On people & things with @padmore56
Questions submitted by Sergio Álvarez, Diego Merino, Cyril Nikitenko
Q: I have made up my mind and decided to start a career in historic racing. What should my first steps be?
Nick Padmore: Well, unfortunately historic racing is quite expensive. I would say the best route (to historic racing) is Formula Ford because it runs on treaded tyres, it doesn’t have any wings so the car moves around and that’s probably the perfect grounding to get you into historics. Plus Formula Ford Series is so competitive and overall it’s a good package.
In your personal opinion, how do you explain the growth of historic racing in recent times?
NP: Historics is booming. Of course, you know, Goodwood has a big impact on the popularity of the historics and the values of the cars, so that’s it. And then you have great series like the Masters or Peter Auto. I just think people are buying these cars because they can race the car and at the end of the year they don’t have to buy an upgrade kit. Residual, the values are always strong and you rarely lose money on historic cars. The weekends are lot better, so that’s attractive, something like Monaco Historique or Silverstone Classic is always amazing, even Estoril Festival [Masters Historic] was pretty cool. I think the whole weekend is better, and that’s the attraction for everyone. They can relate to the cars that they grew up with, the noise of the cars and just watching the cars out on track is simply awesome.
If a current F1 driver jumped into historic racing, do you think that he or she could beat you straight on?
NP: It would be good to see. These cars are very difficult to drive, mainly the gearbox, which sounds crazy as nowadays it’s all flappy paddles and easy-peasy, but these, if you don’t heel and toe or if you don’t get the right gear, it could be big money. There was a funny story of Sergio Pérez, when he was invited to open the Mexico GP press day, he had a go in a Yardley BRM I believe, and I think after two laps he blew the engine and the car was in the lorry and gone home because he missed a gear. There’s no going back – once you’ve missed it you’ve missed it, and end of your day and a very expensive bill, so he just got out of the car and walked off. Certainly from the Masters Historic era it’s all H pattern gearbox; I always say to anyone who is trying to drive these cars is that’s the biggest thing you’ve got to watch because an over-rev could be 15 thousand pounds or wrong gear completely could be an engine, so you’ve got to master that.
Whenever I’m coaching someone to drive historic Formula 1, that’s the biggest area we work on first. Max (Smith-Hilliard) went and bought a Formula 3 car to begin with, just to get used to an H pattern gearbox, as you do, and that’s the thing to master. But also the cars slide around so much as well, the amount of torque these have and the horsepower, so you start sliding and the thing is drifting; you don’t really have a great deal of aero, apart from ground effect. But yeah, bring it on, it would be a good challenge. Also, the clutch is pretty heavy.
How would you describe the profile of the average sponsor that invests in historic racing?
NP: That’s a difficult one. You can’t run sponsors’ stickers. What I think a lot of people are doing is buying cars, putting them in the right races and putting the right driver in it to get the results. I think that’s probably the closest you’ll get to sponsorship. Personal sponsorship? There’s a little bit. You don’t really have stickers all over the cars because they want to keep it retro. It’s more about people buying cars, like horse racing. No prize money, it’s a shame.
Forza Historic is starting basically from scratch, how interesting has it been for you to participate in the growth of the team – and you grew pretty fast with Max’s title in 2017! Could you talk about the journey so far…
NP: It’s been brilliant, it’s been tough. We left a very good team, WDK Motorsport, they did a fantastic job, but Max got to a point where he wanted to run his own team, which I think is the natural progression if you look through, so he wanted to run his own team and he has. He knows exactly what’s going on on the cars, how much things are costing and he loves his own chill-out area in the lorry and stuff like that.
I love it. With WDK and previous teams, I didn’t really go to the team much, I was always seeing them at the track, but now, being behind the scenes, it involves day-to-day, it’s great. It’s a great bunch of guys, the cars are brilliant and for Max to win the championship in the first year was just awesome. The level of commitment that he’s put in from day one paid off, he’s very good.
But very quickly we won the championship [FIA Masters Historic] and Max did the FIA awards, with Lewis Hamilton and all that, which he was blown away with. And then Monaco [Historique] straight away. After he’d won the championship, he was like: right, Monaco. So now we roll on to Monaco and this year. I haven’t had much time to think about it, we had a little party in Estoril on Sunday night after the championship was won. Now it’s all about Monaco and getting the team right there, it’s interesting.
We noticed you’re using both Arai and Schuberth helmets at different evets – why and which one’s your favourite? There’s so many brands, Bell or Stilo…
NP: That’s a good observation. You do have Bell and Arai, etc., and I’ve had Arai. Bell when I first started for a couple of years and then Arai all my life. And then Max very generously got me a Schuberth, I was like, ‘Jesus Christ! This is the ultimate, it’s the latest thing out!’. It’s amazing, it’s very, very good. I use that and I also use my Arai as well, I just find with the Arai that it fits better, better quality and we’re having an Arai for this year. It’s just being painted up, not so bright.
In one of your previous interviews you mentioned Peter Gethin in relation to your coaching career, is there an unheard story or something else you can tell us about the man?
NP: Peter Gethin is just a legend, just a lovely guy, I’ve a lot of fond memories of him. When I first started instructing back in 1995, I tried to get into Brands Hatch to be an instructor. You do some racing of course and then you go and talk to them to be a racing instructor, they didn’t want to know. So I was like, ‘How am I gonna do this?’. Peter Gethin was running a driving/racing school at Goodwood, so I went down there with lots of hair, ginger hair, I looked totally different to what I do now, and I asked him, I said, ‘Look, I wanna be an instructor, can you help?’. And he gave me the biggest break possible: he took me under his wing and he taught me to be an instructor. He was just a very interesting guy.
I’ve got so many stories! I was at Goodwood working for him and then Ferrari UK asked him to come and run their track day company and he took three people, me and two other guys, so we went to Ferrari with him. I had twelve years at Ferrari working with Peter and some amazing opportunities. But one of the special moments was, well there’s a couple, Peter’s motto was always “what are you doing to my effing tyres?”. All the time, no matter who you were. He would always use the F-word. Every time you’d be coaching someone, he’d walk down the pit lane and you’d see him coming from miles away at Goodwood and he’d be looking at the left front and then the left rear and you’d put your window down and he would go [half-laughing]: “What the f#$% are you doing to my tyres? I’ve got to pay for these!” And we were sponsored by Pirelli and it was just non-non-stop!
And another one. If he ever wanted to have a word with you, he would pull up in his road car, get you in the passenger seat and say: “Let’s go and have a drive.” You would just drive around the track while having a chat. You could never chat and do this! It’s funny.
Probably one of the best ones was when he took me for a lap around Monza and he explained to me how he won the Grand Prix. It was just phenomenal, you know. He showed me where he overtook on the grass going into the Parabolica, where a few people crashed. As he’d come up to the line he wasn’t sure he that won it, so what he thought he would just cheer, put his hands up, as he got near the line. The Italian crowds would go mad and that went in his favour. Then I also met his son, Nick Gethin, who is a dear friend as well. I could talk all day about those two. Nick is a legend, he did a bit of racing, very nice guy. Yeah, happy memories and he helped me out a lot, definitely.
You and Goodwood, what are the plans for 2018? Members’ meeting, you seem to like it a lot.
NP: Goodwood, I love the weekends, they are fantastic. I’ve been instructing there since 1995, a lot of happy memories. Goodwood’s been brilliant to me and Henry Hope-Frost, I just love it [#fever #chief #hhf – we conducted the interview before Henry’s tragic passing].
This 76th Members’ Meeting I’ll be in the UFO BMW again, which is really cool, owned by the Sadler family that run the car.
And then the Revival, I’ll be back doing the TT [race] in the E-Type. I always love those weekends, they’re brilliant, they’re really good.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our interview with Nick!