I've had a long-standing rule to avoid getting involved in any sort of crowdfunded activities. I didn't donate to Shadowrun or Wasteland, but I did buy and enjoy both of them (I'm plugging both of those games right now, just so you know they're good). I haven't...
You can improve your ship's capabilities in the garage, using funds accrued from race wins.
Faster ships are unlocked as you progress through your career.
Some tracks have multiple routes - keep your eye out for potential shortcuts.