Episode 14

“My Racing Role Models”

People look up to people. It happens in pretty much every aspect of life. So, who do I look up to in the racing community?

Every racing driver has an idol, a role model that inspired them to race. Maybe that idol is a family member or friend that’s supported them, or a driver at the top of their discipline. Maybe it’s someone who has managed to achieve some astounding racing goals in the face of adversity, or maybe it’s something completely different. Regardless of specifics, there’s always someone, and there’s always a story behind it.

This week in my #RacingGrind I’m going to talk you through four drivers who I admire, and why I feel each have influenced my love of the sport.

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Getting right into things, I’m going to start with Lewis Hamilton. Yes, I know how Lewis Hamilton the person can very much split opinion, and he doesn’t make my list because I’m a huge fan of the way he handles himself. No, I’m picking Lewis Hamilton the Grand Prix driver. More specifically, I’m not thinking about the way he has utterly dominated the Turbo-Hybrid-V6 era of F1, but the way he introduced himself into the top tier of motorsport, back in 2007/2008.

A young Lewis Hamilton inspired my love of racing

For a spot of context, at the time I was 7-8 years old. Therefore, I was a very impressionable person. When, then, I saw this young British rookie instantly disrupt the status quo of a sport that had seen just two* men claim the drivers’ championship since my birth, I knew which driver I wanted to win. The earliest motorsport memory I can recall is the utter devastation I felt when I saw his silver Mclaren beached in the gravel at China, yet I can also remember how elated I was a year later, in the aftermath of “is that Glock!”

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(*I’m not counting Hakkinen’s second title, I don’t even know if I was out of the hospital before that happened!)

In short, Lewis is probably the man who made me fall in love with motorsport as a child. In those early years he made no secret of his childhood admiration of Senna, whilst simultaneously he was becoming the Senna to many Hamilton’s the world over.

In stark contrast, then, we move onto my second role model – Lando Norris. Often, the reason behind someone being a role model can be boiled down to a few attributes, including gender, age and social status. This means that, in general, someone who is a similar age and gender to yourself, and who occupies a job that is aspirational to you, is likely to become a role model to you. Lando Norris is two weeks younger than myself, of the same gender, and drives in F1. Tick, tick and tick.

Lando Norris – Hoping to build on his solid debut season
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Aside from this, I really admire the way he has conducted himself in his first season at Mclaren. He put in some stunning qualifying laps last year, and whilst his race results weren’t quite up to the level of his teammate, he proved he is more than good enough to cut it at the sport’s top level. Alongside this, he really breathed some fresh air into the paddock. In the last couple of years, I feel that, as fans of F1, we have finally started seeing drivers as humans. Through social media we’re starting to see much more of their personalities, and I think Lando has very much been at the forefront of this over the last year or so.

Finally, I’m going to stray away from Formula 1, and onto a pair of drivers I am admirable towards for a slightly different reason: The Solbergs – Petter and Oliver. Whilst I am aware of Petter’s World Rally Championship accolades, his 2003 title-winning campaign was long before I became interested in rally. No, I grew a fondness towards Solberg Snr when I first encountered World Rallycross.

Petter Solberg – WRC champion, double World Rallycross Champion. Also won the 2019 Gymkhana event
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The format of Rallycross seriously grabbed me, as it combined the close, wheel-to-wheel action of circuit racing with the sublime car control of the rally drivers, and I loved being able to see the cars pitch and roll on acceleration, braking and turn-in. Of course, I knew who Petter was before tuning in, and so seeing this WRC champion still mixing it bigtime in this comparatively unknown discipline gave me a brilliantly good impression of him, as he was doing it for his love of racing more than anything else.

Oliver Solberg – Young, and quick. Very quick

His son Oliver just astounds me. His pace at such a young age is clearly a result of the kid driving for as long as he’s been walking, and he clearly has what it takes to win world championships in the future. The fact he’s able to have this pace whilst possessing such a humble, mature demeanour, however, is certainly proof he’s determined to make it work for himself. I’m looking forward to seeing him progress through the WRC ranks, and hopefully fulfil his bright potential.

The father-son bond that Petter and Oliver Solberg possess is utterly heart-warming
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What I like most about the Solberg’s, however, is the immensely strong family bond they show. After all, having achieved as much as he has, it would be very easy for Petter to just disappear, but he hasn’t. From an outside perspective, Petter seems to be incredibly proud of his son, and it’s beautifully heart-warming to see how committed he is to his son’s success. There you have it, then. Four of my role models from the world of motorsport. Hopefully, over the coming years, what I feel I have learnt from each of them will serve me well in my own motorsport career, after all, if you’re going to learn from someone, you may as well learn from the best!

Who’s your motorsport idol?

Let me know with a comment below!

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