It's actually snowing, and not just slightly, big chunky flakes are falling from the sky. …
After 11 years competing in hillclimb, 2018 sees me taking on my first full season of circuit racing in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge with Richardson Racing. Inevitably it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, and having competed in the Celtic Speed Mini Cooper Cup, 2017 Race of Remembrance & final round of the Trophée Tourisme d’Endurance, I knew it was the right time to make the move.
Choosing a championship to compete in was first on the list, I did a lot of research and Ginetta immediately stood out, both for the close racing on track and the level of exposure.
Having driven the Norma M20FC at Le Mans in November, it was hard to turn down a season of circuit racing in this incredible sports prototype, especially as I love racing in France so much… but it’s not easy trying to promote my partners & gaining exposure when you’re competing abroad. Sure my French is pretty good these days, but competing in a well known UK based series opens so many more doors at pivotal point in my racing career, so it was a time to think with my head and not my heart.
The GT5 Challenge offers pretty much everything on a driver’s tick list, supporting both the TOCA & British GT Championships this means huge crowds (2016 TOCA trackside attendance was 385k), live TV coverage on ITV4 (Front Runner for B-GT), and of course close racing in a popular one make series with packed grids of 30 cars. I spoke with everyone I know, from two times Le Mans winner Danny Watts to my driver coach Sam Maher-Loughnan, and they all agreed that for my first full circuit season this was the best place to cut my teeth. Decision made.
Huge crowds are a guarantee, especially at BTCC rounds Thruxton & Knockhill – 2016 TOCA trackside attendance was 385k
Next up was selecting a team, which proved to be quite a serendipitous outcome. As luck would have it, I actually met Gwyn Richardson as far back as January 2017 at the Autosport show. I was filming a show review for a partner and interviewed Gwyn after trying their simulator, so when Sam introduced us at the Silverstone round of the British GT Championship back in June last year, it transpired we’d already met (I now know that Gwyn doesn’t enjoy TV interviews!).
Much like the championship itself, Richardson Racing were an obvious choice for me as they offer absolutely everything I can think of – an established team with proven results (they narrowly missed out on an outright championship in 2017 with Shane Stoney driving), a driver development programme including a simulator, they have a training programme with the Training Shed (the gym I use), modern facilities based opposite Rockingham and they already work closely with my driver coach.
Everything feels perfect, with all the elements a driver needs to grow & develop, and I couldn’t be more excited about racing with them in 2018.
I tested with RR back in October last year, this being my first time in the GT5 it was obviously a big change from the CN2 car I’m used to – no downforce and less grip meant that I had to adjust my driving style but by the afternoon sessions I felt my confidence building in the car. Fast forward to the testing program we have scheduled this year, and the recent snow that hit the UK has been less than welcome, my Twitter feed has pretty packed full of racers & teams face planting as yet another blizzard wipes out a test day! But a week of digging my car out of snowdrifts (I got fully beached 1 mile from home) is long behind us now, and I’ll be hard it putting in the simulator & track time as we build up to race 1.
With the first race falling at the end of March over Easter, I’m super busy as we get ever closer to Oulton Park. With so much going on right now, I’m very excited to be working with Panter Media who will be handling all my PR this season (I have Iain at Liquid Colour Design to thank for the intro), having previously handled my promotion single handedly it will mean a lot of good things to come in 2018.
I’ve been working hard in the gym too, in fact I’ve not really stopped since I visited Formula Medicine in August last year, and surfing for 10 days straight over Christmas followed by 7 days back country snowboarding in Chamonix last month. One thing’s for sure, physically speaking I couldn’t be more on top of my game right now.