Charlie Martin hopes her hill climb experience will help her this season as she swaps French B roads for British tracks in the Ginetta GT5 championship.
Martin has proven her racing credentials in hill climbs across Europe, and recently finished third in the Trophee Tourisme Endurance at Le Mans in 2017.
But the solo race against the clock nature of hill climbs seems a world away from the busy Ginetta races and Martin starts a new challenge this season.
“Coming from hill climbs, it’s obviously quite different to what I’m going to be doing this year,” she told The Checkered Flag.
“Crucially with hill climbs we don’t do multiple laps. You do a 6km course in one go. That challenges you to be very accurate. There’s no margin for error: you’ve literally go buildings, trees, the side of a mountain, things like that when you’re doing 130 down a French B road. You’ve got to be very measured, but also very fast at the same time.
“So taking that onto the circuit, suddenly we’ve got a lot of room to play with. I think that gives you a really good skill set to apply to circuit races.
“There’s also the level of focus you have to have. Before we go, you have to have everything clearly mapped out in your head exactly corner to corner what you’re going to do. I’ve found that helps me learn a circuit very quickly.
“Obviously the other thing with circuit racing is dealing with traffic and everything that’s happening around you but I think those few things should certainly help with the transfer of skills that I’ve already got.”
2017 was a busy year for Martin, with 14 race weekends and four test days across the season. Midway through the year, she opted to switch to circuit races in 2018, adding gathering experience on tracks to her already busy schedule.
“Midway through the year I made the decision to come into circuit racing fully in 2018,” she explained. “So alongside what was already quite a packed hill climb season I started to make some inroads to get experience on circuits so I wasn’t at too much of a disadvantage this season
“I looked into a number of championships. What I started doing was searching for championships running in the UK that I thought I’d be able to be on the right level for. Ginettas stood out for a number of reasons.
“It’s one a one-make series which is very attractive. It’s close racing and low cost as well.
“The fact that it’s so well supported, it’s got a big grid of cars and the exposure that’s on offer was a big draw for me. Obviously, from competing in Europe for the past three years, I don’t have much of a profile in the UK outside social media, so I’m really keen to race in a championship that would give me the best opportunities to stand out.
“From all accounts, everyone was telling me that GT5 was a really good championship to race in, with the level of driving, the skill set that you’re going to pick up through the season driving the car, so for me it was a clear winner.
Martin will compete with Richardson Racing for her rookie season.
Richardson has already proven it can compete at the sharp end of the field, helping Shane Stoney to second in the championship in 2017, and Martin believes it’s a good fit for her this year.
“The driver coach I’ve just started within with introduced me to Richardson. It’s nice that he works for them already – it made getting to know them quite a straightforward process.
“One of the things that really attracted me to them was that they’re capable in terms of performance and the results they’ve had both in Ginetta and Formula 4. They’re obviously a well managed team and with good experience, partially in Ginetta.
“It’s early days and going into any team is a case of getting to know everybody but, thus far, I’ve got a good feeling about how everything is going. At initial test day in October, everything went well. I got on well with all the mechanics and all the people running the team, so I’ve got a good vibe about going forwards this year.”
Martin is aiming to take top 10 finishes at every round this season, and hopes for a few podiums in her rookie year.