How is motorsport paid for?

This post is to answer a question that I get asked a lot, how is motorsport paid for? It maybe a bit of a dry read for some but I hope to throw a bit of light on the merky world of motorsport finances.

You may think that the team attracts sponsors, gets a share of the ticket sales and then pays the drivers. This is not the case (normally).

The simplest way to get paid as a team is to become a factory run or factory backed team. This is where a manufacturer sets up a team, or employs one, to race their cars. Famous examples of a factory team are Ferrari, Audi or Peugeot. A factory backed team would be a team like Oreca. However, even in the high flying world of Formula One this is not the norm.

Ecurie Ecosse car showing off it's sponsors for the Spa 24 hours

Ecurie Ecosse car showing off it's sponsors for the Spa 24 hours

The very big teams who are not factory backed (like Mclaren, Motorbase or Team Dynamics) are able to attract big enough sponsors to then pay their drivers. Some even have side projects where they are able to sell the technology that they have developed.

All the other teams in motorsport have to get their funding from other sources. This is what most people I talk to about this are surprised about. In nearly every medium to small team (this includes some F1 teams, most GT teams and nearly all other types of racing) the driver pays for his seat. This means that they have to come up with the cash themselves and this is often a very large sum. Take the Ginetta G55 Cup for example, the average budget a diver needs to find to pay the team, pay for fuel and tyres, entry fees and transport is around £120,000. This is not including the money to buy the car in the first place or any damage to the car.

As you can see this is not a cheap sport. This, unfortunately, means that most drivers are not there purely through skill but also through their ability to either raise money through sponsors, or what is more often the case, their families personal wealth.

This means that those with skill but very little money have to find a “Gentleman Driver” to pay for their racing. This is most apparent in GT racing. In GT there are two drivers per car, normally one driver is very rich who pays for the whole operation and then the second driver is employed by the Gentleman Driver to race with him. An example of this is Lord Drayson and Jonny Cocker.

Finally there are some people who just love motorsport and are happy to spend their money setting up a team and going racing, an example being Vita4One and Gulf AMR.

I hope this post has shed some light on this subject, if you’ve made it this far thank you I know it’s not the most gripping of subjects but I feel that it’s not talked about enough.

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