Student Showcase: The Professional Racing Driver

We have students working in nine (out of the ten) Formula 1 teams. 2 from WRC, a smattering in WEC and a plethora working in other top-level racing series across the globe. From data analysts, CFD specialists and racing drivers, we have students from a variety of racing backgrounds, all working with teams in a professional capacity at the same time as studying towards a motorsport qualification.

One of the most common questions we are asked is: “If you are already working in motorsport, what’s the point of studying for a degree in Motorsport Engineering?” Well, meet “professional vehicle jockey” and NMA Student, Martin Plowman.

A Bit About WEC Championship Winning Racing Driver, Plowey

Anyone who follows the British GT, or for that matter, WEC, will have seen Martin’s name at the top of the timesheets over the last few years. Martin joins driving legends such as Fernando Alonso, Mika Häkkinen and Rubens Barrichello as one of only 210 drivers in the world to be ranked a Platinum Driver with the FIA. Following spells in Formula 3, Indy 500 and his WEC LMP2 championship win with Oak Racing in 2013, Martin now races in the British GT4 Pro-Am championship with actor, Kelvin Fletcher. The last two seasons saw Martin race for UltraTek Racing Team RJN in a Nissan NIZMO 370Z, with them just losing out on the 2018 championship to Nick Jones and Scott Malvern. 2019 looks to be an equally big year for Martin, as he and Kelvin now join Beechdean Motorsport as they return the Aston Martin V8 Vantage to British GT4.

But when he’s still at the top of his game, why would the former WEC champion go back into education?

Like it or not, a career as a racing driver tends to have a shelf-life. There’s always the next generation of young drivers snapping at the heels of the seasoned professional. Even though experience counts for a lot, a racing driver tends to have a peak, after which sponsorship and job offers slowly diminish. Drivers also retire for more personal reasons. Physical injuries or family commitments can also make even the most fearless driver question his future in motorsport.

Martin Plowman is all too aware of his mortality and future career trajectory and decided in 2018 to study for a BSc Motorsport Engineering with the National Motorsport Academy. We caught up with him earlier in the year at Autosport International.

Read the transcript below or watch the video.

“So far, I’m really enjoying the online learning experience. It gives me the freedom to get on with everyday life and focus on my full-time career, which is still being a driver, but at the same time, it’s given me a chance to keep one eye on the future and what I mean to do when I retire.

I think it’s super-critical to combine both practical with theoretical education. Everyone remembers being at school where Maths teachers would waffle on about 6 apples, plus 3 pears makes 2 bananas. As a kid you just switch off, whereas now, I’m in my 30s and I’m back in education learning about something that I’m passionate about. I actually care about logarithms! Who would have thought I’d have said that when I was 16 years old?

So, this year, on top of starting a degree and starting with a new team in British GT, I’ve also stupidly decided to sign up for my first ever London Marathon. I’ll be running for Whizz Kidz, a charity that helps young and disabled kids gain confidence, get new wheelchairs and get them integrated into society. I found out about Whizz Kidz last year on a Speed of Sight driving experience day for blind and disabled people. I’m an instructor and driver coach for that charity and last year, on a two-day trip in Wales, Whizz Kids sent out 25 of their ‘whizz kids’ and I just fell in love with them and the organisation and what they stand for and I just knew that I had to raise money for them.

Motorsport is a very competitive environment. I’ve been involved in racing for over 20 years, but I truly believe that the NMA course will give me an edge. After I retire from racing and hang up my helmet, the course will give me a broad spectrum of knowledge that I can couple with my experience and go out there and find a job after racing.

So obviously we’re here at the NEC, checking out the new Lotus Evora and she’s gorgeous. I don’t know if they’ll give me the keys to the car or whether or not I’ll just have to be a mechanic or polish the wheels but they’d better watch out…I may just take the wheel!

Accelerate Your Career Within Motorsport

With STEM initiatives such as F1 in Schools honing the talents of the motorsport professionals of the future, it’s always important to stay on top of your game. Many of our students already operate in motorsport in a professional capacity and whether you are a racing driver, data analyst or race mechanic, our qualifications can help to grow your future within motorsport. Studying towards a BSc like Martin, or MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering can help you to upskill to get that next promotion or help you to gain qualifications that you never had time for in your late teenage years. What are you waiting for?

You can follow Plowey and Kelvin Fletcher as they battle in the British GT here on his Twitter feed or support him as he runs in this year’s London Marathon for charity Whizz Kids!

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