When the identity of twelve KX Akademy finalists invited for interviews to continue the process to becoming the next stars of the program supported by KX Energy Drink there were the expected names from the TOCA package, familiar to millions of motorsport fans.
Then there were a selection of drivers from elsewhere in the major UK series, such as the British GT Championship.
Then there were the surprises. Those whose rise up the racing ranks has been no less rapid, or no less champagne drenched but just further away from the public eye trained on only a select few race series. Those, unfortunately unknown to all but the most racing fans tucked furthest into the sport’s niches.
One of those surprises is David Pittard.
Having moved into car racing in 2010 after a successful apprenticeship in kart racing a rapid progression led 20-year-old Pittard to the Britcar MSA British Endurance Championship (BEC) for 2012, with the championship winning Neil Garner Motorsport and Strata 21 teams, racing in a Porsche 996.
Despite missing the opening round – such was the lateness of the deal with Strata 21 boss Paul White – when theCheckeredFlag.co.uk speak to Pittard on the final BEC weekend of the year at Donington Park celebrations are already beginning, with the class championship already won, another glowing line on Pittard’s CV.
After a stay in karting that yielded multiple championships – and coincidentally an race weekend award bearing the name of Jason Plato – the driver who now fronts the KX Akademy scheme – Pittard moved into cars, citing ever increasing costs in karting.
“A nice, cheap alternative,” Pittard says, “was to get into car racing with the Toyota MR2 series with the Red Dragon Racing Track Club where I learnt my race craft. I did a part season in that and managed to win my final race of the year at Brands Hatch so that was a really good stepping stone to learn the tracks and learn car racing.”
From that point on his career has seldom faltered a second half season in MR2s ended with five poles and six wins from six races before moving into the Pinto class of the BRSCC’s Sports 2000 series, where Pittard continued winning, unlucky to miss the chance to take the title, but though he was almost skipping, rather than stepping across the stones in his path Pittard always took something away from the experience, no matter how short his stay in the championship.
“That was great experience learning how to drive a slick car and a very, very light car,” he explains. “There wasn’t that much power but it could out handle anything around the corners. We had varying success in that. We were always very quick by a couple of mechanical issues put paid to the championship unfortunately.”
Looking back on 2012, the Hertfordshire based driver, feels he has again been able to put his previous experience to good use, at the same time proving that the pace he showed at club level can translate into bigger cars and bigger series.
“After my results leading up to this year I’ve proved that in the British championship and proved I can be quick in quick cars and use my experience and move up with it. I really feel I’ve made a name for myself in this championship just be setting the pace, with all bar two – now – pole positions in class now. I really feel I’ve established myself now and hope I can keep this going to next year on the BTCC bill or the British GT bill.”
A strong 2012 season is one reason that could have put Pittard on the KX Akademy finalists list, putting the young racer in with a chance of a the support of one of the biggest names currently supporting British motorsport.
In an era when names like Red Bull dominate the single-seater arena with their line of young drivers down the series and junior formulae drivers are placed in manufacturers’ stables on a conveyor towards F1 a similar scheme in sportscar or touring car circles is almost unheard of.
Pittard admits; “it’s frustrating to see all of the money going into Formula One and single-seaters but I’ve never really been too fussed about single seaters so when this opportunity came along I wanted to grab it with both hands. It’s something that’s never been done before so it’s great to see it being done and even better to be a part of it.”
He goes on to outline exactly what’s on offer to the winning drivers, who will be announced at January’s Autosport International Show.
“What they have put down is a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with Jason Plato in media workshops, sponsor workshops, psychology workshops as well as the bursary scheme and to be associated with the Tesco KX energy drink which is a huge, huge publicity boost for someone like myself. Just researching Jason he’s referred to a ‘PR dream’ or a ‘sponsor’s dream’ so to learn from literally the best is a great opportunity and also the leg up financially is huge help and the associating will give a me better chance at finding other sponsors in the future because they see me recognised a quick drive by someone so high up in the sport and backed by a large brand.”
Like many other hopeful drivers – racing on both two and four wheels, another unusual aspect of the KX Akademy – Pittard applied for the Akademy through the form in Autosport.
“I jumped at chance to get involved as quick as I could. Many, many nights were spent filling out this form to make sure it was absolutely spot on,” he jokes – though you have to feel only partially, “and I was over the moon to have received a call from Jason Plato. It showed that all the hard work that we’d put into it had paid off and it’s a great opportunity with the association with KX and what they’re trying to put into motorsport. Obviously motorsport is a very expensive sport and all the support I can grab I try to get and this time it paid dividends.”
Time and again, Pittard mentions the financial aspect of the Akademy almost as an afterthought. Instead he prefers to focus on the advice side of what Plato and the KX Akademy can offer that will last longer than the years where his career is directly supported, as he aims towards a seat in the Porsche Supercup.
“The level of drivers is so high,” he explains. “I love the Porsche car, ever since I drove it last year I’ve just fallen in love with it and to get to race that and get paid for it potentially would be incredible. If you’re successful in that championship then the amount of opportunities that can open up, you can go anywhere. Rene Rast is just everywhere in sportscar racing now. Him, Sean Edwards, Jeroen Bleekemolen, they’re my heroes really because they’re out in GT cars racing every single weekend. They are living the dream.”
Pittard got his first laps in a Porsche in a test with Team Parker Racing’s Carrera Cup car at the end of 2011 before embarking on a British Endurance Championship alongside Adam Sharpe in 2012, though the driver and car combination came about – it appears – by accident.
“Originally I was going to be in the Production Cup with Paul but a mix up with the cars meant that a Porsche was acquired quite close of the Donington Park date and was prepped.”
From that point on with a second place in qualifying preceding a second place in the race, Pittard and Sharpe sharing the car with Tom Jones, and a whirlwind season begun.
Pittard and Sharpe combined for their only class win of the season at Brands Hatch in early June, Sharpe – as a soloist adding a second win when the series returned to Kent a month later to put them in prime position to claim the class title with solid results on both of the final two rounds of the year.
“This final Britcar race has been so far ahead. The last time I raced the car was in August, with not taking part in the 24 so I’ve always been looking forward to this round and not thinking about the rest of the year really, but now we’re hear and it’s the final opportunity in the car you think back and there’s been a lot of drama all around it’s been a really, really great year.”
The year has also included visits to both the World Endurance Championship, where Paul White drove for Aston Martin Racing, and the BTCC paddock as part of the KX Akademy. The final round of the BTCC at Brands Hatch also hosted a coming together of the Akademy finalists, which though – perhaps on paper he should have been overawed with the company he found himself in Pittard took as a rubber stamping of his own ability. He explains;
“Jack [Goff], who won the Clio Cup, he was actually my teammate back in karting for a good couple of years. Since he’s stepped up into cars he’s worked very, very hard to get all of his sponsors and deals together so obviously big congratulations to him. But back in karting when it was all fair’s fair I was mixing it with those guys so this is confirmation that I’m still up with them. Some of the guys are really great driver and it’s a great feeling to be associated with them.”
With the main interview already done, the Brands Hatch event also offered a precious extra opportunity for Pittard and his fellow hopefuls to impress.
“I was up on stage with Alan Hyde, Jason Plato and all the other finalists for a quick interview. All the judges where there, scrutinising us, so it was another opportunity to put myself out there and really show people who David Pittard is.”