Paul Charsley ~ Ask the Driver: Does age matter?

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Ask the Driver

All right, i got two for ya. at what age do drivers get laughed at, or at leas get put into the “old guy trying to live a dream” category, at the school?And on a somewhat related note. what’s the formula Vee’s SCCA series like on the west coast, or is that laughed at too?

Hi Jim,
Age is a truly very touchy subject in any sport. In motor racing it always seems that year after year the age of the up and comers gets younger and younger but I think that may be a bit of an illusion. I remember back in the 70’s the fast guys moving quickly up the ladder from Formula Ford one year, then on to Formula 3, then straight to Formula 1, some would spend a year in F2000 or Formula 2 along the way, but you couldn’t dilly dally too much or you were already written off.

What the biggest difference nowadays is that drivers are being picked up and locked in to long term contracts with teams or management consortium’s at a very early age. Jenson Button had investors paying for his racing in formula ford and are therefore reaping the benefits now but probably the most famous of these was Lewis hamilton being signed by Mclaren at about 10 years old. Eddie Jordan may have been the originator of this back when he ran his Formula 3 teams. He would give drivers, who he thought had great potential, a break but they had to sign up and give him a piece of the action for the rest of their lives (and as a young driver with little means what choice would you have?).

Back then it may have been easier to adapt when making those jumps, as the technology wasn’t as different, as power and grip was a bit more linear. Now we still expect the same speed of progression, but the drivers have a much steeper curve to handle.

I know I have gone off on a bit of a tangent but I’ll bring it back. At our recent Future Driver competition we saw a cross section in age from 14 -30. I promise you none of these guys should be laughed at or categorized as dreamers.

Even if you are not going to make it to Formula 1 (which is obviously a nearly impossible thing to achieve) the things you can learn and experience can be transposed to Sports cars, Touring cars, Le Mans etc. the longevity in these ranks is obviously a great deal more. I started racing at a very late age (20) and after a couple of years trying to raise the funds to go Atlantic racing and hopefully to Indycars, I turned my attention to Tin tops and sports cars where it is a lot easier to gain manufacturer support.

So in my opinion no one is a dreamer , and are never treated as such, perhaps we will steer them to a more realistic discipline, but we are not an experience at Jim Russell, we are a Racing School and everyone who walks through the door comes for a reason. We do our best to get them to elevate their talents to the utmost, wherever they want to take them.

As for the Formula Vee series I’m afraid I don’t have a clue, it’s a good series to learn racecraft, but to be honest those cars scare me a bit on safety grounds.

Thanks for the question!

Paul

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