Not sure where to begin, so I’ll jump straight to it.
Sadly I will not be racing this season.
Since the later part of 2018 I have worked tirelessly to make my dream of racing in America, a reality. So much so, that I have run myself down. I’ve been ill the last month, and am physically and mentally exhausted. For those of you who know me well, you will appreciate the last few years have been difficult with family ill health and at times, immense stress. I am extremely fortunate to have such loving family and friends around, and I am incredibly appreciative of the life I live. This said, I have tried so hard the past few years to ignore everything and continue the best I can, I have never slowed down. Unfortunately it’s finally hit me in a big way.
My Mum and Dad have been incredibly supportive of my racing from the start. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I’ve been extremely fortunate to make it where I have, a mix of hard work, time, effort, money and meeting the right people along the way, has been key to my success.
It all started with an agreement between me and dad back in 2009, we would race once a month at the local track, that was it. This quickly spiralled into two times and then three times a month at circuits around the country. Then, a few years later and we had the opportunity to race in the British Nationals for a couple of seasons. Following this, a chance arose to help develop a brand new chassis. I then went on to win a championship in America on the chassis we’d worked so hard on. Which brings me to the last two years racing in the British National Formula Ford Championship with Kevin Mills Racing, winning a dozen races last year and finishing second in the National Series. Getting a couple podiums on my debut weekends racing in F2000 in America. Just a few highlights, with many others in between. Finally, having the opportunity to compete in the Road To Indy Shootout in America and being picked as one of the final six was an amazing and unforgettable experience. Just simply incredible, all of it. I never, never thought it was possible, just a dream, but here we are.
After the Road To Indy shootout last December, my approach was ‘I will make this happen’. This season I was going to be racing USF2000 with Jay Motorsports and Tumenas Motorsports, as part of the Indycar support package. Between us all, I believe we assembled an amazing group of people capable of winning the championship.
I had really hoped to get sponsors on board, but starting so late, it was becoming increasingly difficult. Fortunately, I have been surrounded by really great people, who were willing to do their very best to help me, and I can’t thank those individuals enough, you know who you are. Nonetheless, I remember having a conversation on the phone with my Dad after the shootout. He said to me “We will get you out there next year with or without sponsorship and we will show them (judges) they made the wrong choice”. I cannot tell you just how incredible that support is. The sad reality is, motorsport is very expensive and this year would have required a big financial input, even with sponsorship. There is no end in sight either, I mean the budgets required as you get higher up the ladder become totally unfathomable, and half the top drivers don’t even get paid. Not saying it was impossible, but it comes at huge financial risk. This inadvertently made me push harder, I was feeling the stress in a big way. Trying to effectively run a race team, deal with the financials, run my own media, create my own marketing packages, travel, buy the necessary equipment, keep on top of my fitness and wellbeing. It got a little intense, I could start to see why most professional sportspeople have agents, managers, trainers etc behind them.
So given I haven’t posted many updates for a while and this will be my last for the foreseeable future, I have written down as briefly as possible what led me to this point in just the last few months. Apologies, it’s very long! But here’s an overview of how it all unfolded, if you’re interested that is....
Early November. The Monday after five days on track at Silverstone for the Walter Hayes Trophy, I flew to Boston, a dear friend of mine was in for a major op and I wanted to be there to support. After spending a few days visiting, I left Boston on Friday night and arrived at Gatwick early Saturday morning. One of my best friends, Dave, picked me up from the airport and drove me straight to Brands Hatch, where I was on track qualifying an hour later. I somehow qualified on pole and won both races. Looking back I have no idea how I managed this, I was already totally exhausted. We finished up around five and my friend/mechanic Alex drove us up to Bristol where we celebrated a great year with my parents, Kevin and Shirley.
Come Monday, I received a call from James Beckett, I had won the Road To Indy ticket from the Champion of Brands! I had worked so, so hard for that last year, I was filled with immense joy and relief of the news. Tuesday, I travelled up to Izone in preparation for the shootout and to do the media segment. The week that followed was very hectic with getting ready to go away, potentially for a long time to America, whilst doing my best to also prepare for the shootout, and trying to squeeze in photo shoots etc in between.
The following Tuesday, I found myself back on a plane to Boston. I had a little over a week to get myself in shape for Arizona and set myself up as best as possible. Next, a trip to Tampa to meet a potential team. The day after, I found myself back on the road driving down to Miami, where I went and checked out some USF2000 testing at Homestead, did some mingling and some networking. I had a couple of days in Miami, but apart from a few hours to check out some of the local sites, I was in my room making the necessary phone calls, in the gym, going for meetings, and primarily preparing as best as possible for the shootout.
From Miami, I headed to Phoenix, a day to get familiar with my surroundings, and my last final preparations before it all began. Friday, track walk and evening gathering to meet all the judges, brand representatives, and the rest of the competition from across the globe.
Saturday, we had three sessions on track. A different car every time, each had their own characteristic which made it pretty challenging to get comfortable and familiar, but fun cars to drive. Once the day was over, it was straight back to the hotel, an hour to get ready and out for another dinner, this time just drivers and judges.
Sunday, the pressure intensified, we had one guaranteed session in the morning before the field was cut to the six finalists, it was critical I had a good session. I got very much in the zone, and throughly enjoyed every second. The car was the best one I’d drive all weekend, straight line speed was decent, but the overall balance was significantly better. The field was cut and I was delighted to make the final six. We then went into a simulated qualifying and race. I did okay, but struggled with both cars, the later particularly so.
The final announcement came, and obviously as you know, I wasn’t picked as the overall winner, gutting, mostly because I knew just how critical that $200,000 was to my season, I think all of the drivers there appreciated that.
I left the track feeling disappointed, of course, but immensely proud of what I had achieved. I could honestly say to others, and most importantly, myself, that I’d given it my all. Nothing was left on the table at that point. I didn’t put a foot wrong all weekend, I was well prepared, my approach was perfect, I had literally given it everything. So despite not being picked, I wasn’t hugely upset, you can only do what you can do, and I wasn’t picked, end of. I was just very grateful of the incredible experience. Certainly a weekend that will be forever ingrained in my memory.
After the shootout, I took a day or two off, saw the Grand Canyon and started to put everything into place. A couple of days later I found myself on a plane, flying from Vegas to Chicago, then a drive to Indy. I did a deal to buy a race car. Then, I had to drive back to Chicago, before having to travel back to Indy. From Indianapolis I drove a 25ft trailer straight down to Tampa, by myself in 20 hours, it’s a 1000 mile journey. That is a drive I will remember! In less than 72 hours I’d travelled over 3000 miles across 7 states, done a deal, bought a race car and driven it to its final destination. Potentially the craziest 72 hours of my life so far, but extremely memorable and good fun to look back on.
The next two or so weeks that followed, I spent creating marketing proposals, trying to figure out budgets, analysing what was needed for the following year, keeping fit where time permitted, and set about building a sim to aid me in learning as many of the tracks as possible for that season.
Just before my birthday in early January, I had my first day in the car with the team at Sebring. What a bumpy place! I gradually got accustomed to it though and we ironed out a few teething problems with the car.
The next day I had off, another one of my best friends, Jamie, was in the area and we managed to catch up. That day was needed. You’ll notice above I use the term ‘had off’, I highlight this because it’s not how I should have felt. I was ‘living the dream’ but that dream was starting to have serious detrimental effects on me.
The day that followed was my birthday, I spent the majority of it creating marketing proposals which I had to have finalised for Monday night. That day and the following two, I worked continuously to get it completed. The last day I spent working on it, was in the six hour car ride to Savanna. We dropped the trailer at the track late afternoon, went into town for supplies and got dinner, before returning to the hotel. I still had a few hours work to do, so I proceeded to complete the proposal as best I could before having to send it off. I got it finished just after midnight and got to bed for a 6am start.
The following morning, not surprisingly, I felt rough. I was on track in a few hours time. Again, new circuit, practically new car, still a lot to learn. As the day went on, I progressively felt worse. At Roebling Road, the last corner is a flat out 120-125 mph corner in a USF2000 car, I felt so awful in the final session that I thought I was going to pass out going round it. When I got back to the hotel that evening, I took some meds and tried to get as much rest as possible.
Despite a relatively decent nights sleep I felt even worse the next morning. I went out in session one, tried to gather as much data as possible, but at the end of the 30 minute run I was massively fatigued and nearly collapsed as I got out the car. I passed out for an hour or so in the trailer and tried to continue with the day as best as possible. However, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was wasting everyone’s time and I was immensely stressed out knowing what the cost of it all was.
This is where everything started to hit home with me very hard. I was out in America, ‘living the dream’ but I wasn’t enjoying it, I started to feel uncomfortable with getting in the car, with being on track, my head just wasn’t in the right place. Knowing what it all cost, knowing who I would be letting down if I couldn’t perform (including myself). I finally started to crumble under all the pressure and stress of the past few years. I was a mess.
That evening we had a long drive back, the team dropped me at Orlando for my flight out to LAX the following morning. All I felt on that long journey back was a sense of relief, the two days were done, out the way. I was confused with how I felt.
I told myself that it was just that I was sick and my feelings would change as I got better. As planned, I got on my flight to LAX the next morning, followed by a 7 hour layover in the airport, before I got on a 15 hour flight to Melbourne. I had over a day to stop and think about it all. I reached the conclusion that I would put it all out of my mind and see how I felt in the test I had coming up at Phillip Island on the Monday.
Saturday morning and my flight arrives in Melbourne, sun is shining, beautiful temperature, it was awesome to be back in Australia. I picked up my hire car and headed east towards Warragul, where my friends Luke and Alice at Ellery Motorsport are based. A day to decompress a little, and go over some track details and data, before a seat fitting on the Sunday. All was pretty good.
However, come Monday morning I rocked up to Phillip Island, a track I’d always wanted to drive, a world renowned circuit, and most difficult for me to deal with, was I did not want get in the car. I was apprehensive, I couldn’t understand what had changed, but I wasn’t myself. I was drained. I had a decent day on track with no dramas, but yet again, I was happy it was over, and I felt awful about that. I turned my attention to where I’d be driving in a weeks time, the circuit I had always wanted to tick off my bucket list, Bathurst. Unfortunately, I was not looking forward to it, which gave me the most terrible feeling. I was in turmoil, a sport I had once loved so much, suddenly felt so alien to me. I was lost.
I had a flight up to Cairns to meet with my parents for the first time in a couple of months. I had a day or so to chill beforehand, and I seriously started to question 2019 and my future in racing. What had happened to me??
I really wanted to do Bathurst, so I tried my upmost to get in the right frame of mind and move on. I felt a little better about it all when it was announced and all you guys were so supportive. As always, it meant a huge amount. However doing some really heavy thinking over the week, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t doing it for me so much anymore, in fact not really at all. I had reached a point where I didn’t want to let anyone down or lose face for pulling the plug, but if I had the option, I would quit for the time being, there and then, and hopefully find a new path.
Me and Dad drove down to Bathurst over five days and had a lot of time to talk it all over in the car. Both Mum and Dad would support me with whatever I decided, I knew that, and was extremely grateful for it. I seriously started to feel like I was at the end of it all, but was insistent I would try and do Bathurst and see how it went. The only problem was, the closer I got to that track, the more I felt seriously uncomfortable racing. I knew when I arrived at Bathurst, I would know in my gut, whether it was wise or not. It’s probably one of the most deadly tracks in the world, so not the place to be feeling anything other than a hundred percent. It took me less than ten minutes to decide upon arrival. I appreciate that it probably doesn’t sound like it was a tough decision, but honestly It was extremely tough, and I mean extremely tough, one I hadn’t stopped chewing over, I just knew deep down there and then. I also realised what this meant, it was over, at least for the time being, I was walking away from everything, my life, my identity, what people know me for, what seemed to make others like me. Giving that up is not easy. Racing is in my blood, it’s defined me for the past ten years, it’s driven me harder (excuse the racing pun), I’ve spent quality time with my family, created great memories with them and friends I’ve made through racing in the process.
Later that evening I was surprised at how I felt. They weren’t the thoughts I had expected to have. I wasn’t full of regret, I was relieved. The only regrets I had, and what I felt most terrible for, was messing people around, pulling the plug on it all and letting people down. However, I couldn’t continue, I have no doubts about that. I have never reached a point in my life quite like this and it’s difficult to explain, but I was certain I had to slow down momentarily, it’s like my body almost went into shutdown. I had to be honest and break the news. Once again, I apologise to the Ellery Motorsport team in Australia and all the Jay and Tumenas Motorsports team in America. I hugely appreciate all of your support with my decision.
It’s been two weeks on now and I’m still ill, I’m low, not depressed, just extremely worn out. I don’t think I truly appreciated the wear the last few years has had on me, but I’m starting to now. At this point in time, I have no regrets. I know there will be a time when I will get back in a race car, when I’m well, when I feel better and most importantly I’m doing it for the right reasons and enjoying it. I really look forward to that.
I think it’s very easy to lose track of what’s most import in life sometimes. Life is short, I’ve sadly become so, so very aware of that these past few years. I think I honestly lost my direction, my reasoning for competing, I have been so hard on myself these past couple of years, failure was not an option. If I wanted a chance of making it, there couldn’t be any mistakes. That attitude is necessary in my opinion, but it can be difficult to relax sometimes and enjoy the sport with the people you love around you. Before I made my decision, I asked myself....“what are the most memorable, enjoyable days you’ve had racing”. I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve had lots, but overwhelmingly, most of the good times were not the expensive days spent in a car. They were the times I had some pure racing with another competitor, or I drove an awesome lap where people couldn’t match it, and finally and most importantly to me..... It was times spent with my family and friends, hanging out, having a laugh and enjoying every second in the process. Family and friends are what matter most to me in life, it sounds cheesy, but I absolutely mean that with all my heart.
I feel so incredibly fortunate to have done what I’ve done and achieved what I have, it’s a lot more than the majority of people get to do, and I’m forever grateful. Thank you all for being along for the ride and sharing the good times.
So, this is my last post on Facebook for a while, taking some time out from social media, still available on messenger etc if anyone wants to chat. I got social media back in 2015, primarily for racing, but I don’t mind admitting that it’s become a subconscious habit to continually be on it. I certainly don’t think it’s particularly healthy. I’ve always been a more sociable, talk in person sort of guy anyways, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the common consensus anymore, but hopefully I’ll find my place in the world eventually.
Finally, I want to say a huge thank you to EVERYONE who has supported me these past ten years! In particular:
My Mum and Dad
Dave, Jamie, Lucie & Jess
George and Alex Vorrilas
Jay, Tonya, Jayden and the whole family
Kevin, Shirley, Alex, Ali and the whole KMR team
Luke and Alice at Ellery Motorsport
Jamie, Kate & Emily
Jackie and Chris
Dean and Tony at Indy Motorsports Group
Michael and Tracy Borland
Sean and Jamie
And so, so many more....
Two things I’ll share that I believe are key to your success in racing.....
Keep it on the black stuff!
and most importantly....
Thank you all once again
Peace, Love & Positivity
For now, my very best wishes, see you all around in the future. I hope to be back when the time is right.