What do most 16 year-olds do for fun? Well, some might be happy to lounge about on the sofa with a packet of crisps watching their favourite TV programme, others may be happy to spend their time on social media sites, while others still may harbour a secret desire to be different. So different in fact, that their goals may lead them to be a future racing champion.
One such youngster is Piers Prior from Essex, who entered the Lets Race 2 Reality competition this year along with more than 40 of the country’s top novice drivers with the hope of securing the top spot.
The competition, created by Carlin Motorsport and the Henry Surtees Foundation, started with a qualifying round at Lets Race in Horley, the UK’s only full motion F1 simulator centre. The programme then moved to round two at Buckmore Park karting circuit, which saw the combatants compete over 12 heats and several final knockout rounds. Piers progressed through these rounds to secure his place in the final five, but his performance in the final round held at Carlin’s headquarters put him safely at the top of the leader board, making him the ultimate champion of the competition.
Speaking about his victory, Piers said, “I feel incredible, it’s quite an emotional moment. [Winning] means the world to me. I’ve known for a long time I’ve wanted to be a racing driver but this is game changing. The Lets Race 2 Reality has been great fun – even more so, now that I’ve won!”
The prize, a day’s testing for Piers in a Carlin Formula 3 car at Pembrey Race Circuit, would raise the pulse for any young aspiring future racing champion. Piers picks up the story on that day…
“The test day was so cool. It was my first ever experience driving a racing car, as well as being the first time driving anything with gears, or four wheel brakes, so I knew it was going to be a learning experience. The previous day I was at the Carlin workshop with the mechanics, I was there to get a custom seat fitted and to get the pedals adjusted so when I went out the next day the car would not need to be changed.
On the morning of the test I was really looking forward to getting out on circuit and Matt Ogle, my race engineer, was on hand to make sure I was properly prepared, we had a track walk and a final look at the data before I did my first installation laps.”
“As I climbed into the car I was struggling to contain my excitement, but I knew I had to keep focused on the driving because a Formula 3 car is so quick and with my lack of experience I could easily crash if I put even a foot wrong. As the day progressed I managed longer and longer stints, I was able to complete 10 laps at a time by the middle of the day and my lap-times were consistent and improving. Using the data from the car and the onboard cameras, Matt was able to give me advice on exactly where I was gaining or loosing time, which meant I continued to make progress.
“After the test was over and all the interviews by the film crew were completed I was presented with the helmet I had been using through the day, this was a massive surprise and I am so grateful to Simon at Artifex Media and ‘Gaz’ at Carlin who bought and completed the helmet and custom design that they so kindly gave me. This is a wonderful gift and means I will be able to race cars in the next few years without having to worry about the extra expense of a new helmet. It is also a wonderful souvenir of the day and the competition as a whole and will help me to remember what a great time I have had.”
“I would like to thank all those at the HSF, Lets Race, and Carlin for this incredible experience and opportunity, I enjoyed it immensely and I will build on this to achieve greater things.”
Former F1 and Motorbike champion, John Surtees OBE, said, “I am very pleased to be part of Lets Race 2 Reality and offer competitors the chance to experience something that is normally out of reach for even the most ardent motorsport fan. Not only will this be a once in a life time experience for Piers, it also raised money for the Henry Surtees Foundation and the great causes we are sponsoring.”
The event raised £2,500 for the Henry Surtees Foundation.
Watch this spot, the name PRIOR may yet be at the top of the leaderboard in Formula 1 one day – a future racing champion in the making?
[Photos courtesy of Lets Race]