I have seen this question pop up quite frequently in the last couple of days and i’ve seen assumptions and criticism thrown around with reckless abandon as well in regards to the topic. Without diving into full on details (of which I am unaware outside of my own situation anyways) let me try to explain why and how some drivers are able to make a living doing what most consider a hobby.
First lets make some bullet points as to what the top Pro Drivers contribute to a company who sponsors them and perhaps gives them a Salary. I would say most Pro Drivers have about 80% of what I’m going to list below. Very few have the entire package and those that do are Highly sought after.
-Approximately one of the fastest 10-20 drivers in the world in their respective class.
-Name recognition that is known well throughout the Hobby that can be used in advertising and marketing of said company.
-The knowledge and ability to test new products and provide feedback to help improve the car of said company.
-A Personality that can do one of many things including attract attention when said driver is racing, or being known as uber helpful off the track to anyone with a question or needing assistance.
-The ability and willingness to endure long hours of traveling either by plane or by car to reach said event. (I for instance flew over 125,000 miles last year attending events).
-Much of what a top driver offers a company can be summed up in a few key words. Marketing, Advertising, Personable, Knowledgeable, Fast as all Get Out!
Now that we know what a Pro RC Driver offers a company who sponsors them lets figure out whet the Pro RC Driver Looks for in a company to sponsor them. (because it is a two way street)
-If they are an elite driver then yes, salary is important because to be able to race 40-46 weeks out of the year it takes a full time commitment. Thus they must be able to support themselves and perhaps their families as well.
-Top drivers also want to run something they can believe in and that they can win with. Most top drivers get a majority of their pay based on contingency (winning races). Their Salary may be just enough to squeak by on during the year but if they can win races they can earn much more from contingency. Thus the smart elite drivers will not only look at salary but at what companies they feel provide them with the best shot at winning (and thus winning contingencies). You may go with a company that offers 25% more salary but hasn’t ever proven its self yet. In that instance if the car isn’t quite up to par you can end up loosing out on contingency moneys from all of your other sponsors because you can’t win a race. So picking companies you believe in is very important as well. Also consider this….If you are one of the best in the world, how long is it going to sit well with you if you can’t win a race. The top drivers are all Extremely competitive people and their favorite thing to do is Win Races! Why compromise that??
-How the company does business is also important for some drivers. Each company does things differently. When booking travel some companies have someone in house that does all of it while other companies leave it up to the driver who then gets reimbursed. So taking into consideration personal preferences about travel can be a factor. Some companies also expect wins wins wins and are very tough on their drivers to perform. Other companies are more concerned about public image and putting their best face forward and realizing that things happen and that wins will come when the rest is put into place.
So now we know what a company looks for and what the driver looks for. This now may be self explanatory to some of you at this point but lets decipher why these drivers may or may not deserve to be paid.
-Most of these drivers become the face of the companies they are representing. Thus they become an ‘icon’ so to speak. They are used by said company for marketing and advertising of that companies products. They are expected to adhere to strict codes of conduct and represent the company to their fullest ability.
-These top drivers give up a lot in their personal lives to race these cars. Some of the top drivers have families and as i’ve mentioned before, racing 40-46 weeks a year can be quite hard on a family. Racing R/C cars Full time is not a normal occupation. It’s not a 9-5 M-F line of work. Schedules are hard to schedule and your home for a week then gone for 2 or 3. It can be taxing.
-The top pros are also ALWAYS under the Microscope. They have given up the hobby that they grew up loving and have made it into a job. A job where they are scrutinized and berated on their every move. No longer can a Top pro driver go to a race track and just throw down their dirty car and bash around and have fun. Every time their car hits the track they are expected to win. If they do not win ‘there must be something wrong’ ‘the car must not work good’ ‘the engine must be junk’ and on and on and on. It doesn’t matter if they just flew for 20 hours the night before and it’s their first time on a new track to them. They are expected to be perfect and if they are not then the critics come out and the forums blow up and the snowball effect begins!
Let me finish by saying that while some may not consider R/C racing a viable job or occupation, to a handful of people it is. Also to the companies in our industry it’s also important to have Top drivers who can help further develop their cars as in any form of racing. If your not developing your products further to stay ahead, your falling behind. Some may think that hiring top drivers makes the company have to raise their vehicle pricing to compensate. If the money wasn’t spent on hiring drivers it would instead be spent on other forms of advertising, marketing, and hiring people to help develop the cars. So why not get all of those aspects in a top driver or two and get some results while your at it! :-)