In 2009 Tim Bridgman took the Porsche Carrera Cup GB championship title beating front-runner James Sutton and veteran Tim Harvey along the way, marking his fourth career championship title; we took some time out to speak to this shining star of the sportscar world as he works his way onwards and upwards.
In his spare time he likes to relax by watching movies, travelling, seeing friends and doing “normal stuff”, asked about motor sport heroes he admits that he doesn't really have any, “To be fair, having started in the sport so late, I cannot say I really have any. I paid little attention to motor sport until my teenage years so it's not as though anyone sticks in my mind from when I was a child.”
“If I had to choose someone now who I would say impresses me the most I would go with guys that change successfully from one top championship to another. For example, Juan Pablo Montoya I think has shown true class in being so successful in so many championships – IndyCar/ChampCar, F1 and now Nascar. That's pretty cool.”
Born in Harlow, Essex, the 24-year old kicked off his motorsport career in 2001 after trying his hand at a few arrive and drive karting sessions with friends, he soon realised that he wanted more “After a few Sundays tearing round indoor/airfield circuits in the middle of nowhere, I decided I wanted to take it further.”
The summer of 2002 saw Bridgman gain his car racing licence, from there he took part in the final six races of the season taking a second place and third place along the way, the following year he took the Zip Formula Ford title with 5 wins and 9 podiums.
2004 was a mammoth year in Bridgman's career 3 wins, 6 second places and 4 third place finishes saw him secure the Formula BMW championship. He also won the Muriel Tomlinson Trophy, finished first in the Willhire 5hr Endurance race, was nominated for the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award and was presented with the BRDC Rising Star award. “First of all, to be nominated a BRDC Rising Star was a great recognition of my Formula BMW UK title I had won that year. It was great to know that people in the BRDC had noticed what you were doing and wanted to put their name behind you.”
The Autosport nomination, like others that have been nominated in the past, was a big thing for Bridgman, “I remember being at the awards in front of so many important people and thinking “wow!”. Having only sat in a racing car 2 years before, it was great to be nominated for what is the most prestigious award for any young driver in the UK.”
The accolade went to Paul di Resta that year, despite the disappointment of not winning Bridgman benefited hugely from the nomination, “Obviously not winning the thing was slightly difficult to take, as I am sure it was for the other nominees, but merely being nominated helped an awful lot with getting F3 testing under my belt for the next season.”
Despite the award being a British award the benefits were seen in Europe more, “Funnily enough, it actually did much more for me with European teams than it did with British.”
Other than the F3 testing, the benefits of the Rising Star award and the Young Driver of the year nomination proved a massive plus for Bridgman, “Obviously the award is recognised worldwide and it meant alot to be able to say you were one of the final 6. In terms of both the Rising Star scheme and the award nomination helping my career, I would have to say the main plus point would be kudos when approaching teams. Once they saw those two things on your CV, they knew they were dealing with someone capable. Obviously it goes without saying you needed to have been winning races and championships too – without winning; nothing can help you very much.”
2005 saw a full-time move to the British F3 championship, during this year Bridgman's management at the time 2MB (Set up by Mark Blundell and Martin Brundle) began looking at options for 2006, Bridgman admits “Things were not going to plan and it was clear that a change was needed.”, with Blundell's American connections he secured a drive in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship.
2006 was the perfect year to join the championship as it saw the re-launch of the series with brand new cars, new engines and a hyped up PR team. The championship ran alongside the Champ Car main series which gave Bridgman some great experience on a variety of circuits.
When asked about the car he was driving in comparison to the previous year he answered “
The Atlantic car has so much grip! People say F3 has downforce, but when you drive a car with proper ground effects it opens your eyes to a whole other meaning of the word grip.”
Aside from the difference in machinery there was the obvious difference in whole race package and fans, “The show that they put on – it was simply unreal. The fans are so enthusiastic, they make you feel like a superstar out there.”
“Also on the subject of fans – I think, as an example, at Toronto there were something like 250,000 people there over the weekend to watch the racing. I don’t think back in F3 in the UK then we got that many people to the tracks as a total of all the 10 meetings put together!”
2007 saw Bridgman back in the UK and taking part in the Formula Palmer Audi Championship, six wins and fourteen podiums later he was crowned champion, this provided a springboard to jump in to the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series, a move from open-wheel racing to sportscars.
When asked about the two championships Bridgman said, “Both championships are run very well. Jonathan Palmer does such a fantastic job with FPA, it is no wonder the championship has been going so long and is as strong as ever. Likewise, Marion Barnaby runs a first class operation with the Porsche Carrera Cup GB and so it has been great to be racing in such fantastic environments over the past 3 seasons.”
And on the subject of moving from single seaters to sportscars: “I personally found it a realtively simple transition. The driving styles are different but as long as you enter things with an open mind and concentrate on learning what that particular car needs to go fast, your going to be quick.”
Bridgman admits that the transition was helped along by the handling of the Porsche, “I have to say that the Porsche GT3 Cup Car is just incredible to drive and very enjoyable for the driver. It gives great feedback and is very easy to work with, so for someone like me coming into it with no sportscar background, it is the only place to learn your trade.”
In his rookie year he finished fourth overall, taking 8 poles, 7 wins, 5 fastest laps and 1 lap record along the way, this set him up for a strong run in 2009.
“Both myself and the team were confident we could do a good job, 2008 saw us take a double pole at the first meeting, and go on to take more wins than anyone. Missing out on the title in 08 was tough but it was my rookie year in sportscars so I knew that next year could be my year.”
“The 2009 season saw us be more consistent and show even more speed. We had some great weekends where we were on pole and disappeared off into the distance and also some tougher weekends were we had to work harder for a result.”
Despite having to work hard at some of the races Bridgman enjoyed the challenge “All these things form part of a championship and it was so good to achieve the goal of taking the title at the final race at Brands Hatch. We knew we were the fastest package and so it would have been very difficult to digest not winning it! I have to say the Team Parker Racing did such an awesome job for me all season long. It was an obvious choice to stay with them after 2008 and they are some of the most professional and hard working guys I have ever seen in the sport.”
Along with a trophy and prize money Bridgman was awarded the use of a road going Porsche for the year, “The road car is incredible, such a fantastic car! It is a brilliant prize for the champions of the Pro and Pro-Am 1 classes to receive a such a lovely road car for the year and it shows again how much Porsche put into the championship. The prize money cheque was obviously very nice too.”
So where now for Tim Bridgman? Asked if he would be sticking around to defend his 2009 title he told us how he is looking to move on, “I've had 2 amazing seasons in Carrera Cup GB, however I think it will be onwards and upwards for me. My aim is to stay under the Porsche banner and move into the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup. The British series has left me ready to go onto the International stage and I am currently in the process of getting on the Supercup grid for 2010.”
Beyond 2010, Bridgman, like others in motor sport, is looking for a rewarding career, “In terms of an ultimate goal, I think my answer will be similar to any other drivers. Simply to have a long and successful career racing in the best championships against the best drivers.”
He added “On a personal level, I would like to stay in a Porsche, but we will have to see what stems over the next couple of years.”
On a final note we asked Bridgman about his favourite track, “Thats actually a hard one.” He admits. “I would initially say Monza or Spa. Incredible to drive, steeped in history and the sort of places that get you really excited when you pull out the pits on day 1.”
“Saying that though, is it fair to compare them to racing down the streets of Long Beach in California? Or going wheel to wheel at 180mph through the streets of Toronto? If I had to pick I think I would say the street circuits. Long Beach just edges it.”