Heading into the 2012 season, Adam Gould made the decision to switch from the MSA British Rally Championship into circuit racing and the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK. The Checkered Flag caught up with Adam on his debut weekend at Brands Hatch to discuss the transition and his hopes for his new career.
Gould began stage rallying aged 17 and in 2008 he won the coveted Pirelli Star Driver UK scheme to get a fully funded drive in the British Rally Championship. Gould competed in the BRC over two and a half seasons, scoring a total of four podiums. Gould has been hoping to move into international competition, but a lack of budget has halted those plans for now.
Gould said: “It's fair to say the rallying hasn't gone entirely to plan so far or I'd have been world champion by now. We set out to reach the world championship, that was my goal and it still is now, I'd love to be there in the future. We've just found budget raising very, very difficult and just haven't been able to find the sponsorship required to get ourselves to the next level internationally.
“That meant I found myself stuck in the British Championship level, which has been a great experience and we've shown we've been competitive, but I wanted to step up and it just requires a lot more funding. I wasn't able to raise the budget for this season coming and I didn't want to go back and do another year of the British Championship, so I thought I'd do something different and go racing.”
Despite moving into rallying in his teenage years, Gould admits he's always had an attraction to circuit racing, in particular saloon racing like the touring cars. The 25 year old chose the Clio Cup for his circuit racing debut due to its commercial opportunities and it's competitive, one-make nature.
“I've always loved the touring cars, the action in it, who doesn't at the end of the day, it's fantastic racing. I've always supported that quite heavily and the open wheel thing isn't very appealing to me, so I figured go into saloons, which could lead into touring cars, sportscars and loads of other opportunities.
“The Clio Cup is a great feeder series for the touring cars, it's high profile, it runs off the back of the BTCC so you have all the support, the media and the PR around it, as well as the sheer competitiveness of it. The fact it's a one make championship and everyone is in identical cars is great, as everyone is in the same position and the driver skill shines through. It's the best place for me to learn in racing.”
The switch from rallying to circuit racing is not a move that many drivers make, with the two different disciplines requiring totally different driving styles. Gould understands how big the step is between the two and is under no illusions as to how difficult the transition will be.
“It's hugely different, even more different than I ever imagined it to be. I thought it would be a lot easier than it's turned out to be. I've driven a front wheel drive Renault Clio rally car on tarmac before and thought it was be a similar thing, but it's not the same at all.
“I've had to get used to the precision of everything, the scientific nature of the driving style required in racing, the fact you're analysing things down to a tenth of a second, whereas in rallying you're working in whole seconds and more. In rallying terms a second is nothing; here a second is everything, from first to last on the grid, which has been a big shock. There are a lot of things I've had to learn and it's almost been a case of learning from scratch.
“The main thing is running in traffic, which I've never done before. The racecraft in itself, getting used to having all the cars around you and being able to set lap times consistently with cars around you, as well as then racing them, all of that is totally new.
“In the first half of the year I just want to learn as much about racing as I can, learn the racecraft required to be able to win races and improve our pace throughout the season and move closer and closer to the front guys. I have no expectations for this season other than for me to develop as a driver and it's a case of us just seeing where we are at the end of the year.”
Gould will be in the perfect home for his rookie season, the Bristol-based racer having signed with reigning champions Stancombe Vehicle Engineering. As well as benefitting from the team's engineering expertise, Gould will also have the advantage of having three time Clio Cup champion Paul Rivett as his team-mate.
“It is the perfect situation and it is going to make all the difference in the world running with Stancombe and having Paul as my team-mate. That's why I chose to run with these guys this season, as I knew I needed the team and the engineering support around me with these cars I know nothing about and I knew I needed a team-mate that would be able to teach me how to go fast.
“Paul's been so helpful, showing me his data, helping me pick up on where I'm losing the tenths of a second. He's a great driver coach for me, which is essential as without him I'd be stood around scratching my head wondering where that half a second's ever going to come from.”
While Gould hasn't completely abandoned rallying career, with the former MSA Team UK member hoping to return to the stages for some rallies later this year, it appears that for the next few seasons his immediate focus is on developing his racing career, with touring cars the dream.
“If we don't do well enough this year in this, we'll probably stick to doing another season in this next year. It's probably a good idea, to have a two year plan for this kind of championship. If we can be competitive at the end of the year, we could target a full championship run next year, which would be great. I'd ultimately love to be racing in the touring cars, whether that could happen next year, it'd probably be too soon, but that's where I want to go in the next few years certainly.”
Gould's opening weekend saw him qualify sixteenth, just seven tenths off pole, and he recovered from an early spin in the opening race to take a superb twelfth place. The second race didn't go quite to plan however, when Gould was innocently caught up in a huge first lap incident, causing extensive damage to his Clio.
Gould hopes to be back in action this weekend in Rounds Three and Four of the 2012 AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK at Donington Park.