Piquet born in Germany in 1985, he moved and grown up in Brazil. Nelson started his career in karting in 1993 and he is currently driving in Formula E for NextEV TCR.
TPCO: Describe Oliver Turvey in 3 words
NP: Great team mate!!!
TPCO: What sets Formula E aside from all the other disciplines you’ve raced for?
NP: I’ve had a long career in racing (20 years!) and I’ve competed in a lot of different championships. I raced in F1 from 2007 to 2009 and over the past five years have done everything from NASCAR to sportscars and rallycross. When I heard about Formula E I thought it was a really interesting concept and the technology involved is the future. I knew I wanted to be involved and it’s been a great first season learning more about electric technology.
TPCO: When you made your first steps in Motorsport, had you ever dreamed that you could finish on the podium in a Formula 1 race? How did you feel when you finished second at the German GP in 2008?
NP: Getting the podium in Hockenheim was a great moment; that was in my debut season. In fact, I had the most successful debut season of any Brazilian in Formula One. Then a very hard fought fourth place in Japan later that year was a very good moment.
TPCO: How do you prepare yourself before a race?
NP: I don’t have any kind of superstition or anything special, I just like to be calm and maybe listen to some music.
TPCO: If you could dine with three current/past motorsport drivers who of these would it be and where would the dinner take place?
NP: That’s difficult! I would probably pick my father, James Hunt and maybe Niki Lauda – they would all have some good stories to tell! We could go to a great sushi restaurant.
TPCO :How did you take the decision to go from Formula 1 to NASCAR and then to Formula E? And what difficulties did you face during this journey?
NP: I put all my effort into everything that I do. I love racing and I’ve always loved being diverse in my racing career. Formula One was a part of my life for a few years but I have done a lot since then and I’m loving what I’m doing.
TPCO: In your biography, there are listed lots of victories and podiums finish, which one was the most special for you?
NP: I have had some career highlights that I am very proud of. In Formula 1, highlights were my first podium in Hockenheim 2008, my fourth place finish in Japan 2008 and my sixth in Hungary the same year. Before I reached F1 I had some amazing career moments that I will always remember. I won every championship I raced in go-karts. I was South American F3 champion in 2002, British F3 champion in 2004. I set the record in GP2 for the first driver to have a perfect weekend, scoring the maximum points available, in Hungary 2006. In NASCAR, the highlight has to be the win at Road America in the Nationwide Series last year in only my third NNS start. That was an amazing moment. And then of course the championship win in Formula E was so special. I can’t pick a favourite championship!
TPCO: In 2015, you won the World Title in Formula E, how special was that for you? Do you believe that you can repeat this success?
NP: Becoming World Champion of FIA Formula E is one of my best successes, I think even my best success. My aim is definitely to win another title in the future.
TPCO: Formula E is still something new for most of the motorsport fans, if you could change something in the series what would that be?
NP: What Formula E have done to put together this championship is amazing. If you look at the final in London alone, there were 60,000 people there over the weekend, completely packed with people. Also the achievement of getting races in the city centres of places like Paris and Berlin, and Hong Kong where we are going next season. I can’t imagine what’s it’s going to look like in a few years time. I’m scared of how big this is going to get! We just need to keep moving in the right direction.
TPCO: How difficult is it to drive a NASCAR car, and what are the main differences from the other motorsport series you have raced so far?
NP: When I first starting driving NASCAR it was a big learning curve for me as it was a very different way of driving than I was used to. I had to learn an entirely new discipline. But over the past six years my career has become so diverse with me racing in open wheel, NASCAR, rallycross and sportscars that I don’t have any problem jumping from one car to another. Back in August last year there was a crazy week where I tested the Formula E car on the Monday and Tuesday, tested an IndyCar on Thursday and raced in a Global Rallycross car on Friday and Saturday! And I won the race!
TPCO: Your favourite place for vacations?
NP: Well I lived in Miami for a while but now I live back in Europe. So maybe I would say Miami!
The calendar for 2016 has remained pretty much unchanged. Will you be excited to be starting the season at Brands Hatch?
Joe: I think Brands GP is the best track in the country so it’s a great place to start. The car is strong there as is Lee so should be perfect. I have unfinished business after leading so much of the race only to finish 2nd.
Lee: Brands GP is a fantastic circuit, the BMW loves its as does Joe and I so couldn’t think of a better way to start our 2016 campaign and hopefully we can go one better than last year.
You had a bit of a go in the Blancpain Endurance Series last year. Did you enjoy going out amongst the European teams with Triple Eight?
Lee: Yes and No if I am honest! its a massive step up and probably a step too far for someone of my experience but to have raced in the Spa 24 and at circuits like Monza; its what I started racing for so pleased I did it, I learnt a lot and I’m sure in a couple of years I’ll be back.
Joe: I love the Blancpain Endurance series. I think it’s the most competitive GT series in the world. I personally am back in 2016 with a new team and car. More info TBA.
After a few years driving together you must be used to each other’s bad habits in the garage. What’s the most irritating thing that your team-mate does during a race weekend?
Joe: Just one? Lee always has to have his princess cushion for when he drives which he leaves laying around. I also think he drinks my water but hard to prove because I’m in the car.
Lee: Joe loves a practical joke – these can get a little irritating!
There’s a very open feel around the British GT paddock. Do you speak to any of your rival competitors often?
Lee: There are some fantastic characters on the British GT grid and I like to think I get on with most if not all of them and in general I think we all have a lot of fun. The Championship for half of us at least is a bloody expensive hobby so if you’re not having fun why do it!
Joe: It’s a good atmosphere in the paddock. Racing is hard and fair so it makes it less awkward when you are stood at the urinal and a rival walks in next to you.
What was the funniest thing you saw during the last season?
Lee: There have been a few usually involving a hire car but I guess the egg ambush on the way to Paul Ricard or the water fight we had on the streets of Monza on the way back to our hotel have to be up there. In truth we really should know better.
Salvador Duran is a Mexican driver, born on May 6th, 1985. Salvador had a short career in Karting and in 2003 Duran joined the Formula Dodge National series and finished second in the championship. A year later, 2004, Salvador joined the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the Italian Formula Renault 2.0, he collected 115 points and he finished on the podium three times.
In 2005, Duran took part in the “World Cup of Motorsport” and represented Team Mexico. Salvador celebrated a double win at the US round and finished on the podium three more times.
In 2007, Salvador won the Daytona 24 Hours with Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Pruett for Chip Ganassi Racing. It was the biggest victory of his career.
This season, Duran replaced Katherine Legge and signed a contract with Amlin Aguri. He finished 21st and collected 13 points.
At this point, I would like to thank Salvador Duran for his answers and the time that he spent to answer my questions.. Also, I would like to thank Rosa Elena Torres, Salvador’s PR, for her help. Enjoy!
1-How difficult is it to drive a Formula E car and what makes it different compared with the other cars that you have driven?
SD: What makes really difficult to drive the car is the energy consumption. We have to regenerate a lot of energy and because of this situation; we have to do it with the braking. This means that the breaking gets very unstable. So you never know what to expect of the car in the next corner and the energy consumption is the main difficulty of the car. In fact, the main issue is that we don’t know how much energy we need to finish the race.
2- In 2005 you won the British Formula 3. Did you ever dream at that time that you would drive in a higher series like Formula E?
SD: Yes, of course I had a dream every time. I was always dreaming of driving in a bigger formula, in a higher series and being successful. I’ve never thought about trying to race in a particular series, I was always trying to become a champion. For sure when I won that championship, it made me a lot easier the way for driving in the World Series and A1GP.
3- Formula E is still something new for the fans. If you had the chance to change/improve something in the sport, what would that be?
SD: At the moment, I would say it’s very difficult to judge what I would change, because for being the first season, it has been successful. All the sponsors are really happy to be part of this project. I would say there’s nothing that I would like to change at this moment.
4- How did you feel when you won the Daytona 24 hours? and how was it to drive alongside with Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Pruett?
SD: It was a very special occasion for sure. It’s one of the greatest races in the world.
In that moment I was very young, I had lots of expectations of what to do. Actually, I didn’t have the time to enjoy it as much as I would now, because I was competing in several series and I was trying to be always in the top championships.
At that time, this race was not my goal. When I had the opportunity everything came too quick. I’ve wished I were more mature by that time so I could enjoy it a lot more, but never it’s too late. I still have those memories and I’ve really enjoyed driving those cars under very difficult conditions, because in the middle of the night I remember it was cold and wet. So it was very special for me.
5- Mexico will host a F1 Grand Prix this season. Is your dream to sign a contract with a Formula 1 team and race in your home track?
SD: For sure, it’s an every driver’s dream to sign a contract in F1 and when you have a race in your hometown, of course it’s very special.
At this time in my life, Formula E is the best series for me for the future and right now my dream is to sign another contract for the next season in Formula E.
Therefore, things are changing every single year. Now my priority is Formula E and that’s my dream right now. F1 is something that I would really like to do, but by now as I said for me Formula E is better.
6- Did you ever dream when you were younger that you would drive in Europe?
SD: No, I actually didn’t. When I started racing I was doing soccer as well in a soccer school; so my goal was to become a soccer player. It happened very quickly when my Dad purchased a go-kart for me and I started racing. When I won my first championship in Mexico, they invited me to participate in a formula race in America. I’ve decided to go and participate in two races. They went really well, I’ve had very good results and from there everything went too quick.
I didn’t even have the time to have a dream about that. After the second season I’ve moved to Europe. Then, I’ve realised that I really wanted to become a F1 driver, because I knew what it was needed and I knew that I’d really love to do it.So, not when I was a kid, but when I was around 17 years old, I’ve started to dream about it.
7- Do you know Roberto Duran? What’s your favourite Duran Duran track?
SD: Haha, I don’t actually (know Roberto Duran).My favourite track is difficult to say.I don’t listen too much Duran Duran, but I have very good memories about Duran Duran when Jo Ramirez gave me a CD as present. I remember I’ve listen the CD a lot when I was in Europe, just because it meant a lot for me, because Jo gave it to me.That’s one of my best memories about this.
8- Describe Aguri Suzuki in 3 words.
SD: He’s a charming guy, intelligent and funny.
9- How close are you with your team-mate Antonio Felix da Costa?
SD: We have a very good relationship since a long time ago, when he was doing Formula Renault 2.0 and I was doing the World Series. We are very good friends, we share a lot about the team and the car.I really like him as a person and as a driver I really respect him a lot. He is quick, he’s young and he’s very smart in how he does the energy consumption. He has a lot of experience on this and he does it very well.
10-What do you miss the most from Mexico and how often do you go back?
SD: I miss everything. I really love my country. I love everything about it: Food, people, weather. I like everything. I try to go as much as I can. As soon as I have enough time, I go back to Mexico.
11- Talking about Mexican culture now. Mariachi is quite famous in Mexico. Have you ever sung with them to propose to a woman?
SD: That’s a very unique and difficult question to answer, because that’s something very personal. So, I will pass on that one and talking about mariachi, I really love it. I love Mexican music. Actually that’s the kind of music that I listen the most. Mariachi not so much, but I like it a lot. I listen a lot of ‘banda’ and I really, really love all the Mexican culture.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
MF: … Until I crashed
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.
What’s been the funniest thing you’ve seen this season?
TBC – (we hope you’ve got something good lined up for us by the end of the year guys – Pete)
What’s the strangest complaint you’ve ever heard a driver make about a car?
NH: After about four races in, Jon suddenly decided that the roll bar padding was banging on his helmet. But it had been there ever since we’ve owned the car and he never moaned about it before so we had to address that situation
JB: Steering wheel not being straight every time I get in the car (Jon has slight OCD.)
You’re currently in Britcar Endurance with the Vantage GT4, driven by Mika and Chris Brown. Will you be looking to step up to British GT with the GT4 in 2016 if the rest of this year goes to plan?
NH: I don’t think that they’ll be doing that. I think they just want to do some club stuff rather than a championship.
How difficult is it running all of your GT3, GT4 and Historic efforts?
NH: It’s fine because the dates don’t clash at the moment apart from when we’re at Donington and Goodwood for the revival which are on the same weekend but we’ve got that covered so I think that’s fine. As long as we’ve got dates early in the diary we can work around it. Even if it’s different race events and the team needs to be split, like we’ve had to get more people in to run the DB4GT at Goodwood in a couple of weeks when we’re at Donington for British GT too, but we can cope with it. What is a bit of a strain is when the cars have incidents, especially if you get two or three cars having accidents at the same time like we did in June with the GT3 incident at Silverstone and the GT4 at Le Mans Aston Martin Festival. It obviously stretches your resources a little bit but we’ve got three of us in the workshop full time now, so it’s better now.
After the car has suffered an accident, how hard is it to keep the team motivated and try and get it fixed?
NH: Well we just get the car fixed for the next round anyway, it’s all about get it fixed as quick as possible and get it back on track so that we can learn from the mistakes and see to move forward and hopefully not make them again.
Where is the team’s favourite place to go racing, and which circuit do you find the most challenging?
JB: Spa was good.
MF: Yeah, Spa was good.
NH: I like Spa. My favourite is Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
MF: Brands Hatch is quite challenging.
NH: I like it for everything, but I like it from a spectator’s point of view as well. You can actually see some racing out back rather than just the pit straight. I like the fact you’re all in one area, it’s quite compact. I think Brands Hatch is my favourite circuit.
MF: We had a good result at Brands, but Brands is one of the most challenging because the consequences of crashing are quite high. You’ve got to be very careful in those high speed turns with severe consequences if you get it wrong – that keeps you on edge. Same in that respect as Oulton Park, a very high consequence circuit – very demanding and technical. So yeah those are probably the favourites.
JB: Most challenging is probably this weekend. We came here and had a good test session at here Snet two weeks ago, thought we’d made a massive step forward with the car, especially after Brands where the car was a little bit difficult to drive. We thought we’d come here this weekend having had a really positive test with a car that was going to work well but you turn up at a race weekend and the car handled completely differently partly due to different weather conditions so we’ve been a bit on the back foot this weekend because we thought we were in a good place but instead we’ve had a lot of work to do – so this weekend so far has probably been the most challenging and most disappointing in terms of our pace.
How does the team like to relax after a hard weekend?
JB: I like to go home, chill out and watch Netflix, and eat some nice food before getting ready to go back for another week of work at Jaguar
MF: I like to do the same. Except I don’t have to work at Jaguar. And I don’t have Netflix. And I’ve got a couple of kids who are running around and taking places
NH: We don’t, we’ll be back in the workshop first thing in the morning putting these cars right again, it’s just a constant stream at the moment until we finish the season.
Who’s the biggest joker in the team, and who is the biggest “diva”?
JB: Nathan and Nigel (the team’s tyre specialist) are definitely the two biggest jokers without a doubt.
NH: Biggest diva’s got to be Stuart hasn’t it?
JB: Yeah! We have a few little hissy fits, don’t we – every now and again from our engineer, so that’s probably it.
When was the last time the boss made tea?
MF: I made tea yesterday!
NH: That’s right, Mark made tea when he arrived! I’ve never had a drink that Jon’s made – ever!
JB: I don’t make drinks. (to NH: What about you? When was the last time you boiled the kettle?)
NH: I always boil the kettle!
JB: Yeah, he always boils the kettle, he just doesn’t finish them off!
NH: That’s what I do. I say “Anyone want a drink? Right I’ll put the kettle on!” Fill it up with water, put it on and walk off! It’s done.
What is the team’s greatest accomplishment?
NH: Probably leading the race at Silverstone which was only our third race in our first season in British GT
JB: Yeah, that was a good one. Leading the race by over two minutes.
Does the team have a long term goal to go racing in Europe, say in the Blancpain Series or even in ELMS or WEC GT categories?
NH: Europe? No nothing as yet.
JB: We’ve got the conquer the British GT championship first before we look to do anything else.
If you could hire any driver to accompany your GT3 drivers for a “perfect” line up in a 24 hour race, who would you pick?
JB: Jonny Adam. I think you’d always try and hire the guy with the most experience of the car and the quickest guy driving this car which at the moment is Jonny Adam.
What would be the dream car addition to the 22GT stable?
MF: McLaren? BMW? Probably a BMW would be the next choice
JB: Yeah, although the new Aventador looks awesome, dunno how well it would go
NH: Probably a Fiat 500 because I think they’d be really easy to mend… and really cheap!
JB: You think so?
MF: Hmm… Not great on pace though
NH: Not if you were racing against Fiat 500s it wouldn’t be? Erm no, I don’t know to be fair. I like the look of the new Lamborghinis – they look pretty cool.
It’s time to get the takeaway in! Chinese or Indian?
JB: Chinese! Overruled.
Movie night: “Rush” or “Le Mans”?
JB: Yeah, Rush.
In a pleasing twist to this tale – following answering our Q&A the team DID manage to score their first British GT podium finish on the flood plains of Snetterton that weekend! Whilst we at The Pit Crew Online don’t wish to take any credit for this, we would like to think the team went out there with a big enough smile on their faces to go out and gain third place in race 2. We’d like to thank Nathan, Jon and Mark for answering our questions. Thanks also to Rosie and Merill at the team who have been really kind in getting us the chance to have this interview with the team, and providing us with photos for this article too! We wish the team the best of luck for the rest of this year, and the next!
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?
Q) X-Box or 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.
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.
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?
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.
We managed to get hold of a Team Lotus member from the 1960s – Tony Rudlin, himself a racing driver at one time, who was team manager for the Formula 2 effort at Lotus, and got to see the very best and worst of the great marque during changing times for the team! We asked him a few questions about his time there and the team itself.
Q: How much of a revelation to the team was the Cosworth engine?
Tony Rudlin (TR): Cosworth was God. Well Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth were. Keith was more stay at home and get on with the job while Mike liked to get into the factory and work alongside mechanics and Team Managers. My best moment? A flight in Mike’s Bell Helicopter.
Q: Do you think that Colin Chapman would have approved of the technological leaps in modern F1?
TR: I think CC would have been bemused by the way Grand Prix is run these days. His idea of racing was you got a driver who showed promise, Peterson, Fittipaldi etc, and build a car calculated to win races and fall to pieces on the finishing line. He had very little time for politics and, until Jimmy Clark hit the tree, even less time for the safety aspects of racing. And he would have gone potty about all the stupid in-car instruction from non-drivers in the pits.
Q: Which driver for Team Lotus did you most enjoy working alongside?
TR: What do you mean by who was the most accessible? Jack Oliver was OK but a bit obsessive, Clark was quiet and friendly and Graham Hill could be a bit gritty if things weren’t going right. For instance, Montjuich 1968. Race Control had forgotten to order a little thing like fuel. Jack was stressed, Clark didn’t even seem to notice, Graham made arrangements to siphon fuel from road cars. And Chapman? He was obsessed by why his cars weren’t the fastest in practice.
Q: What do you think was the biggest leap forward you saw for Grand Prix racing during your time as manager?
TR: Painting the cars in sponsors colours instead of colours associated with their home country? I think I’m right in saying that Player’s (the tobacco company which produced Gold Leaf) gave Lotus £50,000 for the first year’s sponsorship and they didn’t know what to do with it. But I think the sexiest car to ever exit the pits was the Lotus 72E.
Q: Is it true that Graham Hill held the best post race parties?
TR: Graham Hill was always a party waiting to happen. I remember one party, from my fading memory I pluck Enna as the venue, after Graham, slightly smashed, jumped on a long table and shimmied along it. Half way along he went down on one knee for dramatic effect. When he stood up the stem of a wine glass was jutting from his knee. It didn’t faze him until I pointed it out. He simply pulled it out and went on with the dance. (Read MR MONACO. Graham Hill Remembered By Tony Rudlin. Often cited as the worst book ever written about Motor Racing.)
Q: Did you prefer the British Racing Green or Gold Leaf colours?
TR: I’m afraid – neither. The green and yellow was a mite old fashion and the red and white too garish. I plump for the Black and Gold of the 72.
We’d like to thank Tony for taking the time to answer our questions for Lotus Week!