Lachlan Gibbons talks about racing in the Toyota 86 Racing Series plus much more

Lachlan Gibbons talks about racing in the Toyota 86 Racing Series plus much more

Lachlan Gibbons talks about racing in the Toyota 86 Racing Series, driver coaching and running his own Formula Ford team in the NSW State Championship series.

In this episode of The InSyde Line, Rhys Vandersyde talks to Toyota 86 Series racer Lachlan Gibbons about his personal ambitions for his motorsport career and enjoying motorsport long term. As well as delving into some of the things he’s doing from a driver coaching and engineering point of view to help young drivers start their own careers.

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The key takeaways from this episode, Lachlan shares:

  • Using different categories to learn different aspects of racing
  • Working as a driver coach both for manufacturer drive events and with young drivers
  • And what he’s doing to set himself up both personally and professionally to give himself the best opportunity to be involved and enjoy his motorsport long term.

For more tips and advice on building your career in motorsport from those who have done it, follow InSyde Media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram..

Cameron Hill talks about his career and building his own team to help young drivers follow in his footsteps

Cameron Hill talks about his career and building his own team to help young drivers follow in his footsteps

Cameron Hill talks about his two fold career in motorsport, both chasing his own ambitions plus building his own family team to help young drivers follow in his footsteps.

In this episode of The InSyde Line, Rhys Vandersyde talks Porsche Carrera Cup racer Cameron Hill not only about his own career including winning the Australian Formula Ford title, the Toyota 86 Series and the big step up to racing Porsche Carrera Cup, but also build his own team to help young drivers follow in his footsteps.

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The key takeaways from this episode, Cam shares:

  • His progression path from Formula Ford to Carrera Cup
  • Jumping into the deep end running his own Carrera Cup
  • Building his family team with what has been learnt for Cam’s racing and using that to help build other young drivers careers

For more tips and advice on building your career in motorsport from those who have done it, follow InSyde Media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram..

Cody Burcher on his transition from karting and his first national level race win

Cody Burcher on his transition from karting and his first national level race win

Cody Burcher chats about his transition from karting to Formula Ford and where he’d like his motorsport career to go in the future.

In this episode of The InSyde Line, Rhys Vandersyde talks to Cody to get his perspective as a young driver having just stepped up to national level motorsport, his achievements to date and his first national-level race win in Formula Ford. We also delve into where Cody would like to see his career go and what he’s doing behind the scenes to give himself the best shot at a career in motorsport.

Listen to The InSyde Line podcast on:

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The key takeaways from this episode, Cody shares:

  • Progression through the karting ranks, both state and national level.
  • Stepping up to Formula Ford and using state level racing to learn before jumping up to national level competition
  • His ambitions for the future
  • And the things he’s working on to help give himself the best shot at a career in motorsport

For more tips and advice on building your career in motorsport from those who have done it, follow InSyde Media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram..

Jayden Ojeda on the opportunities presented by winning the Formula 4 title

Jayden Ojeda on the opportunities presented by winning the Formula 4 title

2018 Formula 4 Champion, Jayden Ojeda, shares his story of the opportunities that came out of winning that title and what he’s looking to achieve in his motorsport career.

In this episode of The InSyde Line, Rhys talks to Jayden about winning the Formula 4 title and the opportunities that were included as part of that prize pool. We also chat about his ambitions future and some of the factors lead to him stepping up to the Super3 series Michael Anderson’s privateer Super3 team.

Listen to The InSyde Line podcast on:

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Jayden shares his story on his motorsport career so far, and some of the things he’s done to put himself in the best position possible to achieve his ambitions.

The key takeaways from this episode:

  • Look at everything as an opportunity and create positive connections.
  • Surrounding yourself with smart people and continue to build relationships.
  • Going with what feels right for you, following your gut instincts.
  • “If your at a race track, you’re probably going to meet someone important.”
  • Make yourself stand out.

To keep following Jayden’s story head on over to his social media – Facebook and Instagram.

For more tips and advice on building your career in motorsport from those who have done it, follow InSyde Media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Adam Marjoram shares his story of his last minute scramble to find a replacement sponsor

Adam Marjoram shares his story of his last minute scramble to find a replacement sponsor

So what do you do when your main sponsor decides to change direction with their marketing spend at the last minute? Well, that’s exactly what happened to Super2 racer Adam Marjoram, so Rhys sat down with him to get the inside story.

In this episode of The InSyde Line, Rhys talks to Adam about his long relationship with Auto One that stretched back to his time in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and V8 Utes and also the steps that he went through to bring his new deal with Penrite together so that he could continue to race in the Dunlop Super2 Series in 2019.

Listen to The InSyde Line podcast on:

The InSyde Line on Google Podcasts
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Adam shares his unique insight into the hard work involved, often over several years, to forge the relationships and resilience to bring together sponsorship deals, particularly at the last minute. Locking in his drive for this year just five days before the season-opening Adelaide 500.

Rhys Vandersyde: I wanted to have a quick chat to you about your sponsorship position. Obviously you had a big change during this off-season, which wasn’t necessarily your choice.

Adam Marjoram: No. [laughs]

RV: Yeah, I just wanted to run through with you… your relationship with Auto One, and obviously your situation now running Penrite sponsorship this year.

AM: Yeah, absolutely, big shake up for me. Obviously enjoying my whole racing career with Auto One.

Very, very thankful, y’know, they picked me up when I was racing Porsches, an Auto One Porsche. Started out very, very small – a couple of bottles of chain lube and I was racing go-karts.

Then a little bit more as I got into cars. And they ran a V8 Utes programme back in 2011 and 2012, and y’know, Warren Luff, Tim Blanchard, Jason Bargwanna, all these names we knew…

RV: And some young bloke popped up.

AM: [laughs] And then some guy who didn’t know what he was doing, probably still doesn’t, got a call up to steer at Barbagallo and it all kind of spiralled from there.

They were looking for a driver at the time for the year after, and they had a couple of other people, like George Miedecke… I think Warren Luff was actually in the frame as well, because his supercars career was kind of… well, he didn’t know where he was placed. And me – they opted to choose me which was a bit of a surprise and is a bit of a change in direction for what I was doing in Porches, I really loved that kind of route.

RV: Well the Porsche has a very good, well-defined feeder category system, whereas at the time, Utes probably didn’t have such a worn path to getting to the top.

AM: Correct. And in a driving style sense, well, it didn’t. But in a sponsorship sense it did. The value that Auto One got out of that was astronomical. It was affordable racing, Auto One perfect target market was the V8 series followers – it resonated well with everybody and all happy days.

Then obviously we enjoyed that, we went through Erebus, we started Dunlop series, Super2 series, moved across to Image Racing, everything’s looking really good… y’know all that.

And then, y’know, like all things, good things have to come to an end [laughs] – but to my surprise at the end of last year, at Newcastle, Auto One decided to get out of motorsport completely, and that meant rally programmes, that meant supercars – everything.

RV: Which happens in business – commercial changes happen behind the scenes that you’ve got no control over, so…

AM: It does. And look, it’s not always because of you. And that was the hardest thing to take, is that obviously I’ve been an ambassador for them for such a long time, and y’know, you cut my veins it was red, white and blue.

I loved Auto One and everything like that. We worked well together, but sometimes directions change, not necessarily due to your performance, or their return on investment. They might just go, ‘Y’know what – I wanna do TV and Radio.’ And that’s what happened.

But then that put me in a very, very tough spot, to be back on the grid in three months’ time, everybody goes on their Christmas holidays in December, it’s hard… it’s a bad time of year to be going, ‘Hey guys! We wanna race in a car. It’s half way through a financial year, what have you got?’

RV: That’s the hardest part – being able to scramble at that last minute, because it is Christmas holidays, and nobody does anything in January, and all of a sudden you’re racing in February again, so it doesn’t leave you a lot of time to…

AM: …go find things. And it’s silly season with Super2 drivers trying to find a spot, y’know, teams are trying to solidify their drive line-up, what they wanna invest in to – all of this kind of stuff.

RV: Yep – absolutely.

AM: So… bad timing [laughs]. I’m currently dyeing my hair brown because I went white over the summer – it was very stressful, so… and I’ve never been in that position before. So for me it was new territory, and we had to start from scratch.

So literally from zero, we’ve gotta find a whole years budget. I’ve got tremendous support from my family, but unfortunately it doesn’t extend overly financial.

RV: Particularly with something like a Super2 budget, which is not exactly the cheapest category to run in Australia.

AM: Exactly – and if you wanna be competitive, you’ve gotta be doing what you can do to get up the front. It’s always hard to get up the front, so… and that goes with anything.

RV: That is motorsport, is it not? It’s one of the defining sports where talent is going to get you very little, whereas in other sports talent probably gets you a lot further.

AM: Yeah. And look, talent will get you far, but to kick a footy and show you’re good at footy it’s free – it’s a couple of boots, it’s a coach, you might even fly around getting some coaching, whatever you might spend, five grand a year. In motorsport you’ve got tyres, wages, fuel, entry fees, you’ve got cars, you’ve gotta…

RV: You’ve gotta get your crew around – it’s not just one person, there’s a whole show that goes together to make the whole thing happen, so it becomes very expensive very quickly.

AM: It does. Especially if you crash it. If you miss a goal in footy it doesn’t matter. But if you miss a turn in car racing, it does [laughs].

RV: Yeah, well we’ll try not to dwell on that too much, because that one’s still a bit close to home for you, isn’t it?

AM: [laughs] Yeah! Yeah… hey, look, it’s all part of it. But you’re right, it put me in a bad position, so, y’know, we started off with a budget, we knew what we had to achieve – we started off with a budget and worked backwards.

We apportioned an amount that goes, ‘Ok, throughout the year we need a raise this, through round by round we need to raise this.

So essentially Dad and I got on the phone to a couple of people, we used different social media platforms to get in contact with people. Using any contacts – if they knew contacts in certain areas, or were they able to help and all that, and it was just a hard slog, never give up.

And it was probably a two week window from when everyone got back from their Christmas holidays in the start of Feb to mid Feb where I had to give the team an answer.

It happened so quickly. I flew around Australia for five days having all these face-to-face meetings, presenting my proposal. But beyond just going, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got this… we’ve got this spot on the car available, we can give you this, it’s going to guarantee you this exposure.’ That never works.

RV: No – it’s more… you can’t just rely your sponsorship on TV times. If businesses wanted TV time they’d pay for TV ads because it’s cheaper.

AM: Correct. Exactly… and you’ve gotta be smart with who you pick, because a lot of businesses love motorsport.

We saw with… I think it was one of the big sponsors of supercars put out last year, the old marketing manager loved supercars, invested very big into supercars. The new marketing manager preferred basketball, so went to basketball.

And both have equal merit in their return for marketing spent, so it’s justified. But it’s a preference where that money goes. So you’ve gotta pick the right company to go, ‘Okay, these guys are in an industry that’s related, the person loves motorsport, they’ve been previously involved, they’ve XYZ…’ Whatever their link is, it’s gotta be some sort of feasible link.

‘Do they employ mechanics… engineers – what is it?’ Find a tie. And even though a lot of these companies have got big marketing divisions, and all of that, those people in marketing might not be involved in motorsport directly. Or know the nuances of motorsport and it’s leverage strategy.

So you’ve gotta come up with all the pitches, at the very first meeting, to go, ‘Hey guys, this is what we can do…’ – very loosely, y’know – ‘…we can do this, this and this.

So for me, social media – I run fourteen social media pages for different clients. So one of my things was leveraging the supercar program we have into social media, into in-store sales, different outlets that some of my sponsors deal with. And that’s a big driver so… it’s a win-win. Y’know, hopefully the people who support me see the promotion, and they go, ‘You know what? I need this product because I don’t have it at the moment, and it will greatly assist the way I drive.’ Without giving it away, obviously, because it hasn’t been released.

But then it’s also, y’know, my sponsor going, ‘Ok, hey, we’re getting sales off of this, we’ve got brand recognition’, and it’s win-win. The consumer wins, the sponsor wins, and motorsports.

RV: Yeah – they get a tangible result from their dollar spend. They go, ‘Ok, well we’ve got this brand recognition, but we’ve also got these tangible sales that have come from being associated with that. That makes signing the check a lot easier because there’s actually something they can go back to their management who may not actually have any understanding of motorsport, they can go, ‘Oh, hang on, ok… Adam has generated X amount of sales for us, and he’s not even our staff.’

AM: Yep – and that’s what it is. Social media I provide X amount of dollars in social media, and… that’s an industry rate, ‘He’s provided this much in social media, we got this much TV time, we got this much sales, we did that, that, that – he put together that strategy.’

And all of a sudden, when it adds up that they only spent this, and then they got three times the amount in some sort of TV and some sort of whatever, then all of a sudden, they go, ‘Oh, well that make’s perfect sense.’

It’s about putting together a pitch to say that when it’s in front of a board of directors, or whether it’s in front of whoever’s making the decision, it’s almost impossible for them to say no. Because if you base it on, ‘Hey we got this TV time, its never gonna stand up. And that’s where you’ve gotta find what your strength is – mine’s social media. So I can run social media pages.

And it’s not just as easy as putting up posts, there’s a lot more about remarketing, and-

RV: There’s a lot more strategy behind social media that just simply putting something on Facebook or Instagram.

AM: It’s not just a standard plug going, ‘Hey guys! These guys are awesome.’ It’s a lot more convincing.

But that’s my little niche, because I started it at uni, and did all that. Whatever it is, you’ve gotta make it your strength.

So… if it is using your business to leverage a network, if it’s that you are a lawyer and these guys need – whatever it is, there’s gotta be something.

RV: There’s always case studies for different things, like Super Cheap Auto use their sponsorship,  and while they have primary partnership on Chaz’s car, a lot of the money is actually coming from their vendors, to pay for different areas of signage on their car, building… enhancing that relationship they have with those vendors.

The Penske example, where Penske trucks use Shell Fuel, and Shell Fuel sponsor the race cars, so there’s all sorts of behind the scenes B2B relationships that can be leveraged any which way really.

AM: Absolutely – and that’s one of the things obviously with Auto One there are a lot of suppliers to Auto One on that car, and it’s very much the same thing.

If you go target someone like Macca’s. Who supplies their buns? Who does this, this and this? Now you don’t need to know that, but that’s one of the things when you’re in the meeting, if you’re fortunate – Macca’s would be awesome by the way.

RV: The definition of fast food.

AM: Yeah! ‘Putting the fast in fast food.’

RV: Yeah, that’s it.

AM: Ah, I like this!

[Both laugh]

RV: Well, we’ve found Adam another sponsor.

[Both laugh]

AM: We should do this more often! I’m gonna come with better ideas…

But it’s putting those scenarios together, and going, ‘Hey guys, you might not need to actually do this – we can subsidise it, and we can get those brands involved and help them get the value out of it.

And if you’re the bit that ties it all together.’ So whatever it is, it’s finding out what they can do.

So the biggest key is doing a lot of research on the company and industry. What are the challenges against the industry? I know the automotive market extremely well, so I’d say: huge amount of competition; lot of saturation; customers probably don’t have perfect information about their cars but they like to think they do, and therefore they go with the easiest alternative, that alternative’s not always right.

So for Auto One, it was “Right Gear, Right Advice, At The Right Price.” Little do they know that Auto One’s probably the best priced out of every single one, but we’ve got at my store in Morley, I employ two qualified mechanics – you don’t whats wrong you just come and ask us, we’ll tell you.

So it’s about finding out where they’re positioned in the market, what their strategy is. And the very first meeting, when you go and have a chat to them, is not about what they can do, it’s what you do.

Have a chat to them, find out everything, find out what they are finding tough. Is the economy good? Is it bad? Are they winning a lot of projects? Are they not? How do they win these projects? What are they seeing – where’s the correlation between sales and engagement? That’s what you need to go down to. Because everyone’s different, and not one person that’s ever been involved with me has taken a standardised package – it’s one or the other.

RV: You can’t have a standardised package for motorsport as a general thing, because it’s just too diverse.

AM: Yes – that’s right. So it’s about getting in front of the right person, have that meeting, and ask. So when I flew around Australia for a week, it was hitting up a huge amount of companies. I got knocked back in that meeting more than I got accepted.

RV:Which is everything – it’s just life. You’re gonna get knocked down more times, always, regardless of what it is. It could be a sales pitch, it could be asking for a sponsorship, it could be anything. You’re always gonna get knocked back, so you just have to build up a resilience, and keep going.

AM: There were times where, I gotta tell you, right up until the week before Adelaide, I didn’t think I was gonna be on the grid. We managed to pull it all together, and a couple of things fell our way, and happy days.

The reason we did it, some of the partners Penrite involved with so many different aspects – why do they need another person? Because we sat down to figure out – and this is not just me, its everyone – where do they see themself? How do they wanna grow?

F10 is probably the best fuel treatment… in the world. I’ve used it since I was a kid, just by buying it – it is seriously, serious good – gets water out of fuel, does everything. But unless you know it, you’re never gonna buy it.

RV: I’ve never used it – it’s not something I’d be aware of, except for their association with you.

AM: Yes. So it’s about getting that understanding, and even getting samples. So one of the strategies we’ve got is giving away samples at all the tracks. So if you come up and you see us, you can get a free bottle, retails for like eighteen bucks.

It’s available, but no-one knows why they need it, no-one knows… well they probably know how to use it, tip it in your fuel tank

RV: [laughs] It’s not super-complicated, I know you’re only a race car driver, but-

AM: [laughs] But it tricked me a couple of times. But no-one knows why to use it, or where to get it, so it’s that education – that’s totally different to some of the other sponsors. So that was when we sat down, it was about establishing social media, connecting with younger people, which we’re just in the process of building. TV adverts, radio adverts, for just general branding.

And now, education through my guys and after talking to them we actually used the samples as giveaway, and three weeks after, in my own personal store, I had two people come in and buy that off that sample. Led straight through to sales.

RV: Excellent. And that’s exactly what you want – a tangible business result, based on a sponsorship.

AM: Absolutely. So the customer to F10 – my store – got a win, F10 got a win, and motorsport got a win.

And as long as you can tick those boxes, it’s great. But you’ve gotta think of that strategy before you go. Now [inaudible] or F10, the holding company that owns that F10, has never been involved in motorsport. It took me since 2012 – I’ve been asking and talking, and they’re like, ‘Nah, we don’t need it, rah rah.’ Keep going and going and going, but a rapport.

Then we’ve put together a case study to go, ‘Hey guys, this is what we think you need to do. This is where we see your position – do you agree?’. They might go, ‘No, you’re totally wrong – your research is wrong, Adam’. ‘But I believe you’re positioned in a very niche market, you’ve got all the other fuel additives out there that, y’know, stabilize fuel, that do this, injector cleaners – whatever. Yours does everything and more, at a cheaper price.

RV: But if nobody knows…

AM: Then it’s the world’s best secret. So, that’s kind of it, and it’s already starting to work. So finding these niches before you go to them to say, ‘Hey, look, I care about your brand, and I haven’t even started working for you.’ Means a lot straight up. Then you get to the second meeting where you start to talk more about what you do.

RV: But even that resilience on your part, working on that relationship over seven years, to get them to a point where they’re actually now involved, and doing it properly, and seeing the results. Instead of taking the ‘no’ and walking away, you’ve taken a ‘no’ and turned it into a ‘maybe’ which has turned into a ‘yes’.

AM: Absolutely. It’s never giving up at that ‘no’. And showing that you care… because if you keep going back with a different case, ‘Hey – does this work? Does this work?’, keep moulding and moulding and moulding it, then eventually they’re gonna go, ‘You know what, we never thought of that… yeah we could use that.’

Then all of a sudden that ‘no’ becomes a ‘maybe’ as you say, into a ‘yes’. And then resilience ends up paying off, and then you just give everything you’ve got, and you don’t reply on TV, and you can’t just rely on putting up a post on Facebook going, ‘Hey guys, these guys are the best!’ You’ve gotta tie it in to that competition, to buy this, drive traffic into a store, XYZ – that’s what it’s all about.

RV: It’s the packaged product.

AM: Yeah. West Coast Eagles and Hungry Jacks – obviously, Perth boy, love the West Coast Eagles – they do it very well, in store activations, everything. Y’know, the Eagles didn’t go, ‘Hey guys, we’re gonna put your logo here, and that’s what you’re gonna get for whatever amount of money it is.’

RV: Millions of dollars [laughs].

AM: Ah – I can only dream of such sponsorships! But it’s, ‘Hey guys, we’ve got this database here, we’ve got this amount of social media followers, we’re gonna do these appearances, this that and the other.

We’re gonna try hold an event, and maybe network. What can your current sponsors offer this new sponsor? Would they both benefit from networking? If you network sponsors it adds longevity.

It’s finding that way, whether it’s interrelated, whether it’s an accountancy firm, with anyone that you’ve got. Radio – y’know, whatever it is. You network then, and all of a sudden…

RV: Anything that you do – so if you’re asking for ten grand, but you can provide them thirty grand worth of value, whether that’s a business association, whether that’s direct sales, whatever it is – then when you go and ask for twenty grand next year, it just becomes a no-brainer.

They’re not gonna question it because you’ve already provided them that much extra value just by that association. So it’s putting in all that work behind the scenes that’s really important.

AM: And that’s right. You’ve gotta show where the value is when you increase. And when it becomes a no-brainer, it becomes a personal relationship. And you build that rapport, and then you become that company.

Then you actually understand, through your own personality, what they need. And Auto One was exactly that, whenever someone walked around with a Super Cheap Auto merchandise on in a photo, I’d pretend to cover it out. It’s stuff like that, it provokes the question, people joke about it, it’s identifiable and they start to move across. And it’s embodying that brand as if it was your own brand.

And you’re right – finding those value-adds, there’s networking, you just need to make it harder to say ‘no’. That’s what it’s about… yeah.

RV: So coming into this year, obviously things were a bit questionable coming into Adelaide, and you really scrambled to bring everything together.

You’ve got an association with Erebus who also have Penrite sponsorship. Did they have any sort of factor in that relationship coming about, or…? Not to give all the secrets away, but which buttons did you have to push to start getting your foot in the door as the season was starting to approach.

AM: That was a very hard one – Penrite was probably one of the last sponsors to come onboard, so funny enough we had everything down, apart a major sponsor, and it all really hinged on one or two people, and we were getting very, very close.

We had Penrite on the way, then the last one to come onboard, to pretty much dictate our season was Fabcon. And that was a really great relationship from within the team, and without them I wouldn’t be here.

With Penrite I’ve had prior relationships with them, even though we’ve been backed by a competitor, to them.

Penrite was one of those people that you meet in different scenarios at the track, and y’know, I approached Barry Ryan, because I didn’t wanna tread on other peoples’ toes. Motorsport’s a very, very small game, word gets around quickly, you start stealing sponsors, doing whatever…

RV: It’s not just sponsors – everything that’s behind the scenes with motorsport. If you start treading on people’s toes, you’ve got a very short life span.

AM: You do. And with my previous sponsors, I know exactly who hit my previous sponsors saying what they could do that I couldn’t. And I’ll find out, because I’ve got the relationship with them – or the person does.

Just as I thought about Penrite I was like, y’know what, there’s a lot of good synergies, Erebus, Penrite, Penrite Racing. Y’know, this would be a really good story to tell.

Erebus academy, I’ve been part of that academy since 2013, ‘Hey, this would look pretty cool.’ So I got on the phone to Barry Ryan, made sure that… yeah, I didn’t wanna rock up to Adelaide and go, ‘Hey, here’s Penrite’ and him go, ‘What’s this? Are you trying to cut us out.

RV: Yeah – you’ve gotta be really careful with those.

AM: Yeah. And, look, Barry was great, he said, ‘That would be really cool – see how it goes. Obviously, we’re already locked in with doing out own thing, but hey, look, if it all works for you, give them a shot.’

So I had his blessing, got on the phone, and started making calls. And got through with Toby, Jarad and John – all the guys at Penrite there, and started putting together things. And look, they were saying no more than yes…

RV: Which is bound to happen…

AM: It’s always gonna happen. And then, y’know, we just kept offering them more and more and more to make it – well, not more, but different – to make it tailored more into what they’re doing.

RV: Honed your pitch to what they needed.

AM: Exactly. And then all of a sudden it looked like, well, it’s great value – let’s do it. And, y’know, I’ve got reports on what I’ve done before in terms of my social media reach a year, in terms of what the car generated, in terms of the sales I got for each company, in terms of where it’s been in newspapers, all that.

RV: Which is all stuff you need to keep track of all the way through your career so you can hand these stats to people when they need them.

AM: Exactly – because you can either go, ‘Oh yeah – I’m the most followed, I’m the most TV-timer there is’, but unless you’ve got the actual stats to back it up, it’s all here say. So, I went to them with that – with a plan.

They’ve got a great marketing team, they already on several cars, but I still threw them a couple of things that, ‘Hey, maybe we could try this, we could try and pull some sales through here and – let’s do this, this and this.’

And, y’know, ended up with Penrite saying yes. Which was really, really cool, to be associated with such a great brand, Australian brand… they’ve been in supercars – it’s a good story.

RV: It’s just a good tie-in between your relationship with Erebus that goes way back in any of their current drivers. And that whole synergy with – even driving one of their cars, well, longer than their current drivers have been racing on their cars. So it’s a whole package story, so it’s a good one to have.

AM: Exactly. So it’s once again finding that synergy that you can use to bundle that all together. It would make more sense for, say, Penrite to do it than, say, Caltex. Because, y’know, there’s more going for the Penrite thing, and you’ve got exposure.

Sometimes not everyone knows… about the inner working. So you explain it, show how that can provide value to the current program. Because it’s very easy to say, why shouldn’t I do it? instead of, why not? You’ve gonna turn the why into the why not? and you provide solidarity in what you offer.

So yeah, it was tough… like I said, I only found out five days before Adelaide that I’d be racing again this year, so it was very, very touch-and-go.

Now to repay their faith in me I’m working five times overtime on running so many social media pages and providing content – probably doing more than I ever signed up to do, but I just wanna make sure it’s a yes for next year, if we decide to do the same thing again. So you’ve gotta promise low and overdeliver – don’t promise too low otherwise they’ll so ‘no’ [laughs].

RV:Yeah, no – but you’ve gotta be seen to be providing that extra value, because that’s the difference between Joe Bloggs racer and Adam Arjoram racer. If your reputation precedes you then it makes the pitch much easier next time.

AM: It does. And the ability to present in front of a board of directors is crucial. And if you can’t – do it. It’s gonna be a lot tougher for you, so finding whether you have to do a media training course… whatever you need to do, you are part of the brand that you are trying to sell.

You’re the commodity, you’re the product that you put on the shelf to sell. And if you can’t sell yourself, then you can’t do it. And I used to struggle – I never used to be able to talk about money, so when people would ask me the direct question, ‘How much does it cost?’, I’d struggle. Because… I know you never really ask someone how much they earn, and it’s very rude.

RV: Yeah, money’s one of those things where a lot of people struggle with just purely on that. It’s not a subject that anyone’s comfortable really talking about.

AM: Absolutely – you don’t go out and go, ‘Oh yeah, how much do you earn? And I earn this.’ It’s not a very easy conversation. So I could sell myself very, very well, and provide the strategy – obviously with my marketing background – I could provide the strategy, so everything. And the pitch looks good, right up until they say, ‘How much is that gonna cost?’ And I’d be like, ‘Ah, erm, err… yeah it’s this, but, y’know we could do this…’ and then I’d get all jittery and then kind of… So that’s my personal hang-up I had to get over…

RV: And that all comes with experience.

AM: It does – yeah, once again, you’re gonna screw up a couple of pitches and they’re gonna say no. And don’t be afraid, as well, when they say no, ask for feedback. ‘Why did you say no?’ Because nine times out of ten, you realise when it’s a no, you go, ‘Damn, well I stuffed that up. I shouldn’t have said that, I should’ve done that…’ – whatever.

Nine times out of ten it’s actually not you, it’s the position of that company. It might be that, ‘Look, we went TV this year, and hey, we’d love to chat next year, but we’re just not in that position.

RV: Or you’ve asked after they’ve locked in their budget for the year, or they’re on a different financial year because they’re based overseas, or any number of other things. So there’s a lot of other factors that come into it. And you’ve gotta put in the good fight, and work on those relationships over a course of time.

A potential sponsor isn’t gonna sign a check because you’ve given them a good pitch – you’ve gotta work on it and build those relationships to get them to sign the check.

AM: Exactly – and if they say, ‘Look, hey, we’re not in the position this year.’ Next year, get in early and maybe you can work something out. Not necessarily, but there’s a chance – if there’s a chance then you take it. And if not, it’s gonna improve your product for later on. So you can actually go and tailor it a little bit better for the next person, so hopefully that fifty-fifty ‘no’ is a seventy-five-twenty-five ‘yes’.

You’re always adapting and evolving and trying the get the right thing together. So, y’know, that’s another thing – don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, there’s respect in that as well. Because when those guys go, ‘Y’know what – he wants to work on himself to make it even better.’

Maybe that’s what they need to see for the next time ‘yes’. No different to going back to F10 five years in a row tryna pitch and pitch and pitch and pitch, trying to make myself better. Turned into a ‘yes’, that feedback mechanism might be an easy way to do it. So don’t be afraid to ask – ask questions.

RV: Yeah, absolutely. And that goes for any relationship you’re trying to foster – you’ve just gotta talk, communicate.

AM: Yes. The worst thing you can do is be silent when you put the sticker on the car, silent all year long. And when it rocks up to next year go, ‘Hey guys, remember me? You’ve got a logo on my car, do you wanna pay X amount to be on it next year?’ They’re gonna go, ‘Ah, who are you again?’

RV: Yeah, yeah [laughs] – ‘That’s where the money disappeared to. Right, ok, yeah, yeah.’

AM: Yes – so it’s always that ever-continued relationship, it’s crucial. A monthly check-up, reports, whatever it is, video conference. Whatever you need to offer them, make sure you’re always in contact. You don’t wanna be that long-lost person, because you’re getting a lot out of it, and hopefully you’re delivering a lot out of it. But a lot of people stay very silent.

RV: Yes – and that’s something a lot of young drivers need to learn… it’s not just the check, it’s not just the sticker, it’s not just the TV time, it’s fostering that relationship so that when you do go to ask for the bigger bucks, all the hard work’s already done.

AM: Yes – that’s exactly what it’s all about. And, y’know, motorsport’s getting harder and harder in some instances, y’know, costs are rising, y’know all of these little things. And the rise of social media has really changed the dynamic of the way you leverage sponsorship.

A lot of it’s on social media but people pick results from social media, therefore they might not watch that race. But if they don’t watch the race, they don’t see the brand on the car – how else do you get that brand in front of that person? That’s what you need to think of.

Is it on store appearances? Offer something into whatever outlet, or whatever’s going on. Find a way to get that brand in front of those people. And social media’s great because you can report on it – it’s very, very good. Like last year, my social media reached two-and-a-half million unique accounts, and now it’s one of those things that, ‘Ok guys, let’s do this, this and this, and let’s leverage it.

These are some of the strategies I used. Whatever it was that I reported on, that was one of the strengths on my report.

RV: Which is a much more solid stat that you can give a potential sponsor, as oppose to, ‘Well, we were on TV for thirty-seven seconds during the Townsville race.

While it has a dollar figure attached to it, how many of those people actually genuinely recognised all the logos on the car?

Whereas the social media side of things, there’s a tangible result that comes directly out of that.

AM: Exactly – and it’s all about finding what works for each person. And everyone’s gonna be different. Yeah, it’s all very, very interesting.

RV: Excellent – well, thank you very much for the chat, Adam.

AM: Pleasure, mate – thank you for having me.

If you would like to have a look a what Adam’s doing with his social media to provide additional value to his sponsors and engage his fans, check him out of Facebook and Instagram.

For more tips and advice on building your career in motorsport from those who have done it, follow InSyde Media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Andy McElrea on his teams highly successful driver development program

Andy McElrea on his teams highly successful driver development program

Results speak volumes in motorsport and Andy McElrea’s team, McElrea Racing, definitely has some success stories when it comes to its driver development program and helping young drivers onto the world stage.

In this episode of The InSyde Line, Rhys chats to Andy about his team’s driver development program through the Porsche pyramid, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and Carrera Cup Australia, that helped springboard both Matt Campbell and Jaxon Evans into international motorsport careers. We also cover what young drivers can expect should they want to be involved with the team.

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Andy shares McElrea Racing’s unique approach to driver development, both on and off the track, to help young drivers build the toolkit and connections that they need to succeed regardless if they would like to pursue a career of an international GT competition or remaining in Australia to race in Supercars.

Rhys Vandersyde: What I wanted to do was have a chat with you about your driver development program, and obviously the history of what McElrea racing’s done.

Obviously you’ve got a fairly successful history with guys like Matt Campbell and Jaxon Evans going off to do bigger and better things internationally. So yeah, I just want to have a chat with you about your program, and what young guys are looking for with McElrea racing.

Andy McElrea: Sure. We’ve been working in the Porsche categories since 2011… and like to think that we’ve got a fairly well-oiled little machine to get talented kids from wherever that they are when they come to us, to being ready to hand off to a GT team in Europe, or a V8 Supercar team here.

So that’s, that’s, in a nutshell, what we try and do – obviously there’s a lot more to it but, yeah [laughs].

RV: Yeah, no obviously you do a lot of things behind the scenes with the kids to get them ready. And obviously you’ve got guys like Luffy who come in and do a lot of driver training, as well as Matt and Jaxon  when they are back who get involved with that kind of training as well, so you’ve got a lot of things in place to help build up young drivers as they progress through the system.

AM: Yeah, correct. I guess the first that we’ve gotta have is fast cars. That’s crucial. And then that allows people come to us obviously on the understanding that our cars are quick.

That’s something that we’re constantly working at, we never, never, never stop on that one. Because… well for obvious reasons. So, that’s the first thing. That attracts customers, and then after that, it’s hopefully what we’re starting to prove in terms of what we can deliver to the promising kids, and their folks.

So… we’ve had some success, and that doesn’t come without a fair bit of hard work behind the scenes.

RV: Yeah. Ok, and you’ve got things in place to help young guys when they do succeed, so that they’re not caught out at the end of their tenure. That’s something that McElrea Racing has in place as well?

AM: Yeah, absolutely. In fact that’s something that we’re very proud of, and I think we do that better anyone else in Australia at the moment. Certainly for the kids that are looking for an international GT career.

So, yeah, I mean all the teams that are operating in our space that are competing in the GT3 cup, and Carrera cup. Are all doing something very similar. But it’s the little… the little attention to detail, the little things that we can do for the driver outside of the car that helps develop them into a more, a well-rounded race driver that other teams want to take on in the future.

So, to answer that question, we are very proud of the pathway that we can provide for them, provided they’re doing the right job. But once they get to a point where they’ve won the Carrera cup championship here.

RV: Yes. That’s obviously played out with Matt and Jaxon going overseas, and obviously Matt’s gone on to do even bigger and better things in WEC etc. while Jaxon is forging his pathway over in Porsche Supecup at the moment and he’s getting a handle on European competition.

AM: Yes, yep. Well… Matt was our first success story in that respect. Obviously Jaxon, the second one, last year in twenty-eighteen. But Jaxon is having a few more challenges than Matty had in his first year, but he’ll overcome them, no problem. But, and we can’t say too much right now, both kids have some very exciting news coming up soon about next year, so their futures are both looking very bright.

RV: Excellent. And playing a small – well, fairly big part at this stage – but playing a small part in their overall careers is obviously something to be very proud of.

AM: Yeah, absolutely. Once we get a driver in our team, or even family – that’s kind of how we look at it – we are very proud of what they go on to achieve, so when we have a driver that comes in like Harry and Ryan this year, they’ve suggested that they’ll be with us for the long haul, which is generally a three-year program.

And we give them everything that we can to get them to the point where they’ll be in the same situation as Matty or Jaxon in three years’ time. So we’ve both gotta give each other a bit of loyalty, and work towards a common goal, so, yeah that’s how we like to do it.

Rhys: Yeah, ok. So obviously you’ve got Harry and Ryan in the system now, so, was that just purely those guys coming to you, or did you have several drivers and you picked those two?

AM: No… because GT3 cup challenge is the first over the Porsche pyramid, the drivers need to have proper funding to do those two categories.

When they start moving up, we are able to help with our larger group of sponsors that we have worked with for a number of years. But certainly to get there feet under the desk so to speak, they need to bring the funding and raise the funding themselves.

If we were able to provide the funding, we would obviously go and pick which drivers we thought were talented and then put them in the car. But unfortunately we’re not in that situation – no-one in Australia is. So it’s more a case of who picks up the phone to ring us, and the better that driver is, the more excited we get, obviously.

Having Harry and Ryan onboard this year. Harry is the current a Formula 3 champion, Ryan is the current Formula 4 runner up, there’s two of the hottest young single-seater driver in the country that have picked up the phone and rung us. So that’s exciting because they’ve seen what’s happened with Matty and Jackson, and want to follow that same pathway.

So we sit and wait for the phone to ring, and if we’ve done a good job, then the phone does ring. And if we haven’t in a while then it’s a pretty brutal game like that.

RV: It’s self-regulating in that regard, isn’t it?

AM: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, precisely.

RV: Excellent and so you’ve had Cooper jump across from ASM to your operation this year, for basically your success rate with those other guys, how did that sort of come about or is it just one of those things that…

AM: We watched Cooper last year in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and he was a stand definitely out last year.

He was with another team. In Australia, we, the teams, like ourselves, Sonic, Ash Seward Motorsport, Wall Racing and GWR – we play pretty fairly with each other. We don’t try to poach each other’s drivers, and y’know, we expect sort of loyalty in each direction, and that’s what happens.

So what happened with Cooper, last year he had a standout year in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge with ASM. Then, for whatever reason, the beginning of this year didn’t work out so well for him. They wanted a change of scenery. And obviously it made sense to try, y’know, ourselves or Sonic, and they came to us, and we were happy to take them onboard because we knew he had the crucial thing, which is the driving talent.

Also he knew we had the other crucial thing being car speed. So it was probably a bit of a no-brainer, but they had to have the courage to make the change part way through the season, which they did. And obviously the results of that change will show that it was a reasonable decision.

RV: Yeah, absolutely. So obviously now he’s part of your driver’s system, so he’s getting that coaching from Luffy (Warren Luff), and some of those other things that happen, behind the scenes with the McElrea operation. So, that’s also a factor in that decision as well?

AM: Ah, you might need to ask him that question, but what I do know is that they wanted just to give him the best shot in a competitive car. And we’ve been able to provide that car for him, but, y’know there are a lot of little things that go into developing a driver. That’s where I’m proud of what we do.

With the way that our senior management and the team is set up, with Leigh Geyer, our team manager. He’s been with me now since 201, so we have great stability there. Luffy (Warren Luff) obviously, the super coach and then myself.

So we all bring something completely different to the table. Leigh, certainly on car development, working with the driver to get the best out of them. Luffy giving the drivers coaching while they’re driving, between sessions. Leigh and I do the data with the drivers, he does the video footage with them.

Where I’m able to help is a little bit more on the, believe it or not, the psychology side of it, and the commercial side. So if there’s an area where a driver can be a little bit better at looking people in the eye, or shaking their hand, or something that might seem trivial like that – that’s where I can kind of stand back and help point him in the right direction. So when they leave us, with some big trophies under their arms, hopefully they’re ready to – ready to go at an international level.

RV: Yep, and take on the big bad world.

AM: Yeah, yeah – exactly!

RV: That’s all stuff that a lot of young drivers don’t necessarily get. Particularly coming through very junior categories, they’re not getting that education as to how the world works in terms of motorsport, and what they need to do to get to those next levels. So it’s good that there’s an opportunity there, once they get into a decent team like yours, that they then can go and get those extra skills – just those grey-matter skills, that may not necessarily come straight away.

AM: Yeah, well a good example is Matt when he started with us in 2014, doing the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge B-class he was so shy.

He was so shy he couldn’t look you in the eye when he spoke to you. And we, one way or another, bought him out of his shell quite nicely, and y’know, now people can’t believe how well he speaks, and he speaks in public very well, and he initiates conversation with people and he just grew into himself once he had the confidence to know that he was a pretty special driver. Just gave him the confidence as a person.

So he’s a different guy now, but that’s one example of it, and the other things that we do in the background, and making introductions to some of the other very important people in the pit lane – both in the V8 side and the GT side. So yeah, it’s the old story – you get what you pay for, and it’s never been truer in motorsports.

RV: Absolutely.

AM: And that’s the fact of the matter. Racing’s a fun thing for the dads and the sons that wanna take their car to the tracks on a trailer, but kids that have the backing and ambition to make it to the very top need to come with someone like us who can join all the dots for them. We won’t do the work for them, but we’ll show them how it happens, what needs to happen, and we’ll lead the horse to the water, put it’s up to the horse to have a drink – and that’s sort of how we roll it.

RV: Excellent. Ok, so in terms of, if a young driver was to come to yourself and go, ‘What do I need to run in GT3 Cup Challenge?’ So, obviously you’ve got a pretty full house with Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars at the moment. Is that something that you have a limitation with, or can someone buy a Cup car or run to you and go ‘can you run it for us?’

AM: Right now we’re full, both in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge and the Carrera Cup side.

So the ideal business model for us is to have two pros and two Pro-Ams in each category and this year is actually the first year that we’ve managed to hit that target – have two pros and two gentlemen drivers in each category, and that works best for us logistically, overhead wise, staffing wise, and just dynamically over the course of a weekend.

And, y’know, one of the other things that generally tends to rub off, is that some of the gentlemen drivers end up giving some of the youngers drivers a drive and a race somewhere, or…

RV: The Bathurst 12 Hour?

AM: Yeah, exactly right. Both Matt and Jackson have got numerous Bathurst 12-hour drives by getting on well with some of their gentleman drivers.

RV: Absolutely, yeah.

AM: That’s another part of it. But also some sponsorship. Y’know Jimmy Vernon’s deal last year was stretched pretty thin, and both Michael Hovey and Brett Bolton tipped in and funded the last couple of rounds. So those are some of the other intangible benefits that we could never promise, but quite often happen as a result of rubbing shoulders with the right sort of people.

RV: Excellent. Alright, so, do you wanna go into just a little bit more detail about the progression path that you’ve got in place? Obviously Jaxon did two years in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge. So you basically give young drivers a development year, then a championship year. Then another development year and then championship year?

AM: Yeah, pretty much. What we have set in stone is two years in Carrera cup.

First year to win some races, park it on the front row a few times, get used to getting off the line well and doing good starts, which leads to winning races obviously. And then go for the championship in year two, and that formula worked beautifully for both Matt and Jaxon.

What happens prior to that depends on the kid – where they’re at in their level of development.

So Matt came to with a year-and-a-half formula forward numerous other cars that he’d driven. So he only needed one year of GT3 Cup Challenge to be quick enough to go up to Carrera Cup and be ready to win races.

Whereas Jaxon on the other hand came to us fresh out of go karts. So he did one Formula Forward race in New Zealand, and then into the Porsche, so he needed two years – he did the first year of B-Class, him and Aaron Seton slugged it out, and then in the second year he did an A-Class in a newer car.

And he should’ve won that championship, but because it was only him and Hamish Hardiman that were running for the championship, one DNF really cost him the championship through no fault of his own. So he should’ve – could’ve won Cup Challenge in 2016, but in any case after that second year of GT3 cup challenge, he was ready for Carrera cup.

It took Matt twelve races to win, and in the Carrera Cup, but it took Jaxon ten, which was pretty cool. And then, y’know, Cooper coming – obviously he didn’t do his development with us in cup challenge but he’s come to Carrera Cup and won his fourth race with us. So that’s exciting, and it underlines the fact that our system works which is obviously important for us to keep proving that.

RV: Yeah, absolutely. Results count, regardless of being a team owner, a driver, a sponsor, like, results count.

AM: Exactly right, yep.

RV: You’ve got a fleet of cars that you run. If someone was to come to you and go, ‘Look, I’ve got a car that I need to run’, AKA what Cooper did, with the Porsche model, are you guys happy with running cars from the general Porsche fleet of Australia-wide, or is it that you would prefer to have someone lease one of your cars internally?

AM: No – so the way our team runs is all of our customers own their cars. So if they bring their car to us, we bolt our setup on it, and off we go racing.

The only variation to that is we own our own Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge car, which is the ex-Matt Campbell championship car. And we own a Porsche Carrera Cup car, which is Jaxon’s championship winning car. So we lease those cars out in each category to help us kinda control, as much as we can, the fact that we have a pro in our car.

With our system, in a perfect world we’d like to win the championship one year, develop our driver the second year, and then win it again. So what happened is that kind of got out of sync a little bit, so y’know we had the super couch sitting here without a drive – so this year we put Luffy in the car, so he’ll win races.

And if he doesn’t win the championship, he’ll finish in the top three – he’s currently second. So, again, if we didn’t have our own car, we would only have had Tim Miles and Anthony Gilbertson in the Pro-Am class this year, and Cooper may not have come to us, had we not been running Luffy up the front.

So that was an example of where having our own car gave us the freedom to make the decisions that we wanted to from a sporting perspective, rather than a commercial perspective. And it’s worked, and we don’t make nearly as much money as we would like to out of this whole thing, but to me racing is about winning first.

We have our MR Tuning business, and we have our MR Driver Development business. And those are the businesses that help underpin the race team, so the race team doesn’t need to make money, it just needs to support itself properly, and then we can put everything and all the resources we have into running the best team we can.

RV: And you guys have made a big investment getting the simulator in our office, well… workshop up in Yatala.

AM Yeah, that’s a crucial part of it. Like our MotionForce1 simulator, we’re the Australian agent for it.

The Erebus Motorsport team bought one from us, and they’re not having a bad year – or couple of years. But that’s an important part of our driver development program, is getting all the drivers on the sim, we often hit the ground running at any circuit, or a circuit the driver hasn’t been to before because we’ve been able to put them in the sim.

Having a full-motion sim, it gives the best perception of breaking force, cornering force, g-loads etc. because of the quality of the machine.

Everyone’s got a little static sim of five grand, or ten grand rig, sitting in their bedroom, or around the workshop, but this thing is a serious piece of equipment.

RV: Yeah, I’ve seen it, it’s a proper piece of equipment it’ll throw you around if you let it.

AM: Yeah… yeah, yeah, yeah – exactly! So that helps our drivers. And that’s also available to any driver in fact. Thomas Maxwell who drivers for Sonic, who everyone knows is our nemesis in Porsche racing, Thomas he’s a customer in our driver development business. And he hires time and drivers the sim, so that’s a good example of sort of how that business sits alongside the race team, but it stands alone.

RV: Yeah – and you also had guys like Todd Hazelwood and other Supercar drivers coming in to just sharpen up the skills before they go out to their next round so it’s all part of the back end system as well?

AM: Yeah, correct – exactly right. And, y’know, Jack Le Brocq last year when Campbell Little and Adrian Burgess were looking after him at Tekno, he spent a lot of time on the sim last year. I

n fact, he perfected changing from left foot to right foot braking, on the sim. And he was interviewed on TV at Tasmania last year, and congratulated on doing such a good job, considering it was his first weekend right-food braking, and he put it down to the training that he’d done on the sim with Campbell. So, yeah, it’s a serious, proper tool, for learning to drive different or better or overall quicker – no matter what lever you’re at it can make you better, so yeah.

RV: So young drivers can potentially get in touch with you in regards to taking advantage of that facility as well?

AM Absolutely. Yep, yep – just go to our website and it’s all there.

RV: Excellent. Well, thank you very much for your time today Andy, it’s been much appreciated and a very educational conversation.

AM: [Laughs] Not many people say that about a conversation with me, but I’ll take that as a compliment.

To find out more about McElrea Racing’s Porsche program head over to their website – https://www.mcelrearacing.com or check them out on Facebook and Instagram. Alternatively, if you’d like to know more about their Motion Force simulator and driver development program visit – https://mrdd.com.au

For more tips and advice on building your career in motorsport from those who have done it, follow InSyde Media on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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