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Phil Ingrams want2race Blog #1 - Life as want2race champion

Welcome to the first of a sequence of blogs I’ll be writing to record my first season of racing, the

prize for winning the Want2Race competition. There’s probably no better place to start than the

final day of the competition on that rainy October day at Bedford. Having made it through to the

final day it was starting to enter my mind that I could actually win it. Prior to that I was very much of

the view that the competition was a good way to get some track time & tuition with an instructor

and if I won then great, if not then at least I’d learn a bit more for when I took up car racing myself

one day.

My job as a vehicle dynamics engineer has got me on track a few times, where I would typically tune

the ride, handling & stability control systems of a car. It’s different to racing though in that the track

is normally a relatively quiet proving ground, you probably have a lap top strapped to the passenger

seat, you often don’t need to drive flat out, certainly not for very long when you do and then there’s

all the forms to fill in if you bin it or break it. True racing, the kind where you engage in noisy, smelly,

knife-edge adrenaline fuelled combat is something I’ve only done previously in Karts, successfully in

Club100 & averagely in Easykart. As Ayrton Senna once said Karting is “Pure Racing” and I couldn’t

agree more, the way the experience fizzes through you is highly addictive. Nevertheless, my

experience with work in cars whetted the appetite to look into proper car racing, but I imagine like

many reading this that’s where it quickly became obvious that financially, car racing is like karting

with an extra 00 on the end.

I’ve digressed a little from where I started, but you can see where this is heading. I entered

Want2Race in the hope I could fulfil my dream of becoming a racing driver. Yes, I don’t think Lewis

Hamilton has anything to fear but wouldn’t it be nice to get into GT’s or Touring Cars…? This is kind

of what was going through my head on the way to Bedford for the finals. On arrival, the weather was

bleak, the briefing was stern, media royalty in the shape of Paul O-Neill was present and there were

some seriously talented competitors to go up against, this was getting quite serious.

I decided to adopt a 90% approach to the morning’s sessions, making sure I concentrated on getting

the technical aspects of driving correct in the slippery conditions, slow in fast out, smooth on the

controls, driving on the drier tarmac etc. Paul commented that I was a little tentative but it seemed

to be the right call as a few others had a spin or two and I made it through to the afternoon. The

head-to- head shootout was designed to put us under pressure, but I could see the track was getting

drier and that gave me more confidence to push. I was most worried about stalling the car on the

start line as I’d never done a proper start in a G40 before. Into the head-to- head and my rival Munir

Choudhury sped off first, my start a few seconds later wasn’t brilliant but at least I didn’t stall. I could

feel the grip straight away and the car had a little cushion of understeer I could lean on which I

pushed on more and more each time. Session over and I thought I’d caught up with Munir a bit but

couldn’t be sure.

There was a long wait whilst Ben and the judges ruled over the day’s scores and then in the darkness

we were all called for the results. Miles Rudman was called out 3 rd . I remember being deeply

impressed by his confidence in the car, especially under braking. I felt sorry for him because I could

see how much he wanted to win it. Adam Riley was called out 2 nd and I immediately got a lump in my

throat, he was on it through the corners and knew how to handle the car, could I be the winner??!.

When my name was read out next I couldn’t believe it. I’d never won a competition before and there

were so many other deserving people. I remember muttering some awful speech & then failing to

get the cork out of the champagne bottle as my hands were shaking. It slowly began to sink in what

had happened and I had to have a little sit down. The other competitors very graciously

congratulated me, I attacked Ben with a massive bear-hug and thanked the judges David Pittard,

Max Coates & Paul O-Neill. What a day!!

The next time I saw the little Ginetta and the Want2Race team was at a rainy Silverstone GP track

day before Christmas. I’d had a few chats with Ben since the finals about the competition, planning

all the stages in getting to my first race, understanding the calendar and how it would all work etc. I

had a couple of sessions as part of a general Silverstone trackday in Ben’s Ginetta and boy was it

tough. The car felt like a skateboard on ice, I couldn’t feel it moving underneath me, I locked wheels

and had a couple of spins. One a fairly gently spin on the gas coming out of the new turn 3 complex,

and then a massive swapper in the fast turn 2 which ended up shall we say, significantly off track. No

damage done though & back in the garage after, Ben, my passenger, instructor, team owner,

Want2Race competition organiser & jolly fast driver told me I needed to re-calibrate a little. I was

driving too fast for the conditions, not being patient enough on the throttle, driving the dry line too

much – generally driving as though there was an electronic guardian there to save me in moments of

ambition over adhesion. Over the lunch break I had a chat with myself, Chipper (I think he has a first

name too) the all-powerful fountain of Ginetta knowledge / bearded Race Engineer softened the car

off a touch and we headed back out. This was a much better session as I drove with some sympathy

for what the sticky track tyres were trying to do in the wet. It felt slower but it was faster – lesson


My next encounter with Ginetta & Want2Race was at the Autosport Show in January. My employer

Williams Advanced Engineering helped Jaguar build the C-X75 stunt cars used by the baddie in the

James Bond film Spectre. The stunt car as used in the film was to be demonstrated in the Live Action

Arena and a driver was required. Needless to say, I made it very obvious that I would love to be the

driver, and whether I was selected for my talents or because they wanted to stop my relentless

pestering I got to do it - anyway, that is another story. It was also a useful opportunity to catch up

with Ben who was manning the Want2Race & Ginetta stand & also to see the cars I’d be driving

doing passenger rides in the experience area. Word on the street was that the GRDC grid was going

to be bigger and better than ever and I should get practicing. I also picked up my MSA Go Racing

pack, containing license application forms and a DVD with all the rules and regs to learn.

Early March and it was time to do my ARDS test at The MotorSports School in Rockingham. I’d done

my medical the week before and passed, not that I had anything to worry about, but it was one less

obstacle to making my debut as a racing driver. The ARDS itself consisted of a few laps in a

RenaultSport Clio with Adam, the cheerful instructor and all around nice bloke plus a written test. I

didn’t push at all in the driving exam, just drove the right line and obeyed the rules. The written test

was pretty straight-forward as I’d watched the DVD twice that contained all the answers, plus most

of it is common sense!

Next stop was a Ginetta organised track day in March at Rockingham, which just so happens to be

the first round of GRDC. This was the first time I’d meet my actual race car as well as receive all my

race kit. The day was organised for all GRDC & GRDC+ competitors so was a good opportunity to

gauge my competitiveness. I’d briefly met the other drivers in the Want2Race team at Silverstone

who race in the GRDC+ category and this was another opportunity to pick their brains about Ginetta

G40 technique. The GRDC+ category is mostly made up of last year’s GRDC drivers & the cars are

identical G40’s but for stickier Avon semi-slick tyres. As seems to be the way, the day started with

rain, which stopped early on but being so cold it never really dried up properly. I was quite keen to

get out in the rain as my spins at Silverstone had knocked my confidence, face your fears and all


So, I set off down the pitlane, on my own for the first time, all geared up with new helmet, gloves,

HANS and of course in my actual race car. Any trepidation I had quickly evaporated when I got to the

pit exit, the sense of freedom as you pass the line that you can just go for it is hard to equal. It didn’t

take long to be reminded though of how difficult these cars are to drive, especially in the wet. Lap 2

and there was a car off in the gravel at Yentwood so we were all shepherded back into the pits whilst

it was dug out. A quick chat with chipper to confirm all was good and then back out for a proper

session. I remembered from Silverstone how patient you need to be with the throttle and how

unforgiving the tyres are in the wet. They don’t give you much in the way of warning when they’re

about to let go, and when they do go you’ve got to catch it immediately, I mean like you have to

catch it before it goes - if that’s even possible. Given the cars have relatively modest power levels it

comes as quite a surprise that you can spin them on power, so the technique is very much to load

the car up in the corners and wait wait wait, before breathing on the throttle. Just as I was starting

to get into a bit of a rhythm the red flags were out again as a car took a bite out of the Rockingham

banking wall, the damage didn’t look too bad but it had a sobering effect and brought home some of

the realities of racing, that it’s not always roses and butterflies.

Back in the pits for a debrief and I asked chipper to put a bit of understeer into the car. Not because

it’s faster, but so that I could at least get a bit of warning from the front tyres of what grip level I was

on. The track was starting to dry now and I could begin to feel the car a bit more, around this time it

dawned on me that but for superstar BTCC driver Jake Hill who was out testing a GRDC+ car I’d not

been overtaken yet. At the lunch break, all the GRDC drivers assembled for a mock start procedure.

It was the first opportunity to put names to faces as we sat in the assembly area. The chatter was

fairly consistent in that everyone was struggling with the conditions, which put me at ease

somewhat. The mock start process was brilliantly managed by Ginetta staff and gave me a useful

insight into the starting boards, green flag lap, lights location etc, it also allowed a cheeky practice

start, which went better than expected, even though we had to back off almost straightaway.

As the afternoon went on and the track slowly dried up, it was clear that the understeer we’d put

into the car earlier was now a hindrance so we changed back. The times were coming down fast now

and except for the banking and the last corner the track was dry. I was circulating around with

Want2Race driver Adrian Campbell-Smith, last years GRDC victor but in his now GRDC+ spec car. I

wasn’t really catching him, but he wasn’t getting away either, my last lap was a 1m39.5 and given

how badly Silverstone went I was pretty happy with that.

Only 4 days later and it was the Ginetta media day on the Brands Hatch Indy track. Although we’re

not racing there this year I wanted to go to get a bit more track time, plus experience perhaps the

most iconic track in the UK. The paddock was packed full of GT4 supercup cars, GT5 cars & the

mighty LMP3 car, as well as a few GRDC+ cars and one of two of us in GRDC. We were in sessions,

and with a fresh ARDS license in hand this was a proper test day. No indicators and etiquette,

overtake wherever you like and being mixed up with the GRDC+ cars and the GT5 cars I would be

one of the slowest on the track. The first session would go pretty well, just finding the best line

through paddock hill and clearways, however in the 2 nd session disaster struck. I was coming into

Paddock Hill bend a touch faster than previously when I went for a light brake and downshift into 3 rd .

I don’t know what happened, but it all went quiet and I got a huge oversteer kick just as I entered

the corner. I managed to catch the car after some serious knitting at the wheel but ran out of road

and exited stage left into the gravel. I was going some and the tyre barrier was right in front of me

but the gravel did its job and slowed me down, filling the car with dust and stones. I managed to

carry on and up at Druids offline did a big brake to dump all the gravel out of the car. The car felt OK

other than all the stones rattling around but I decided to pit anyway to give the guys a chance to

check over the car.

Chipper, Ben and the guys pulled the wheels and the floors off to hoover all the stones out. The rear

brake discs were badly scorred by the stones and I’d put a hole in a driveshaft boot. It was the end of

my session. Chipper set about fixing the car up and my damage deposit took a hit. Whilst he was

putting new discs on I had a look at the data from the vBox, this is a brilliantly simple bit of kit that

gives you a speed trace linked to a video so you can overlay laps, look at sector times and generally

analyse performance. I’d entered paddock hill bend a bit faster than previously, gone for the

downshift but the gear didn’t go in, either because I’d got the clutch timing wrong or the heel & toe

blip was mis-timed, either way the cause of the off was a botched downshift and something to think

long and hard about. My size 11 feet certainly don’t make it easy but there’s no excuse really, it’s

something that requires practise. The guys got the car ready for the final session and off I went,

concentrating very much on downshifts, braking earlier and feeling slower, but the times showed I

was faster – Lesson learned again! I’d done a 56.8 which was a touch slower than the GRDC+ cars so

it felt like I had good pace, when I could keep it on the black stuff.

A final half-day track day beckoned at Rockingham the week before my first race meeting. This

would be my last opportunity to drive the car before qualifying. Since Brands the car had been

wrapped in the awesome Want2Race colours and really looked the part. I felt so lucky to be driving

such a well prepared and eye-catching car, Ben and the Want2Race guys were clearly impressed

with the looks too. This time the track was dry and I could take the turn 1 banking flat, we were also

driving a slightly different layout using the Pif-Paf extension. I went out for a couple of long race

length stints and the car was feeling good. There was a bit of understeer initially at Yentwood &

Tarzan which Chipper dialled out, but my times were getting pretty consistent and I was starting to

think my speed was about as good as it was going to get. Tom Oliphant was in the pits providing

some instruction to the rest of the Want2Race drivers so we thought it would be a good idea to get

some feedback on my progress. Tom as you may know is the current Ginetta GT4 Supercup

champion and one of the judges in the Want2Race competition. He’s racing Porsche supercup this

year and together with being proper quick is also a really nice bloke, taking the time to watch, listen

and then give constructive advice. Tom immediately spotted some issues with my downshifts, which

I was doing too late in the braking sequence to make the heel & toe effective. My line through Pif-

Paf was also a bit on the tight side and he recommended to be a bit more aggressive with the car in

the final chicane to make it turn. Back out after the feedback and I began to downshift earlier, letting

the engine slow the car down more. I found I could brake later and be more stable, the stopwatch

said 3/10 th ’s. Thanks Tom!

The next time I would be in the car would be in Qualifying at Round 1 and how excited was I!. Pre-

season testing had certainly been educational. The car had bitten me a few times and I had a healthy

respect for how it liked to be driven, however I thought based on the times I’d been doing that I’d be

on the pace.

Next Blog – Rockingham Race Meeting – Wow!

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