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Why is motorsport so expensive?

Written by Tom Evans, Edited by Tay Rui En

Ginetta GT5 Crash Oulton Park (Credit: Thomas Evans)

We often hear fans complaining about the excessively high costs of motorsport, and how unfair it is that some amazing young talents simply can't compete at a higher level simply due to the fact that they lack the financial resources to do so. Though harsh, there is a very simple reason to this: Motorsport is just expensive! Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done to minimise the costs. So in this article, I'm going to run through the reasons why the costs are so high, and what small things can be done to mitigate them to better balance the chances of opportunities.

The Actual Costs

Now, first of all let's take a template series with reference to the ROKiT British Formula 4 championship as an example. One season of this will cost you a whopping £250-300,000, so it isn’t exactly cheap. But why is this the case? Well there are multiple factors:

1. Staff expenses

Each driver will have several engineers working with them throughout the season, and they'll each need a salary! There can be 2-5 different engineers per car, depending on which series the driver is competing in, who will each need a yearly salary to get by. From several sources online, an entry level mechanic is paid around 12-18 thousand pounds a year at the British F4/GB3 level. After employing 3 or 4 of them, at least 45 thousand pounds has been utilised out of your budget.

2. Car parts/crashes

Without a doubt, the driver needs an actual car to drive during the season, and they don't come for free. For example, a GB3 chassis costs around £23,000, which will take a huge chunk of the driver’s pay. Additionally when a driver crashes, the damaged parts will need to be replaced which will incur greater costs. A prime example of this situation would be Myles Rowe who is currently leading the USF2000 championship. He had had a huge crash in the first round which means that he might not have sufficient budget to compete for the whole year. Furthermore, more money would have to be channelled into the constant maintenance of the car components in order to ensure that they are in top-notch condition to produce the best results.

3. Business

Let us also not forget that these racing teams are also businesses. As hard as it is, a team won't simply pay for a driver, as their main priority is to make a profit, and they have to balance expenses, which include the salaries of employees and other personnel. A team won't just give you a drive because you're performing well, you need to have the funds before anything. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this which I'll cover later.

What can be done?

Now, many of you might be wondering, what can be done to help drivers who operate on a strict budget?

1. Compete in a lower series

Whilst this might be disappointing for drivers with high aspirations, a decent racing career can at least still be achieved outside of the top flights of motorsport such as F1 or MotoGP.

2. Join non-profit teams

For instance, PHM Racing is the only non profit team currently competing in Spanish, ADAC and Italian F4, that aims to help younger drivers without a large financial backing to stand a chance to make it to Formula One. They host some drivers with amazing talent, like Nikita Bedrin and karting superstar Taylor Barnard.

3. Try to build up a plethora of sponsors early on

This would most certainly help a driver in resolving the greatest issue that plagues several drivers: budget. A great example of this is Zak O'Sullivan who approached his main sponsor when competing in Ginettas, and they've stuck with him all the way to FIA F3.

Credit: PHM Racing

And that's pretty much it. Not much can be done and it's most certainly an unfortunate situation to be stuck in. However, Motorsport is ultimately a high-end and exclusive sport, and it appears that things are going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.


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