Archive for the ‘Fraser O’Brien’ Tag

Formula Vee – A route to the top for the young guns?   4 comments

Max on Vee

Go on Max, you know you want to!

The curtain has come down on another hectic season of Formula Vee in the UK. Last year’s champion Martin Farmer has retained his title after a thrilling, down-to-the-wire battle with series rookie Michael Epps. Fresh from a stint in Karts, Michael is one of several young drivers who’ve chosen Formula Vee as a launchpad (hopefully) to better things. And it’s got me thinking, Is this series a genuine option for young drivers pushing through the ranks? The accepted route for many is Formula Ford, Formula Renault, GP3, GP2 then the ultimate prize of an F1 seat. Looking through the recent history books there’s no evidence of Vee as a popular choice for aspiring F1 champions, so why have these young drivers chosen Vee? How can their achievments help to get the recognition they deserve from the people that matter?

Some of these answers should come from the drivers themselves, since each will have a different motive. Before the 2011 campaign started I discovered that my teammate in the second Osport car would be Fraser O’Brien. We’d actually met briefly at Silverstone the year before, and from the first test session at Mallory Park in March it was clear that this 16-year old has plenty of raw pace. After a slow start in the Storm, his first victory came at Snetterton in May, after which he switched to the AHS squad for the remainder of the season. The pace has been there throughout, but he has also thrown it at the scenery more often than he would like, and this is a shame. With the right guidance he can go far, and this sentiment applies to all of the young guns in 2011.

During the early part of the season, I found myself locked in combat with Matt Tiffin. Driving the ex-Steve Glasswell Storm, Matt’s yet another Karter with great promise. Matt has been his own worse critic on more than one occasion, but the decision to enlist the help of Tony and Jake at Osport mid-season saw a dramatic turn-around. An engine revamp signalled a serious injection of pace, and his results since have been impressive. He excells in the wet, and should be a force next year if he chooses to stay in Vees.

Another notable performance came from Henry Chart. A racing rookie in every sense, Henry brought his GAC home third in the Season opener at Mallory Park, and has shown strongly in many races since. He’s had his fair share of bad luck too, and it will be interesting to see what he does next year should he choose to stay.

Aaron Trigwell switched to Vees from the Saxmax series this year, and his season highlight came at Snetterton in July with a podium finish after a strong weekend all round.

GAC driver Michael Epps almost won the championship in his first year in cars. The 19-year old has shown a cool head throughout the year, and His double win at Donington Park in July was as dominant a display as I’ve seen in recent times. He also found the time to test a Formula Renault mid-season, and seems willing to promote himself through the popular media channels the way no other driver does. Michael seems very media-savvy, qualities that will give him the edge in his journey through the ranks.

So what can we draw from all this? Having competed in the UK championship for the last two seasons, it has become obvious to me that Formula Vee is the hidden gem of single-seater racing. In truth I’ve known this for a while, and it’s the reason I decided to start racing in the first place. It ticks all the boxes, proper racing cars, large grids, relatively low costs and a friendly paddock. However, as with many (or most) grass-roots series, it lacks any real exposure, other than in the dedicated racing press and perhaps the occasional local rag.  To me and some of my peers this doesn’t really matter. We’re doing this purely for fun and the thrill of racing, and it’s got to be a better way of spending a weekend than digging up molehills in the garden. But for the young career-minded drivers it’s a serious matter.

The fact is this. Formula Vee is accessible, and racing drivers want to race. Budgets even for Formula Ford are prohibitive for many, so the door to the conventional route is shut immediately. My personal view is that drivers will learn a great deal from spending time racing Vees. Many well-heeled youngsters who step straight into a wings-and-slicks formula like FRenault will not have proven skills, and I honestly believe that a shortcoming in talent will not be as easy to spot as it will be in the raw, no-nonsense world of Formula Vee. Perhaps this is why some young drivers stay away from Vees. Is it too risky to lay your career on the line before it’s begun? If you’re lucky enough to have the option, then fair enough, but there’s plenty of talented drivers that don’t, so how can the sport help them? I think there is an opportunity here, not only for the drivers but also Formula Vee itself. What better endorsment for a racing series than to have an F1 champion who cut his teeth there?  If the pattern continued the series would have the cream of british talent queuing up to take part.

And this is the dilemma. None of this is possible without creating exposure. I think Formula Vee (or any other series for that matter) has a moral responsibility to push young talent, but I do understand that this involves large chunks of TV and popular press coverage, and I also understand that the money is simply not there for the most part. What we need is a PR and Marketing guru who a) loves Formula Vee, b) has a genuine desire to see young talent blossom, and c) wants to change the face of British motor sport.  Any takers?

Posted October 10, 2011 by Paul in Uncategorized

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