I’m now two weeks into the month-and-a-half long journey that the Team USA Scholarship has afforded me and wow, a lot has happened since my last blog.
We’ve spent a good many days at a variety of tracks with the Ammonite Motorsport crew, with a race meeting at Castle Combe, testing at Pembrey Circuit and then at Snetterton Circuit. I couldn’t be happier with how well everyone has gelled together. Andy Low and the whole team have been incredibly professional and yet made us feel like family.
Our warmup race weekend at Castle Combe and test days have proved to be invaluable, helping us get a better understanding of how this car is different compared to that in the States.
It has been a fun challenge to hop in and learn the characteristics of the Avon tire, and even though the chassis are made to the same formula they are a lot more different than I expected. The car is much more lively and reactive than anything I’ve driven before. The racing rules are also quite different, as a lot of the moves you can make in the UK might be considered too aggressive in the US. Being able to get the elbows out has been an interesting change.
Although we spent almost the entire time testing the first week, it went by in an instant. Then Thomas returned to the US to finish up his race series, and that left William and me a bit of time to relax in preparation for the Formula Ford Festival, be tourists, and to take in the UK in more depth.
Our first outing took us to Brands Hatch for the British Touring Car Championship. Obviously my primary goal in being here is to race and to get the best result possible for Team USA and its partners at the Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy events coming up within the next weeks, but a personal goal is to take in and learn as much as I can while over here. I can confidently say that so far I have learned more about driving and what comes along with a career in motorsports than in all my years past. But back to the goings on at the BTCC at Brands.
Thanks to Tom Arron and Colin Mann at MotorSport Vision, we were able to get tickets to the final round of the British Touring Car Championship. What an experience it was – not only were we able to watch some amazing racing from the touring cars, but also from the support series including Porsche Super Cup Britain, Ginetta Cup, Mini Challenge, and British F4. We were fortunate enough to get a tour around, and now have a better perspective on the ins and outs of a truly professional series. It was eye opening to see behind the scenes what goes into creating a motorsport spectacle and an amazing spectator event.
Sunday was one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at a race. The grandstands and venue were jam-packed, and the atmosphere of the event stood out to me. I’ve always heard about British racing fans, but it is incredible how much energy the whole place had. The final bit which intrigued me was that it was some of the most entertaining racing I’ve ever seen. Every lap was bumping and banging from the front of the field to the tail end. Never was there time to take your eyes off of it because as soon as you looked away the order was completely different.
After the BTCC, we had a few days to enjoy the local scene back in Milton Keynes, and then on Wednesday we packed up in preparation for a day out in London. We made sure to hit as many of the major tourist spots as we could. Getting to see places such as Buckingham Palace, Horse Guards Parade, the British Museum, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben lets you appreciate the history of the city and the beautiful architecture that is strung throughout.
One of the best parts of touring around Soho and the more “real” London places, is that you get to see the differences in culture and have the opportunity to take in what the people of London experience everyday. I was truly amazed by everything that the city had to offer, and then it was back on the train to Milton Keynes.
This weekend William and I were off again, this time to the GB3 and British GT finale at Donington Park, which was made possible for us again by the kind folks at MSV media that are providing us passes and hospitality. It was awesome to get a taste of what GB3 has to offer and be able to visit Max Esterson and Bryce Aron – former Team USA Scholarship winners who are now racing in the series – and to get another chance to watch some amazing British racing.
And then in just a few days’ time, we’ll be immersed in the preparations for the Formula Ford Festival. I cannot wait to experience for myself the thrill of racing and the energy of the British race fans from the other side.
All my best from the UK, Elliott