There is no typical NMA student. Some come straight from A Levels, many come through automotive apprenticeships, and then there’s the self-taught engineers. People who have had a love of motorsport from a young age and built their knowledge, and their cars, themselves from scratch. Adam Smith is one such mechanic.
Born in the United States, Adam’s love of motorsport started aged 8 when his Mum took him to an experience day at a drag racing circuit. He was hooked on motorsport for life….
We caught up with Adam at the last round of the Praga Cup at Donington. Watch or keep scrolling to read Adam’s interview.
Where did your love of motorsport come from?
Like a lot of kids, I was always interested in watching motorsport. My first chance to experience a racetrack was when I was 8 and my mum took me to an experience day at the local drag strip. I spent the day racing a mini dragster on the 1/4 mile, even rolling it towards the end of the day to experience my first crash!
As a kid I got into the world of competitive r/c racing (much lower cost) and started building my own cars from scratch. I remember routinely setting off the fire alarm in my house soldering electrical connections but my mum didn’t seem to mind. I enjoyed the challenge of being able to compete with adults and the thrill of sometimes beating them.
As a teenager I continued to visit the drag strip occasionally until I was 16 and could buy my own car. I bought a Mustang, immediately took it to the drag strip, and lost. By a lot. I spent the next 2 years teaching myself how to work on cars with the cheapest eBay toolbox available. Every second working on that mustang was to try and win a race at the drag strip. Some ideas worked, some didn’t, but I learned a lot.
Unfortunately, life then got in the way. Once I finished school the focus had to be on work and making ends meet. For the next 15 years motorsport and automotive work was only a hobby for the weekends, when I had some spare money. Then I found the NMA.
What appealed to you about the NMA?
As soon as I started reading about the course it reignited the spark I had when I was younger. I had always dreamt of making motorsport a career but never thought that I could manage to find a route into it. Taking a career break to study wasn’t an option. Finding the NMA meant that I could retrain without having to give up my job and security.
How have you found learning online?
Working on my own schedule from home has worked perfectly. Life gets busy sometimes and being able to jump on the computer whenever I have some free time is the thing that makes my degree possible. I have always had quick responses from the tutors whenever I have a question about something, and I have never felt left on my own. I have always preferred communicating by email so that I can carefully explain the situation, but the tutors have always made it known a phone call works as well.
I am really excited about how much I have learnt, and more often than not, I immediately try and use the subject matter in my life. After learning CAD, I bought a 3D printer and started making things. After the module on suspension set ups and handling characteristics, I adjusted my entire set up on my car for a better experience.
Do you think your motorsport degree will help your career?
The course has already opened a door for me that I never thought would be, and I haven’t even graduated yet. The requirement of work experience led me to contact Scott Mittell who gave me a chance to prove what I can do on the team because I am enrolled on the course. The season was a complete trial by fire for me since I was a novice, but Scott and the rest of the team trained and coached me through what was a fairly difficult season.
It was also a great feeling to start understanding some of the more complex issues due to the coursework and being able to contribute to the discussion during my first year at the track was invaluable. Once I had gotten my nerves out it was amazing to see the coursework from NMA in action at the racetrack, improving lap times.
What's the ultimate dream?
As far as career goals go, I am excited about how far I can still grow professionally. Gaining more experience over the next year and completing my degree will hopefully open a few more doors for me and allow me to move into more of an engineer role.
I am currently focused on learning as much as I possibly can from the more experienced people around me to make myself a more valuable team member.
As far as dream job… I always dream big so I would like to push myself to the highest level possible, whatever that may be.