When Aston Martin unveiled a broader range of car at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year with the ambition of attracting more women to the brand it is almost certain that the Avon Tyres British GT Championship was the furthest thing from the executive’s mind.
However, this season starts with three female drivers on the grid, all at the wheel of GT4 spec Aston Martin machinery. Chloe and Jade Edwards share one example, run by the Stratton/Ultratek amalgam with Jamie Chadwick making the move into GT racing with the factory supported Beechdean AMR squad.
“It’s a bit of step up and a change in direction for me. [but] it was something that we were looking at,” says Chadwick of the move to GT racing, speaking to www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk. “Jonny Adam’s been coaching me over the last couple of years so he was obviously involved with Aston and the Beechdean lot. He obviously introduced me into the Aston family.”
“I tested the car at the end of last year and as soon as I drove the car I realised where I wanted to be this year. I was surprised at how good the car was and how well I think I adapted to it considering the jump.”
The path Chadwick has taken into the series is now a well beaten one, progressing from Ginetta Juniors into the more powerful cars of Britain’s top sportscar series. In the past he route would have seen her take a place in any number of teams running GT4 variants of Ginetta products, but the tide of the class is turning away from the G50 dominance towards Aston’s GT4 Challenge, with six of the cars set to line up on the grid for the two races at Oulton Park that mark the start of the season.
Not only have Aston usurped Ginetta as the car of choice for GT4 after Aston teams dominated the class last season, but they have also developed a driver development program on a par with the Yorkshire brand’s commitment to its own racing ladder.
Both Chadwick and her new co-driver Ross Gunn count themselves among the ten drivers in the Evolution Academy’s first intake with the ambition to move up the levels in racing with the team, just as Chadwick’s mentor Jonny Adam has been able to do in recent seasons. At just 16 years old the Bath born racer is the youngest of the group and she, unsurprisingly sees the scale of the opportunity given to her.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for drivers with a manufacturer like Aston, and some others,” she says. “I think it’s a little bit about being in the right place and maximising every opportunity.”
That “opportunity” is one to build a career in one of the growing areas of motorsport over the last decade. “Realistically the career is in GTs,” she tells us, “and that’s where if I want to make it as a professional driver I need to be in GTs with the manufacturers like Aston Martin and mixing it up in front of the right people and I think that’s what we’re doing this year.”
She compares her choice to a potential move into single seater racing, the other path taken by drivers as the pass out from the Junior paddock.
“We’d weighed up our options and we did look and single seaters,” she says, but she goes on to suggest that neither she, nor the Formula series were in the right place for her to taken that option. “Single seaters are very much focussed on budgets more than anything else and testing and stuff while I’m in school full time. For me to do single seaters I think would have been a huge commitment.”
Perhaps, when compared to the likes of MSA Formula or BRDC Formula 4 a step into GT4 is the more daunting option, but as her comments about her first tests in the GT4 Vantage show it is one she has coped with well, especially when he puts the leap into numbers.
“Juniors have got about 98 horsepower and this has like 460 on slicks so it’s a jump but I think the car’s great. GT4 is based on a road car and you can those origins which makes it a little bit easier to drive with the assists – the traction control, the ABS. Other than that’s it’s about getting used to weight and the size over the Junior because the Junior is a tiny little, dinky car.”
The result of the greater horsepower and the assists is what she describes as “a bloody quick car.”
She and Gunn have big shoes to fill, replacing 2014 GT4 champions Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie in Beechdean’s junior team, but she remains confident that the 2015 pairing can do just as well.
“I think we’ve got to hope to win the championship,” she says. “Realistically I think it’s something we’re capable of doing. We’re in the championship winning car and between us our pace is fairly respectable so I don’t think we’re doing a bad job at all.”
She continues; “Ross and I have been working really well together. He’s very quick himself and it’s been going really well. we’re still working on the driver changes – that’s something new to both of us, he’s come from single seater racing so we’re still working on that but it’s an exciting challenge.”