Here’s all the action and moments charting the story of sliding into the cockpit for the first time, to blasting away from a race grid in a National championship!
Hope you enjoy it
You can’t believe how much work goes into videos like this – I had to go through every bit of footage, noting bits to include, train myself up on video transitions and stuff, spend hours compiling it all and getting it to fit, then scrapping so many cool overtakes that it broke my heart! Then another few hours processing, checking, and uploading it!
A lot of work – but I loved it!
Feel free to comment with any suggestion, improvements, likes or dislikes!
I’ve been holding off on a season review/thanks blog – mainly because I’m racing at the non-championship Formula Vee Festival this weekend at Brands Hatch! Also, I was kind-of hoping to be able to say that my wrist is better after the Donington crash, but sadly that is not the case… And this will probably be the crappest post on this blog for most of you who read this stuff (and if you’re one of them, cheers for sticking with my ramblings!).
Anyway, I think I can now safely say that I have achieved my childhood dream.
I am a Racing Driver!
I have gone from playing with Matchbox cars on the living room carpet, to racing a full-on formula race car, and held my own out there, too! I have literally gone from no race experience – having never raced karts, raced anything at all, and not even done a car track day – to having a justifiable belief that I will finish in the top 10 of a national championship.
First and foremost I need to thank Glenn Hay – it’s been an honour and a privilege to have the help and support of a championship winner, and for him to even risk letting a total novice use his beautifully prepared Sheane has been amazing. He’s made sure I’m under no pressure at all, but in a way that’s made me want to get him even better results. He’s had to run around the paddock after me, push me and the car all over the place, and it’s 99.9% Glenn who’s slaved away on the car late into the night when I’ve had to admit I’m a bit of a mechanical numpty! I know he didn’t expect much from me as a driver, and the look on his face when I came into the holding area 11th at Snetterton was priceless!
I also have to thank fellow drivers Ben Miloudi for his advice and encouragement. Also James Harridge (who WILL be a championship winner!) for pre-race advice, braving the Silverstone Gestapo/Security to get me fuel, and race day chatter – and his mate Chris Kasch who I have a sneaking suspicion will also be on the grid at some point in the future. And Mike Oldknow and Nick Brown – who always race hard on track and have been big on advice!
When you race at a consistent pace, you find yourself mixing it up with the same people every race, and not only does this push you to beat them, but it’s good to chat to them between races and share advice. With this in mind, more thanks going out to:
Martin Snarey. He’s been a massive help to me, and we seemed to have a pattern going where I beat him in the first race, and then he beats me for race 2. I thought I might break this by beating him twice at Donington but then I cocked it up and he beat me twice instead! I’m hoping he returns to Vee next year, because not only has he been a major motivator on track, but he’s a thoroughly nice chap who’s always got time to chat, and the same can be said for all his race-day crew.
Tony Mitchell. I think Tony is one of the two people I’ve had more dices with than anyone. Again, he’s a great bloke off the track (I may as well not say this, because all the Vee drivers and crew are!), and I fully trust him to push me and stick overtakes on me safely. At Snetteron I finished a few hundreths of a second behind him, so I won’t get much of a closer finish!
Bill Stenning. This is the other car I’m normally to be found scrapping with. I managed to catch him for a chat at Donington, but weirdly before that had hardly spoken to him. I will try and chin-wag with you a bit more in the future!
Steve Bailey. His Dad used to race with Glenn in the early days of Vee, and he’s been nothing but encouraging to me since I was spectating.
Jesse Chamberlain and Jamie Harrison who are both coming on leaps and bounds, and happy to share advice with me. Also to Alex Jones, Ed Lowndes, Pete Belsey, Tim Probert (who says he’s never seen me without a smile on my face!), Sam Engineer, both Paul Smith’s, Wes Burton, Jack Wilkinson, Ian Jordan, Steve Ough (especially for pointing me the right way at Snetterton when I got lost in the paddock!), Peter Studer and Martin Farmer (who I hope gets back on the grid full time for next year). Oh, and speaking of part-timers, Chris Wilshire who’s been at the trackside this year but hopefully will also get back out there with us – He’s another driver I’ve been harassing for years with questions, and poking around his Sheane to see what he’s got that we need!
Also Graham Gant and his mate (told you I’m crap with names!) who proper saved our lives at Silverstone when we’d worked through any chance to get food, and they brought us over a few slices of pizza and a hot coffee!
And the fellow n00bs I’ve shared race nerves and new driver briefings with: Oliver Williams (you’re far too young to be that fast!), Francis Twyman, Patrick Liedke, Jack Davies…
And of course Alan Harding whose magic transporter of tools has saved many stricken Vee drivers in their hour of need! I think he was the one who came through with a steering link to get us out for race 2 at Donington.
Dan from JooVuu – who has been a huge help in making sure I’ve got onboard footage of every race. It’s the best learning tool you can have, and their Mobius camera has been outstandingly reliable, and they’ve sent me anything I’ve asked for to help out or replace components!
There are others who I haven’t had much of a chance to meet, yet, but I’m sure I will!
Not to forget all the brilliant marshals without who none of us could do this, the officials, and the trackside photographers!
And to my gorgeous fiancée Julie Kimberley, who’s had to put up with my outright obsession with all things RACECAR for the last few years, and shown nothing but support!
Lastly, I also need to apologise to anyone I’ve missed here. Even more so, I want to apologise to anyone I may have unintentionally blanked at race meetings – I’m still completely overwhelmed by the whole scene, and this combined with a crap memory for faces, an even worse one for names and matching up the drivers when they’re not in their cars, adrenaline/stress-fueled pre-race blinkers, and my pretty shoddy social skills means I’ve undoubtedly offended a few. It is a massive task for me to be thrown in with over 100 brand new people (drivers and their friends/family/crew) and to try and get to know them all! That said, I’ll chat to anybody, so if you think I’m missing you out PLEASE come and say hello.
You’ve all made me feel really welcome as a new driver – and whilst I suppose that doesn’t matter away from the racing, it does make it all a much more enjoyable experience!
This was the peak of my fear. This was all unknown. What if I miss my place on the grid? What if I stall it at the start? I’d never even practised a race start in the dry, and even the wet ones after spinning last week were on my time and not to a set of lights!
I started my engine, took a couple of deep breaths, and followed the other Vees out of the holding area onto the track…
As I pulled up to the grid the marshals pointed my into place, showing me the exact line to stop at. I was calm and in the zone, but as the 5 second board was displayed my visor fogged up as I realised I was breathing quickly and heavily.
I got control as the red lights came on above the start line, keeping the revs up and slowing my breathing and heart rate down, and dropped into the zone as the lights flashed out.
I reacted so quickly that I actually hesitated because nobody else around me seemed to be moving. I got an ok start, but had to lift almost immediately as I couldn’t get around the car ahead.
37 cars piled into the first corner with wheels hanging out everywhere, twitching as everyone tried to find a gap.
I stayed out wide and drove around the outside of the track, having to drift wide to avoid people, and finding some bugger had put traffic cones there! I smashed into one with the left front suspension.
I kept the throttle open and the cone flew away, and the suspension looked ok as we all piled into the next turn.
The rest of the race is just a blur. I settled into the racing lines and found I was getting faster every lap. Total confidence in the little old Sheane as I pushed harder, braked less, turned in faster.
I stuck a few overtakes on people, and avoided spinning cars.
I found my car came out of the corners really strong, and after I passed people I could reel in the next car ahead even down the Hangar Straight.
I was enjoying it, cackling madly as I nailed a corner here and there. I was battling with names I’ve been watching racing Vee for years, and coming out ok!
I pulled in Nick Brown, and as he got sideways onto the Hangar straight I got a good exit, passing him into the braking area, and he switched back on the exit to regain his position, but then lost the back end through the next turn.
I had nowhere to go, and flicked the wheel right to try and get around the back of him and straight into the gravel trap.
The nose cone took a battering, but I missed Nick by millimeters, and got back on the track in a shower of gravel, shaking the wheel and hoping none had got into the calipers.
I got back the places I’d lost and found myself with a clear track ahead. Knowing it must be near the end, I got my head down to make sure I dropped the cars behind me – I was having this one!
One of the things you can’t appreciate from the outside is after the chequered flag, as you do your cooling down lap, the marshals wave to you. This actually makes you feel really special, and I almost got emotional as I gave them all a thumbs up as I passed.
We were guided into park ferme where I jumped out and chatted to Glenn and the other drivers excitedly.
I’d done it!
I learned that I’d actually taken 17th place overall, and 4th in Class B – massively exceeding my own expectations, and at last I felt like I should be out there, and had proved that. Better still, I was only around 3 seconds a lap off the pace of the leaders!
Race 2 was more of the same, but with a slightly worse start, and I knocked another half a second off my best time. I found that I could trail brake into corners and slide the back end out just enough to get me through the faster turns quicker, then get straight back on the throttle. You have to get these cars sliding to be quick.
I won’t go into more detail about the races, as this has been far too long already, and you can watch the onboard videos for yourselves!
I found I’d got myself up to 18th place and 5th in class – but better yet was passing Ed Lowndes into the very last corner. He’d been the car 20 seconds ahead of me that I couldn’t even see in the first race!
To top off an already awesome day, I was given the Driver Of The Day Award!
I know I can go faster, and so can the car, so there is more to come. With a bit of luck, I can’t see why I can’t get a top 10 place with the Sheane.
Glenn has a few modifications he wants to make, and we’re working together very well changing set-ups (told you my time playing Forza 4 wasn’t wasted!).
So that was my first ever race. It’s still all a bit surreal.
All the drivers and crews are a great bunch, and I can’t wait to get back out there!
I hope you enjoy the videos, and thank you all for reading this and your support. I hope this blog has helped show people that you CAN go from nothing to racing driver on a very limited budget, and you can live your dream.
And seriously, get out there and do it! Now I’ll be keeping you updated on the equally as hard progress forward from here, to try and climb up the order and see how far I can really take this.
It seems that my last post here about getting ‘race fit’ attracted a fair bit of attention.
I feel a bit bad about this, as I glossed over the specifics of what I’m doing, so anyone reading that blog won’t actually get anything of much use from it!
I did mention that running is my primary exercise. Ask any boxer what the best training is for fitness, and they’ll tell you it’s all about road work.
It’s the fastest way to lose weight, tone up, and massively improve your aerobic fitness.
I run on the treadmill, as I don’t want to terrify old Grannies on the streets as I lollop past in a wheezing splutter of sweat and stitches – or spew my guts up as I fall past the 1 mile mark in public before collapsing in a charity shop doorway.
Set a target that’s realistic to YOU! Ignore what anyone else is doing – if you want to walk for 5 mins then jog in 2 min blasts, then you do that! Likewise if your aim is to burn 200 calories, do 2km, or to just spend 20 mins on the treadmill. Just remember that you do need to keep pushing yourself further and faster to get the best results.
Breathing is often the first thing people neglect. However fit you are, however strong your muscles, if you’re not BREATHING you’re going to fade fast inside the car.
Most people will hold their breath in a stressful situation, so this is something very important to racing. I might stencil ‘REMEMBER TO BREATH!’ in the cockpit somewhere!
I basically use all the gym equipment after I’ve had my run – the bike, cross trainer (again awesome for your aerobic fitness), rower, then do 2 or 3 sets on the weights machines.
Putting on muscle will increase your weight. It will also protect you when you’re tumbling end-over-end smashing into the chassis, so don’t look at it as a totally bad thing to build!
Strengthening the core body muscles is a good idea. I’m doing squats, abdominal crunches, and neck exercises outside the gym.
My neck gets a lot of stick from riding a sports bike, so isn’t too bad for strength. When I used to play American Football I used to do the ‘wrestlers bridge’. You need to be very careful building up your neck muscles, and be warned now that this one is pretty extreme, and won’t work for all of you!
Basically, you lay on your back with legs bent. Keeping the back of your head on the floor, push the rest of your body upwards so your back arches, and then roll from back to front of your head.
Isometric exercises seem to fit well with motor racing. Because you’re working one muscle against another, this will strengthen your muscles for efficiency, rather than just for show. Personally, I also do stretches for flexibility – I’m not sure of the outright value of this for racing cars, but the more range of motion your muscles have, the less likely they are to pull or tear.
I need to pick up my free weights at home (not in the gym, staring at myself in the mirror, because I find that weird!) as I’ve noticed my arms have wasted a bit, and arm strength will be essential to wrestle the car around.
I’m no expert on all this, and even if you think my somewhat half-assed approach to a routine is too much for you, DO SOMETHING!
I’m planning on introducing short sessions to my routine by setting alarms on my phone, and doing a few crunches, squats, push-ups etc. If you do just 10 push-ups a week then you’re 10 push-ups ahead of someone who doesn’t!
You need to motivate yourself to get started – then the rest will come.
And what better motivation than living every child’s dream to be a racing driver!