UK businessman Graham Sharp is helping to sustain the careers of several selected British racing drivers through the Racing Steps Foundation.
Oliver Turvey, the best known of the five drivers chosen to receive help from the Foundation, didn’t have a race seat or sponsorship when he was selected by ambassador John Surtees, founder Sharp and business partner Derek Walters. Since then he has been competing in Formula Renault 3.5, scored a maiden pole and win in Monaco, is currently running sixth in the championship standings and is the series’ highest-placed rookie.
Although Sharp has had a limited involvement with motor sport – he was and still is a keen karter – he understands how hard it is to find funding. “When I talk to people who ask what I do, I ask them to imagine how hard it is to become a professional footballer, and then tell them that it is 100 times harder to become a professional racing driver,” says Sharp. “In Britain there are roughly 35 paid drives, but 35,000 licence holders.”
Sharp doesn’t see the Foundation as a way to make money, even though drivers are contracted to give a certain percentage back to the organisation if they succeed as professional racers. He believes the best he can hope for is that the group will become self-supporting. This would help the Foundation continue its work to support drivers financially and provide advice to get them into the right series.
Other drivers benefiting from the programme are James Calado (Formula Renault UK), Jake Dennis and Jacob Stilp (karting) and 2009 recruit Jack Harvey (Formula BMW Europe).
The Foundation is also closely linked with some of the top teams in relevant disciplines, including Carlin Motorsport (World Series Renault and Formula Renault 3.5), Fortec Motorsport (Formula Renault UK) and Zip Young Guns (karting’s KF3 series). However, Sharp is keen to point out that if a team’s form dropped he would look elsewhere to ensure that RSF’s drivers stay in line for the most competitive seats.