces forces of five G in the corners. Drivers need to be healthy and very fit to take that kind of stress to their bodies.

dotRace car drivers drive race cars professionally. Besides that, they must also do a fair bit of handshaking and public relations work. Much of the racing business depends on sponsors, who want their products and brand names to be associated with winning teams. The driver has to be able to attract and represent sponsors successfully.

dotDrivers also do commercial endorsements. That's when advertisers use a winner or a celebrity face to help sell their products.

dotSome drivers racing in lower-level street car competitions work at the same local track most of the time. Other drivers travel a great deal during the year. They may race at many different tracks if they are driving in a series of races, called a circuit. The IndyCar and NASCAR series are examples of race circuits.

dotThese drivers work seven days a week, taking part in press conferences, competing in races and preparing for more races. Long hours are the rule. Forget about having the weekend off.

dotDuring the winter, when the racing season is over, drivers often head south where the weather is better. They're not relaxing: they're at testing facilities. They may test out tires, engines, and cars. Basically, these tests involve driving around a track really fast.

dotAs you can see, racing is a sport that takes the driver away from their home and family a lot of the time.

dotDrivers usually work for people who own a car and operate a team of racing professionals. The team includes mechanics, technicians, drivers, businesspeople and the pit crew. Lots of high-tech equipment is needed to keep the team racing.

dotSome drivers own their own cars and operate their own teams, although this is not as common.

dotWhile races are held all over North America, there is a higher concentration in the warmer places like Florida. That's because practicing, testing and training can go on year-round.

At a Glance

Drive cars and seek sponsorships

  • Lots of travel is required in this job
  • Drivers do a fair bit of handshaking and public relations work
  • You'll need licensing in order to race