Jess Shanahan

Jess Shanahan

Author and founder of @racingmentor. Loves cars. Loves writing about the future of electric cars, and offers amazing advice to young drivers looking to raise their profile and attract the right kind of sponsors.

What drew you to motorsport originally? 

I’ve always loved cars, so when I was working in marketing and PR for automotive brands it felt like the logical next step. I started working in karting and then with relatively high-profile drivers on their social media and PR. That all led to me running a Porsche race team. 

This was an incredible experience. I learnt so much from it, and at the time, I realised that we were getting a lot more sponsorship media coverage than other teams. Lots of people were coming to me saying, “How are you doing this? How do you have so much sponsorship?” and I realised that so many drivers were falling by the wayside because they had the skill but not the money to keep going. It was really disheartening.

That’s how I came to set up Racing Mentor. I knew that drivers needed help with sponsorship skills, so I decided to create something that would lean on my background in sales and marketing. The idea was that it would help racing drivers out there who might have the talent on track, but didn’t really know how to handle the business aspect of racing.

How do you balance your business life and passions like motorsports? 

I’ve never been very good at balance, but I think it’s nice that motorsport is my hobby as much as it is my work. That means I can go to race tracks and enjoy spending time with my friends, but there’s also a work benefit to it.

However, I’m very careful with my time because I know that if I was left to my own devices, I would be at race tracks all the time, I would be coaching all the time, and I wouldn’t have time left just to just rest and hang out with friends or work on the marketing side of my business.

One thing I’ve learnt to do is to segment my time, so I make sure I have time for the fun motorsport stuff, the work motorsport stuff and the coaching, but then also the ancillary business stuff like content creation, our own sponsorship efforts, writing the next book, and so on. 

On top of that, I also ensure I’m putting aside enough time for friends and family because my natural inclination is just to work, work, work. I have to be quite strict with myself and say, “You know you need to rest. You need to travel. You need to enjoy yourself,” because as much as work feels like an enjoyable hobby, it’s actually very tiring at times – as anyone who works in motorsport will understand.

What's a typical workday for you? 

There is no typical workday for me. For example, I’ve just come back from hosting an e-mobility conference, which is very much the other side of my business. But a normal day in the office usually starts at around 8 am and begins with following up on emails and looking at notifications before writing down my to-do list for the day. 

Then I usually have a morning meeting, either with my team or with a client, and then it’s my time to focus on the writing work I have to do. That’s a big part of what I do for Racing Mentor – creating all of the content for the blog, including videos. I usually leave coaching duties until the afternoon or after work because that suits a lot of drivers. 

Then, typically, I will schedule a bunch of social media. I schedule everything in advance for Racing Mentor, with the occasional reactive post. I can get way more done by just spending half an hour batching stuff for the coming week or so, rather than trying to think of something on the fly.

At the moment, most of my working day is spent getting ready for the launch of the revised edition of Get Paid to Race. So I’m organising things with the publisher, creating content, and speaking to book sponsors.

Tell us about your favourite tracks.

Snetterton is my home circuit, so that will always have a large place in my heart because that’s probably where I’ve seen the most races. 

I also really love Brands Hatch. I’ve had some incredible experiences there and seen many of my drivers succeed there in person while being able to spend time with them and enjoy the atmosphere at the track. Plus I’ve driven it, which just adds to that connection. I’m no racing driver, I’ll be honest, but I really like Brands Hatch and it’s just about the only track that I will attempt on a sim!

I’ve also been to a lot of international tracks but I loved the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. Even though there was a hurricane when I was there for the Formula One, it was still an incredible experience. (The visit was part of a wider Corvette road trip too, so that adds to the magic!)

What advice would you give to young drivers starting out? 

The first is to understand your value. If you don’t know what value you offer to a business, you’re never going to be able to convince them to partner with you and give you sponsorship. It can take time to work out what your value is but you’ve got to understand what you can offer as a racing driver and how that will help a business reach its goals.

Companies want a driver who can make a real impact on their business, and usually, that means on their bottom line – their finances. So you should start to think about how can you bring a real return on investment to that business, even if you’re brand new to the sport. It might sound a little bit scary, but there’s tons of advice on the Racing Mentor blog.

The next tip would be to craft a personal brand that allows you to stand out. One thing I’ve noticed is that most drivers are all trying to do a similar sort of thing. And yes, there might be wins and championships, but realistically, that doesn’t make you stand out — people are winning all the time. Don’t get me wrong, having those accolades to your name can be powerful, but you need something else.

You need to think about your niche and what you do beyond motorsport that makes you stand out. For example, it might be that you’re a business owner, it could be that you’re in the farming industry, or it might be that you’re an excellent baker — anything that shows who you are as a real person. 

And finally, don’t give up. Getting sponsorship is difficult and motorsport absolutely does run on money, so when you don’t get it, it can feel really disheartening, but there is a real skill to securing partnerships like this. It’s not something you’ll necessarily get right from day one, and there is a certain amount of failure needed in order to get where we want to be. Failure is a good thing because we can learn from every single ‘no’ that we get in response to a pitch email. 

The worst thing you can do is just stop. Keep pushing forwards and you will get to a point where you learn from your mistakes and figure out what works for sponsors, allowing you to better get across your value and secure those partnerships.

What's your daily driver, and your favourite race car?

My daily driver is actually a Renault Zoe, which is an electric car. It’s not that sporty, but it’s fun to drive because it has instant torque. There are no revs to climb through with an electric car, so it’s really quick off the line. Though it’s not quite the electric hot hatch of my dreams.

My previous car was an Abarth 500. I’m not necessarily saying I’ll never have a petrol daily driver again, but I love driving electric. However, if I were to race something it would certainly be a front-wheel drive, hot hatch of some kind. 

In terms of my own favourite race cars, I’m weak to any kind of GT racing. Anything that you’d find in, say, British GT or GT Cup, and I also love touring car racing as well. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be the Mercedes AMG GT3.

Tempted to get behind the wheel yourself? 

I’m always tempted to get behind the wheel, but most of my work takes place on weekends, and I’m always with a driver at a track so there’s never really been time for me to go racing myself. I also think I’d be rubbish and I don’t really want to find out if that’s true! 

But the thing that keeps catching my attention and has for a long time, even before Racing Mentor, is drifting. I don’t know if I’d necessarily want to compete, but I’d love to learn those skills. 


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