Motorsport isn’t easy, forget the racing – that’s the easy bit, loads of people know how to drive fast around a race track. What isn’t so easy is getting the opportunity to race in the first place. Motorsport is one of the most expensive sports you can partake in, so this means that the majority of the drivers at club-sport level are gentlemen drivers who’ve earned their money and take up racing as a way to have a bit of fun on the weekend.
That’s why it can be particularly difficult for younger drivers to progress through the ranks; a lack of money means a lack of mechanics, new parts or even a car for the season. It’s a problem that George Sutton only knows too well. ‘The Mini challenge is a very expensive championship to be in, if you want to be at the front, you have to be spending a lot of money. We are missing out on fresh tyres and test days where we could be improving.”
Sutton is only 16 years old, he’s been racing since he was 11 when he caught the racing bug on holiday in Portugal after trying a prokart. From then his karting career started, and in 2014 he ended up finishing in 10th position in the Super 1 British Junior TKM Championship.
Suttton then moved up into the junior saloon car championship when he was just 14 years old where he came in 7th place during the first year and managed to become a championship contender in the second year.
Last year he competed in the Mini challenge after becoming eligible for the championship as he had turned 16.
“The minis are 180hp more powerful than the Citroen Saxos used in the Junior Saloon car Championship, they have sticky tyres, big brakes, it’s a completely different car, I had to learn how to drive it all over again.”
“The mini is the closest thing to a touring car, we use the same tyres, almost the same brakes and slightly different suspension, it handles like a touring car”
What makes all this progress even more impressive is that he has managed his whole career solely as a father-son team.
“It’s just my dad and I. We’re the mechanics really, I work in a garage during the week and my dad worked in a garage for over 30 years, so we work together as one team, we succeed together and we fail together, but that’s part of the racing.”
As George is still only 16 which means he doesn’t even have a full road driving licence yet and this presents him with problems, like when he needs things for the car.
“I can’t drive on the road yet, and my dad works abroad at the moment so if we need to pick some parts up I need to get someone from my family to take me.”
His age also means that it can be challenging, competing in the championship without the budget, track time or experience of the other drivers.
“It’s very hard to be a young driver, competing against people who are at least double my age and have a lot more money, but we’re showing them how it’s done, so I like that. If we had a bigger budget I think we could win the championship without a doubt.”
“Next year we are gunning for the title, and if we win that title it’s like a stepping stone into the next championship. The aim is to get into the BTCC in 2019, but it depends all on budget, its very expensive, it can vary from anywhere between £250,000 right up to £750,000. The ultimate goal is to become a professional racing driver, in European touring cars or Le Mans.”
Sutton’s goals are big, but its fully possible for him to achieve what he wants to do. The 16-year-old is currently looking for more sponsorships so he is able to be compete with the front runners of the Mini Challenge. The drive and determination that he has shown so far is exactly what is needed to overcome the challenges that are to come into his second year in the mini challenge, and all the way up to become a driver in the BTCC and beyond.