Ginetta give boost to aspiring drivers as GRDC provides first step to reaching motorsport dreams
At a time where paid drivers are displacing elite racers at the highest level of motor racing, it feels like the boyhood dream of emulating Jim Clarke, James Hunt, Lewis Hamilton and the likes is disappearing evermore into the distance.
But in British manufacturer Ginetta, different paths are opening up for aspiring racers of all ages, genders and differing levels of experience. Any fan of the British Touring Car Championship will be well aware of the Ginetta name, with both the G55 and G40 championships following the circuit as support races, while the marque has made an impression on prototype racing as well.
Entry level motorsport is daunting for everyone, as no matter how much preparation and training a driver undertakes before their first race, nothing can replicate the emotions that are experienced when the lights go out for the first time.
But having someone, or rather something, that can smooth over the start of that journey is hugely beneficial, and as Ginetta CEO Lawrence Tomlinson tells the Independent, drivers get up to speed in to time when they have a boost up to the first rung of the ladder.
“I remember the first year we did the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club, [Ginetta professional driver] Mike Simpson drove a car to the collecting area to take them through the paddock and they were all like little ducklings following one another,” Tomlinson recalls when we meet at the Ginetta launch day at Brands Hatch circuit. “We lost one in the GT paddock and had to go get him!
“We got them on the grid and it’s really quite daunting, I mean I can still remember my first race and you need help to get through it and enjoy it, and Ginetta offers all that support around it, it takes away the mystery and takes away all the fear. People get really, really nervous, and we look after all the cars in GRDC Plus which is good, so basically you pump the tyres up, say ‘you’re alright, calm down’.
“When they did the first race, they had a green flag lap and four of them set off and thought the race had started, it literally is that level and the race starts and it’s the most gentlemanly racing to start with I’ve seen. They go round the first corner and into the first hairpin at Rockingham and it’s all ‘oh no after you, come through, I’ll indicate right and move over’ but by the time they got to the third race it’s all very competitive and people start to take their passenger seats out because it’s lighter and they’re finding all kind of ways to enhance performance to the limit.”
The Ginetta system offers two different entry levels for aspiring drivers – one through the Ginetta Racing Drivers Club and the other through their Juniors programme that sees teenagers as young as 14 race on the BTCC programme in the G40s.
Once a few years are under the belt, drivers can move on be it with Ginetta and their GT4, GT3 or Prototype championships, or with other categories that tend to lead to either Formula One or the World Endurance Championship.
Even the mention of those two championship can seem too much for many amateur drivers, but that’s where Le Mans winner Tomlinson and the GRDC come in. The G40 can be used as both a race car and legal road car, bringing down the sometimes enormous cost that motorsport requires, and the cars are looked after by Ginetta to ensure all drivers have to worry about is going racing.
“The package we have is about £33,000 to buy a car and become a racing driver and have your first season in motorsport,” adds Tomlinson. “You’ve got a car at the end of it that you can use. It’s a real mix of people who want to drive on a grand prix circuit or they came here in 1980 or 90 and saw [Nigel] Mansell going around the Brand Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
“It’s very difficult to get into motor racing, so what Ginetta do is take someone’s hand and say ‘do you want to be a racing driver?’ and they say ‘yes I want to do this and this and this’ and we just talk about where they want to go and it’ll be: do a track day with them, another track day, we’ll put them through the driving licence.”
The Ginetta season got underway last weekend at Brands Hatch with three races for the G55s and two for the G40s – which will have been the first race in a Ginetta for many on the grid. Needless to say, the action was non-stop with everyone out to impress and lay down a marker, with both Stuart Middleton and David Wooder impressing. With another nine rounds to go in the championship culminating back at Brands Hatch, why not take a look and prepare to start your own journey through the motorsport ranks.