Our latest Q&A is with Jake Pearce, driver of the Stock Hatch spec #SP51 Citroen Saxo for Spalding Autograss. We discuss his own career and life at Spalding Autograss.
Years racing: 5
Favourite car you have raced to date: Stock Hatch – Saxo
Favourite race track: Cambridge
Rate your mechanical nous between 1 and 10 (1 being I just drive, 10 being I can fix everything): 9
Rate you driving skills between 1 and 10 (1 being lapped, 10 being class leader): 6
If you could test or race any autograss car, which would it be? Any top spec Class 6
When not driving, which driver (autograss and non autograss) gets you jumping up and down like a true fan? Always been a strong supporter of my Dad, when we are not racing together!
Q1. How old were you when you first realised you wanted to race and can you remember what the trigger was? Around the age of 5 visiting my first meeting at Spalding when my dad returned to racing after a short break. The sound of the cars around the pits drew me in from the beginning.
Q2. Living in Holbeach, was your club always going to be Spalding? From a very young age my family has been involved with the Spalding club even before it became run by NASA. Being about 5 minutes away from our house it’s very convenient for us!
Q3. You have so far raced a Mini, a Micra and now the Citroen Saxo stockhatch. What are the pros and cons of each and in hindsight would you change anything? The Mini is a great car to race, you can’t compare the fun of them with any other car available in class one! But, it’s no secret that the Minis are no longer cheap in any respect. This and their lack of reliability is the only real drawback with them.
The best way for anyone starting in juniors or class one now is either the Micra or Yaris. We chose Micra’s because at the time the Yaris was still in its experimental stages. I personally never truly enjoyed racing my Micra. We tweaked everything and it just wasn’t for me! However, for the small fee they cost to build, maintain and stock up on spares, if class one is where you want to go then they are brilliant and a great entry point to the sport so there really aren’t any cons to the Micra other than its handling but if you can adapt to it or begin in a Micra then it isn’t a problem.
Various reasons were drawing us away from class one and one evening we heard of a Saxo “for sale or swap” so we made some enquiries which then lead to my dad swapping his Micra for a Stock Hatch in late 2017. In a roundabout way I followed dad’s footsteps and ended up in a brand new Stock Hatch part way through 2018 and loving racing again! So far I can’t fault the car. It’s not perfect but we’re making adjustments and it’s getting better!
Q4. Like our original Q&A star, Simon Farrar, you get to race against your dad. How is your rivalry and do you race your dad differently to anyone else? Last season I only raced part of it in Stock Hatch and his car was flying so there was not much chance of me getting near him let alone rivalry. However, this year he will be out in a new car which he has no experience in and we both have freshly rebuilt engines so there is already some tension building and some banter as the season gets closer. I respect every driver on the track as anyone should but once the clutch drops on the start-line there are no friends or family. We are all just competitors!
Q5. As you both race Saxo’s, what (if any) are the differences between the two cars? While we are both fairly new to Stock Hatch and still testing we will both be running different gearboxes, tyre pressures, shock absorbers (front and back), coil springs and exhaust for the beginning of the season. However, this could and likely will, all change as we gain more knowledge on the cars the more we race them and make adjustments. It is still trial and error at this stage!
Q6. With the 2019 season rapidly approaching, what is your hope for this year and what would you be happy with come November? I’d quite like to beat my dad in a race after all theses years of him teaching me! And of course I’d generally just like to improve results throughout the year. I’d be happy with another Club trophy position at the end of my first full year in Stock Hatch.
Q7. Looking further ahead, what is your racing ambition before you hang up your helmet for the last time? It really is difficult to say, with the sport constantly developing. I’d like to be in a position where I can travel the country and race at as many as possible if not all the clubs in the UK. More locally I wouldn’t mind taking away a Fastest Man on Grass class champion trophy!
Q1. Several times last year, the topic of fixture congestion and reduced attendance at club meetings was discussed. What changes have you seen at Spalding since you started? When I first became involved I remember club meetings being filled with race cars, spectators and often having trade stands. I always remember seeing prefixes from all around the country and looking it up in the back of the program to find where they were from. There were several pages of Spalding drivers in the program and most attended each meeting alongside large amounts of visiting drivers too!
Q2. When planning the season fixtures, which clubs do Spalding look to avoid clashing with to try to entice their drivers to come to Spalding and how much flexibility does the club have on when they can run a meeting? The club don’t have any restrictions determining when meetings take place providing they are planned in advance as far as possible. However, with the increasing number of ‘big’ meetings around the calendar it makes it more difficult to get a space for a club meeting and when there is a weekend available we primarily look to avoid clashing with the East Anglian League meetings held at Cambridge. This is where the majority of our support comes from and we are very thankful for the support we received from their drivers particularly last season.
Q3. Maintaining good relations with both the landlord and the local neighbours is important to keep the track where it is. How are Spalding’s relations in this area and how long is racing guaranteed for under current arrangements? There is nothing which will prevent us from having our track where it is for the foreseeable future. We are fortunate to have strong local relations, having been in our current location for over 25 years. There has been issues in the past but a mutual respect remains and we do our best to respect the privacy of everyone surrounding the track.
Q4. Would you be in favour of Spalding entering into a mini club series which other clubs have done before? For example, Spalding, Sturton and Cambridge drivers eligible for a three event trophy with one meeting at each club. Discuss. A similar series used to take place in previous years under previous chairmanship however it stopped due to a breakdown in communication. I would love to see Spalding involved in a series working cohesively with the local clubs to improve club racing not only at Spalding but other local clubs too. I for one would definitely get involved.
Q5. I found Spalding a great little club to visit with a different shape track to most. How would you sell the Spalding experience to any potential drivers or fans reading this? Spalding has a great chilled atmosphere, everyone is welcome and very few people go home disappointed! The track has a large run off area on both corners allowing those who are brave enough to try the outside line and there’s plenty of room for passing other competitors.
Q6. To breakeven, how many drivers / spectators do a club like Spalding need to get through the gates for each meeting? In our area people would much rather watch bangers at the local kings lynn stadium, so we never rely on spectators. I am not involved with the finances of the club but I would say any less than 45 drivers would cause trouble and particular disappointment amongst the small group of people who are keeping the club running.
Q7. Spalding has the two red class 1 Nissan Micra’s available for hire for any would be racers. What feedback has the club had from this and would you encourage more clubs to do? The hire cars provide a stable income for the club, although it isn’t that significant. We’ve never had any bad feedback and both hire cars have become fully booked relatively quickly in the past. The club has gained new members and brought back former racers after their debut in the hire cars! Being a small club, the hire cars have helped publicity for the club and every member gained makes a big difference! For just £125 all inclusive, it’s the cheapest of all motorsports offering race ready cars to hire as far as I know. Some clubs have already followed in the footsteps and invested in hire cars and for the cheapness and simplicity of the Micra in class one it doesn’t take long to pay for itself and maintenance required is minimal. I’d advise more clubs to do this but only if they are fortunate enough to have strong enough membership to dedicate someone to take care of the hire car during each meeting!
Q8. If we were to sit down in five years time, what would you anticipate the position of Spalding autograss and autograss in general to be at that time? I would like to think Spalding will have an increase in attendance at meetings and enthusiasm amongst members to work to keep the club going. However I fear that if members do not begin to pull together soon and stop thinking “I don’t need to do anything because someone else will do it” then there won’t be a Spalding club with enough finances to own a track and people do not seem to understand that this is fact! Nationally I think the sport will continue to develop as it is doing. Hopefully it will be for the better. It seems to be going in the way that venues are becoming more elaborate which has its pros and cons!
Thanks to Jake for his insight and we wish him, as well as Spalding Autograss, all the best for new season. Spalding is worth a visit as a spectator, or competitor, and their season starts on 7th April.