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updated 7/17/2000

Yearning for a Job in Racing

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PH: I get a couple of emails or letters similar to this one every month. Racing needs good people so I take them seriously.


Looking for some advice, if you don't mind. I'm trying to get on an open wheel race team. Doesn't really matter who or what series right now, just looking to get experience. Could you point me in the right direction.

Here is a little background on myself.

31yr. old Mechanical Engineer, 5 yrs experience racing SCCA formula Vee, moved to Indianapolis last year to get into racing. Recently completed the Pi Research "how to be a DAQ" 2 day course at the CAM training center. Have extensive knowledge with CAD, 3d solid modeling, very mechanically inclined, have taken a couple of welding classes (tig), and even worked on the pit crew of an ASA team at Dover this year (catch can man on Taylor racing #28).

I have sent my resume to every team (CART, IRL, Lites, and Atlantics) that I can locate in the Indy area with no luck. What do I need to do to get my foot in the door?


Jonathan Leeper

Here's my reply.


You have the qualifications to get an opportunity. Persistence and commitment are the characteristics you need for the next step. You need to be on their minds when they need somebody so they will consider taking a chance on you. I would concentrate on the Lights, IRL, and Atlantic teams but don't leave out the CART teams. Just go there and ask to see the Team Manager, or head engineer, might be called technical director. Tell the receptionist you're following up on a resume you sent and would like to talk to someone to see if you have what they need.

Now is a good time because they don't leave for Surfers for 10 more days. Try to get to talk to someone before you leave. Beg the receptionist if necessary. Go back often enough that they know you won't give up till you see someone. At the end of the month there will be a lot of moving around as the teams change and shift. If they think of you, you might get a chance.

Good luck, let me know what happens.


Jonathon's reply:

Thanks alot. I was kinda feeling like a leper. At least I see that I am not grasping at straws.

BTW: Love the web site. I'm even planning on incorporating some of the monoshock designs in the redesign of my FVee zero roll rear end.

Thanks Again,

Jonathan Leeper

I wrote back again:


All us fans who get involved with racing think the people working there have a huge store of knowledge that is wonderful and mysterious. I could quickly write a dozen names of guys I know who, six months after going to work for a team, said to me, "I thought these people would know what they're doing."

Racing is very complicated. Just the tires are almost unfathomable and certainly don't yield to mathematical analysis. The connected trio of tires, dampers, and driver will never be figured out as individual components, let alone as a system. That leaves a lot of room for hard work, dedication, creativity, and common sense application of basic principles.

As a graduate mechanical engineer and racer, your qualifications and experience exceeds at least half of the people already working in technical jobs at the top teams. You may not like it or they might not like you but if you want to do it, go for it.

Would you mind if I put this conversation on the web site? I want to start some discussions.


Another email adds to the discussion. Uploaded 10/19/99

I read with interest the discussion between you and the future hopeful race engineer. I had a similar experience in the early 90's were I had
the ME degree, designed and built my own sports racer (d s/r) and worked as a volunteer CART tech member for eight years . Through a VERY persistant approach I finally landed a job with an Indy Lights team and lived the life of a DAG for the 92/93/1/2 of 94 season.

I found out in that time it WAS a dream come true, real race engineers are magicians with a scientific/practical approach. and that I didn't want to make that much of a sacrafice to my life style and or ME career. I do miss it and will forever cherish my experience.

I have had a number of people ask me how they can get involved as I did. My response is the same as yours ...just keep trying and the door will open eventually.

During my race job hunting I learned a very important concept when I went calling on Tom Anderson of the newly formed Ganassi team. After I made my pitch about how much I wanted to work in the racing world he asked me in what capacity. Engineering for sure but I'll do anything to get a start was my reply. Tom spent 2 minutes with me and told me that if I wanted to be a race engineer go for race engineering. If I was hired as a mechanic I would be expeced to work as a mechanic and not an engineer. It would take a long time to progress out of the mechanic's postions and be accepted and work as an engineer. I took that advice and did get my start and experience.

Good luck to all those hopeful race engineers, your experiences
will be worth the pain of admission.

Kurt Ladendorf

Thanks, Kurt


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