Five years since his SEAT Cupra Cup debut and two years in the British Touring Car Championship, Harry Vaulkhard is on his way to a lifelong dream, the World Touring Car Championship, we took some time from his busy schedule to have a chat.
Vaulkhard didn’t have the easiest of times in BTCC due to circumstances out of his control, he’s had a good time though with a best finish of fifth place, despite realising his WTCC dreams he hints that he’ll one day return to the British series “I really enjoyed it and have some unfinished business there”.
It’s unsuprising that the Newcastle-born driver will miss the BTCC as he admits “The fans are amazing in the BTCC, they’re a great crack” he also says he’ll miss some of the tracks.
We asked him if the decline of the WTCC works team helped with Bamboo’s choice to switch to WTCC from BTCC, to which he replied “Although there are fewer works teams in WTCC than last year lets not forget it still has more works teams than any other S2000TC series, it also has un-rivaled prize money and a real chance of getting more works teams back next season, although it has played a part in our decision, it was more the commercial prospects of WTCC that have taken us away from BTCC than the manufacturer situation.”
Despite the WTCC deal only being announced recently the deal has been penciled in for some time, with the first hint after taking part in the ETCC at the tail-end of 2009, “It all came about after a good showing at the ETCC, a few wheels were set in motion and it just seemed to fall into place.” Vaulkhard admits that he’s known since Christmas “I had a gut feeling back at Christmas time.” but says it hasn’t been easy preparing for the new season “It’s been down to the wire to get everything ready in time for shipping.”
Vaulkhard and Bamboo have placed no time scale on their WTCC plans, “I have personally always aspired to WTCC so I’d like to stay as long as possible, but its all down to the commercial side of things as to how long I or any team can stay at a high end series like the WTCC.”
A new series on a global stage means Vaulkhard has been busy playing catch up in his personal preparation, “Well I was physically very fit last season so I’m currently trying to get back to that point because at the moment its almost 40 degrees hotter in Curitiba than it is in Newcastle. Im training harder now as I have less time is the only difference.”
Bamboo have a secret weapon as they prepare for the new challenge, “We have a professional race simulator at bamboo that I can use to re-enforce my technique on each circuit before I even get on a plane.” admits Vaulkhard, “It will be interesting to see the benefits of such a tool first hand”. Along with the simulator Vaulkhard has a natural talent learning new tracks “Learning the tracks is something I’ve always enjoyed, my old engineer said I should have been a rally driver as I can pick it up quickly, I also always watch previous footage before any race and will spend alot of time walking the circuits.”
Asked if there was any particular tracks he was looking forward to visiting this year he answered “I can’t wait for most of them, Macau looks like a stunning circuit but will definitely be very hard to learn, its the kind of place no previous footage or simulations can teach, you just have to have hands on, bum in seat experience I think.”
Alongside the new experiences of WTCC Vaulkhard faces another, that of having a team-mate in the shape of Daryll O’Young “I’ve never had a ‘team-mate’ as such until the ETCC and it was a huge advantage there so I’m hoping Daryl and I can work together to progress each others game.”
Despite respecting their talent Vaulkhard admits that he’s not starstruck by his competition, “I’ve not really thought about the competition, at the end of the day they’re all just blokes like me or you. I have alot of respect for many of them and I’m sure I can learn by being on track with them.”
With the advent of manufacturers pulling out of both BTCC and WTCC we quizzed Vaulkhard on his thoughts on the subject, “Manufacturers have huge budgets, so they’re cars are ever evolving and getting faster where an independent car wont improve much over the course of a season, there are lots of politics when it comes to manufacturers so there are pressures from those angles which cannot be overlooked. However it gives a series more credibility to have the commercial force of a manufacturer in its series and also gives sponsors more confidence that they’re putting there money somewhere worth while.”
When asked about title challengers for the BTCC season he couldn’t put his finger on one particular name, “I wouldn’t possibly like to say, the BTCC is a well controlled series with the random grids and weight systems, so it really isn’t easy to just pick a name out of the hat. I’m sure the turbo cars will be going well by the end of the season though.”