2023 threw a lot of tests at me. We entered an ex-British Touring car into an endurance championship and not only that, we found ourselves in Class C, one of the fastest classes on the grid as there was nowhere else to classify it. Some thought we were crazy! But there was method in the madness; I would be getting a lot of touring car driver development miles. Thank you to Team HARD Racing for the idea. We wanted the year to give me unique skills on a minimum budget and the HARD Team have a record of giving drivers in that position an opportunity to do something they otherwise would not get to do.
I probably completed more race miles this season in a BTCC car than anyone else outside of the BTCC. It didn’t go as any of us would have hoped, with a number of DNFs and performance issues across the Audi S3 and VW Passat BTCC cars I raced before improving with the Mercedes A Class provided by Race Car Experiences in collaboration with Team HARD who built these cars. Still, I got to drive three different chassis and adapted to them all, so it was a great learning opportunity, working with BTCC engineers to set the cars up.
I was hoping to get a test in a current BTCC car because I had set very quick times on the simulator, and I am sure I would have surprised a lot of people. But in the last race of the season, the car was the best it’s been all year and I put it on the pace of the 2 cars battling at the final round for the championship. I was keeping up with the 991 Porsche 911 and the Mercedes AMG GT4 just ahead of me, in a front wheel drive, BTCC car. I didn’t interfere with their race, but I had proved to myself what I needed.
Through determination to complete as many miles and complete as many of these endurance races as we could, we were rewarded with 2nd in Class. It was very hot in the car. Driving for up to an hour in races was a test of my fitness too, losing so much fluid in a stint whilst pushing a powerful animal to the limit, but making sure that you move the car around in a way that is kind on the tyres to make the distance.
I like to plan the following year based on the experiences I have gained and what I would want to develop further. But I also want to be in the mix for winning again. I finished Ginetta Juniors as one of the fastest drivers at every test and took a win, until we had to transplant the engine for the final few rounds and so I didn’t finish on the high level I was performing at. In 2020 I started the Junior Rally season with a dominant win and was the championship favourite, but then the remainder of the season was cancelled due to Covid restrictions. I need to catch a break! I would like to be back in a single make championship or a single model class and on a level playing field, to prove myself quantifiably. I know I am a very capable driver and I am happy with my progress, but I need to be showing it with wins now, so we need to think carefully about the next step. We are working hard on a number of options, getting lots of advice.
We have to remember, everything I go through, my sponsors go through with me. I can’t thank them enough, Integrated Air Systems, Goodridge-Milford Funeral Directors Ltd, and RHF Fans Ltd. It was great to give them a unique experience on a track day at Oulton Park mid-season with Race Car Experiences. They provided their Renault Clio Cup race car and Honda Civic FK8 Type R for me show members of the RHF and GMFD teams what performance driving is all about.
To end this Column, I would like to feature RHF Fans Ltd as the first sponsor I am announcing for 2024! Thank you to RHF Fans Director, Rachel Fehily and her team. We’ve had fun!
RHF Fans is a technology led manufacturer of high-quality, bespoke Centrifugal and Axial fans. Through class leading engineering, software development and design skills, RHF have developed a catalogue of over 20,000 fan designs, with operating temperatures ranging from -40 ºC up to 850ºC.
More sponsorship announcements and updates on opportunities to race in 2024 to follow.