Sam Brabham is probably the most familiar name of the final four contenders for the 2016/2017 Porsche Carrera Cup GB scholarship. He is the only person among the group to have raced for a consistent period on the TOCA package.
The third generation driver impressed during his debut British Formula Ford season in 2013, finishing Scholarship class runner-up with six class victories and 21 class podiums and managing to finish on the outright podium on six occasions.
An incident at Oulton Park last June, however, forced an end to his Formula Ford career. “Tough” is the word he uses to describe the last year and a half out of competition.
“Having not been out there as much as we would like to has been difficult,” Brabham confesses. Yet the idea that in the end everything comes together follows through here. “I think for the future it has probably been the best thing for me.”
Formula Ford 2014 was always an interesting one for Brabham. “We knew we would need more budget (to finish the season) but we started anyway because we had had a really good winter,” he reflects. Part of that “really good” winter had been spent in the MRF Challenge series, finishing in the top ten.
Before Oulton Park, Brabham had achieved his breakthrough in Formula Ford with a double success at Thruxton, making what was to follow even tougher to swallow. “We weren’t even supposed to be there, we only just got the budget together to race at that event,” confirms the youngster and the irony is clearly not lost on him.
The accident on one of the quickest sections of the circuit basically paused Brabham’s career for eighteen months. Yet he hasn’t been away from driving. Sam was one of several drivers to undertake some stunt driving for the latest Mission Impossible movie, which he highlights as “quite an experience.”
“We had to sit back, take a bit of time out and re-assess,” Brabham follows on. “For me single-seaters is a dead end, beyond Formula Three.” So the focus switches to sportscars and a clear aim for the future. “My goal now is to win Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship.”
That is a comment that follows through with the other three finalists. “Porsche give the best options for people who want to progress like that,” he offers and then enthusiastically concludes that “I think it is going to be an ever bigger year in 2016.”
One thing that does offer a tantalising prospect for next season is the fact that all four finalists want to be in the series no matter what the result of the Scholarship.
This is in no small part down to the Carrera Cup GB’s position on the TOCA package and Brabham illustrates the importance of this relationship. “What you get back from the TOCA package is massive,” he describes.
“The engagement of the fans is key, all the fans engage with all the drivers in all the support categories.” It is fascinating to hear a driver so keenly speak about the business side of the sport, especially one of such a relatively young age.
We move on to Sam’s thoughts for the future. “I want to be a factory LMP1 driver and if I can get into a position with a manufacturer now that would be incredible. The association with Porsche will help me with my future, they are the pinnacle of the sport.”
Returning to the Scholarship, Brabham demonstrates a modesty not often seen in racing drivers when he describes himself as “lucky” to have reached the final four. “There were a lot of good drivers so I was very fortunate to be chosen.”
That seems a good place to end our first interview of four with the potential Porsche Scholars. Brabham’s entry to the championship, no matter in which way it is achieved, can only be seen as good news for driver and series.