For every driver who has successfully made it into the hallowed grounds of Formula One, there are hundreds of unsung dreamers who tried but failed – Relegated to obscurity, never to be heard from again.
The odds are stacked against any who dare try: There are just 22 spots in the world, all currently taken by drivers who, somehow, found the perfect storm of fortune and opportunity to get to where they are today.
As acclaimed author Rye Barcott once penned the phrase: “Talent is universal; opportunity is not.”
But British driver Dan Wells is looking to change that, and he is the man with a plan to go about it.
Much has happened since the 22 year old Wells was introduced as one of Richland F1’s Rising Stars over a year ago. Now, the man hailing from humble Salisbury is calling Hong Kong his second home, and he’s determined to leverage the city’s status as one of the world’s premiere financial hubs to his advantage.
In June, Wells formed his own company, Dan Wells & Investors with the help of his father, Trevor Wells, and is selling a portion of his potential future earnings as a racing driver to anyone who is willing to take a gamble on him.
“This idea has been done before. Justin Wilson, Scott Dixon. It’s been done in Europe. It’s been done in America,” said Wells while seated at a restaurant in Lan Kwai Fong, well known as the core of Hong Kong’s entertainment and nightlife district. “It was done in ways which were slightly different – Slightly more limiting to investors.
“Basically, we’re selling 35% of the next 15 years of my future income, sponsorship, and endorsements. In return we need 4 to 5 million US dollars to make the business plan work.”
The major difference, said Wells, was that unlike the crowd-funded efforts that came before, his company is offering potential investors the possibility of limitless return on their investment.
“The opportunity itself is unrestricted,” explained Wells. “If the project makes 6000% over 15 years, the investor gets 6000%. If it makes 300%, then it’s 300%. But with other programs like Justin Wilson’s, the investors were limited to 100% return. So even if he made 5000%, they only got 100%, so this is a more attractive opportunity in that sense.”
Wells is banking on the allure and tangibility of motor racing, as well as its potential for networking in business, in order to entice investors to break out their cheque books.
Wells explained, “If you look at the alternative investment market, say art. You get 6 or 7% per annum on a piece of art work. If you appreciate art, that’s great. But that’s as far as it goes. However, to actually say you own a part of a racing driver – You come along on race weekends, you get hospitality, you’re able to market, you’re able to network with other high net worth individuals. You can touch it and watch it. it’s something that’s real. To be able to actually have that, it’s a big pull.
“From the passion investment side of things, if you can combine making money with something you love, that’s the best way to do it. There are higher risks involved with passion investments. I think the markets are doing very well at the moment, and it’s something I can see growing.”
The formula has served him well so far. In the space of a few months, Wells’s company had already raised enough capital to compete in the last two rounds of the Formula Masters China Series.
“I’ve been racing with one hand tied behind my back,” said Wells, “I understand you need to put a financial package together to enable yourself to compete, and I’m fed up with raising relatively small sums.”
“The whole thing about this is that I want to focus on driving. I’ve got the proper package around me now.”
The “proper” package included Force India’s former director of Business Affairs Ian Phillips, who is now Wells’s manager, and the founder of the Asia Bankers Club, Kingston Lai.
Having put in place the people to tend to the business and financial affairs of the company has allowed Wells to focus on what matters most – The task of driving.
“Last year I was working 16, 18 hour days, taking meetings, doing PR stuff,” admitted Wells. “This year I’ve managed to get my schedule to a point where I can train 5 to 6 days a week. With flying around everywhere it’s more difficult, but I’ve managed to get my training to a good point, which was better than last year.
“The position I want to be in is where I go to the gym, I focus on my diet, I’m in the simulator, and I’m driving. I don’t want to manage myself anymore.”
At a time when young drivers are flocking to Europe for a chance at Formula One, Wells is betting heavily on Asia as his gateway into the sport.
“We have a long term vision, coming through Asia, racing in Asia, doing things differently,” said Wells. “Everything I’ve done is a little bit different. I started racing relatively late, and coming to Asia at a time when Asian racing drivers are going to Europe is a weird scenario. However, the way I see it working, Asia is the place to be to get to where I want to be.”
Looking back at what he’s achieved in a relatively short amount of time, Wells had little clue back then on how he was going to set about realizing his dream, but credited his unwavering determination and self-belief as what carried him through.
“Knowing what I know now, I moved here to Hong Kong with the equivalent of about 850 British Pounds, which is enough to live for about three weeks, and I only knew one person. Did I know how I was going to do what I’ve done? No. Do I believe in what I could do? Yes. The main thing is belief. And work hard.”
Wells became pensive when asked whether he was surprised by his quick rise to success, but any doubt was swiftly displaced by his usual steely determination.
“Did I expect it? Yes. The vision of what is happening now, I’ve had the vision three or four years ago. It’s awesome to be living it.”