Year in Review

With only a few hours left of the year, I’ve sat down to piece together my reflections on 2015.

It’s been a different year, because we were unable to get a full season together, it means I’ve done and experienced different things on the day to day side of motorsport.

It’s not ideal, but I’ve tried to make the most of the cards I’ve been dealt.  I’ve helped out teams, I’ve been for a tour of GT factory, I’ve been working to promote myself and it’s helped me to learn and improve myself a lot.

The year started with a test at Rockingham with my old F4 team, Sean Walkinshaw Racing and it was good to be back in a car for the first time since December 2014.

I remember feeling at the time that it was going to be pretty difficult, I thought I’d be quite a bit off the pace with it being a very different car to the one I had been driving in 2014.

In the first few runs I felt a little rusty, but then spent the afternoon second fastest and sixth overall and I was pleased with that.

There were drivers there who were in their second year in that car, had done the race weekend before that test, whereas I hadn’t been in that car for eighteen months or any type of race car in six, so to be only a couple of tenths of the fastest time, which was set by the eventual champion, I was pretty happy with what I had done.

We tested because we were thinking about the F4 season. I didn’t really like the idea of stepping back down, but you have to do what you have to.  I was fast and though I’d missed a round I thought I could still do quite well and come out with something from it.

In the end though, we were still trying to put together a couple of sponsorship programmes that would have let me move into the Eurocup championship  and having missed the first three races of the F4 season, in the end it didn’t quite feel right.

The next bit of on track action came a couple of weeks later, after agreeing a deal with AV Formula to race with them at the first round of the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup series at the Motorland circuit.

Having missed 11 days of pre-season testing because we hadn’t the budget to commit to a full season at that point, we arrived and after first practice I was P6, which was a great way to start, particularly as the rest of the field had been testing at the track a few weeks before, so it was fresh in the minds.

I quite liked going there without any expectation of being fast, it gave me a bit of freedom and no more weight on my shoulders.

I love driving round that track. The combination of corners is great, it flows really nicely and some of the breaking zones are really tricky meaning you need have a really good feel for your car.

After that pretty good start, we had some problems in the engine and gearbox where we were losing quite a bit of time on the straights, which wasn’t ideal, but we got on with it and ended up in the points in two of the races.

Honestly though, I was hoping for more of an impact.  I was hoping to do something stand out and maybe get on the podium, or at the very least top five, so I came away a little disappointed.  It was going to be a big ask, but that’s what I had in my head that I wanted to do.

As things worked out, that would be the only competitive racing I’d do in 2015 and that was a real disappointment.

After that first round, I think I’d have gotten a lot stronger throughout the season and I’d have gradually picked my way up. There’s so many things that might or might not happen that you can’t control so it’s hard to predict, but the way things started at Motorland, I think it would have improved quite a bit.

During the summer, there were a couple of opportunities where I got to practice the PR side of racing with the NE1 Grey Street Motor show and a day filming with Newcastle Falcons.

The motor show was a big two day event, where a range of exciting road and race cars were displayed in Newcastle City Centre.

It was quite nice and a bit different, particularly with it being so close to home! It was great to see so many people there and shows that people up here are interested in their cars and their race cars, the Aston Martin’s and the Red Bull F1 car that were on show were getting plenty of attention!

I was there at the start of the day, alongside athlete Jonathan Edwards and representatives of the council, the organisers and Benfield Motors to launch the show and to set a target lap time on the simulator.

I was in my race suite so I looked the part and I popped in a good time. It was good to meet a few new faces and it was a really good event that was well organised, hopefully it happens again and I can be involved, hopefully bringing a race car of my own!

With the Falcons, I do some work with them in their ticket office and as they were hosting a round of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s, their marketing team decided to have a four players challenge me in a kart with the event being promoted on the theme of the Speed of 7s.

We went down to Teesside Karting, I tried my best to give the lads some tips, and at the end of the day I was on top! It was nice to see the two sports connect a bit I enjoy doing stuff like that because it’s different from the run of the mill.

With the winter drawing in, another chance to get into a race car came up when SWR asked me to give their brand new BRDC F4 cars, along with their regular development driver Dan McKenzie.

I was really excited going down, I’d started to miss being out on track and though it was horrible weather, the car felt really good, I was comfortable and fast which is always a good place to find yourself, particularly after not being in a car since April.

At the start of December, as part of looking at options for the New Year, I visited Aston Martin Racing’s factory, which was really impressive. It’s my first experience of looking at a truly professional, works setup. We had a tour of the place and had a shot on the simulators, which was impressive.

It made me think about the future.  I’d always thought that single seaters was the ultimate and that sports cars or endurance racing was a bit of a sideways move, but that visit really opened my eyes and look at things differently.

There’s plenty to think about for the New Year and a lot of things to do in order to get back on track, but for now, a couple of days of quiet with family and friends will be a good way to end this year and look forward to the next.