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Ride-Buying--When Did It Become a "Thing"?

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  • Ride-Buying--When Did It Become a "Thing"?

    Ride-buying, perhaps especially in open-wheel racing, is a phenomenon oft mentioned but rarely analyzed in much detail. To the extent it is, most people seem to think a ride-buyer is a wealthy or rich young man who uses his money as a shortcut to the top echelon of the sport. Rather than work their way to the top by winning big in lower classifications, they money-whip car owners into letting them drive their cars in the highest classifications. This does not mean a ride-buyer isn't talented--Niki Lauda, after all, could be classed a ride-buyer--but it has tended to cast suspicion over the ride-buyer's actual driving merit. The ride-buying phenomenon, needless to say, began to manifest itself once the cost of racing at the highest levels became exorbitant.

    My question is, when did ride-buying begin to transpire in earnest? I've done some cursory research, but finding an answer isn't easy because biographical info for many drivers is difficult to come by. All I can say with any certainty, is that ride-buying seems not to have really predominated by 1970, which is the year at which my research currently stands.

    I'm much interested to hear your thoughts!

  • #2
    Around 1895.
    "Only a fool fights in a burning house."-Kang

    "If you listen to fools....The Maaahhhhb Ruuuules....."-Ronnie James Dio

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    • #3
      Exceedingly rich people were often involved in motorsports even early on because the cost of entry was still very high. They would own their own teams and cars and if they lacked speed would wind up with privateer efforts instead of with manufacturers.

      What we more commonly know as "ride buying" came about in the 70s as corporate sponsorship became common place in racing as a way for teams to supplement their income. Eventually as the existence of sponsorship pushed the cost to bring a car to grid well above what the potential return was of running it from the purse obtained, it became necessary for some teams to seek drivers who brought personal sponsorships or some other method of funding.

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      • #4
        It was around before then, but rom the 1975 Indy 500 Yearbook

        Unfortunately, opportunity comes dressed differently for every driver in the 500. Some are basically good public relations people who have talked their way into rides. That means your a good salesmen.

        The best way to obtain a ride is present yourself, helmet in hand, along with a sponsorship contract
        The Ayn Rand of Indycar

        No one had to badge the Offy.

        Crapping all over threads since 2000.

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        • #5
          Joel Thorne tried to buy the whole field.
          "Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved
          body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting
          "...holy $^!+...what a ride!"
          >

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          • #6
            Originally posted by VirtualBalboa View Post
            Exceedingly rich people were often involved in motorsports even early on because the cost of entry was still very high. They would own their own teams and cars and if they lacked speed would wind up with privateer efforts instead of with manufacturers.

            What we more commonly know as "ride buying" came about in the 70s as corporate sponsorship became common place in racing as a way for teams to supplement their income. Eventually as the existence of sponsorship pushed the cost to bring a car to grid well above what the potential return was of running it from the purse obtained, it became necessary for some teams to seek drivers who brought personal sponsorships or some other method of funding.
            Was it corporate sponsorship that made racing so expensive, or were there other factors?

            You're certainly right about individuals bringing personal sponsors into the mix. My cousin had a verbal agreement to run in the 1980 '500.' Unfortunately for him, Tim Richmond came along with his own personal sponsor and bought the ride right out from under him. That's when my cousin gave up racing.

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            • #7
              It got expensive when they moved the engine from the front to the rear.

              Then they added the wings.
              "Far better it is to dare mighty things, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat" -Teddy Roosevelt

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              • #8
                Originally posted by FlatBlack84 View Post
                Ride-buying, perhaps especially in open-wheel racing, is a phenomenon oft mentioned but rarely analyzed in much detail. To the extent it is, most people seem to think a ride-buyer is a wealthy or rich young man who uses his money as a shortcut to the top echelon of the sport. Rather than work their way to the top by winning big in lower classifications, they money-whip car owners into letting them drive their cars in the highest classifications. This does not mean a ride-buyer isn't talented--Niki Lauda, after all, could be classed a ride-buyer--but it has tended to cast suspicion over the ride-buyer's actual driving merit. The ride-buying phenomenon, needless to say, began to manifest itself once the cost of racing at the highest levels became exorbitant.

                My question is, when did ride-buying begin to transpire in earnest? I've done some cursory research, but finding an answer isn't easy because biographical info for many drivers is difficult to come by. All I can say with any certainty, is that ride-buying seems not to have really predominated by 1970, which is the year at which my research currently stands.

                I'm much interested to hear your thoughts!
                Michael Schumacher also; Mercedes paid for his initial start with Jordan. When Scott Pruett was driving for Roush in Trans-Am, he paid for a GTP ride at Columbus (with Bayside, maybe?) in order to demonstrate what he could do. You would also have to consider the situation when the Lights title winner is given a scholarship to be applied towards next season’s IndyCar events.

                I would also caution against using the term “shortcut”. I think it is fairly rare to use money as a shortcut as a team would have to be pretty disparate to do that. However, what it does do is possibly negate some suspected (or perhaps known) talent deficiencies. Money may also help someone stand out from a mass of other candidates when talent levels are roughly equivalent.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by flatlander_48 View Post

                  Michael Schumacher also; Mercedes paid for his initial start with Jordan. When Scott Pruett was driving for Roush in Trans-Am, he paid for a GTP ride at Columbus (with Bayside, maybe?) in order to demonstrate what he could do. You would also have to consider the situation when the Lights title winner is given a scholarship to be applied towards next season’s IndyCar events.

                  I would also caution against using the term “shortcut”. I think it is fairly rare to use money as a shortcut as a team would have to be pretty disparate to do that. However, what it does do is possibly negate some suspected (or perhaps known) talent deficiencies. Money may also help someone stand out from a mass of other candidates when talent levels are roughly equivalent.
                  You know, I think part of the influence of money has to do with the decreased importance of drivers versus cars. Generally speaking, as you go backward in time, the importance of the driver increases because the cars were so dam' difficult and dangerous to drive (track conditions were also more challenging), therefore the talent and guts of drivers was absolutely essential to success. Nowadays you can stick a middling driver in a Penske-prepped and engineered car and run up front all season. In these conditions--but obviously not referring to Penske, who hardly needs the money--a driver's financial backing may be more important than his ability.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Unzerdog View Post
                    It got expensive when they moved the engine from the front to the rear.

                    Then they added the wings.
                    While those events were coincident, we also have to remember the environment at the time. This was the era of the Space Race and things, in general, became much more technical. Race car and engine design moved from the independent shops to design rooms and sophisticated dyno rooms. Did you know that until Ford started to develop their first engine for Indy based on the 260-289 V8, it was said that Leo Goosen was the only person in the US who was paid to design racing engines?

                    Computers were being to have a strong influence in what engineers could do in terms of analyzing designs and wind tunnel use became more prevalent. These things would have happened regardless of where the engine was or having wings or not.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by flatlander_48 View Post

                      While those events were coincident, we also have to remember the environment at the time. This was the era of the Space Race and things, in general, became much more technical. Race car and engine design moved from the independent shops to design rooms and sophisticated dyno rooms. Did you know that until Ford started to develop their first engine for Indy based on the 260-289 V8, it was said that Leo Goosen was the only person in the US who was paid to design racing engines?

                      Computers were being to have a strong influence in what engineers could do in terms of analyzing designs and wind tunnel use became more prevalent. These things would have happened regardless of where the engine was or having wings or not.
                      Agreed. As R&D became more sophisticated, it became much more expensive. And a significant part of R&D, incidentally, focused on safety improvements, which, I strongly suspect, mushroomed after 1973.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by FlatBlack84 View Post

                        You know, I think part of the influence of money has to do with the decreased importance of drivers versus cars. Generally speaking, as you go backward in time, the importance of the driver increases because the cars were so dam' difficult and dangerous to drive (track conditions were also more challenging), therefore the talent and guts of drivers was absolutely essential to success. Nowadays you can stick a middling driver in a Penske-prepped and engineered car and run up front all season. In these conditions--but obviously not referring to Penske, who hardly needs the money--a driver's financial backing may be more important than his ability.
                        I think it has changed. These days the driver is still crucial to over all success in that what’s going on at speed has to get specifically and accurately transferred to the engineering staff. Without that, an ill-handling car is almost guaranteed. Talent and bravery are STILL requirements. Anyone who gets into a car without those 2 elements is a disaster waiting to happen.

                        I don’t believe that you can put a mediocre driver in a car from a front line team and run up front. A mediocre driver will run out of talent. The proof is inverted in that Penske has 3 top flight drivers who have all won races and championships. However, right now Newgarden leads with 3 wins and 402 points. Pagenaud is 3rd with 2 wins and 341 points, but Power is 5th with no wins and 294 points (which is 114 points behind). Clearly there isn’t a 25% disparity in talent level, yet there is in points. A mediocre driver would not be even in the hunt...

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by FlatBlack84 View Post

                          Agreed. As R&D became more sophisticated, it became much more expensive. And a significant part of R&D, incidentally, focused on safety improvements, which, I strongly suspect, mushroomed after 1973.
                          There essentially was no research and development before the 60’s...

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by flatlander_48 View Post

                            There essentially was no research and development before the 60’s...
                            For sure not before the Sachs/McDonald crash.
                            The Ayn Rand of Indycar

                            No one had to badge the Offy.

                            Crapping all over threads since 2000.

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                            • #15
                              The first time I heard a big flap and the term “ride-buying” was either 75 or 76 when a driver named Eddie Miller got the second Gerhardt Eagle...His background was no better than Formula Fords and he quickly crashed between 1 and 2 (could have been on his driver’s test), the car ending up in the spectator area inside the track near the almost new vehicle tunnel....I believe he suffered neck/back injuries and never returned to Indy...Despite that, I believe we began to see more “ride-buyers” entered...

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