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Village History

In the driving seat

Posted on June 27 2016 at 10:40:26 0 comments

Glenn and James

Sally Oldaker meets a village racing driver who followed his dream.

Many youngsters dream of being a racing driver, but not many actually achieve it – especially if they wait until they’re in their thirties to get started!

But for one village man, that childhood ambition became a reality when he entered the UK Formula Vee championship – with a little help from an Alvechurch garage.

James Cater, who grew up in Alve-church and now lives in Bromsgrove, was no stranger to the motorsport scene, having watched his stepfather, Glenn Hay, race single-seaters in Formula Vee.

In fact, Glenn – who owns G R Hay & Sons garage in Alvechurch – won the championship back in 1979, and later ran cars for other drivers.

“I did want to be a racing driver as a kid, but then never really did anything about it,” says James, who has ridden sports motorbikes for many years but never raced.

Having only passed his road vehicle test in 2010, two years later he decided to follow in Glenn’s footsteps, and his stepdad agreed to let him drive his 1997 Sheane 1300.

Before he could be let loose on a track, James had to pass the Association of Racing Drivers Schools test, get his racing licence, buy the proper kit, improve his fitness and do some testing in the car – which needed a fair bit of work by Glenn to get it race-ready.

It wasn’t until October 2014 that both James and the car were ready to enter the last round of the Formula Vee championship at Donington Park – but disaster struck when the engine seized on the first lap.

“We then hoped to enter at the start of the 2015 season, but for those of us on a lower budget, it’s not worth travelling to the circuits if the car is not at its best,” James explains.

Finally, in August, James entered the Silverstone International round of the championship.

Having qualified in lowly 28th and 29th for the day’s two races, he was overjoyed to finish Race 1 in 17th place overall – and in fourth place in Class B, which is made up of smaller-budget drivers.

In Race 2 he finished 19th overall and fifth in class, and was awarded Driver of the Day.

Similar results at Snetterton and Donington followed, as well as a 9th place at the non-championship Formula Vee Festival. Then came more modifications to the car over the winter, ahead of the 2016 season.

It’s been a mixed bag of results so far, topped by a 13th place at Croft – a circuit James only knew from a computer game. At Mallory Park in June, he was up to 13th before the car was excluded for a technical infringement.

“My aim is to get on the podium in Class B, and in the top 10 overall,” says James. “I’m not there just to make up the numbers – and I need to make an impression to attract more sponsors.

“It’s tricky because unless you have sponsorship you can’t afford to do much testing between races, but you need to do as much as possible in order to improve and thereby attract sponsors.”

James is currently sponsored by a camera company, which enables him to record onboard footage. With qualifying and races televised by Motors TV, there’s good publicity for the sponsors.

Glenn owns four cars in total, including a Scarab (in which he won the championship) and a Beach (in which Jenny Nadin won the first-ever UK Vee race), and there are plans to add more drivers to the team – possibly even Glenn himself. Again, sponsors are required for the team to reach its potential.

Formula Vee has been running in the UK since 1967, with Glenn involved since the early days. The cars are based on the VW Beetle, using components including the 1300cc engine, standard gearbox and brakes; and with spare parts readily available, the idea is that pretty much anyone can build and maintain one on a low budget.

“I’m really enjoying the racing, especially as my confidence grows,” says James. “Although I had never raced before, I was used to the speed of my sports bikes so driving fast wasn’t too daunting – the learning curve has been about gaining race experience.

“The championship is run by the 750 Motor Club and there’s a real family feel to club racing. It’s also a gentlemanly sport – everyone wants to win but nobody really wants to crash as a lot of people are on a tight budget!”

You can follow James’ progress and see photos and onboard footage from his races at http://www.jamescaterracing.com, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Above: Glenn and James with the Sheane. Below: James in action at Snetterton (pic/ Steve Jones Photography), and Glenn at Mallory Park circa 1990.

Racing action


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