Going for it

Book Review:  You Don’t Have To Be a Champion. . .To Be a Winner

Author: Brian Sims

When Brian Sims was appointed by Bobby Hartslief, who then owned Kyalami race track, as Manager in October 1980 general media reaction – myself included – was what on earth could a pale Pom who was a midfield Formula Ford runner have to qualify himself for the job.

Brian Sims

Within days of the announcement Autosport, for which I worked as South African correspondent, called me and asked for a feature article, prompting some rapid research into his background followed up by an interview for the story and the start of an association that continues today.

Sims has detailed his history in motor sport – and briefly rugby – in a book called ‘You Don’t Have To Be A Champion To Be A Winner’ and is an engaging story of his life as a procurer of sponsorship deals, ranging from funding his own racing to setting up Honda Racing (with Mike O’Sullivan in South Africa) to the glory heights of Formula 1 (Benetton), his involvement in CART racing and, probably, his greatest achievement in the establishment of the Motorsport Industry Association in the UK in 1994.

For local readers, the highlights of the book will certainly be the South African motor sport scene and history as observed through his eyes as Manager of Kyalami and in the selling role trying to raise sponsorships.


However, the whole story from fitting wheels to barrows in a builder’s yard to becoming a Xerox salesman and on to a career in motor sport, is a valuable insight into the world of creating opportunity and maximising those opportunities.

Sponsorship goes a long way beyond some company just handing our cash so someone else can go racing on the vague promise of them getting some publicity in return – it is a high-pressure and often complex negotiation that involves thorough research and planning to identify just how the sponsorship will work for the sponsor, and how the competitor intends to ensure that happens.

Sims tells all of the stories, the winners and losers, and does so in a frank light-hearted way that makes the book well worth reading. Without divulging all of his trade secrets he presents plenty of valuable information for anyone looking to entice a sponsor.


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