Pay driver

A pay driver is a driver for a professional auto racing team who, instead of being paid by the owner of his car, drives for free and brings with him either personal sponsorship or personal or family funding to finance the team's operations. This may be done to gain on-track experience or to live the lifestyle of a driver in a particular series when one's talent or credentials do not merit a paying ride. It is sometimes called a ride buyer or in sports car series a gentleman driver.

Pay drivers are common in many of the feeder series of motorsport, particularly in the GP2 Series, Formula Three, NASCAR Xfinity Series, and Indy Lights. However, there have been many pay drivers in top level series like Formula One, Champ Car, Indy Car Series, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Formula One

At one time F1 regulations regarding the changing of drivers during the course of a season were extremely liberal, which encouraged some teams to recruit a string of pay drivers to drive their cars, sometimes only for one or two races. Frank Williams Racing Cars (the predecessor to Frank Williams and Patrick Head's highly successful Williams F1 team) were particularly prolific with regard to the number of drivers they would use in a season - ten drivers drove for the team in both 1975 and 1976. Because of this the rules on driver changes were subsequently tightened.

Teams willing to accept pay drivers are often at the back of the grid and struggling financially. While a pay driver often brings an infusion of much needed funding, their terms often require share ownership and/or influence in the team's operations. This dependence can also be harmful, should a pay driver leave the team then this could leave the team unable to replace the funding linked with that driver, as previous poor results could make finding a sponsor difficult. One case involved the collapse of the Forti team after wealthy Brazilian driver Pedro Diniz left Forti and moved to Ligier after the 1995 season; Forti withdrew from Formula One after the 1996 German Grand Prix.

Former Formula One drivers Ricardo Rosset and Alex Yoong were notorious for how much money their families spent to finance their F1 racing careers. They or other pay drivers like Giovanni Lavaggi and Jean-Denis Délétraz are usually associated with poorer performances compared to those with paid drives. Diniz was backed by his family, but throughout his career he managed to score some decent results compared to the other pay drivers of the age, scoring 10 championship points over six years (two fifth-place finishes and six sixth-place finishes, when only the top six drivers scored points, unlike the later eight and ten of today; he would have 26 points-scoring finishes using the system introduced in 2010), when many other pay drivers did not score any.

However, many successful drivers, such as multiple F1 world champions Niki Lauda,[1] Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso,[2] also started their careers as pay drivers but gradually worked their way up the racing ladder. Niki Lauda borrowed money against his life insurance to secure drives in Formula 2 and Formula 1 before impressing enough to have his debts cleared by BRM and then Ferrari.[1] With the exception of Lauda, it is to be noted that they were regarded as highly talented and promising drivers before their F1 careers commenced, and were funded by manufacturers rather than family money or companies with no racing interest.

Many of the pay drivers in F1 today come with occasional wins in individual races in lower formulas. Sergio Pérez, Pastor Maldonado, Marcus Ericsson, Felipe Nasr, Esteban Gutiérrez, Rio Haryanto, Will Stevens, Jolyon Palmer, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin are all GP2/GP3/Euro F3 race winners.

Other series

Some sanctioning bodies will offer champions of lower tier series a well-funded ride for the next tier. The Road to Indy programme from INDYCAR awards a ride fully funded by Mazda for a series champion in the next tier. A $150,000 and tires package is available to a shootout winner among an invited group young American and foreign drivers. A driver who wins the U.S. F2000 National Championship will win $300,000 to be used for a "pay ride" in the Pro Mazda Championship, and two sets of tires per race. Pro Mazda winners will be paid for a ride in Indy Lights, and the Indy Lights champion earns funding to compete in at least three IndyCar Series races, including the Indianapolis 500.

Pay drivers are also common in stock car racing and are very prevalent in development series such as the Xfinity Series and ARCA Racing Series. There are also several pay drivers competing at the Sprint Cup level including Michael Annett and Paul Menard; the latter has seen a fair amount of success with a victory at the Brickyard 400 in 2011 and a Chase for the Sprint Cup appearance in 2015. Pay drivers were controversial in stock car racing if payments failed; an example would be in 2015, when Kyle Busch's Camping World Truck Series team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, sued former driver Justin Boston, a pay driver, and the sponsor for missed payments.[3]


  1. ^ a b "NIKI LAUDA". ESPN F1. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  2. ^ "Demise of pay drivers in Formula 1 - Is it a good thing ?". F1 Wolf. May 31, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-04.
  3. ^ Pockrass, Bob (August 26, 2015). "Kyle Busch Motorsports suing former driver Boston, company Zloop". ESPN. Retrieved September 20, 2015.

External links

1994 Portuguese Grand Prix

The 1994 Portuguese Grand Prix (formally the XXIII Grande Premio de Portugal) was a Formula One motor race held on 25 September 1994 at the Autódromo do Estoril. It was the thirteenth race of the 1994 FIA Formula One World Championship.

The 71-lap race was won by Damon Hill, driving a Williams-Renault. Teammate David Coulthard finished second, achieving his first podium finish, with Mika Häkkinen third in a McLaren-Peugeot. The win, Hill's fifth of the season and third in succession, enabled him to move within one point of Drivers' Championship leader Michael Schumacher, while the 1-2 finish allowed Williams to take over the lead of the Constructors' Championship from Benetton.

1996 Australian Grand Prix

The 1996 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 10 March 1996 at Melbourne. It was the first time this race was held in Melbourne, taking over from Adelaide as the host of the Australian Grand Prix. It was the first time the Australian World Championship round had been held at the site of a previous Australian Grand Prix venue, albeit on a vastly different circuit, with the surrounds of the Albert Park Lake having played host to the Australian Grand Prix in 1953 and 1956. This was the debut race of the future world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

Bradley Motorsports

Bradley Motorsports was a racing team in the Indy Racing League owned by Colorado convenience store owner Brad Calkins. His son, Buzz Calkins, drove the bright red cars shod in the livery of Bradley Food Marts, Brad Calkins' company. Bradley won the first IRL race in 1996 at Walt Disney World Speedway and were the co-champions of the inaugural IRL season. The team began in 1990, supporting Calkins' rise through the Indy Lights development series. After Calkins' retirement from the cockpit at the end of the 2001 season, the team ran a program in the first half of the 2002 season for Japanese pay driver Shigeaki Hattori, but following poor finishes, Hattori left after the Pikes Peak International Raceway race. The team finished out the season unsponsored with Brazilian Raul Boesel driving in his final season of open wheel racing. Bradley Motorsports earlier had a pro super vee team in the mid and late 1980s that ran the Bradley Food Marts car driven by future RuSPORT co-owner Steve Wulff.

Cheever Racing

Cheever Racing was an auto racing team founded in 1996 by Eddie Cheever as Team Cheever in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. They fielded a car for Cheever for much of its existence, but occasionally ran two cars, almost always for the Indianapolis 500. The team won the 1998 Indianapolis 500 with Cheever driving and then switched to Infiniti engines and gained sponsorship from Excite for 2000. The team continued to be moderately successful and gained Infiniti's first series win. When Infiniti left the series in 2003 the team, which by then was sponsored by Red Bull switched to Chevrolet engines and then switched to Toyota in 2005, after Chevrolet's departure. Despite some of the most talented drivers in the league, a long string of bad luck and underpowered engines rendered the team little more than mid-pack. With no sponsor for the 2006 season, Eddie decided to trim the team to a single car and return to the cockpit as both a cost-cutting move and to seize the opportunity to return to racing before he felt he got too old to be competitive. Cheever only committed to drive until the Indianapolis 500 but continued until the 8th race of the season. The IRL operation shut down after the Kansas Speedway race when it could not find a sponsor or pay driver to continue.

Cheever Racing also ran a Daytona Prototype car in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. In 2007 Cheever purchased the intellectual property rights to the Fabcar chassis and has renewed its development and begun offering the chassis to other teams in the series. The car was subsequently renamed the Coyote chassis, in tribute to the racing cars built in the 1970s by A. J. Foyt Enterprises. Cheever Racing did not field any entries for the 2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

In 2006, Cheever also founded an Indy Pro Series team. In 2006 its car was driven by Chris Festa. Their driver for the 2007 season was Richard Antinucci, Eddie's nephew, who captured two wins on a part-time schedule.

Derrick Walker

Derrick Walker (born 8 April 1945 in Leven, Scotland) is a former British auto racing team owner. In May 2013 Walker became President of operations and competition of IndyCar until the finalization of the 2015 Indycar season.

Ensign Racing

Ensign was a Formula One constructor from Britain. They participated in 133 grands prix, entering a total of 155 cars. Ensign scored 19 championship points and no podium finishes. The best result was a 4th place at the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix by Marc Surer, who also took fastest lap of the race.

Ensign was founded by Morris Nunn who also carried out design duties during the first two seasons of the team's existence. Nunn would later go on to be a prominent chief engineer in the American-based Champ Car series, winning championships with drivers Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya in the late 1990s.

Footwork FA16

The Footwork FA16 was a Formula One car designed by Alan Jenkins with which the Footwork team competed in the 1995 Formula One season. The car was powered by a Hart V8 engine and ran on Goodyear tyres. It was driven initially by Gianni Morbidelli, who was in his second season with the team, and Taki Inoue, a Japanese pay-driver. Max Papis replaced Morbidelli in mid-season due to the team's financial problems.

Gastón Mazzacane

Gastón Hugo Mazzacane (born 8 May 1975) is an Argentine racing driver. He participated in 21 Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 12 March 2000. He scored no championship points. His father named him after Gastón Perkins, a successful Argentine touring car racer. His last name literally translates from Italian as "kill the dog".

Hogan Racing

Hogan Racing was a racing team owned by Carl G. Hogan, owner of Hogan Trucking.

Jean-Denis Délétraz

Jean-Denis Delétraz (born 1 October 1963) is a Swiss racing driver. He participated in three Formula One Grands Prix, debuting in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, and his short F1 career was two retirements and a 15th.

Before reaching Formula One, he scored two third places in the 1988 Formula 3000 season, but principally earned his three Formula One drives as a pay driver.After Formula One, he competed in sports car racing, with two class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Jos Verstappen

Johannes Franciscus "Jos" Verstappen (born 4 March 1972) is a Dutch former racing driver. After his F1 career Jos Verstappen has won races in A1 Grand Prix and Le Mans Series LMP2 races (winning the 24 hours of Le Mans LMP2 class in 2008). Prior to his F1 debut in 1994, he was also the German Formula Three champion and Masters of Formula Three winner in 1993. Jos was the most successful Dutch F1 racing driver before he retired and started mentoring his son Max in Formula 1.

List of professional driver types

A professional driver is someone who is paid to drive a vehicle.

MW Motorsport

MW Motorsport (formerly known as Matthew White Racing) is a motor-racing team that is competing in the Dunlop Super2 Series. In 2018 the team will race with Nissan Altimas, with Dean Fiore, Garry Jacobson and Alex Rullo.

The team was formed by Matthew White in 2000 to further his own racing ambitions. Originally Matthew White Racing was a privateer V8 Supercar, specifically supporting White's career, but he took on a customer driver for the first time in 2002 and the team gradually changed over the next five years into a professional pay driver operation in the Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series. The team made infrequent appearances at V8 Supercar endurance races.

The team was granted a wildcard entry for the 2009 L&H 500 and 2009 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000. Brad Lowe and Damian Assaillit drove the car to only modest results.

The teams greatest success was in the 2009 Fujitsu V8 Supercar Series when Jonathon Webb won the series winning all but one race in the second half of the season.

For 2017, the team will switch to Nissan and run a pair of Nissan Altima Supercars, although Bryce Fullwood will campaign an older generation Ford FG Falcon up until the Townsville round, where he is expected to upgrade to the COTF Nissan Altima. They will then become the first non-Holden or Ford Team in the series.

Minardi M02

The Minardi M02 was the car with which the Minardi Formula One team competed in the 2000 Formula One season. It was driven by the young Spaniard Marc Gené, in his second year with the team, and the Argentine rookie pay-driver Gastón Mazzacane.

As ever, the car was a neat and tidy design, but hampered by a lack of power and testing mileage. The new fluorescent yellow colour scheme turned heads, but did little to improve the team's fortunes, as they eventually finished a de facto tenth in the Constructors' Championship, with no points but ahead of Prost due to a better finishing record. The team therefore qualified for some of the sport's television revenues in 2001.

At the end of the year, Telefonica pulled out of sponsoring the team, while Fondmetal boss Gabriele Rumi was forced to sell the team due to ill health, leaving team founder Giancarlo Minardi with the task of finding the budget for 2001. The team was eventually bought by the Australian entrepreneur, Paul Stoddart.In 2014 British F1 engineering company TDF rebuilt chassis 1 and 2 for demonstration use. Chassis 2 was displayed and ran at speed on circuit at Zandvoort 'Festival Italia' driven by Jan Lammers. This was the first time an M02 chassis had run in public since 2001.

Paul Belmondo

Paul Alexandre Belmondo (born 23 April 1963) is a French racing driver who raced in Formula One for the March and Pacific Racing teams. He was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, Hauts-de-Seine, the son of actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and grandson of sculptor Paul Belmondo. Around 1981, Paul gained publicity for becoming the lover of Princess Stéphanie of Monaco.Through 1987 he participated in Formula 3 and Formula 3000, although he was never a top 10 championship finisher in either. In 1992 he joined the March F1 team as a pay driver, getting a ninth place at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but only qualifying 4 more times before he ran out of money and was replaced by Emanuele Naspetti. Two years later he became a member of the uncompetitive Pacific Grand Prix team, where he only qualified for two races and was usually behind teammate Bertrand Gachot. Thereafter he concentrated on GT racing, at the wheel of a Chrysler Viper GTS-R. He started his own team, Paul Belmondo Racing, which raced in the FIA GT Championship and Le Mans Endurance Series championship before folding in 2007.

Pedro Diniz

Pedro Paulo Falleiros dos Santos Diniz (born 22 May 1970) is a Brazilian businessman and former racing driver.

Diniz began karting at the age of eighteen and achieved minor success, before progressing to car racing in the Brazilian Formula Ford Championship and the British Formula 3 Championship. He first drove in Formula One with Forti for the 1995 season. The following year he switched to Ligier and moved to Arrows for 1997. In 1998, he finished 14th in the Drivers' Championship, and subsequently moved to Sauber for 1999. He left Sauber after the 2000 season and bought a share in the Prost team, which folded a year later.

Since leaving motorsport, Diniz founded the Formula Renault 2.0 Brazil Championship which he ran from 2002 and 2006, later becoming a partner in Pão de Açúcar and operates an organic produce and dairy farm alongside his wife Tatiana Diniz. He is a Board Member of Food Tank, a non-profit organization that spotlights environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity, and poverty and works to create networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.

Diniz was considered a pay driver during his career due to his family backing, but he scored ten points during his Formula One career while most pay drivers did not score any.

RAM Racing

RAM Racing was a Formula One racing team which competed during the racing seasons of 1976 to 1985. The team entered other manufacturers' chassis from 1976 to 1980, then ran March's team from 1981 to 1983, only entering a car entirely their own in 1984 and 1985.

The team was formed in 1975 by Mike Ralph and John Macdonald, with RAM derived from their names. After running Macdonald in a GRD in British Formula Three, they entered Alan Jones in a Formula 5000 March for 1976. They also bought a pair of Brabham BT44B Formula One cars, and entered the 1976 World Championship, running Loris Kessel and Emilio de Villota for the Spanish Grand Prix, where neither qualified. However, both Kessel and another pay-driver, Patrick Nève, qualified for the Belgian Grand Prix, with Jac Nellemann, Damien Magee, Lella Lombardi and Bob Evans all making appearances in the cars. There were few finishes, and the pay-drivers meant the team were frequent non-qualifiers.

For 1977, Boy Hayje drove a RAM-entered March with little success, and a second "rent-a-car" did no better later in the year when driven by Andy Sutcliffe, Mikko Kozarowitzky or Michael Bleekemolen. However, they had some success running Guy Edwards in the Shellsport Group 8 Championship in Britain, finishing 2nd overall. For 1978 the team switched to the British Aurora Formula One series, with Edwards placing 4th overall that year in a March, and 5th overall the following season in a Fittipaldi F5A. For 1980, RAM made an investment in a pair of 1979-spec Williams FW07s, with Emilio de Villota winning the title. Sponsorship included American men's magazine Penthouse. They then entered one of these cars for Rupert Keegan in the British Grand Prix. Kevin Cogan and Geoff Lees would guest in another car in the last two rounds, but their best finish was Keegan's 9th place at the United States Grand Prix.

1981 saw RAM manage and run the returning March Grand Prix team, with Derek Daly and Eliseo Salazar driving. However, non-qualifications were frequent, and the team failed to score any points, Daly's 7th place at the British Grand Prix being their best result.

The combination stayed together for 1982, landing backing from Rothmans, and the new March 821 saw design work from a young Adrian Reynard. With veteran Jochen Mass to lead the team, backed up by Raul Boesel, hopes were high, but it was another disappointing year. Mass took 7th place at the Detroit Grand Prix, but as the car proved to be slow he lost motivation, and focused more on sports car racing with Porsche. From the German Grand Prix, Keegan took over the car, but RAM March once again failed to score points.

1983 saw the RAM name make itself onto the chassis for the first time, with Dave Kelly's RAM March 01 design. Salazar returned to drive the main entry, while a second car for Jean-Louis Schlesser was fielded at the French Grand Prix as a one-off. Salazar scored a 15th place in the season opener, but the bulky car struggled to qualify. Financial reasons saw the team skip the Detroit Grand Prix, while they only made the Canadian Grand Prix due to fielding local driver Jacques Villeneuve, Sr. and attracting some Canadian sponsorship. Kenny Acheson then took over for the rest of the season, only qualifying once, at the season-closing South African Grand Prix, where he took the team's best result of the year, 12th and last.

Astonishingly, the team pressed on into 1984. The partnership with March was dissolved, and RAM attracted sponsorship from Skoal Bandit. Two RAM 02 cars, with Hart turbo engines, were entered for Formula Two champion Jonathan Palmer and Philippe Alliot. Kelly's new design was disappointing, and the cars were frequent back-markers, and Palmer's 8th place in the opening Brazilian Grand Prix was their best result of the year (and of all time). Indeed, the team drew more notices for the crashes their drivers were involved in.

Alliot remained for 1985, with Manfred Winkelhock entered in the second car, and a new RAM 03 designed by Gustav Brunner. Winkelhock put in some improved qualifying performances, but actual results were still thin. Winkelhock's death in a sports car event in Canada in the summer was a blow to the team, and Acheson was recalled briefly, before the team slimmed down to a single entry. They missed the final two rounds altogether. Skoal withdrew their backing at the end of the year, the team's best result having been Alliot's 9th place, again at the opening Brazilian Grand Prix.

The team planned to enter a single updated RAM 03 for Mike Thackwell (who had stood in for Palmer at the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix) for the 1986 season, but the funds could not be found, and the team folded over the winter of 1985. The team would have raced as car #9 for 1986 otherwise, per the FIA entry list.

Simtek S941

The Simtek S941 is a Formula One car, designed by Nick Wirth and Paul Crooks for the Simtek team, and used during 1994 Formula One season. Although it was the first car to race under the Simtek name the company had previously designed an unbuilt car for BMW - the unbuilt design formed the basis of the Andrea Moda S921. Simtek also produced a design for Jean Mosnier's abortive Bravo S931 project which was to have launched in 1993. There is a strong family resemblance between the 1992 Andrea Moda and the 1994 Simtek.

Taki Inoue

Takachiho "Taki" Inoue (井上 隆智穂 Inoue Takachiho, born 5 September 1963) is a Japanese racing driver.


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