In case you didn't already know, competing in motor sports is quite expensive. It's always been, actually, but now the required budgets have reached unfathomable highs.
A karting season at a top international level can easily cost in the six–figure range since most drivers have to rent their equipment. When the champion -- and aspiring stock car or open-wheel race car driver -- moves up the ranks, it gets even more expensive. Like, a fortune.
Even with not-so-high-tech race cars, costs are exploding.
Entry-level open-wheel racing amounts to nearly $200,000 (€140,000) per season. That will cover the crew's wages, travel, replacement parts, engine tuning and upgrades, registration, insurance, and other fees.
When it comes to Formula 3 (Europe) or Indy Lights (North America), a full season costs over half a million dollars (or euros), which is starting to become extraordinarily pricey even for a well-off family. Good luck finding real sponsors at this level. In today's struggling economy, few companies dare invest $1 million or so on a young driver who still has lots to prove and may quit at any given time.
That's why the starting grids in these series are now vaporizing like rubber in a burnout -- and why more and more drivers put their motor sport careers on hold until past the age of 30 when their high-paying jobs finally allow them to compete.
Sadly, auto racing is no longer a sport for young enthusiasts who aspire to one day get to the top of the pyramid, but rather gentlemen who have the cash to live their passions.
The heirs to the Schumachers, Hamiltons, and Vettels will have a really tough time breaking through, that's for sure.