Since my last blog post, many things have happened! I finished the VLN season in 3rd position in the TCR category with the Nett Motorsport Peugeot team, narrowly missing out on second place after my team mate Jürgen was collected by a slower car whilst lapping them. To give you an idea of the extent of the damage, the car took three months to repair!
As the winter months closed in, my personal focus switched to the organisation of the kart championship I founded back in 2011: The British Rental Kart Championship or ‘BRKC’. This has grown into a major national karting competition in the UK and acts as a feeder series to the KWC (Kart World Championship). As you can imagine, the effort that goes into arranging such an event is huge and starts in earnest around October each year.
Serendipitously, BRKC also acts as fantastic preparation for my own racing season, as I also compete in the championship. This means I have a real focus in terms of physical preparation during a period of the year in which many drivers will take their foot off the metaphorical gas pedal and let their fitness and amount of driving practice drop. In order to be competitive in a series such as the BRKC, I have to be absolutely at the top of my game in every area. This means frequent trips to the gym to work on endurance fitness–in the same way as I would during the car racing season–as well as plenty of practice in the kart itself. Having this event to focus on, really helps maintain the motivation to put the effort in with this type of training, and that also keeps me fresh when the VLN season rolls around in March.
In addition to this, my normal day job is fantastic for keeping me race-ready. In the past, I was a racing instructor, sitting next to people in racing cars every day and teaching them how to go faster. It would be difficult to think of another job that could provide similarly relevant levels of practice, seat time and physicality. However, in July 2017 I accepted an offer to become the sole European test and development driver for a major global tyre company. As you can imagine, this comes with a huge amount of time behind the wheel, and a particularly crucial element of absolutely nailing every lap I drive in terms of speed and consistency. It is almost the perfect job for a race driver outside of actually racing!
As I write, I am sitting in my hotel room in Northern Sweden. I am two days into a two week winter tyre test. This is the second such test I have been part of since December, and I will essentially be driving flat out in various cars, on various types of tyre on a track made entirely of snow. I have to lap as close to the limit as possible, providing clear consistent laps and therefore data for the engineers, as well as providing a large amount of verbal and written feedback about each type of tyre. It’s hard work, but as concentration practice for racing, it’s perfect.
In addition to the winter tyre work, I flew out to a test track in Spain around one month ago for a top secret project to develop tyres for a new supercar which is being built by a British company for release later this year. Unfortunately, photography was strictly forbidden, but twenty sets of very expensive tyres (and lots of huge smoky drifts) later, we are now close to a great new ultra-high performance tyre for that car.
Finally, my home simulator (which I wrote about last year) has undergone a serious upgrade. As an essential training tool, it was important to me that it stayed as realistic as possible. Hence, I now have three very expensive gaming monitors, a more realistic wheel, and a very powerful graphics card to boot! This will all help me to be competitive when the iRacing VLN series rolls around in a few weeks from now. Then just one week later, I’ll be back at the Nürburgring for real for VLN1!
Our team has some big plans for the 2018 season. I can’t wait to tell you about them in my next blog!