Jess Shanahan on how to get paid to race

Jess Shanahan is the ultimate definition of a female boss. At the age of just 30, she’s run magazines, edited several blogs, ran a successful racing team and – to top it all off – created a brand that is going from strength to strength.

Racing Mentor is a tool that is designed to help people from all backgrounds of motorsport. Whether you’re a budding PR or wanting help with sponsorship, Jess draws on her own experience to deliver you results.

Having gone from writing books at a very young age for fun, Jess now has a work of her very own published.

“I wanted to give drivers a more well-rounded view on what it takes to get sponsorship,” Jess tells Females in Motorsport. “It’s not just about sending a really pretty proposal document to a business that‘s relevant to what you’re into; it’s about building a profile for yourself and creating a status as an influencer.”

‘Get Paid To Race’ is the one-stop guide to become the best marketable racing driver you can become.

“The books starts by showing a driver how to build their profile – mainly by using social media and press coverage,” Jess says. “It then helps you to establish your niche and explains how to develop that. The book then goes into how to identify your sponsors and how to pitch to them.

“It also looks at how to maintain a sponsor, so you can hold onto them so they grow with you. The whole idea is to build such a big brand for yourself so companies eventually come to you.”

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The cover of ‘Get Paid to Race’

With all of her experience working in motorsport media, Jess understands the importance of getting the sponsorship process right. It’s not just about sending a well-designed proposal document; you have to build a reputable brand for yourself.

“When you take that proposal document to someone, they already know who you are, they’re already rooting for you, and they already think that you can do great things for their business,” Jess says. “It’s about teaching racing drivers the same business skills they may use if they were trying to sell a product.”

Racing Mentor was founded just over two years ago with one goal in mind: to help people become the most successful versions of themselves. It all started when Jess was running Turn Eight Racing. She had drivers approaching her asking if she could help them source sponsorship. Having found success for a few people, Jess realised that she couldn’t help everyone.

“I set out to create something that would help more people and teach them the business skills needed for them to pick up that sponsorship,” Jess says. “I just want to have more people think like businesses, get sponsorship, and get on track.”

As Racing Mentor blossoms, Jess has ambitions to run another racing team in the future.

“I want to maybe dip into that in 2019, and then do something bigger the following year,” she says. “I have a big vision of running a multi-car race team where I can subsidise talented drivers with the sponsorship that I’ve brought in and teach them to do the same.

“When they get to the level of where they need to bring in big sponsorship, they’re able to do that. It needs to be a process of the driver looking for sponsorship – however large – and I want the team to be able to do that.”

Jess understands that this is a big project but knows that it could be very successful.

“In the first instance, it would be at a grassroots level to test the concept and bring some sponsorship onboard,” she explains. “From there, we can maybe gain a Racing Mentor foothold higher up the ladder and keep on climbing. It’ll definitely be a progression rather than an all at once thing. I love the idea of the drivers progressing through the ranks and teaching them as they go.”

And the championship she’d like to run a team in? Well, the Citroen C1 series has caught her attention.

“The grids are massive and the cars are cool,” she says. “The Mazda championships generate good racing too. The next year coming is going to be a big research year with me working out what works best with my audience and the drivers.”

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Jess at the Motorsport Days Live event where she launched ‘Get Paid To Race’

Jess is also very knowledgeable when it comes to social media. She’s utilised her own expertise to make sure people in the industry are making the most out of the likes of Twitter.

“You need to get excited about using social media,” Jess says. “So if you only have time for one, then make the most of it and maximise your activity. If a driver knows that their target market is based on Twitter, then you should try there. It all depends on what works for you and how you can utilise each platform.”

While it may sound daunting at first, motorsport is renowned for being a tough industry. That’s why Jess thinks that you should never give up on your dreams.

“Motorsport is an incredibly competitive world, although there are avenues out there that people don’t necessarily look at,” she says. “If there’s a series you want to aim for, never give up and never let anyone tell you no.”

Whatever the future holds, Jess just wants to keep on reading the success stories that have happened.

“It’s amazing that the book is helping people and I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Jess says. “I started this because I wanted to see people succeed. I want to share my knowledge to help people. It’s lovely that I’ve been able to turn it into a business, but the best thing is reading the feedback.”

You can buy the book here.

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky: “Red Bull and my team feel like family”

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky’s road to success has been full of twists and turns. After a difficult couple of years, a last-minute drive in the 2018 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship – STCC – saw the Swedish driver bounce back. With a race win this season and a top 10 championship finish, Mikaela is more determined than ever to achieve her goals while maintaining a happy and healthy state of mind.

Despite being from a motorsport-orientated family with both of her parents, her grandfather and brother all drivers, Mikaela recalls having no interest in racing when she was growing up. In fact, she “resented it”.

“I didn’t want to go with my brother to the karting races he had or go to the rally in the town where I grew up in Sweden,” she says.

However, this all changed when her brother went to sell his kart.

“As his little sister, I was used to getting his old stuff,” she says. “I remember sitting at the table saying “hey, I should get the kart!” – I don’t know why I said it, but I know that I protested to get it. In the end I got it and went karting. I also liked it, after all!

“I was never pushed or forced to start motorsport, so the passion that I have for it has been founded by me. That’s important.”

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Mikaela and her team via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

Since discovering that she was fast in a kart, Mikaela decided to follow the path that led her to touring cars. While it wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, she felt the cost involved in single-seaters was too high.

“It was quite obvious for me as I knew that if I wanted to go racing I would have to finance it myself with sponsors,” she says. “Looking at the prices in single-seaters going all the way up to being a paid driver is huge. Touring cars are expensive, but it’s not on the same level in my eyes.”

2018 has seen Mikaela flourish with PWR Racing. With one retirement out of 12 starts, she has proven her ability to be consistently quick under race conditions. To top it all off, she won the second race at Sweden’s most prestigious track – Karlskoga Motorstadion.

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All smiles via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

“It’s been my best season to date,” she says. “I wasn’t certain that I was going to race this year and it really was a last-minute call that I would be the fourth car in the team. Up until March, the plans were all up in the air. I’d had two tough years previously, and I just wanted to have some fun this year. If I didn’t enjoy it, I knew that I would stop at the end of 2018.

“I had a fantastic time with my team and we worked with a step-by-step plan for each weekend. I wanted to finish in the top 10 and I finished 10th overall. I do wish that it would’ve been higher. I never dreamed of a win, though.”

After months of uncertainty, Mikaela’s win has been made official. After the race back in August, an appeal was made by another team about the exhaust system on her PWR car. Two weeks ago, the appeal was dropped and Mikaela’s win stands.

“I knew from the start that I deserved that win,” she says. “There was nothing wrong with the exhaust system and I knew that there was no advantage to be gained from it. From my side, I knew that on that day and in that race, I was the quickest. I had the most consistent laps and I didn’t make any mistakes – I had a great race. I’ve always seen myself as a winner in that round, despite what the ruling could’ve said. Now it’s all finalised, it’s relieving and I’m happy that I have the win back.”

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The power of motorsport via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

Although nothing is confirmed for 2019, Mikaela is adamant that she will be back out racing again, with the end goal of making it to the World Touring Car Championship – WTCR – when the cars make the switch to electric powered engines.

“My goal is to continue in the STCC with PWR,” Mikaela says. “In the future, I want to go into the WTCR when they make their switch to electric cars.

“They will be different as they will be rear-wheel driven, but if I continue with PWR then they know what I’m like as a person and how I work so they will support me. If we get a plan together then I’m 100 percent certain that we’ll make it.”

Mikaela headed to Spain a couple of months ago to take part in the first FOA women drivers assessment programme test.

Ran by the FIA Women in Motorsport initiative, Mikaela tested two types of machinery, including a single seater. Accompanying her were 14 other drivers, including Tatiana Calderon, Jamie Chadwick and Christina Neilson.

“I loved how supportive the other girls were,” she says. “We had lots of chats about our experiences as we’re all in different forms of racing and it’s not that often that we’re able to talk to each other. A few of my friends back home try their best to understand what my life is like, but they never get the full picture. It was fun to be able to discuss racing with other girls and exchange our different experiences.”

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Having fun – Mikaela and other drivers at the FIA test via FIA.com

Mikaela also maintains the importance of programmes that the FIA is working on in the bid to try and get more females involved in motorsport.

“The work that they’re doing – in particular the Girls on Track – to get more females into motorsport is so good,” Mikaela says. “I always get asked why there aren’t more girls in motorsport, and media campaigns and initiatives have a big impact. They show that women can be in motorsport and we can be as good as and if not better than the boys.”

However, Mikaela’s opinion is more divided when it comes to the new female-only W Series that will take to the track next year.

“It’s a good way for women to get into motorsport if you don’t have the budget or means to get into a mixed series,” she says. “You can show your potential in a single seater too.

“In my opinion, it won’t solve the problem of getting a female F1 driver. There’s so much more to racing than just winning one race and one championship. That’ll take you one step closer but that isn’t necessarily enough. You need to physically prepare for a big series and you need the full package, equipped with a good mentality and the right contacts.”

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Mikaela and the other ladies at the FIA test day via fia.com

2016 and 2017 were difficult periods for Mikaela, and she isn’t afraid to admit it. A constant source of pressure meant that racing became too much and a step back was needed. However, the 25 year-old has learnt from her past experiences to ensure her mental state is on par with her physical.

“I lost myself during those two difficult years,” she says. “Things got very big in such a short amount of time. I got lots of partners and it all got incredibly serious. It got too much for me to be able to handle. When I got stressed, I lost the joy of what I did. Like in all disciplines, you need the time to rest – I didn’t have this. I was constantly on the go. I’m a lot stronger now and, more importantly, I’m a lot happier.”

Her journey means that she knows motorsport isn’t always an easy ride and, despite the difficult times, she doesn’t want people to “feel sorry” for her and instead wants people to learn that it’s okay to “lose sight of your passion”.

“The road to success isn’t the same for everyone,” she says. “For some people, just having motorsport all of the time is their route. I learnt that this method wasn’t mine as it didn’t work out. For me to succeed, I need the balance and to have down time with friends and family. It’s okay to have a different way of living your life within motorsport. The same method doesn’t work for all of us.”

Now, Mikaela is a member of the Red Bull Family and they work together as a partnership. She speaks highly of them, and describes Red Bull and her team PWR as being a family.

“With Red Bull and my team, it feels like they’re my family,” she says. “I enjoy coming into each race weekend or event because I can be myself. I feel so comfortable. It’s vital to me to have fun otherwise I won’t produce the results. It’s all about balance.

“When I was really down last Autumn, I didn’t think that Red Bull would continue their partnership with me. They told me that they believed in me and my strength and talent. It was Red Bull and PWR who kept me going in those times. Red Bull are doing some amazing things that are really out there. If you have a crazy idea, they listen. They may change some things but they’ll always try and make it happen.”

As her plans for next year get finalised, we look forward to cheering her on!

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Jamie Howe: “You have to love it and be prepared for the lifestyle that comes with motorsport”

F1 is hugely popular in Europe and we often hear how the new owners Liberty Media are keen to expand it’s fanbase in North America, however this doesn’t mean they don’t have an interest in motorsport. The USA boasts many championships and series in which drivers from all round the world flock to compete in such as IndyCar and NASCAR. Jamie Howe is one of the America’s most famous motorsport broadcasters and so we spoke to her about US racing culture and her career in the sport.

Many people who now work in the motorsport industry often speak of being brought up watching the sport, but for Jamie, that wasn’t the case. “I didn’t grow up around racing and my family wasn’t into cars when I was young,” Howe told us. It wasn’t until later that she became more familiar with the sport she would go onto work in but did admit “once I was introduced to motorsports, the bug bit me hard!” She had actually grown up intending to work in television, a vital part of her role now, though sports TV was never something she considered, having wanted to work in News. “Being in Atlanta I always thought it would be news-based television as CNN is here and I worked with their student bureau in high school,” she said.

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credit: @CapnSteve19

Her first role in motorsport came completely by chance when she was coaching a local swimming team. One of the parents worked in the industry and knowing Howe’s interest in TV offered her an opportunity. “A Dad with kids on the team worked in racing television and knew I was going to school for broadcast television. He hired me as a runner to come and work and see what really happens in TV,” Jamie explained. Starting as a runner, Howe worked extremely hard to impress her bosses and over the years managed to earn promotions and be given more responsibility. “I worked as a runner, then a stage manager, then a field producer, then a feature host, then a tape delayed reporter, then a live-to-tape reporter then eventually a live radio/PA reporter then a live television reporter!” she exclaimed. Jamie is proof that getting your foot in the door is crucial to achieving your dreams, especially if they are big dreams.

The way Howe describes her rise through the ranks may seem easy and straightforward, but it hasn’t always been the case. “The early days were the most challenging,” she described, “I was trying to prove myself as a worker and gain respect, all while trying to better my skills at the same time.” Though this journey has allowed her to experience all areas of the television industry including on-screen, production and content creation. Speaking of some of the roles she most enjoyed, she said: “I love the production side of the field and getting to see a story go from an idea to air, that is very rewarding. But there is nothing quite like live television and finishing a show or race with so much adrenaline,” Jamie told me.

twitterHaving not had an interest in motorsport as a child, throughout her career, Howe has had to learn a lot when it comes to the series she has worked in. To perform her role to the best of her ability she likes to make sure her knowledge is up to a good standard and believes this helps her when interviewing. “I have learned about each series as I have gone. There is so much behind-the-scenes that the viewer never knows but it’s all important to telling the story the right way. It’s an on-going learning process as the rules change and the technology advances,” Jamie explained to us. Learning as she goes helps, but she also has to study and make sure she has all the notes she needs. “I am a good student, I keep my work organized and take notes. I love talking to people and all of that helps me cover different series in the same season. The vernacular (language) is different but being there and being in the moment helps to keep it straight,” she said.

As an interviewer on site at races, many interesting people are competing and attend to watch the live event. Jamie has been able to speak to many interesting people saying: “I’ve truly loved interviewing almost everyone. If I have to narrow it down, I would say two people: Mario Andretti and Patrick Dempsey, both for the same reason: they bring so much notoriety to the sport but their passion is so clearly evident when they talk about racing. They truly love the sport, its people, and what it has done in their own lives. I get to talk to and interview so many interesting people and feel very fortunate for that,” Howe described.

twitter3Having worked her way up from a runner to her centre stage role now, Jamie was keen to share her advice for those hoping to work in the sport. “You have to love it and you have to be prepared for the lifestyle that comes with it,” she advised. “Being on the road is not for everyone and if you don’t think you can handle that or you don’t love it, then move on to another passion you have.” Jamie Howe is one of the US’s leading motorsport reporters despite not having an interest until early in her adult life. She is proof that you can work your way up the career ladder having started from the bottom as a runner. She fell into motorsport but has taken every opportunity and from those a successful career has blossomed. She is an example to everyone that getting your foot in the door can make a world of difference.

(all photo credits, unless specified, @ReporterJamie)

Amna Al Qubaisi: “I feel so proud to be the first female driver from my country”

Written by Giulia Scalerandi

Amna Al Qubaisi. This name be beginning to sound familiar, for a number of reason.

Not only is the 18-year-old making a name for herself on the race track, but Amna holds the accolade of breaking down stereotypes as the first female competitive driver from the United Arab Emirates. 

Currently, Amna races in the prestigious Italian Formula 4 Championship for the prestigious Prema Powerteam. This is her first championship in racing cars after karting and she is already racking up impressive results.

At the latest round at the infamous Monza, Amna secured a P16 and a P17 after starting 27th on the grid in both races, showing her speed and ability to overtake.

Females in Motorsport caught up with her to see how she was fairing in her first season of cars and where her drive comes from.

Amna, how are you preparing for the rest of the season?

Unfortunately, I didn’t race at Paul Ricard, however I’m always ready. I do lots of training in the gym. Then there’s some testing at my home track (Yas Marina Circuit) to keep the rhythm and the feeling of the car fresh in my mind.

Before taking to the Italian F4 grid, Amna raced in the second round of the UAE X30 category Seniors and in the Dubai O-Plate category Shifters finishing in third and fifth position in the races.

The 2016/17 season saw Amna competing in various countries and in various categories of karting: Italy, Arab Emirates and Germany. Amna scored a spectacular podium in the 5th round of IAME X30 and in 11th round of UAE RMC in Yas Marina Northern Circuit. 

Back to cars, Andria was her first round competing in a single-seater.

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Credit: Prema

Adria was your first race in the Italian series. You had a 12th and a 16th place finish with over 26 cars on the grid, how did you find the weekend?

The race weekend was very good since I had the pace and I was forth in Rookies and second before I ran out into the run off area at a fast corner. However, I was on the podium too. It wasn’t expected, but Adria’s results gave me an extra boost, experience and confidence for the next one.

You come from karting: how it’s been difficult to drive a kart, then a racing car?

Comparing the kart to the car, it took me a while to adapt to the car, because it’s a whole new world. Moving up from karting to single seater is a natural shift in motorsport and I’m enjoying every moment behind the Formula 4 wheel.

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Credit: Prema

Why did you choose an Italian championship as your first car experience? You are driving for Prema PowerTeam: how did the agreement come about?

Choosing the Italian championship was a big decision, since it has the biggest grid, but it came naturally. Italian F4 visits some of the most prestigious circuits, so it’s brilliant to race there.

Abu Dhabi Racing and Kaspersky Lab have a long term partnership and I would like here to thank Kaspersky Lab for giving me the opportunity to make it from karting into Formula 4. Prema is the best team in the championship and I am so blessed and honored to have the chance to drive for the team.

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Credit: Prema

Although you’re the only girl in the championship, what is the relationship like with your male colleagues?

It’s quite normal to be fair and I haven’t been treated differently. We get along very well and I’ve got used to being the only girl in a race track.

You’re also the first female driver of your country: how do you feel about that?

It’s never happened before so I feel so proud and I’m completely satisfied and happy to make this step as the first and hopefully not the last.

Where does your passion for racing come from?

It’s all come from my dad, supporting him in his races, hearing him talk about different race tracks around the globe and meeting different drivers was a complete awe inspiring to me. Now I live and breathe it!

Final question for you, what is the goal for this season?

The goal is to always keep the pace since it’s my first time and to always finish in a good position.

Flick Haigh: “When you put the helmet on there is no difference between men and women”

Flick Haigh made headlines recently when she became the first woman to win an outright British GT race. Her success in the first round at Oulton Park proved significant for the 31-year-old who started racing by sheer chance 11 years earlier. The rising star has a degree in International Equine and Agricultural Business Management but one thing is clear: her heart lies with competing and, more importantly, racing.

We caught up with her fresh from her amazing win to see what she had to say. One thing was for certain – Flick was still in shock!

“I’m just amazed,” says Flick. “It wasn’t expected. I was very proud of the team. I’ve worked with Optimum Motorsport for four years now and the last two years with the Audi was failure after failure, either the car or driver error or something went wrong. You feel for the guys who put in all of that time and effort when you don’t get a reward for it, so to win, I was just pleased for everyone involved.”

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Number 1! Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The win came after securing pole position, which came as a surprise also. Flick said that she was “sat in her room, telling herself not to lose her head”.

Going into the first round of the season, Flick and her team-mate Jonny Adam had limited testing and so had no idea where their pace would be compared to the rest of the field. “We didn’t do media day and we haven’t done tests with any of the other competitors,” says Flick. “Therefore, we didn’t really know where we were in the field going into the first weekend.”

“It was a shock as, although I thought that we would be competitive, I didn’t think that we would come out with the result that we did. It wasn’t expected – we just prepared as much as we could have done. To have turned up and be where we were – amazing.”

Flick has had successful campaigns in a number of championships, including long endurance races like the Dubai 24 Hours and Mugello 12 Hours but she insists that British GT is more demanding for different reasons.

The series takes place at race tracks across the UK and heads across to the world-famous Spa-Francorchamps in August before returning for the closing rounds.

“I did two years previously in an Audi, but I had actually struggled in that car,” Flick tells us. “I could never really get the results that we should have done. The team struggled with the set up and it wasn’t great in the wet. We just had lots of issues so from that experience, I was thinking that it could be a two year thing to get to know the car and to get everything to where we want it to be.”

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Credit: Flick Haigh

After the win, Flick even had to seek advice from her team-mate Jonny Adam on how to use social media: “I had to text Jonny on Tuesday – he’d asked me to tag all of these people in a photo but I didn’t know how to do it! I’ve only ever retweeted things so it’s been interesting to see that social media comes with the package of racing.”

When thinking ahead to the next rounds, Flick knows that it’s important to take each race as it comes. She was eager to describe the challenges of British GT, having only driven her current championship car a handful of times before their first win. As if that wasn’t already demanding enough, Flick pointed out that there is a huge difference between the type of mental strength needed for long endurance racing, and for the shorter races that she’s competed in, like British GT.

“The hardest thing is to maintain your focus in a British GT race,” she says. “In a 24 hour race, you can kind of just sit there putting 80 percent in because you’re sitting comfortably and it’s just about maintaining that and that’s fine. The hardest thing in British GT will be to keep putting in excellent lap times while the tyres are going off and not losing positions because of that. Jonny said that at Rockingham it’ll all be about managing tyres and he is completely right,” she adds.

With that in mind, Flick is going to the Rockingham rounds next weekend with an open mind, yet still with one eye on the prize.

“At Rockingham we will start with a clean slate and we’ll just put the same effort in: all the prep work and simulator work that Johnny and I have done, the gym, training…we’ll just do everything the same and hopefully we’ll get more success,” says Flick. “It’s not an easy championship to walk into and just get pole position and win every weekend. You have to focus entirely.”

“I’m putting in some extra simulator sessions with Jonny as I haven’t raced in the UK for four years and don’t really know Rockingham as well. I’m having to remind myself of all the braking points as I haven’t done many at all in a GT3 car. Rockingham is renowned for tyre degradation, so managing tyres over the two hour race will be vital. We’ve had a test day where we did long runs so I could get used to the car and how it felt at the end of the stint, as it feels very different.”
As mentioned, Flick’s recent success makes her the only woman to have ever won a GT3 class race. Jamie Chadwick is the only other female to have won in the series, although she was competing in a GT4 car.  

Flick’s success meant that she and Jonny crossed the line first overall. But, does being the only woman in the series, let alone a clear minority in the paddock, impact Flick? No, she says. As far as she is concerned she is “just the same”.

“Even when I started 11 years ago, I’ve always felt like just a driver – not a woman or whatever,” says Flick. “When you put the helmet on, there is no difference. It’s not strength related; it isn’t a contact sport. Motorsport is all mental.” 

“If you have the right mentality when you get in the car, that’s what wins you races. It’s nothing to do with gender; it’s all to do with mindset. I’ve never been treated any differently and I’ve never had anyone say anything derogatory. I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve always felt accepted.”

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Flick racing her Caterham Credit: Flick Haigh

Flick does however wish that she had found racing at a younger age. The Caterham. Champion longs to have jumped in a go-kart at the age of six or seven, like most racing drivers do. But, we feel that the limited racing experience just makes Flick’s talent even more special.

“Just go for it if you want to race,” says Flick. “If anyone is in doubt about whether they should go for it or not, just do it. I wish that I had started karting a six years old. I wasn’t aware of it and my family weren’t into motorsport.

“It just shows you that you can start whenever. There is no time limit and there’s no restrictions. You should just go and do what you want to do – go to circuits and meet teams and speak to people. There’s so many different avenues to get into it. Caterham is a great place to start.”