It's becoming a common theme during the off-season.

You pick up the phone to see how things are progressing for a team or a driver looking to the season ahead and quite often the reply turns out to be the same.

"Just looking for the sponsorship at the moment, but hopefully it'll be sorted soon."

In 'normal' circumstances, finding that sponsorship isn't always easy but at a time when the economy appears to be heading towards meltdown, putting together the funding for a season racing is now more difficult than ever.

Already, the likes of Honda, Subaru and Suzuki have been forced to call time on motorsport commitments in major global series' while at national level, even long-standing partnerships have hit the rocks as sponsors have been forced to tell teams that the money is no longer there.

It's also left some teams that should have no problem finding backing based on their past successes, trying to find the money to put a programme together.

"It's bloody difficult at the moment," one team boss, who didn't wish to be named, revealed. "There are people out there who would be quite happy to sponsor you normally, but at the moment they can't commit. It's the same when it comes to drivers. They are struggling to find the money they need and are coming to talk to us but don't have any backing to bring with them.

"There are a few drivers out there who I would love to put in the car and who I know would do a brilliant job, but they can't find the support. And at the moment, I don't have the sponsorship to take them on."

That quest for sponsorship has led to some novel approaches being taken by teams and drivers looking to secure their place on the grid.

In the Ginetta G50 Championship, which joins the TOCA package to replace the SEAT Cupra Championship this season, the Your Racing Car initiative will give fans the chance to be involved with a team while also reaping other benefits along the way.

At a cost of ?25 per person, members of YRC will get their name on the car campaigned by Fulvio Mussi in the series but will also enjoy cut-price tickets, motorsport merchandise and special offers over the course of the year.

With the programme being funded largely through the YRC initiative, fans get the chance to have a real involvement in the sport and it's not just the regular fan that is getting behind the programme - double BTCC champion James Thompson is amongst the members.

"The idea was to offer something tangible to our supporters," Hannah James, manager of the YRC team, said. "Motorsport fans are wise to the new sponsorship concepts coming out so we needed our club to represent their interests as much as ours.

"Getting on the grid is everyone's target and we've loved pulling this idea together - it's not a one-off attempt to get some cash in, it's a lot more work than that! We will look after our members and this team is going to go from strength to strength. With the focus being on delivering on and off the track, I know we will make an impact in British motorsport."

Quite clearly, Your Racing Car - and Mussi - are already reaping the benefits of their initiative heading into the new season but they aren't the only ones looking at other ways of funding a programme.

For those looking to be involved at a lower cost, a driver with his sights firmly set on the BTCC is offering fans the chance to be involved in his plans for just ?1.50 a time.

Loss of sponsorship has halted the hopes Ian Court harbours of making the breakthrough into the big-time but his Sponsor My Race Car idea will give fans the chance to get their name on his car - wherever he ends up racing during 2009 - for just ?1.50.

His plan involves the use of reverse billing text messages, with fans sending a text message which will appear on the side of his car.

While Court will need to garner plenty of support for his plan to carry him all the way to the BTCC, it shows the way in which racing drivers are looking at alternative ways to raise the budgets needed to take to the track.

As he points out, finding someone to write 'the big cheque' that will solve all the problems isn't as easy as it may once have been meaning it times to 'look outside the box'.

"I have had the idea of using reverse billing text messaging for sponsorship for a while now but I only really looked in to it properly just before Christmas when one of my sponsorship deals fell through and left me quite a bit short of the budget that I needed," he said. "With the current state of the economy, searching for full levels of sponsorship became more and more of an unrealistic dream as I have already had a couple of seasons away from racing due to a lack of budget as it is."

How successful the Your Racing Car and Sponsor My Race Car programmes are remains to be seen, as ultimately the season ahead will dictate whether or not the idea has worked.

However in both cases, it shows how a different approach to funding may just be the way forward when times are tough...



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