Charles Rainford: From History to the Modern World of Racing

Charles Rainford was a rookie Pro-Am driver for CCK Motorsport in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB for 2021 as well as racing at Le Mans for the Porsche Sprint Challenge France. However, the 23 hasn’t taken what is considered the ‘usual’ route to the series.

(Image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios)

“Dad bought my brother James and I go karts when I was 7 for our birthdays. We went testing a couple times at Bayford Meadows and seemed to be quite quick. But we approached the subject of racing and my mum said not yet so unfortunately was not able to race karts when I was young. She agreed that I could race cars when I was old enough to have my full race licence at 16.”

On his way to his racing licence Charles gained a passion for teaching ‘’I used to play guitar and was a dancer, both of which I also taught. I just enjoy teaching things and I really wanted to be an instructor.” And before long he passion for racing and teaching collided.

He continued, “I had been racing for a couple of years at this point and then raced at the Legends of Brands Hatch SuperPrix in 2017. The next morning the chief instructor [at Brands Hatch] Pete Alexander called me to come in and look at doing my instructor’s course. Brands hatch and MSV sponsored my licence, so now I can work at every circuit in the UK as an ARDS ‘A’ instructor.”

Having raced for a few years and now a driver instructor, it was a race at Goodwood Revival which started the ball rolling, “We came 2nd in a Volvo PV544 which was a really good weekend for us. A couple days later I got a call from Peter Dignan at Piston Heads and they were running a ford KA in MSVR Enduro KA series. They asked me if I wanted to join and of course I jumped at it! Racing a standard road going Ford KA, it was amazing fun, absolutely awesome!”

Volvo PV544 at Goodwood (image courtesy of CCK Historic)

He impressed by finishing in the top 5 at Snetterton and was asked to compete at Brands Hatch completing a 500 mile endurance race into a cold November night. Having had the roof of his car damaged in qualifying after another car rolled on top of it, his team worked through the night to get their KA in shape for race day. Charles started the race having been the quickest among his teammates.

“We got helped out by safety cars within the first hour. We would get 2 laps running and then a safety car, 2 laps, safety car, but in that time I was able to make up enough places to go from 47th on the grid, to 1st.” Being the first hour, Charles and the team achieved this without anyone completing a pitstop, meaning it was just pure pace.

He continued, “We manged to go on and finish 2nd in that race, so it was good. And from that I got more recognition from that first hour of driving than I had my entire racing career in historics even being on the podium at Goodwood so from that we knew that we had to move into modern racing.”

It didn’t take long for the team to decide where their next venture would be “We knew that we had to go onto the BTCC support paddock because it’s the place to be, it’s on live television. The racing is very competitive with all the different series and all the different cars.”

When it came to purchasing a car a Ginetta and Porsche were very available at Brands Hatch, but one series stood out. “There’s something about a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car that is just so appealing. They sound fantastic and go so quick around the lap. We decided to try and buy a Porsche and thankfully got accepted into the championship.”

Charles and the team (Image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios)

2021 was set for Charles and the team at CCK Motorsport, but he was not expecting much from his rookie season, “I went testing for the first time early March, it was a cold but dry day at Snetterton and at first I couldn’t even get the car out of the pit lane. I was going down the pitlane, turned the pit limiter off and literally the car was wheel spinning in every single gear, I had no throttle control.”

But by the end of the season Charles and the team had racked up 5 wins in the Pro-Am class. “There was lots to learn with strategy, tyres and racing the cars. But if you had said after that first day we would win the most number of races in that year and could have won the championship we would have been like absolutely no way! It’s just incredible for my first season as a driver and for us as a team really, it couldn’t have gone much better.”

He does have a favourite of those wins, “For the Carrera Cup GB, race 2 at Brands GP. The car just felt so good, we were on pace with the Pros, and it was the first time all year that we properly out classed the rest of the Pro-Ams. I had Ryan Ratcliffe behind me who had just won the championship. I was pulling a gap, by a couple of tenths every lap by not even trying. So yeah, that’s definitely my favourite race of the year.”

In the action for Charles (Image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios)

The opportunities continued to arrive for Charles, with one of the defining moments being an invitation to the Porsche Sprint Challenge France support race at Le Mans. ‘’I was in 55th during the start of practice 1 but I was learning the track, focused on every single apex and braking zone before, with about 10 minutes left, I decided to see what I could do.’’

He began to climb up the field. Charles was putting what he learnt into practice. ‘’Back at the pit wall, the team thought, ‘’he’s coming round awfully quick,’’ and when they gazed up at the timing screens, they couldn’t find me initially expecting me to be near the bottom. After triple checking I was 2nd overall in practice! We qualified 4 seconds faster than anyone in our class and from this point I knew if I don’t win this race it will be a massively lost opportunity.”

Ford Chicane at Le Mans (Image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios)

Sunday morning and the race was on, “straight away I managed to pull a big gap. I was battling with a 992 and 911 R which was fun, they’d always disappear on the straights and I would catch them again on the brakes in the corners. It was nice because I couldn’t even see the car behind me, there was a massive gap. I was just in the rhythm, driving round managed to actually win the race!”

Podium at Le Mans (Image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios)

It’s been an incredible first year racing full time in modern cars, it was hard for Charles to pick a highlight. “If I’m honest it’s the whole thing isn’t it, the whole year has been a highlight and a big learning curve for me. Every circuit was fantastic for its own reasons, every weekend had massive positives in it, even if we hadn’t done that well it was still always really big positives to take from each weekend so the growth I think has to be a big highlight for me.”

Next year the Porsche Carrera Cup GB will see the retirement of the 911 991 GT3 Cup car as they switch to the 992. Charles has already had the opportunity to test the 992 “It was fantastic, I know it is a completely different car, but it feels like a completely different car. So much has changed on it, the driving style is nowhere near close to what you need for the old car.”

Charles and the team are looking for next season to be onwards and upwards, “At the moment the plan is to do the Porsche Carrera Cup GB next year, currently working on trying to get sponsors for the championship and trying to buy the new car. From there try and find the package and get some winter testing in. But looking for some sponsors to join us for next year to try and make it all possible.”

For Charles, after a successful year he has proven it was the right decision to go into modern racing. Should he be able to compete in the Pro-Am class again he will be able to put his year of experience to good use, to improve on last season results. 2022 could be filled with huge opportunities for the young talent and his team, it’s just a matter of time.

Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Silverstone (Image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios)

Feature image courtesy of Gun Hill Studios

Six Of The Best: BSB Nuggets

As the countdown to the 2020 Bennett’s British Superbike Season ticks towards the series roaring into life at Donington Park on August 7th, here are a few fun facts about the series’ history for you to wow your mates with down the pub when taking in a (socially distanced) cold one.  Each fact is relevant to its numerical position in the list.

1. The Birth Of The Championship 

The British Superbike Championship (BSB) can trace its origins back to 1988 at the start of the Superbike racing boom, which coincided with the inaugural World Superbike Championship season.

The first BSB season was contested under Formula TT rules with race number one taking place in May 1988 at the Carnaby track on the site of a former RAF base near Bridlington in East Yorkshire. The first race winner was Darren Dixon who piloted his Suzuki RG500 all the way to the first championship title later in the year.

Dixon went on to become a star in the field of sidecar racing, winning the World Sidecar Championship in 1995 and 1996. Dixon’s son Jake came second in the 2018 BSB Championship and now competes in Moto2.

2. Always The Bridesmaid 

Fact number two refers to the second position in the BSB Championship achieved by Chris ‘Stalker’ Walker four years on the trot between 1997 and 2000.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking of these second placed finishes came at the climax of the 2000 season. With just three laps remaining in the final race, Walker led the pack only for his engine to fail on him. Despite trying desperately to reignite his machine, the mechanical problem allowed title rival Neil Hodgson to overtake Walker not just in the race but overall in the championship.

3. Niall’s Treble Triumph 

They say three is the magic number and it certainly was for Niall Mackenzie who became the most dominant rider of the 1990s, taking the BSB title three years in a row in 1996, 1997 and 1998.

Riding on the spectacular Cadbury’s Boost Yamaha team—run by former Grand Prix rider Rob McElnea—Mackenzie racked up 14 wins over the course of the 1997 season. This record was only bettered by Leon Camier with 19 during his dominant 2009 title win, and only Shane Byrne has won more BSB titles than the super Scot.

The Mackenzie name lives on as Niall’s sons Tarran and Taylor both now compete in the BSB and Superstock championships respectively.

4. Champions From Afar 

Over the course of British Superbike history, there have been four riders from outside the UK and Ireland who have finished the season top of the pile.

The first was Australian Troy Bayliss who piloted his GSE Ducati 996 to the 1999 title before going on to win a hat-trick of championships in World Superbikes. Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla only got his ride aboard the Airwaves Ducati 999 just days before the start of the 2005 season as a substitute for the injured James Haydon, but ended the season as champion after surprising many and holding off the challenge of the Honda riders and team-mate Leon Haslam.

Ryuichi Kiyonari became the first Japanese rider to claim the BSB title when he prevailed at the end of the dramatic 2006 championship decider at Brands Hatch. ‘Kiyo’ repeated the feat in 2007 and then after a spell in World Superbikes returned in 2010 to make it a hat-trick of titles all aboard the HM Plant Honda CBR1000RR FireBlade.

The most recent foreigner to win the British championship was Australian King of the Cadwell Park Mountain Josh Brookes who won his first (and to date only) BSB crown aboard the Milwaukee Yamaha R1 in 2015.

5. Rockin’ All Over The World 

Five British Superbike riders (including two former champions) have gone on to win the World Superbike crown after making the move from the domestic series.

As mentioned earlier, Troy Bayliss won the British title in 1999 before going on to add the World crown on three occasions in 2001, 2008 and 2009. Lancashire rider Neil Hodgson capitalised on Chris Walker’s dramatic engine failure in the final race of the 2000 season to win the BSB title aboard the GSE Ducati 996 (same bike ridden by Bayliss the previous year) and then conquered the world in 2003.

James Toseland rode the Paul Bird-backed Vimto Honda VTR1000 during the 2000 BSB season before moving up to the World Championship, winning the global crown on two occasions in 2004 and aboard the HannSpree Ten Kate Honda in 2007.

In the same year that Toseland bagged his second World Championship, Tom Sykes made his BSB debut aboard the Stobart Vent-Axia Honda FireBlade. After a year with Rizla Suzuki in 2008, Sykes made the step up to WSBK with Yamaha Moto Italia. Four years after making his World Championship debut in 2013, Sykes won his maiden title aboard the Kawasaki Racing Team ZX-10R.

Perhaps the most successful rider to have won the WSBK title after making his debut in BSB is none other than Jonathan Rea. After making his bow aboard the Red Bull Honda FireBlade in 2006 and then eventually stepping up to the factory HM Plant Honda team for 2007, finishing second in the championship behind team-mate Ryuichi Kiyonari, Rea made the move to World Supersport for 2008. After eventually making the step up to the WSBK Championship in 2009, Rea went on to record five successive World Championships between 2015 and 2019, becoming the most successful rider in the history of the series.

6. Shakey’s Supremacy 

We couldn’t mention this number without making reference to the six British Superbike titles won by the most successful rider in the championship’s history, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne.

Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne At BSB Oulton Park 2017. Image courtesy of Ducati

The first of Byrne’s titles came aboard the Monstermob Ducati 998 in 2003 before spells in World Superbikes and Moto GP. After returning to the British series in 2006 with Rizla Suzuki and Stobart Vent-Axia Honda in 2007, another ride aboard a Ducati (this time the 1098) yielded his second championship in 2008.

Following another brief stint in the World Superbike Championship and then a return to BSB with HM Plant Honda, Byrne reunited with former team boss Paul Bird in 2012 and netted his third British title the same year aboard the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, repeating the trick in 2014. After the PBM team switched to a factory backed BeWiser Ducati Panigale 1199, Byrne notched another two back to back titles in 2016 and 2017.

Another rider will have to go a long way to depose Shane Byrne’s place in the BSB history books.

Those are our top six facts from BSB history. We look forward to seeing what the 2020 season can add to that when we hit Donington Park on August 7th.

Featured Image courtesy of Ducati

Jamie Chadwick: W Series Champion 2019 – An Exclusive PitCrew Interview

It has only been a few days since 21-year-old Jamie Chadwick claimed the first ever W Series title, but the notion of being champion is still very surreal for her.

Jamie started karting at 11 years old before competing in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2013. She then moved into the British GT Championship in 2015 and won the GT4 class, before moving to single-seaters in 2017 racing in BRDC British Formula 3.

2019 has been an incredibly successful year for the young Brit who has won the MRF Challenge, the 24h Nurburgring race and now the W Series title. It seems that nothing can stop her.

After finishing fourth at Brands Hatch and securing enough points to win the championship title, we talked to Jamie about her W Series journey and how much she has achieved this season.

W Series Media

Kirsty Campbell: We’ve reached the finale in the first season of W Series. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable watching you drive this year. How are you feeling about becoming champion?
Jamie Chadwick: Honestly, it’s all a bit overwhelming at the moment. Not sunk in at all. I’m sure it will do soon! But at the moment, I’m just elated, really, really happy. A lot of hard work has gone into this year, so to have it all come together and be crowned as champion is an awesome feeling.

KC: You’ve managed to score three pole positions, five podiums and two wins. You must be proud of what you’ve managed to achieve this season. How has your team and family’s support helped you through the highs and the lows?
JC: It’s been awesome. As the year goes, it’s been a fantastic year. Obviously the championship is the highlight, but the whole build up and the actual season has been incredible. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had a lot of support this year, a lot of people around me working very hard to help me progress and make the dream a reality. It’s been an incredible year. As the year’s gone on I’ve been lucky to have the introduction of support from Williams, which has made a big difference, and also Aston Martin. I’ve been very, very lucky, so it’s nice to have that rewarded and share it all with them.

KC: What has been the most challenging aspect of your W Series experience, and in contrast, what as been your favourite moment this season?
JC: I’d say the most challenging race was definitely that last Brands Hatch race. The most challenging aspect overall is probably the fact that it’s not like a normal racing environment where you have your own team, your own independence—you’re sharing everything, you’re travelling together, you’re swapping cars each weekend, nothing’s off limits to anyone else. You’re teammates but racing against each other effectively, so I would say that’s definitely made it quite tough. I’d say the highlight was either the Hockenheim pole or the Brands Hatch pole, and I say that because both situations I felt like that was when the pressure was really on, so to deliver pole position both of those times was a big highlight.

KC: You’ve been neck and neck with Beitske Visser all season. Would you say that this rivalry has helped push your driving skills to the limit?
JC: Yeah, 100%. For sure, when you’re working in that close proximity you find yourself pushing each other along quite a lot and definitely she’s pushed me this year to make sure I’m maximising every race, every result. I think the other drivers as well, some of them that came on strong at the end of the year, also kept us honest. But Beitske for the whole year has been the one that’s been pushing me hard, so it’s been a tough year to maintain the lead over her, and fortunately I managed to do it.

W Series Media

KC: Do you feel that W Series is the way forward for female racers in this industry? Do you think it is the right stepping stone for women who want to progress into the more established classes?
JC: Yeah, definitely. What W Series is doing is offering a platform for drivers to progress, a platform that a lot of us wouldn’t have otherwise had. So I think that now we’re seeing 20 female racing drivers, racing in Formula 3 cars at a high level, it’s giving them a much greater opportunity to feed into the higher levels of motorsport later on. For me this provided the perfect platform, the perfect stepping stone, so it hopefully do the same for others.

KC: 2019 has been quite a year for you with winning the MRF Challenge and the 24h Nürburgring win, and of course, winning the W Series title. The dream for you, as stated in a Guardian article earlier this month, is to race in Formula One. How did you feel when you got the call about becoming the developmental driver for Williams? Do you see yourself racing in Formula One in the near future?
JC: Absolutely. It was a huge moment getting that call. I think every driver wants to be into Formula One, so to get that first step on the ladder and the first association as a development driver really is a dream come true. You just have to look at some of the drivers that have come through their young driver programme to know it’s a great place to be for any young driver, and for me I feel very much the same. It’s the first step into what will hopefully be a much bigger step in the future.

KC: Which drivers in Formula One (past or present) have influenced you the most in your racing career?
JC: Good question. I’d say maybe from the past—although not so long ago—Alonso’s definitely influenced me. More because I like the way he wants to go and race in a lot of different things. You know, last year he was racing in Le Mans, Daytona, quite a lot of different championships. The fact that he’s open to doing all sorts of different racing is something that inspires me. And present, I’m not too sure. Definitely Hamilton, the way that he’s driving is incredible at the moment.

KC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into motor racing?
JC: I would say, just get involved. Don’t let anything stop you. It’s a great sport, I’ve loved every minute of it even though I fell into it by accident. It’s a fantastic sport. I’d say work hard, learn from everyone and anything that you can, go get involved!

KC. Do you think you will be returning to the series next year or do you have other plans?
JC: I’m not 100% too sure yet in terms of next year. But I think it’s a great series, it’s a great opportunity. For sure if I can do another season with them, potentially collect some superlicence points next year and get another season of experience, hopefully that will set me on on my way and in good stead for a few years to come.

Interview conducted by James Matthews.

Chadwick crowned W Series champion as Powell takes maiden victory

All eyes were on the two championship leaders at Brands Hatch today as the first ever W Series season came to a close.

The British crowd were certainly in good spirits, waving flags and cheering on the five British drivers in the field, including the championship leader, Jamie Chadwick.

21-year-old Chadwick sat at the top of the scoreboard going into the last race, having scored two pole positions, five podiums and two victories, amounting to 98 points. Beitske Visser, Chadwick’s closest rival in the championship standings, had achieved three podiums and one victory.

Both Chadwick and Visser have fought neck and neck throughout the year which has fuelled a vast amount of anticipation and excitement going into the season finale, with their fight for the W Series crown going right down to the wire.

W Series Media

Qualifying took place on Sunday morning which ended in a close battle between Chadwick and Alice Powell in the fight for pole position, with Powell initially setting the pace. Chadwick responded and set a blistering lap in the final seconds of the session, setting a laptime of 1:22.425, which placed her on pole.

Powell finished the session in P2 with Esmee Hawkey giving a stunning performance in P3, giving the home crowd something to cheer about. Chadwick’s closest rival Visser finished the session in P5 behind Emma Kimiläinen.

Chadwick had a good start as the lights went out, but Hawkey stalled in her grid box, and as a result ended up at the back of the field. Powell kept second place as Kimiläinen moved up to third, with Visser in fourth place. Fabienne Wohlwend lined up in fifth followed by Vicky Piria, Jess Hawkins, Sarah Moore, Sabre Cook and Marta Garcia rounding out the top ten.

Japanese driver Miki Koyama received a drive through penalty after parking her car over her pit box line after the formation lap, and as a result, ended up in last place. Hawkey also received a drive through penalty for stalling at the start.

W Series Media

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Powell and Kimiläinen were closing up to championship leader, the trio within half a second of each other.

Chadwick suddenly came under pressure from Powell and Kimiläinen, and in an exciting three-way scrap, Chadwick lost the lead to Powell and went down to third place ahead of Visser.

With 14 minutes remaining, Powell and Kimiläinen were running five seconds ahead of Chadwick, who was battling hard with Visser to keep her podium position.

Kimiläinen drew within 0.3 seconds of race leader Powell as yellow flags were waved when Koyama spun and stalled her car at Sterling Bend. As a result, the safety car came out and bunched up the pack, making for a thrilling restart with six minutes to go.

Powell pulled away as the safety car went back into the pits, Kimiläinen following on close behind with Chadwick and Visser scrapping for the final podium spot. Visser took third with less than three minutes remaining, and Chadwick then fell into the clutches of Fabienne Wohlwend as she seemed to lose some significant pace.

W Series Media

Powell finished an absolutely flawless race to take her maiden W Series victory with Kimiläinen taking second place. Visser took the final podium spot, but all eyes were on Chadwick who crossed the line in fourth to be crowned the first ever W Series Champion. Chadwick will also receive $500,000 in prize money, with the remaining fund of $1m to be split between the other drivers.

The 2019 season has been extremely exciting and very refreshing to watch. The series sparked much controversy when it was initially announced in October last year, with many criticising it for ‘female segregation’. However, the series has triumphed beyond expectations and has promoted a new and exciting era of racing.

Women in motorsport are taking a firm step forward, and the W Series is helping female drivers’ ambitions to progress into more established series possible. In turn, it is also helping to inspire the next generation of young female racers. W Series is just the beginning of bigger and better things for women in motorsport.

W Series Media