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.

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!”

(*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

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

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

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!

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.

Episode 13

“How To: Bottle Podiums”

Nearly 4 months into my #RacingGrind and I hadn’t even hit the track yet! I had to get a quick race in before lockdown, though…

So far, I have created 12 episodes about my #RacingGrind, my journey into racing, and yet I haven’t once actually been to the track. And now, with the new UK government regulations surrounding social contact, it’s unlikely that any of us will be racing any time soon. With that in mind, I decided to head down to my local karting track to get some practice in before it was too late.

Daytona Sandown Park, a nice little arrive-and-drive circuit in Surrey, is my “local” outdoor track, despite the fact it’s not really very local at all! Regardless, alongside a friend of mine, I turned up for my first seat time since starting this blog. The challenge: a 40-minute race in their Sodi RT8 karts.

The karts in question were your run-of-the-mill hire karts – 4-stroke single-cylinder engines capable of up to 55mph. With little in terms of low-end torque, it can be very easy for these karts to bog down after slow corners, so it’s vital to carry momentum into corners in order to have the best acceleration on the other side, and therefore the quickest lap times. Naturally, though, due to a complete lack of familiarity (this was only the second time I had driven these karts, and just the third occasion visiting the track), I didn’t do this.

If I was to compare my driving to a professional racer, it would certainly be Jarno Trulli. Very often I’m able to set competitive times quickly, but I’m unable to string a series of fast laps together to make a good race pace, creating a bit of a “Trulli Train” behind. In fact, this pretty much summed up my race.

With just a 10-minute qualifying session to adapt myself to the kart and track conditions, I was able to piece together a 50.266. Good enough for second of 22 on the grid, and three tenths ahead of third, albeit another three tenths down on pole.

From there, though, my day went a bit downhill. The start of the race was fairly unspectacular, as the pole sitter (who was about 14 and weighed 3 stone) just took off, and I settled into second. I struggled, however, to adapt to the tyres, which had cooled off considerably whilst we were sat on the grid. This meant that I was facing a lot of pressure from behind, and on the last corner of the second lap I ran wide, dropping down to third.

After my little grassy excursion, the race settled down. I chased down second and we swapped positions for a while, until the final corner on the 21st lap of 46. At this point I was back into second, and the racer behind me lunged up my inside, clipping the rear of my kart and sending me into a spin. As a result, I dropped from second to fourth, and the race turned from consolidating a comfortable second (as I was clearly quicker than my opponent) into a chase back to the podium. Or so I thought.

Just two laps later I had caught back up to third place, and our small group of three (second, third and I) were running nose-to-tail once more. That was until we encountered a lapped karter heading into turn two. The two racers immediately ahead of me managed to pass the lapped driver fine, however I was not so fortunate. At the last moment the backmarker cut into the corner, tagging the front of my kart, and putting me into a second spin in three laps. This one was more detrimental to my overall race, too, as I dropped from fourth to seventh, putting me firmly out of touch of the podium battle.

The second half of the race was very much a recovery drive, and at least this time round there were no incidents to halt my progress. Whilst simultaneously weaving through traffic, I was able to regain fourth position, and finish a second ahead of fifth, although I crossed the line twelve seconds away from the podium and a resounding 25 behind the race winner.

Interestingly, analysis of each drivers’ lap time improvements from qualifying to the race proved my suspicions that I’m comparatively slower in races. In 46 laps of racing, I completed just one lap quicker than my qualifying time, and the improvement was less than a tenth. In comparison, the average improvement between qualifying time and fastest race lap was more than half a second per driver, meaning I effectively “lost” four tenths of outright pace to my competitors in the race. This is clearly something that I’ll need to address in order to fight more for wins in future races.

In conclusion, I gave an expert account on how to bottle a safe podium. Throughout the first half of the race I was comfortably second-quickest on track, however two spins sent me firmly into the mid-pack. The race was fairly educational for me, too, as I learnt where some aspects of my race-craft were not quite up to scratch after a few months of no racing. For example, I struggled with consistency and outright pace, although I felt my overtaking was a strength of mine during this race, something that historically has not necessarily been true. At least I’ve plenty of time to work on ironing out my flaws before can once more go racing…

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.

Episode 12

“Race Car vs Track Toy”

Is it necessary for me to actually go racing, or could I get more enjoyment out of track days? And what does a Formula 4 car have to do with this article?

This week’s post was supposed to have been based on the British Touring Car Championship’s test and media day this Tuesday, but yet again, Coronavirus got in the way. However, this means that I can continue on from where I left off last week: Should I actually go racing, or should I just buy a track toy? There are many things to consider when making this choice, and at the end of this article I have selected six potential “toys” that I found when scrolling through RaceCarsDirect.com.

First, however, what are the pros and cons of buying a car just for track days, against going racing for real.

Straight away, an initial advantage of track days over racing is the price. Of course, depending on the circuit and the company in charge, the cost of track days can vary significantly, from just over £100 to more than £300. This overall cost, though, is still significantly lower than the cost of competition. Most grassroots competitions in the UK have between 5 and 8 race weekends, during which many different competitions will compete, meaning your individual track time is fairly minimal.

For example, a season’s entry costs in the Mini Challenge Cooper S class is just shy of £4,800 for six events. Track days on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit start at just shy of £300. That means that, for the cost of six rounds in the Mini Challenge, you could have 16 track days on the full Silverstone circuit, with near enough unlimited running. Sixteen!

Furthermore, for a track day, your car doesn’t need to be operating at 100%. Some race series are so close in competitiveness that it’s vital to get an engine rebuild after every round, just to stay on the pace. With a track day, this doesn’t matter so much, as you’re not up against anyone else. This means that, if necessary, you can scrimp on some of the non-essential costs yet still have masses of fun.

Another advantage of taking part in track days over a full competition is the risk. With a track day, there is (or at least, should be) no wheel-to-wheel racing, meaning the only reason you end up with a damaged car should be if you run off the circuit. During a race, however, there are tens of opponents, all high on adrenaline, all wanting the piece of tarmac you’re on. This poses a lot more risk of crashes that weren’t your fault, which in turn increases the likelihood of large repair bills.

The most significant disadvantage of not competing in a race series, however, boils down to what a race series actually is. Competition. For some people, track days won’t suffice because they have that competitive spirit that just can’t be satisfied when there’s nothing to benchmark yourself against. A large proportion of track days prohibit drivers from timing their own laps, and if there’s no direct “competitor” at your track day, then it’s difficult to validate yourself. Personally, I want to know what times I’m setting and how they compare to others, because that tells me if I’m good enough or, if not, how much I need to improve. If this is a necessity, then track days alone will not scratch that competitive itch.

Now that we’ve established a few advantages and disadvantages of potentially choosing track days over a competitive race series, let’s have a look at some cars for sale on RaceCarsDirect.com that would be ideal for track days. These were picked from all adverts posted in 2020, priced at £10,000-£50,000:

First up, is a Caterham 270R, used in the Caterham series. This car won the 270R championship in 2018, and was also run in the 2019 championship. Of course, there is no reason why you couldn’t run it yourself in the championship, but it could be the ideal track day toy. Priced at £16,000, it is the cheapest of the 6 cars on this list, and almost half the price of the most expensive, yet could be the most fun.

Caterhams are historically extremely reliable, and with just a couple of inexpensive modifications this car could be road legal. With the aerodynamics of a brick alongside a 5-speed manual to contend with, Caterhams are perfect for drivers to optimise car control and racing lines in, meaning a novice should improve drastically whilst behind the wheel of one of these.

Next up, is a Volkswagen Fun Cup Evo 1 for £17,000. Whilst this beetle lookalike is a few years old, it has been impeccably maintained, and is a proven race-winner. The 740kg space-frame chassis is powered by a 1.8 litre VW petrol engine, good for 130bhp, mated to a 5-speed sequential paddle gearbox. This particular car comes with a whole heap of extras, and is capable of lapping Spa-Francorchamps in just over 3 minutes (around 10 seconds slower than the 270R). Once again, with an under-stressed engine, this car should be fairly bulletproof on the reliability standpoint, making it ideal for track day abuse.

The third car I have picked out from RaceCarsDirect.com is a 2017 Renault Clio Cup car. When new, this car would have cost just shy of £40,000, yet this 3-year-old example is just £19,500. The first front-wheel-drive automobile on this list, it also possesses nearly twice as much power as the last two: 217bhp compared to the 130bhp found in the 270R and the Fun Cup. The Clio weighs in at a shade over 1,000kg, and uses a 6-speed sequential paddle gearbox. Requiring a completely different set of car control skills (vs a rear-driven car) in order to drive quickly, it could be a perfect new challenge either for a novice or an experienced rear-wheel-drive racer looking to broaden his skillset.

Crossing over the £20,000 price point, and we’re into some much more focused racers. Firstly, a Ginetta G40 GT5, prepared to the endurance specification. Utilising a 1.8 litre Ford Zetec engine and six-speed Quaife sequential, the GT5 boasts 155bhp. Whilst this is less than the Clio, so is the weight, at 805kg. Another big advantage for the GT5, is that the car wears Michelin slick tyres. This car is so focused, that it even has pneumatic air jacks!

If you feel that a GT5 isn’t quite quick enough, you could always upgrade to its bigger sibling, the G50 GT4. At £29,900, this is the most expensive car on this list, yet is still a steal at what is a fraction of the cost of a new one. This uses a 3.5L V6 engine, producing around 345bhp, mated to a Quaife 6-speed sequential. When new, this car was eligible for all GT4 events around the world, mixing with Mclarens, Porsches, Mercedes-AMGs and more, firmly holding its own against the global brands. This is a seriously quick car, all for less than £30,000.

Finally, I’m going to bend the rules slightly, as this last car probably wouldn’t be eligible for normal track days. Instead, you’d have to look out for open wheel testing days. This is because you can buy a 2016 Tatuus Formula 4 car for £27,500. Admittedly, it’s in Dubai, so would probably cost another £2,000 to ship back to the UK, but still, less than £30k! This car was used for the F4 UAE competition, which is a regional competition that acts as one of the bottom rungs of the FIA Global Pathway, from karting to Formula 1. This car makes around 160bhp, yet weighs almost nothing due to the full carbon monocoque. A full carbon single seater. Doesn’t get much better than that.

So, would you be content with hammering track days, or would you need the temptation of trophies? And, given the choice, which of these six racing machines would you pick? Let me know in the comments below!

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.

Episode 11

“What A Car Auction Taught Me”

The cancelled Geneva Motor Show left me with a bit of time on my hands this weekend, so I thought I’d pop down to a local car auction…

This weekend I decided to attend the Historics Classic & Sportscar auction at Ascot Racecourse. Not because I was planning on buying a new classic and/or sports car, but mostly because I needed pictures for this blog! After all, my planned trip to Geneva was cancelled, so I found the next best thing. So, what did I spend my day doing, then? Wishing I had more money, and taking more pictures of the cars outside the auction than in!

Those of you who are based in England will know that Ascot is quite an affluent little area. Personally, my family and I live close by, and I work in the High Street. Regularly during my lunch breaks I see Porsche 911’s, Bentley Continental GT’s and G-Class Merc’s parked up on the side of the road, so the grand racecourse setting is the perfect location for an auction featuring some very sought-after cars. And for sought-after cars, this auction did not disappoint.

Auction Lots fulfilling the “classic” criteria included a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, a 1989 Lancia Delta Integrale in a magnificent red, and a 1960 Aston Martin DB6, which sold for a huge £310,000. Whilst these beautiful machines of yesteryear are admirable, personally, being of a younger generation, the more recent models on offer were the ones that caught my eye.

In terms of more affordable cars for the majority of people, up for auction was a 2003 BMW E46 M3 convertible, a 2000 Subaru Impreza P1 (the model that was modified from factory by Prodrive, the company responsible for running the World Rally Impreza’s at the time) and a 2006 Mini GP, which are all fantastic cars.

Some more modern bargains (for those wealthy enough to afford them, at least) included a 2016 Mclaren 570S which was sold for less than £80,000, meaning the car has lost pretty much half its value in just 3 years! Alternatively, a pair of Ferrari Californias, built in 2009 and 2010, were sold for £77,000 and £56,000 respectively. To put that into context, a 10-year-old Ferrari (that looks very similar to the current Portofino, to the extent a non-car-person would be deceived) can be yours for the same price as the new Mercedes AMG A45!

Two of the halo cars for this particular auction, however, were simply stunning. A 2016 Mclaren 675LT Spider with just 3000 miles completed was up for auction. Whilst it wasn’t sold, this 1-of-500 car had an estimated value of £240-275,000. The Solis Metallic paint on this particular model wouldn’t have been my personal choice, but I think I could look past that to appreciate the engineering inside. Given the choice, however, it would be a hard decision between that and the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider that was on offer. Another 1-of-500 example (although a 1 of just 35 UK-delivered), this particular 8C had the iconic Competizione Red paintwork, and looked just sublime.

Surprisingly, though, the car from that auction I honestly wished I could’ve bought hasn’t yet been mentioned. Whilst a 2004 Mercedes CL65 (yes, the same bi-turbo V12 that powers Pagani Huayra’s!) almost stole my heart, selling at just £19,000, it was in fact a BMW Z4 that got my tongue wagging, as this wasn’t any old Z4…

This BMW started life as a 2010 Z4 35i. No, this car isn’t even the M- variant, but it’s so much more! The turbocharged straight-6 in this particular car has been tweaked to ~500bhp, and is attached to the 6-speed manual. It’s a manual! Ironically, the drivetrain is probably the least-fettled aspect of this monster. This is because BMW-racing specialists Flossman have fitted this Z4 with a 100% Carbon Fibre GT3 widebody panel kit, including the ankle-slicing front splitter and the ginormous rear wing! The modifications don’t stop there, though. To help match the car’s go to its show, there are coil-overs, a new exhaust, and an upgraded intercooler, finally inside the Beemer has two full bucket seats, 6-pont racing harnesses, and a new digital racing dashboard that sits behind the obligatory MOMO quick-release steering wheel.

This car is truly a 1-of-1 GT3 replica, and it’s even got the plaque to say so. This weekend the estimate on the car was £28-34,000, but it didn’t sell. Considering BMW decided against making their own road-legal GT3 edition of the Z4, this homemade is the only road legal Z4 GT3 in the country, and must be an absolute hoot to drive! Whilst I’m in no position to actually go out and purchase the car today, it did get me wondering. Is it necessary for me to buy an actual racing car, or could I get away with buying a nice, quick road-legal car that I could just hammer on a track day? Thinking about it, I’m not going to answer that one now, because I feel like I could get another whole post out of that topic! That will be out in the next couple of weeks, so check back soon, but for now, let me know in the comments which would you pick, would you go and buy a racing car and compete for a year? Or would you go out and buy a sporty new daily that you could track on the weekend?

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.

Episode 10

“Why Me? Why This?”

Why have I decided to create this blog? What’s the aim? And why do I think my advice will be any better than anyone else’s?

Why do I think I’m in a suitable position to document how difficult (or otherwise) it is for a driver to work their way up the motorsport ladder? After all, I have no experience of being part of a paddock before, so I don’t have any experience I can pass onto you readers. Yet I speak about my previous racing experience, so I can’t be a complete novice, which is what I’m painting myself out to be? What exactly is my racing history, and why do I think that I’m an ideal testbed for other novices to maybe learn from in the future?

My first memories of driving go-karts are a little foggy, as they happened the best part of 10 years ago. Whilst I don’t remember setting the world alight with immediately blistering times, I do remember the elation that I felt after getting out of the kart. Those occasions were few and far between, however. Extremely few, in fact, as I can only think of three occasions between the ages of 9 and 11. That didn’t stop me from catching the bug, though, as I spent the next few years dreaming of excuses for my parents to take me to the track.

I didn’t start regularly karting until about 5 years ago, then, when I was about 15. The Duke of Edinburgh award is fairly well known here in England, where it is basically a programme that aims to help prepare young people for adult life. When I took part, there were 3 main sections: sport, volunteering, and learning a skill. For me the sport and the volunteering sections were easy, as I’m a keen cricketer and coached a little. Finding a skill to complete was tricky, until I read one of the items on the list: Go-karting. Being forced to go to the track every week for three months? Sounded like hell, but I was sure I could endure the hardship.

It was during those three months that I improved to a slightly-above-average standard, and so I thought I’d enter a competition that was being run by the company that owned the track. I breezed through the qualification rounds, and was really quite confident going into the day of the finals, but it was the sort of confidence only naivety would create. Almost every single one of the 29 other drivers had their own suits, helmets, gloves, the lot. I didn’t, I just wore what they gave me. Safe to say it didn’t go so well, but still my hunger to get quicker didn’t wane.

The next few years went by with semi-regular practice and the occasional local competition, but nothing serious. That changed in late 2018, though. October 2018 was when I first went to university, and entered my first championship. I went from mixing it with middle-aged blokes on a Friday night, to racers around my age, yet accomplished in their own right. I was up against British champions, world champions, Formula 4 drivers, and even one guy who’s competing in British Formula 3 this year. Safe to say it was the deep end!

Whilst initially I was a long way off the pace, I also think last year my learning curve was the steepest it had ever been. During a six round championship I went from 14th in the first round, to having three consecutive fourth-placed finishes, even taking a fastest lap in the final at the fifth round. After all of that, I somehow managed to finish second in the championship. Second! Safe to say last year was my most enjoyable so far behind the wheel.

This year is different, however. Due to various reasons I haven’t gone back to university, so I’m without competition. Something that I am doing now that I wasn’t at university, though, is earning money, and that got me thinking. I want to keep improving myself as a driver, but I feel like I’m probably fairly close to my potential in a hire-kart, so I need to step things up. Therefore, I want to use what disposable income I do have to go racing for real.

So that’s my racing career to date. I’m not a complete novice, but I’m not the best in the world by a long shot. I’d say I’m good. Just being good doesn’t satisfy me, but I feel like it does give me some valuable experience on this journey over a complete novice. For example, if an opportunity presents itself, I feel I’m in a position where I have enough ability to not completely embarrass myself! After all, writing a blog means I talk a lot of talk, so at some point I’ll have to walk the walk. So if places heightened expectations on me, why would I write the blog?

Whilst there are thousands of racers out there, not many of them actually talk about how they got to where they are now: what skills they thought they needed, what skills they didn’t think they needed but really did, what eye-opening experiences they had, what mistakes they made etc. What I want to do is be that person, so that future racers can learn from my experiences. After all, one way of making racing more accessible is by making it cheaper, and whilst I can’t dictate the actual cost of entering races, I hope I can at least stop drivers from spending their hard-earned racing budget on experiences that won’t necessarily further their racing careers.

That’s the aim at least. So far, we’re ten weeks in to this journey, and whilst I’ve made some lifestyle adaptations to maximise the little ability I have (click here and here for more on these), alongside looking at what race series I might enter in 2021 (to read further on this click here and here), I’ve not actually visited the track at all this year, probably the longest period of time I’ve gone without karting in some time! Don’t lose all hope, however, as there may be a big event coming soon. My #RacingGrind might actually feature some racing!

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.

Episode 9

“Why Don’t I Race Karts?”

(A Look At Club100)

Considering I’ve never competed in a ‘proper’ championship before, why is it so important for me to immediately jump in a car?

If I’ve never competed in a proper, fully licenced championship before, why is it so pivotal for me to start at the deep end in cars? Why don’t I begin my journey at the entry point that all of the world’s best drivers have come from? Why don’t I start in go-karts?

The commencement of the Club100 karting series last weekend reminded me that my #RacingGrind journey can be much more economically viable, whilst still being immensely competitive, by taking an alternative route to full-blown racing cars. In fact, I actually contemplated competing this year before deciding against it in order to keep my options open going into 2021. After all, whilst the comparatively low budget required to compete in the competition is enticing, it is still a sizeable chunk of money from the perspective of a tight-pocketed individual such as myself.

For those who are less than familiar with the Club100 series, it is the premier hire-kart racing series in the UK. It is sanctioned by Motorsport UK, the national governing body for all motorsports, and there are 11 rounds during the season. These 11 events take place at some of the best karting circuits in the country, including Buckmore Park in Kent, Clay Pigeon Raceway in Dorset, and Glan Y Gors in the north of Wales. Club100 itself actually has many different subsidiary championships, all based on the duration of the races. These start with sprint races, which are around 10-15 minutes in duration, through to “Sprint 60” races (which are confusingly 30 minutes long), and finally the endurance races, which take 2 hours each, and are designed for teams.

So, should I give it a go next year? Let’s weigh up each of the criteria I set out in my “Where Am I Racing?” blog from a few weeks ago:

Firstly, there is the price. Being a karting championship rather than a car series means that costs are low. An 11 round season is fairly lengthy, and prices for the sprint championship are around £200 per event. Totalling that up and factoring in the ~£50 registration fee, I would be looking at entry fees of £2250 for the season. For some context, a couple of grand wouldn’t even get you a single weekend in some racing series. So far, so good.

Naturally, there would be subsidiary costs on top of these, such as fuel to get me to races and the occasional overnight hotel stay, because I like my sleep and so waking up at silly AM to get to an event doesn’t exactly appeal to me. Therefore, if I factor in a couple of hotel visits for the circuits which are 3-hour-plus journeys away, alongside fuel, I’d say an additional £500 is almost certainly over-budgeting, but I’ll stick with it because it’s a simple number.

Finally, there’s a couple of test days in order to better understand the machinery. These aren’t compulsory, however, meaning I’ll allocate a rough figure of £250 to cover at least one.

In summary, a full, 11-round season of racing for less than £3000 seems to me like an absolute bargain. Club100 has passed the first criterium, it seems.

The next factor to think about is following. Whilst Club100 itself isn’t hugely well known, boasting a fairly modest 2,200 Instagram followers, a few of the competitors have certainly found their own following. Steve Brown and Jimmy Broadbent may not be household names, yet combined they boast over 100 thousand social media followers, and close to 700 thousand YouTube subscribers. Between the pair of them, Club100 racing reaches 800,000 people. If I was to tap into just a small segment of those 800,000, that would be a huge boost to both my brand and my sponsors’. Another point of note is that some rounds are live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, making it easily accessible to the masses.

The third main consideration I chose as a method of comparing different race series was based on the competitiveness of the machinery. For a variety of reasons, parity between all the cars is crucial. Luckily, being an arrive-and-drive series, Club100 has that box ticked as well. Due to the nature of the events, drivers are allocated random karts just before each heat, meaning that nobody is guaranteed to have better machinery than the rest of the field. Yes, natural variances in the karts will mean that some drivers are better off in some races than others, but over the course of a season this would almost certainly balance out.

After analysis of three of my main criteria, Club100 looks like it could be the perfect destination for me to race, but it’s not completely faultless. After all, I wouldn’t be racing cars, only go-karts. Whilst it is true that I have never competed in a licenced Motorsport UK karting series before, I have been karting for nearly six years. Last year I competed in a karting series at university, and in less than four events I went from over a second a lap slower than the fastest racers, to posting fastest laps in races and beating some pretty accomplished drivers on merit. All of this on tracks I had never been to before, which compounded the complexity of the challenge.

That competition reminded me just how challenging it felt when I had to seriously improve in order to get back to the front, yet just how rewarding it felt when I was able to do so in such a short space of time. I feel that, in order to challenge myself to that degree once more, I need to progress into more powerful machinery than just hire-karts, even if they are some of the fastest hire-karts available.

Finally, the drawback of taking part in arrive-and-drive racing: you have nothing to show for your efforts. Whilst not owning your actual racing car(kart) relieves many hassles such as maintenance and transportation, you don’t get the satisfaction of knowing you own a racing car! Granted, this is the least important point on my list of criteria, but it is still something worth bearing in mind. With vehicle ownership comes the comforting idea that I could at least recoup some of the cash I’ve ploughed in to my hobby, after all, every little helps…

In summary, whilst Club100 certainly appears to be a smart, sensible destination for my racing focus, it just misses the mark on the ambition target. Perhaps, then, Club100 could always act as a fall-back, in case my racing goals for 2021 are not completely attainable.

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.

Episode 8

“Food For Thought”

Racing drivers are athletes, meaning they have to eat like athletes. I definitely don’t, so how do I need to change?

I like food. A lot. The issue is I like (and therefore eat) the wrong food. A lot.

Whilst I’m fortunate that, due to my ectomorphic body type (meaning whilst it’s really hard for me to build muscle, it’s also difficult for me to gain weight), I don’t outwardly show the effects of my poor diet, I do think that making a few adaptations here and there could significantly affect my performance behind the wheel for the better. So that’s what I’m going to do. After all, one of the ideas behind Living The Racing Grind is to, well, live the racing grind…

Unfortunately, unlike full-time top-level drivers, I don’t have access to a qualified nutritionist to constantly monitor my sustenance intake, and measuring out exact portions gram-by-gram can be a little complex and over-complicated. As a result, this isn’t going to be carried out with scientific levels of precision, I am purely trying to find out if the theory is sound or not. Starting today, that’s what I’ll by trying to do.

Luckily for me, there are actually plenty of articles already on the internet that follow the nutritional habits of Formula One drivers, meaning there are plenty of places I can search for inspiration. What’s even better is that, for the most part, none of the sources seem to conflict in their messages either. What I think I have learnt from studying a selection of these is as follows:

It seems to me that breakfast is in fact just a normal breakfast. Thinking about it this shouldn’t be that surprising, really. After all, breakfast is supposed to fuel your body for the day ahead, and racing drivers certainly need fuelling! Just like a standard breakfast, slow-release carbohydrates seem to be best. Porridge seems to be a go-to meal due to the high carbohydrate content, and oats also contain a high amount of fibre, which helps to control blood-sugar levels.

To supplement this, vitamins and minerals are ingested from fruit and raw vegetables, and finally a multivitamin. These help cognitive performance, which is probably quite helpful when piloting a racecar round a track. To wash this all down, water seems to be the best bet, alongside a glass of fruit juice or a cup of coffee. Caffeine intake does need to be monitored, however, as it is classed as a performance-enhancing drug over certain tolerances.

From a personal point of view, this doesn’t sound massively different to my current diet of a bowl of wheat cereal. Similarities in carbohydrate and fibre content are present, so the only change to make in my diet would be to add an orange or some raw carrot to my breakfast.

For lunch, this may create quite a large change to my diet. Going are my supermarket meal deals and local bakery sausage rolls, coming is real, unprocessed food in place. A favourite for drivers seems to be grilled or stir-fried chicken, for it’s high in protein and low in fat content. This is generally paired with rice or potatoes to replenish those slow-release sugars that have been used since breakfast, and vegetables for the enclosed nutrients.

Whilst this certainly isn’t appealing to me as the most exciting diet in the world, it is worth remembering that, in elite level sport, nutrition is purely seen as fuel for the athlete, much the same as petrol for the car, and nothing more. This is one of the reasons drivers anticipate the off-season so much, as they are allowed to enjoy their cuisine for a few months. For my situation sticking by the rules is not quite so vital, meaning the odd restaurant meal with friends or a Sunday roast with family isn’t going to completely overturn all the good progress up to that point.

When it comes to dinner (or tea, supper or whatever else you choose to name it), the main food group shifts from carbohydrate for energy, to protein for muscle replenishment. The focal point of the dish becomes meat or fish, with pasta or potato to accompany. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of fish, however that may have to change in order to avoid eating chicken twice a day!

Finally, snacks. Whilst snacks aren’t a good thing to be consuming regularly, sometimes they’re necessary. Surprisingly, ham and cheese toasties are a good snack, as they contain both protein and carbohydrate. Another left-field choice is dark chocolate. 85% cocoa dark chocolate is high in iron, which helps brain function, and anti-oxidants too. For myself, I’ll probably add a dessert into the diet so I can at least enjoy some part of my meal, however none of the meal plans I researched made any mention of one, meaning I’ve got free reign to either stay sensible or just blatantly cheat.

But there it is, the second adaptation I’ll undertake in order to closer align my life to that of a professional racing driver. There will be a follow-up episode in a few weeks to document whether I have felt any significant changes take place in retrospect of both the fitness work and the meal plan. In the meantime, please follow me on Instagram as there should be some semi-regular updates posted on there. Finally, thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check back every Wednesday for the latest in my #RacingGrind!

***

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, please give it a like to let me know I’ve done a good job. It’ll certainly motivate me to keep writing if I know people are interested! If you really liked it, maybe you could consider giving me a follow too, by sticking your email in the box below! Finally, if you’ve got any tips for me about racing, writing or anything else in life for that matter, then post a comment below to let me know your thoughts!

Finally, the inevitable social media plugs. Find me and follow me on Instagram and Twitter (click the icons below)! You don’t have to but it would be nice.