Category Archives: Driver Interviews

Q&A with 22GT Racing

22GT Racing is a true example of bulldog spirit. The Midlands based team has returned to the big time national racing spotlight in the British GT Championship for 2015, racing in the top GT3 category with their Aston Martin V12 Vantage. However, the season has been a completely mixed bag for them. Top 10 finishes in an ultra-competitive series have been punctuated by misfortune whilst at the crest of a wave. But the team has been undaunted, brushing off the dust, patching up the cracks and as the season comes to a close the team are moving ever closer to the sharp end of the British GT pack. We approached them for a Q&A following a true rollercoaster ride of a season so far! Nathan Harrison (Team Manager) and their two GT3 drivers, Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer, took time out from the race weekend at Snetterton to answer some questions. And just so you’re aware, Snetterton was the wettest race since Noah sent two birds out to get to the olive branch first….

  1.   What was behind the decision to return to the British GT championship this season.

Nathan Harrison (NH): It was all down to Mark and Jon wanting to race, you can’t do it if you don’t have anyone willing to pay to run in a championship.

2.  You’d ran the Aston DBRS9 previously. What are the biggest changes between that and the Vantage V12?

 

NH: The Vantage V12 is a lot better racing car compared to the DBRS9 as it was built as a racing car not a road car that has been adapted to go racing. The DBRS9 is a ten year old GT car, this is a modern GT car – so obviously it’s quicker and easier to work on.

22gt

3. How big of a plus was it to sign Jon Barnes (a previous British GT champion) as your pro driver?

 

NH: Well every team has its flaws doesn’t it! (Laughs) No – Jon’s input is invaluable and his positive attitude in every situation is highly commendable.
4. Mark Farmer has made a big step up to GT from Caterhams. What qualities did he bring to the team from a relatively short career?

 

NH: Mark’s obviously still learning each round as we go, you know. I think that he’s learning quickly and obviously helped by Jon with Jon’s coaching. But he’s getting better and better and I think he knows the areas where he needs to improve which is a big plus because if a driver doesn’t know where he can improve, he won’t improve and I’m impressed with how Mark wants to improve and wants to be the best and be the best he can possible be.
5. The team has faced some big challenges in the British GT season, how are the team feeling as a whole as we come to the end of the season?

Mark Farmer (MF): We need some luck, don’t we? And we’ve had lots of bad luck – some of which we’ve made for ourselves and some of which has been thrust upon us but I think we need some more help with setting the car up – I think that’s where our major disadvantage is and I think that’s evident from the fact our race pace is pretty good. Our qualifying pace is not. So I think we’re on a fairly level playing field in the race but a massive difference in qualifying and that sets us back a lot because trying to do anything from the back of the grid is really really difficult, it’s so competitive – so feeling despondent but encouraged!
22gt2

6. What has been the toughest problem you have faced this year, and what would you say is the biggest success?

 

Jon Barnes (JB): The biggest challenge we’ve faced this year without a doubt is qualifying pace, trying to get the car to work well on new tyres and because we’re qualifying so poorly that’s masking our race pace as we get held up for the first 5-10 laps of the race and actually when we get the gap we’re as quick as the race leaders like we showed at Brands so we just need to qualify better – if we get the car working better in qualifying then we can be right up there in the top ten and possible even top 5 and then we get a chance of a podium in the races  but at the moment we’re really hampered by our qualifying pace. The biggest success was probably Mark’s driving at Brands, getting from 13th or 14th in the start up to P7 by the pit stop. Same as Silverstone –  so Mark’s getting plenty of overtaking practice just because we’re qualifying so poorly and showing that his race pace when he avoids incidents and doesn’t have any bad luck his race pace is really good.

 

MF: At Silverstone we had a commanding lead due to a levelling of the playing field in the wet weather where we performed pretty well and also an epic strategy call which put us two and a half minutes in the lead for a quite significant period of the race, until we crashed.

 

JB: WE?

 

MF: … Until I crashed

7. What are your aims for the final rounds of the British GT season?

JB: We’re still desperate for a podium, the target at the start of the year was to catch a podium finish before the end of the year and then that would give us a good little springboard for 2016 so that’s still the aim – that’ll give us something solid to build on next year. Hopefully we can do that, there’s 3 races left this year – 2 races today at Snetterton but this weekend’s going to be difficult but you never know, and then a two hour race at Donington, there’s an opportunity there to get a good result. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

©Pete Richardson

06/09/2015

A Day Out With #TeamAli

Hello again, this is a guest post by Mark Eakin, as most will be aware a lot has happened since Ben flew home from Monaco, including moving house and attending British GT’s, Mark was going anyway and as he is a great friend of ours and enjoys writing when he has time, Mark was the only person to ask, so here is his writeup of his race day out and all the drama that went on at Siverstone and what has been happening since with Ali Rushforth’s car……

Sunday May 31st was a very early start for a 4am departure to head north to Donington Park for the latest round of the MG Trophy. It was my first trip to Donington for anything other than music festivals so I was extremely excited to spend the day with Ali Rushforth and the rest of #TeamAli.

The day started off with the Qualifying race. The results of this race determined the grids for race 1 and 2. Thankfully the rain had stopped by the time the cars started up and headed out onto the track but that wasn’t to last very long before we all got a good soaking again.

picture 1

Ali managed to get out and get a couple of timed laps done before having to come back into the pits with a small gearbox issue. This was a fairly simple fix but sadly by the time it was sorted there wasn’t enough time left before the chequered flag to get out again.

By the time Race 1 came around, the track had started to dry out but some cars (including Ali) still went out with half dry, half wet tyres on the cars. Ali was starting in P24 down at the back of the pack and so had it all to play for. By the time they all came round at the end of lap 1 he had already climbed up a few positions and this was to be the trend throughout the race.

At the end of the 20 minute 1st race Ali finished P12 overall and P7 in his class, not bad at all. 🙂 picture 2picture 3

Between the first and second race there were some small issues to fix on the car, and this is where I realised there’s a bit more to some motorsports than just the racing. Ali had a problem with the battery not charging up properly and within a few minutes walking around the other garages, had managed to find someone to lend spare parts to try and get the car back into action. This is something I hope (but doubt) goes on right up to the top levels of motorsport.

Once the car was fixed and running again, there was a bit of time to relax and watch some of the other racing happening before Race 2, which included; MG Metro Cup, Equipe GTS, MGCC Cockshoot Cup and a few others.

Race 2 was a bit of an anti-climax to say the least, all the cars got round lap 1 but then as they came round for lap 2 we noticed that Ali was nowhere to be seen, the next thing we know is the race has been red flagged and we can hear the commentators saying that a couple of cars have come together. As it turned out Ali had been nudged off the track onto the grass, at which point he became a passenger as the grass was still wet and brakes didn’t help. As he came to rejoin the track there was contact with Robin Walkers car which got rolled over. Both cars had to be recovered from the track, thankfully the drivers came out with a few bumps and bruises.

picture 4

Apart from the sad end to the day, it was still fantastic for me to spend the day in the garage with TeamAli, and I hope to do it again in the not too distant future! For anyone that has never been to a MG Trophy event, I thoroughly recommend it for a great days racing (cheap tickets too!). Now for a bit of reaction from the driver himself:

Q: What news was there in the aftermath of race 2? Is there any repercussions for the next event?

The only repercussions really are whether we’ll actually be at the next event.

Q: How was the car when you arrived at home and were able to assess the damage? Is it fixable?

A mess!! Any photos that may have been published might show the car to have cosmetic damage, but the actual damage is very extensive; Sub-frame is damaged beyond use, Front panel, Chassis leg, Steering rack, Bottom arm, Wheel, Wing, Headlights, Bumper, Bonnet

Q: Do you expect to be racing again at MG Live at Silverstone?

I’m trying to be, but money is the deciding factor. As I’m sure people will know, someone kindly thought it’d be worthwhile to set up a funding page & as it stands, over £400 has been raised.

The car is in with the body shop & the £400 will go some way to help the repair bill from them.

Add to that the cost of the parts that I don’t have or haven’t managed to do a deal on & we’re looking at a total around the £1100 mark.

That’s before I consider the £400 MG Live entry & possible £220 test fee (if we enter) to make sure the car is ok.

 

If you would like to help Ali get racing again, you can by following this link: http://www.gofundme.com/Get-ali-racing

Q & A With British GT Driver Dennis Strandberg | Aston Martin Evolution Academy

When the opportunity came up to have a chat with Dennis, I wasn’t going to pass it up, true to what I now know to be his big personality he didn’t want to do a Q&A until he had something to talk about, his next race was Rockingham and he made 2nd on the podium, so I set about making the chat happen.

Will Moore / Dennis Strandberg Academy Motorsport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge
Will Moore / Dennis Strandberg Academy Motorsport Aston Martin GT4 Challenge

Dennis’s stats speak for themselves, currently ranked 3rd in the under 22’s in Sweden and nationally ranked 26th, with 15 wins, 28 podiums and 11 fastest laps all since changing from karting to ‘proper cars’ in 2013.

In his first year of Ginetta GT5 Challenge in Sweden he won the Championship and last year even though he came over to the UK to race too, still managed to finish 3rd in the Ginetta Challenge.

2015 is here and we are 3 rounds into British GT Championship season and Dennis is now driving an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 and is under the wing of Aston Martin’s Evolution Academy where they nurture the talents of 10 promising young drivers. Dennis is with the Academy Motorsport team and the very striking silver and black car with his team mate Will Moore.

Having spent some time getting to know Dennis, he is not your average 21 year old, with a very determined mindset and focused on achieving his goals as a driver, he certainly knows where he’s heading. A real likeable chap, with a great sense of humour and lots of fun to be around, I have no doubt he will be a very popular driver in the paddock as he is always willing to have a chat with fans and he’s new to twitter so do drop him a follow @DStrandberg.

I look forward to watching him this season and in my opinion he’s definitely one to watch!

StrandbergPortrait-02

Q) Describe your driving style in 3 words?
A) Aggressive, smart, fast

Q) Describe Dennis in 3 words?
A) Happy, positive, forward

Q) What’s your favourite film?
A) Talledaga Nights

Q) You’re going to dinner with up to 4 people, who are they?
A) Michael Schumacher, James ‘Bubba” Stewart, Travis Pastrana, to just talk about everything and do some crazy stunts and Niki Lauda, to have a chat about how he did it, how the racing was back in those days.

Q) Do you have a training schedule to help with endurance racing?
A) Cardio and gym work

Q) If you could have any wish to help with your racing this year, what would that be?
A) Sponsorship, I have everything else to be the best there is.

Q) What’s the worst part of racing in an international championship?
A) My motto is “If you ain’t first, you’re last”, I hate losing.

Q) What’s the most special thing about racing?
A) Adrenaline, the feeling you have when you get in the car and know you have to drive at the limit and show everyone that I’m that guy.

Q) What’s your best racing moment so far in your career?
A) My hatrick at Spa 2014

Q) Take us to your favourite place in the world, where are we?
A) Spa Francorchamps or we’re in the Alps, we have our snowboards on and the sun in our eyes

                                     Q) McDonalds or KFC?                                                                                                        A) Subway

Q) What music do you listen to most?
A) Anything, mostly club, house.

delhel

Thank-you Dennis for letting me interview you and good luck at Silverstone on the 31st!

Q&A With Porsche Club Championship Driver Nathalie McGloin

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nathalie McGloin at Brands Hatch this weekend just passed, a delightful lady who currently is the only female within the UK with spinal injuries to hold an ARDS. We had been chatting throughout the previous week after I’d seen the youtube video of Nathalie completing her required 7 second emergency exit. From the very second I saw the video, I knew I wanted the opportunity to interview her, at first I was in awe, let’s face it I would struggle to make the 7 second exit requirement on the best of days. This quickly fell away to wanting to know more about her, knowing she must have a strong character to have chosen motorsport as her thrill.

nathalie

She completed two races this weekend and amazingly she finished 12th in her second ever race, considering at one point earlier in the day she’d been on two wheels, this was an amazing comeback to what must have been a confidence knock. I was fortunate to be up at Stopwatch Hospitality and had a fantastic view of most of the track, the group I was with were also supporting Nathalie, if only she could have heard all of our shouts of encouragement and at times our amateur advice on braking and when to get back on the gas, although this would probably have been more a hindrance than a help, Nathalie is after all the one who knows what she is doing. What was clear even to all of us was that we were witnessing an improvement in every lap, she was certainly fearless and made a few overtakes and more importantly made them stick. Overall I was so impressed with Nathalie’s talent, that it’s clear she will only improve over the season and with more race experience and I, for one cannot wait to see what happens. Bring on the next round!

Here’s what Nathalie told me of herself and I got to ask her some questions too :-

Being in a car crash aged just 16 Nathalie was left paralysed from the neck down, she spent a year in a spinal injury rehab centre and afterwards returned to school to obtain her A Levels and then on to University studying English.

Nathalie with her nature to be stubborn wouldn’t accept any help with care and was determined to live a completely independent life. Signing up to wheelchair rugby got her the fitness she needed and she was soon invited to her first tournament, she fell in love with the sport and even said she loved the aggressive nature of the sport and how you were allowed to hit one another with the chairs! She quickly decided she wanted to be a serious competitor, she started to train to make the national team. Studying at university and training for the GB wheelchair rugby trials at the same time, once she had graduated she knew she wanted to move to London to play for the London team. The more she trained the more her passion grew for the sport. She went from the ‘girl in the wheelchair’ to an ‘athlete’ and she felt she was conquering her injury.

After the Paralympics things began to change within the sport, politics became heavily involved in team selection and she forgot the reason she once fell in love with the sport, so eventually she left the GB squad and continued to play on a recreational level ,but it wasn’t enough.

Nathalie has always loved cars and has been known for buying fast cars even if they were wholly impractical for a wheelchair. She had been tracking her 911’s for about 6 years, she looked into getting her racing licence and discovered how difficult it was going to be but that didn’t stop her, she made it her next challenge.!

Nathalie passed her ARDS test in October 2013. She had to complete several sprint events, a medical and seemingly impossible 7 second car exit to qualify. The determined women she is this didn’t stop her, she was set up with a race team at Silverstone and bought a Cayman S and decided to enter the Porsche Club Championship in May 2014. The date grew closer and Nathalie realised she needed more time to gain experience or time to complete the sprint events and that she wasn’t with the right team.

After a messy departure she met James Cameron who runs Mission Motorsport, a charity that rehabilitates injured soldiers back into working life through motorsport. Nathalie spent half a day with them she knew they were the right team for her and even though she had no army background they wanted to help.

The Cayman was handed over to them and she realised there was a lot of work to do for the wrongs of the previous race team. The cage was not suitable for her to use , barely getting into the car how could she make that 7 second exit? A lot of time was spent sorting the problems but by the end of the season only 3 out of 4 required sprints were complete.

Her race car was out of action she had to complete in her heavy 4WD 911 Turbo for most of them, the 500hp engine was a big advantage and to her surprise she finished 1st in class in her first ever sprint. She took this confidence into the winter season and and booked her last required sprint for the next season in March and got focused for the racing come May.

Before Christmas, Nathalie traded in her 4WD Turbo for a GT3 so that whilst the preparations were ongoing, she had a car to practise in. She fast realised she would need to change her driving style to ‘keep it on the black stuff’, learning her craft and falling in love with her new car so when her sprint date arrived in March she felt nervous but ready.After a year and a half Nathalie completed her sprints, sorted the car and nailed that 7 second car exit. Her race license was rubber stamped just over a week before her first race. After how long it has taken to achieve it she felt ready and knew it has been totally worth it all.

Q) What adaptions have you got in your car for you?

A) I have Radial controls in my race car, they are a type of hand control located to the right of the steering wheel. You push down for throttle and forward for brake.

Q) What are your targets for the season?

A) I’d like to finish all of my races and I don’t want to come last!

Q) Do you get to pick your race number? What is it be and why?

A) I did get to pick my race number, I chose 5. It was the lowest number available and single digits are always good. It doesn’t mean anything now but I’ll stick with it and hopefully it might mean something in the future.

Q) Tell me about your helmet design?

A) Its carbon, it’s light and it looks ace!

Q) In 3 words describe your racing style?

A) Immediate boundary pusher!

Q) In 3 words describe yourself ?

A) Driven, enthusiastic, passionate.

Q) How’s the training and preparation been going for this weekend?

A) Erm….training? My plan is: turn up and drive. My race car has only just been finished this week so training has been somewhat limited. But I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Q) Have you got any other formulas you have your eyes on for the future?

A) With getting my race licence and car sorted I haven’t really had time to think about anything else. We’ll see how this season goes first.

Q) Have you found any of the wheelchair rugby skills that have swapped over into useful for racing?

A) They’re both adrenaline junkie sports that require huge amounts of discipline. Obviously the stakes are much higher in Motorsport, but what you do on court affects your team mates and what you do on the race circuit affects your competitors. You have to make the right judgement calls and this transfers over both sports.

Q) You are going to dinner with up to 4 people that have influenced you in your life,or heroes of yours who would you choose & why?

A) Noel Gallagher. I grew up with his music and I absolutely love the guy. I wouldn’t need anybody else there!

Q) KFC or McDonalds?

A) McDonalds!

Q) Dirty Dancing or The Terminator films?

A) Dirty Dancing.

Q) Tom Boy or Girlie Girl??

A) Neither, I just like what I like and do what I do!

Q) How does it feel to be the only spinal injured female with an ARDS??

A) It’s an honour to be the first, I hope I’m not the last.​

WEC Aston Martin Driver Fernando Rees Interview And Q&A

Fernando Rees Interview And Q&A

It’s not everyday you get to interview a driver on this scale so here is my Fernando Rees Interview and Q&A..

fernando-rees1

To say I still can’t quite believe it, is very much the truth. Its all such a blur now as to how it even came about, a completely random sequence of events that led to the opportunity presenting itself to request it and so I took it with both hands and was completely shocked when Fernando replied with “Lets do this”.

I’ll be as honest as is possible, my knowledge on endurance racing is limited as its a recent discovery for me and there are 2 other members of ThePitCrew who I would see as the Crew experts, therefore far more qualified than I.
However, I was determined to make the most of this opportunity and decided to override the temptation to ask lots about WEC and Le Mans and to grasp the chance to find out more about Fernando Rees, the man aswell as the racing driver.
Coming from being a racing fan to being the wife of an F1 team member and then onto mixing with fans, I am very well aware of what a fan wants, we want that little bit more, we want to feel our favourite driver is more our like our friend, we want a reply to a tweet, we want time for an autograph and a photo at a circuit, we just want a little bit more than we are usually allowed to have and this is an area that Fernando excels.

When it comes to Fernando on twitter, the biggest thing that people talk about is his fan interaction, “oh, he’s such a nice man”, “he always replies to fans”, “he’s the best with the fans, other drivers could learn from him”
So I set about how instead of ‘Recent Spa 6Hr winner Fernando Rees interview’, I could make this a little different and an interview for the fans and not the usual set of questions, so I really hope you enjoy getting to know Fernando a bit more, I certainly feel that I have learnt a lot and he now has a fan for life in me.
I hope this resonates as much as it does with me, as I now understand WHY Fernando gives as much time to his fans as he does, he has never forgotten where he came from and his struggles to even be able to drive, he hasn’t turned into a diva, he hasn’t surrounded himself in “Yes” people, he has stayed true to himself and appreciates everything, a genuinely nice man and I am proud to be able to share this with you all.

fernando-rees

Q) Did/ do you have any aspirations towards F1 ?
A) Yes, but when I was very young. Coming from Brazil, we don’t know much else about racing because it’s all about F1. But I changed my mind early on, while racing in Europe in F. Renault and Formula 3, as I figured out that the cards for my generation were already marked.

Q) What do you think about Formula E & is there anything you feel other formulas can learn from it?
A) I like it. It’s interesting, different. I don’t think it belongs to what we know as “racing” – to me it kind of stands on its own, something new. But entertaining for sure, and promising. But being different than anything else, I don’t think it can be used much as an example of success or failure for other small formula categories.

Q) You will be racing in LeMans in June, can you tell me why it is is so key to make sure you’re always checking your mirrors?
A) Well, you check your mirrors all the time, but during the night it has little use because we can’t really see much. The LMP1 lights are just too bright, it blinds us, and makes our mirrors reflect a completely white light. You can’t judge whether they’re 500 m or 50 m behind. But in general, the mirror raises your space awareness, and in GT cars you must be ready to protect yourself from incoming cars all the time.

Q) Is it difficult to race at dusk or night doing 160 MPH+?
A) Yeah, it is very difficult. But it’s more difficult when you leave the environment of the garage and go straight to the night. If the night comes while you’re already driving, it’s much easier because your eyes adapt step by step with it. But for sure, it’s not easy, and it’s one of the big challenges of endurance racing.

Q) In 3 words describe your racing style?
A) Smart, precise, aware.

Q) Do you have a strict training and preparation programme to assist in endurance racing?
A) Yes, fitness and nutrition plus a special preparation before entering the race car. Everything must work together. Mind and body must be in tune, and in tune with the mindfulness required by racing well.

Q) Tell me the most special thing to you within racing, that even on the worst day makes you feel fortunate to be able to race at all?
A) To know what an achievement it is just being able to do it at all, especially coming from a family which couldn’t just pay my way up each year, you know? So yeah, to feel fortunate that since I started, back when I was 8, so many kids and guys raced against me and had to stop for this or that reason, while I managed to continue.

Q) Are there some other sports you’re interested in or participate in?
A) I love running. It gives me a similar feeling as when I’m inside the race car. You know, on your own, getting to experiment and understand your own mind in a level of focus that few other things require.

Q) You have been invited to a one off race that means something to you, what car would you like, at which circuit and who’s your team mate (past or present is allowed) and why?
A) Very difficult question. It never crossed my mind, to be honest. I would love to drive the Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 some more, in a circuit like Spa-Francorchamps, and I’m quite pleased with the way things work with my current team mates.

Q) You’re going to dinner with up to 4 people who’ve influenced you, who would you bring along?
A) I would like a dinner just with Ayrton Senna to discuss some thoughts about racing – not race cars, but what motivates us to race, why we risk doing it, etc.

Q) What’s are you listening to most on your ipod currently?
A)Smashing Pumpkins.

Q) X-Box or Playstation?
A) Playstation.

Q) What’s your favourite Sim game to play?
A) GT6 and rFactor Pro.

Q) Describe Fernando the man in 3 words?
A) Calm, humble, disciplined.

Q) You are going to Periscope from a place in the world that is most like you, where in the world are we?
A) A calm beach in Northeastern Brazil. Very few people around. Birds and other animals roaming free. Sounds of waves. Sun up in the blue sky – sunrays touching my face.

Thankyou so much to Fernando for letting me ask him some questions, I hope you feel like you know him a little more now, I really hope you enjoyed my Fernando Rees interview.

Who else would you like to see me interview?..