“I get appalled when I see good drivers being left on the sidelines because they haven’t come up with the half million to a million to put themselves in a competitive car” – John Surtees
The blue, red and white helmet, the overalls, the suspense and the smell of petrol in the air is a normal weekend for Benn Tilley, 20, from Lincolnshire.
Benn drives any classic car he can get his hands on, a love that is probably genetic in the Tilley family passed down through generations from Stuart to Benn.
“My dad started racing in 1986, after he spent a year racing hot rods on the short ovals. I was brought up around racing and cars,” said Benn.
“I was taken to the Peterborough indoor kart circuit for my 9th birthday and as they say the rest is history.”
“I’ve been racing since 2009. I had three years in karting and then doing the junior saloon car championship and in 2015 I moved into historics.”
“I race anything I get the chance to. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’m given, if it wasn’t for our friend Simon Hadfield who is one of the best drivers, car preparers and engineers in the historic racing scene I wouldn’t be racing because I wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a car of my own.”
“He puts his trust in me and I try my best to deliver,” Benn continued.
“I’ve had a couple of other people let me drive their cars which I’m very grateful for.”
“It’s all about trying to build a name for myself,” said Benn.
While trying to build a name for himself, he has also built a number of achievements, a stronger passion and more love for the sport.
“My greatest achievement so far is winning the Classic Formula Ford championship. It was very rewarding for me and my parents as we didn’t do any testing at all, just turned up at the circuits and drove the wheels off it!”
Benn said: “Classic cars are in my opinion so much more fun. The older cars were made with proper craftmanship and fabrication. Watching aluminium bodies being made and parts welded makes me admire the guy and girls back in the day because they turned out some dream worthy cars”
“With modern racing being so impossible for a normal working family to afford it, where the trust with Classic cars comes in because we can afford to run one as me and my dad do all the work and preparation on the cars I’ve raced.”
“If I were to go to modern racing I would choose the GT racing route as I enjoy the endurance type of racing”
This is something that broke Benn’s dream of racing Formula 1, the money in it and the money that goes into it.
But nothing can break your childhood dream of being around the sights, the smells and the sounds of the cars going past or being in the car in any weather.
Benn continued: ” My favourite thing about racing is trying to perfect every corner, every breaking point, every throttle pick up point and every racing line because when you get it right it’s so satisfying and so much fun.”
“Feeling the car underneath you and controlling it with steering and throttle input and keeping the speed up is just the best feeling.”
“Everyone is interested in the same thing so you’re never far away from having an interesting conversation with someone.”
When talking to Benn we discussed all aspects of racing, the highs and low, dreams and icons.
“I have two. Jim Clark, he was a Scottish racing driver for mainly Lotus in the sixties.”
“Everything he drove he drove well, he was such a smooth driver which is what I try to base my driving style on and from stories I’ve read and heard he was a genuinely nice chap too,” Benn continued.
“The other being John Surtees. He was and still is the only man ever to win the motorcycle world championships and a world championship in car racing too.”
“He was another driver who drove anything and drove it very fast too! I was fortunate enough to meet John Surtees in 2014 and he was such a a lovely man and such a gentleman. He stopped to chat to everyone,” Benn said.
This brings us nicely back to the quote I started with – we all know racing is money but its more than that, it’s the Benn Tilley’s of the world keeping it young and different, it’s the atmosphere, the participation and knowing that everyone around you loves the same thing you do.
That is racing and this is Benn Tilley.