Emerald rookie burns competition in Formula Ford
IN HIS first year racing Formula Ford, Emerald's Andrew Gillespie has accomplished what many drivers often strive their whole career to achieve - winning the championship.
What's more, the 21-year-old rookie completed the feat in a new, untested car and with an entire championship round still to spare.
It's a dream come true for the former go-karter whose racing career hit an all-time low before an offer came through from Anglo Motorsport to race in the Formula Ford 1600 category.
"My dad got the call. I was at work and he said 'I hope you're not doing anything this weekend, you've got a test drive in a Formula Ford car'," Gillespie said.
"That made my day; got me all excited again for racing because I hadn't been doing much that year. I came off one of my worst seasons in karting and was having a bit of a break."
Fast forward 13 months and Gillespie can now rest easy with an unmatchable lead in the five-round championship after winning 13 of 15 races and amassing 13 fastest laps.
He said taking the wheel of an unfamiliar car certainly presented its challenges, although most issues were readily solved by the experienced Anglo team.
"I didn't get a chance to do any testing throughout the year so I stepped into a brand new car and I hadn't even been in a Formula Ford for almost six months, but went out and clean swept the weekend. That was massive," he said.
"Most of it is down to the team. They've got a wealth of knowledge. The manager is from the UK and the team has won six championships in a row now. They've got a winning formula."
Also a bit of a learning curve was the transition from go karts to the bigger and heavier Formula Ford class.
"It (Formula Ford) is definitely different from karting," he said.
"Go karts are quite light with no suspension. You're going from one that weighs 150kg, into a half-a-tonne car with suspension. The main difference I found was braking capacity of the cars.
You've got all four wheels braking and pulling up half-a-tonne from 220kmh in the space of about 80m.
"It's a much different technique too. It's right foot braking, but on a kart it's left foot brake. So getting that technique down... but a lot of that came from the team and the data telemetry we have on the car."
Sponsorship has already played a huge role in helping to fund Gillespie's racing, but it will have to play an even bigger one if he is to realise the ultimate goal of racing overseas.
"A lot of it does come down to how big your wallet is and how much sponsorship you can get for it. The gear we use in motorsport is quite expensive," he said.
"Talent alone doesn't usually get you there in the end but it definitely does help.
"I'd love to go overseas and race. It's sort of what I always aimed at doing since I was four years old - to either race in America or Europe.
"I just need to find the sponsors to get over there.
"I've been talking to quite a few people and got some good contacts now, but nothing's a done deal until you're over there in the seat. Try and make the most of everything and take it as it comes."