What Does it Take to Be a Racecar Driver? | Tips on Submitting a Racing Sponsorship Proposal
Posted on 17 March 2014
Do you have an interest in Autocross Racing, Time Attack Racing, or just general Road Racing? Sponsored driver Zhong Cheung talks about his experiences!We recently asked MAPerformance sponsored racer Zhong Cheung questions related to his racing career. He had some great insight for anyone looking to get into the road racing scene, as well as some awesome performance mods for his Evo 9. Check out the interview below and hopefully it will answer any questions you have about writing a racing sponsorship proposal and how to become sponsored!
Are there any specific modifications you did to your car that made the biggest difference on the track?"I would say my most recent modification that directly translated to lower lap times would have to be my Wasp Composites front aero package. There was a clear and positive advantage with faster cornering through high speed turns, as well as stablity and composure under quick transitions and braking. I felt an improvement in braking and my top speeds in straight lines were much more controlled. I would say it contributed to 0.15-0.2g in higher cornering speed compared to without it." "Another mod that helped was increasing my spring rates to 14k/14k. A 27mm adjustable rear sway bar also help keep the body roll in check and allowed for more rotation under tighter medium sections. The car was correctly setup and aligned for corner balance, ride height, and dampening. Everything was dialed in before I hit the track. This translated to more confidence going around the track. I was able to shave probably 1 second of lap time with these mods."
How long have you been involved in the car scene? At what age did you first become interested in racing and wrenching on cars?"I bought my 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution 9 in the middle of 2006, but didn't get to tracking the car until the end of 2007. Between that time, I had driven my car stock for a few months. It didn't take long before getting caught up in the entire aftermarket performance industry where my first rounds of modifications made it on the car. I hadn't even considered racing sponsors or how to write a racing sponsorship proposal at that time. When I was around 14, I had great interests in cars and racing. I would watch episodes of Top Gear, and I followed Keiichi Tsuchiya in his 'Best Motoring' videos and I idolized other Japanese drivers around that time. I would stay up late watching all those "street racing" videos online with Supras and R33's making big power on the dyno and making pulls on the street. That got me hooked. I never was interested in racing on the streets because I knew the risk. It wasn't worth getting caught over a few seconds of high speed." "I really started wrenching on my car when I got my Mitsubishi Evo in 2006. I was 20 years old. That was when I actually bought my very first mechanics tool set and I learned to change my own oil. After some trial and error, the mess I created in the garage became less and less until it got to the point where I wouldn't spill any. It was a learning process. Nothing came easy. I would rotate my own tires and change my own filters. Small things of that sort."
Have you ever wanted to give up, sell your car, and find a new hobby? If so, how did you fight the urge and continue doing what you're doing?"Yes I have actually thought about it. As we all know, modifying cars is an endless money pit. Going to the track increases wear and things break. Maintenance costs go up. In 2013, I had some engine issues that required two rebuilds. I was pretty much running out of money. Fortunately I had some great sponsorship's which helped me out a lot, so I was able to finish the season and win my class in the Redline Time Attack in Modified AWD Class for the season." "It did cross my mind to sell the Evo 9 at the end of last season. I thought about going wheel to wheel racing with a Miata that my buddies own down in Orange County. I even thought about completely getting out of car scene, but I knew it would be too hard for me. I swear it is like an addiction. I would need rehab and counseling in order to get the track bug completely out of me." "In the end, I stayed with it because I stayed positive and partnered up with a lot of incredible companies like MAPerformance. They noticed a few things that could make a difference in the engine and powerband department, which helped keep my motivated. Also renewed my partnership with FFTEC Motorsport, Girodisc, and Wasp Composites at the same time fostering new ones with Mil.Spec and Garage Life. My most recent racing sponsorship proposal nailed me my partnership with Nitto Tires.
What's your favorite track to compete at in the US?"My favorite track to race at would have to be Buttonwillow Raceway in California. It's the track where I am the most competitive and most confident. Even though it is a bumpy and sandy featureless track in the middle of nowhere California, everyone loves to drive on it. It is the time attack track mecca of the United States. Lots of fond memories and lots of disappointment happened on that track. It's very technical, fast, and very brutal on your car if driven at the limit. It tests the driver's abilities, the cars setup and overall balance, and exposes weak spots in the driver and car with its various corners and elevation changes. Everything around you looks like a sandy desert, so focus is especially important for the car and driver. "
Why did you decide to track the Evo instead of picking something else to mod/race?"The main reason I picked the Evo is because it was my very first car. It was the only car I had and I knew the handling and power potential it had based on what I had seen online. Although, in hindsight I wish I had started tracking a Mazda Miata. It's a lot slower, simpler, and cheaper than an Evo 9 in terms of tracking expenses. A Miata demands more from the driver and really trains the driver out of bad habits. You become a better and smoother driver. It is also way more reliable than a high strung, tuned Evo."
How did you approach sponsorships? What advice would you offer to a new driver just getting into the scene, looking to nail his/her first sponsor?"Before even thinking of any sort of sponsorship, I put a lot of time, money, energy, sacrifice, and dedication into the motorsport and myself. I didn't go looking for sponsors until the beginning of 2012, many years after I had built up a resume of wins. Then I looked online and found a racing sponsorship proposal template then started the first of many drafts. I had to think about what companies want to know, specifically what value I can add to their business and that I wasn't someone looking for free parts in exchange for stickers. In the end, companies are investing money in you. Emphasize that they get a return on their investment. Make sure you surround yourself with capable and friendly people who want to support you. It is a relationship, and communicating freely without being uncomfortable, feeling stressed, or feeling pressured is important. It moves focus away from the goal of winning races." "Having said that, don't give up if the first company you pursue turns you down. Talk to a lot of companies you'd want to represent. Call or meet in person, as it is the best way to start establishing a relationship. After that, you can let them know more about yourself, your goals, what you want to accomplish. Finally, offer them something in exchange for products you want. If meeting is not possible, emailing is the next best thing. Make sure you have a bio that lists your car's setup, your history as a racer, any achievements you've made, what you plan to compete in, what you can offer them and what you want in exchange." "Conduct yourself professionally. Whether it be at local meets, at the track, at their shop, over the phone, over email, or on your local car forums. You are representing a company now and you must be professional even if other people are not. Create a Facebook racing page or blog and make sure you constantly update it so people know what you are up to. Take lots of pictures and videos and post them on your sponsors wall or email. They always love any type of media showing off their sponsored drivers/cars. If you keep all that in mind, its just a matter of time before you have yourself a race sponsorship."