In the first part of a special edition of his blog featured on www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk Dan Wells takes a look back at his season which took him from the UK to Hong Kong, via Twitter.
Hey guys, apologies for this blog being quite late but what with the season finishing in December, and taking some time to relax and recharge my batteries, I hope I can be excused! I’ve been wanting to write a review of our 2012 season to try and give a greater insight into what my team and I do to go racing. One of the greatest bugbears I have is when I say I’ve been busy to people, they ask ‘doing what?!’ Even now, I am sitting in a Starbucks (apologies, I do normally support local businesses but free WiFi and a nice window view make it a good work environment…!) and a friend has just come in. He asked the same question, and when I replied ‘work’ he said ‘Doing what? Surely you just drive a car every now and again…?’ I went on to explain, briefly, the things I do which are necessary to ensure I will get in a racing car again. Never have I driven knowing I was going to be in that car for the whole year, and this I suppose spurs me to work hard and ensure I am there.
This blog is going to be quite open and honest to give a proper insight into what was the most challenging year of my life so far. For Part One of this three part blog I am going to start at the beginning – November 12th 2011 I had just finished as Championship Runner Up in the Formula Renault UK Finals Series at Rockingham circuit, and as I sat in the truck with my trophies, hats and champagne, I just broke down into tears. I’m not normally easily upset, or a very emotional person, but I could not control myself. I love driving cars and I had managed to beat high calibre drivers such as Daniil Kyvat, Josh Hill and Felix Serralles – but while these guys were going to be straight off testing in other series, I would have to raise a lot of funding before I would sit in a car again – and nothing is ever certain. I went home that night and was up until 4am (as I was for 3 weeks, most of my good ideas came to me late at night…) drawing up a 4 page flow chart of what I was going to do, what I needed to achieve it etc. I look back at that now and it is actually 90% accurate, give or take a few minor detours.
The first break through
At the time, Rubens Barrichello had just lost his Williams Formula One seat, and his 1.3 million twitter followers weren’t best pleased about it. This gave me an idea – if he used crowd funding then he probably could have bought his seat the next year and stayed driving. So I thought to myself, I need a million fantastic followers and a page where supporters could sponsor me directly. At the time I had 200 followers, but this has now grown organically to 2500. Since the GoFundMe page began, more than 120 individual sponsors have contributed nearly 10,000GBP towards my racing ambition. Here is the interesting thing – without the Gofundme support there is absolutely no way I would have been able to make the move to race in Asia and begin the season, and for that I will be eternally grateful to those who showed their belief and support in me. Some racing journalists started to call me the ‘Twitter Powered Racing Driver’ – and it stuck. I found it to be such a powerful networking device and so just tried to ‘meet’ as many people as possible. As a result of this, BAM Motorsport got in touch with me. This leads to the next paragraph…
One door closes, another one opens
One of the mentions that came through to my Twitter was from BAM Motorsport saying I should get in contact with them to see how they could help me, which I duly did. After a conversation with my now manager David Madgwick over the phone, we had a couple of meetings, including one at the Autosport Show last year. We tried to work on a program in the UK which I was very set on (as I think a lot of drivers are, either UK or Europe focussed). I quickly found that fundraising for this was extremely tough – and 3 months of work culminated in very little reward. Dave suggested that instead of continuing my networking efforts in the UK, I should go to Hong Kong where the business and social environment is more conducive and response. We decided on doing the Formula Renault equivalent ‘Formula Pilota China’ with KCMG, a motor group with racing teams in China, Japan and a HQ in Hong Kong. At first I was rather hostile to the idea given I was the typical driver who was focussed on UK/Europe, but I could soon see the only way I was going to continue my racing career was to follow this path – and as soon as I commit I knew I was doing the right thing.
The 2012 year review will continue next week…