Our latest Q&A is with former Formula Ford hero, former Autosport Young Driver finalist and current British GT star, Scott Malvern.
Part 1 – single seaters
Q1. Your first step into car racing was in Formula Ford after several years karting. Some drivers find the step into car racing easier than others. How did you find the step in terms of driving technique, different circuits, size of the car etc?
I found the transition relatively easy. I’m a fairly logical person and, while I was reasonably successful in karting, I found once I drove a car on a circuit for the first time everything made a lot more sense and I could understand what the car wanted easier than I could in karting.
Q2. Lewis Hamilton often talks of his love of karting. Was there any element of you missing karting when you stepped up and do you still get back in a kart now and again?
For the last four years I have run a kart team as my main living and before that I worked within the karting industry for the last 15 years on and off so I never really left karting in a way. I still do one to one training days in karting with various young drivers to help improve their technique and race craft so I get out quite regularly although if I were to race again I think it would be in some of the older equipment.
Q3. Your initial foray into Formula Ford was with Jamun as their mechanic. Did you find this beneficial when it came to actually racing or did some teams/mechanics think you were treading on their toes?
For me I found it hugely beneficial, having engineering and mechanical knowledge hands on has given me a huge edge especially in my early career. I’ve been lucky that most of the teams and people I have worked with have been very good at their jobs and so my knowledge has only served to enhance the relationship with the team around me and get the best out of everything. I have had some occasions when it has been an issue with the odd engineer who wants to ‘do it my way’ but mostly it has been an advantage that I have made good use of throughout my career.
Q4. A racing driver will always say his/her team is the best in the pit lane. Jamun was always at the front in those days so does that put extra pressure on you as a driver and where did you find the difference between the Formula Ford teams was?
Jamun were 100% the top team at the time. I never personally felt the pressure of knowing I had the best car but I know some of the other drivers in the team did feel it. Having worked for them I knew all the procedures and how much effort and time went into the performance of the cars so I only ever felt confidence that I had the best chance when I jumped in the car. I think the main difference was that with Jamun every single aspect of the cars performance and the weekend was analysed and perfected. Nothing was left to chance and with a vast amount of data from years gone by to reference against its a driver’s dream come true because you can really focus on what you are doing knowing that everyone around you is solely focused on getting the best result.
Q5. Vincent Radermacker is returning to the Formula Ford Festival and the likes of Joey Foster continue to race in Formula Ford. Is the enduring love affair of Formula Ford as simple as it is single seaters without the downside of aero and can you see yourself making another return?
Formula Ford is the perfect formula for anyone who is passionate about racing. The fact is that in any class of motorsport the best racing is produced by the class with low grip and low power and low cost. It is a ‘racers’ class and I think that is what draws people back to it over and over because for most people that raced in Formula Ford it was probably the most enjoyable racing they experienced in their career. While I have no plans to return in the near future I can’t see that I will stay away for too long.
Q6. You dabbled with GP3 and F2 in terms of testing. GP3 rarely produces great racing but F2 had its moments and a competitive budget. How were they to drive?
They were both fairly similar to drive, decent amount of aero but both quite clumsy cars to drive. I enjoyed F2 more down to the fact that I had more time in that car but they both had very specific styles that worked. The GP3 was mostly down to the Pirelli tyre which is very tough to get your head around when you have limited running. The main reason I disliked both was because they both used turbo engines which I feel is completely wrong for any single seater racing car at any level. It produces a car that is heavy, clumsy, tricky to drive and produces big variations in performance between one engine and another. It is also very easy for single make championships to control the performance of the cars to skew results shall we say.
Q7. Around the same time you were nominated for the Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award. If you had won that, would F2 or GP3 have been likely instead of BARC Formula Renault?
GP3 would have been a great experience but realistically it was never going to happen, the budget was just way beyond anything we could find. I actually had a fully funded deal in place to race F2 for 2012 in the Comma Oil car. Unfortunately the seat was bought from under me by another driver at the last minute. It left me with nothing at a very late stage and I was just fortunate that I did some coaching with a driver called Ryan Cullen at Silverstone. After the day his father Patrick asked if I would coach his son for the season in Formula Ford in return for racing Formula Renault for his team. Obviously with the prospect of sitting out 2012 I jumped at it, that deal was done five days before the first race of the season!
Q8. BARC Formula Renault was going through a boom period at that time with decent grids and TV coverage. As your first slicks and wings season, how did it compare to the Formula Ford years?
I found it tough compared to the Ford days where I knew all the teams and the drivers past and present to now a championship which I knew relatively little about and had been thrown in with a new car to me and a new team to the series. Despite the rush in the first week we actually should have come away from the first weekend with three wins instead of just the one but we ran out of fuel in race one while leading and a gear selector broke two laps from home while leading race 2. Early season was very tough with lots of mechanical problems costing us wins. A team change mid season was not ideal but ensured that we never missed out because of mechanicals again.
Q9. You tested for Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda who have had a number of Brits over the years. I can imagine Sebring being a completely different experience to a day at Donington for example but lots of Brits do seem to shine in the States if they are prepared to commit to it (and have the budget!). How was the American experience and did you see this as the last single seater career chance?
It was a very different experience for me at the time, I spent a few days with the team before the test to help acclimatise and learn what I could about the car and the track but nothing could prepare me for driving in Florida in the middle of summer. 118F and 98% humidity was unbearable, it was like driving along with a hot air gun blowing in your face the whole time. So that was something I struggled with along with the sheer amount of fluids you have to take on board to deal with that. I enjoyed driving the car and working with team who were struggling with performance at the time – they invited me over after hearing about my engineering knowledge and feedback to try and improve the car. The test was successful and I felt that racing the car in more ‘normal’ conditions would have been a natural step for me after Renault. Sadly the deal never came off. I did pursue other opportunities to race Stateside as I have always been a fan of Indycar and saw their Road to Indy progression tree as something I would have benefited from greatly if it were implemented in Europe.
Q10. The decision on when to abandon your single seater career is a difficult one to make but one which seems to be reached at an earlier age these days. What was your decision process and in hindsight do you think you timed it right?
At the end of 2013 I actually called time on my career full stop. At that stage in my career there was very little planning or decision making involved because the budget to choose what to do simply was not there. I was really only taking opportunities as they presented themselves. I had been chasing GT drives as early as 2011 but it was the usual problems with budget that curtailed any switch. At the end of ‘13 I entered to Walter Hayes Trophy fully believing it would be my last race. It was a race I had not won and an event I had never entered so I wanted to do it to sign off. I had a very good weekend and won convincingly with Kevin Mills Racing. Nick Jones, who I had never met until the Sunday, was with the team as a guest for the day and after watching the final asked if I would like to go endurance racing with him. I’m sure you can imagine what I said!
Part 2 – British GT
Q1. After a couple of years in Radicals, you found a home in the GT4 class of British GT. How much of a change is it to race with a roof over your head?
It was a change back to more familiar territory for me with lower grip although I never really think about the roof. For me the biggest change from single seaters and Radicals was the added weight of the car and the limited aero again.
Q2. Having a roof over your head also means racing in rain with a windscreen! How does this compare with your single seater experiences and which do you prefer?
Both have their positives and negatives. Obviously not getting wet in the GT is a big bonus! But equally some GT cars tend to get steamed up so you can lose visibility quite quickly. In the single seater being out in the elements gives you a much better feel for what the track is doing but I can’t say I prefer one or the other.
Q3. Racing in GT’s brings driver changes and compromises with your co-driver. Did it take you some time to get your head around this and are you, as the pro, the one to compromise?
Absolutely, Pro/Am racing is all about getting your Am as competitive as possible. Once you get to learn what works best for your Am you can start to set the car up to suit them. It is a tough transition to go from racing solely for yourself and your performance to knowing that the car is not exactly how you want it but ultimately it will benefit you.
Q4. It is often said the time gain is on the amateur’s side rather than the pro. In reality how have you achieved this?
In reality yes this is always the case. With Nick and myself there is a weight difference between us and naturally a balance difference so I have realised that for Nick to have a car that is well balanced it must be unreal oversteer for me and while this compromises my lap time it may only be costing me 0.2-0.3 of a second per lap driving around the handing but for Nick the benefit could be up to 1-2 seconds per lap. We also spend a lot of time looking at the data and video to help Nick tidy up certain aspects and try to find the biggest areas to gain from for the least effort given the limited amount of time we have prior to qualifying.
Q5. Having raced a Ginetta, two different Porsche’s and now a Mercedes in GT4, what are the pros and cons of each?
The Ginetta was okay to get going and although it was cheaper to buy than the other two, it broke down so often it became expensive and frustrating to run. The Porsche was a great car to drive, just underdeveloped for GT4, it was way too heavy and underpowered to be competitive. It was however fantastic in the wet with the engine right over the rear wheels. The Mercedes is a whole different level, it is a purpose built race car and everything has been thought of to help aid the ‘Am’ driver as much as possible. The only down side is that the car is so good that the championship organiser penalises the car excessively with the BoP by adding a lot of weight and giving us nearly 100bhp less than some of our rival cars.
Q6. British GT brought you into the world of Balance of Performance. In last years WTCR race in China there was talk of teams not wanting to set fastest lap due to BoP implications. My simplistic view is the BoP should be set at the start of the season with perhaps one change in season. Where do you stand on BoP and does it affect how you drive each round?
BOP is the hottest topic in any form of GT controlled racing. Everybody thinks they are hard done by but in reality it is something everyone is just going to have to deal with. It’s very tough for organisers to know the best way to level cars performance especially when teams and manufacturers try skew the outcome of any results BoP tests but mostly they do a good job. In my view I think in our series BOP needs to be reviewed more often and data needs to be overlaid to see where each car gains it’s advantage. An example was last year for the BMW GT4, the BoP was set at the start of the year on a car that was not developed and had a lot of power but poor handling. As the year progressed, teams found ways to improve the handing of the BMW and so not only did they have superior power, they also had good handling and subsequently had a healthy advantage. I find BoP a very frustrating thing but something that is necessary. It doesn’t always affect the way we drive the car but added weight can have an effect of setup and tyre life across a stint and so we have to make changes to try and minimise the effects. It can also affect how we are able to race. For the Mercedes with superior handling but less power, we can do a fast lap time by carrying good corner speed but in a race when a car in front with more power is defending heavily it is nearly impossible to overtake because you can no longer carry that corner speed and also have less power to propel you up the next straight.
Q7. With the demise of Rockingham, British GT is faced with two rounds at Donington. In my view a national championship should be raced at home tracks with foreign jaunts just increasing budgets and rarely getting much of a crowd. Discuss.
While I’m not thrilled with the prospect of a second race at Donington, Rockingham in the layout that was being used was not ideal for GT racing either. As I see it sadly there is no real alternative venue that would be able to run pitstop races in the UK and so we have ended up with another race at a venue that can accommodate. The Spa round does add cost to the series but it’s a trip that all the drivers and teams enjoy. I think a way of having a different circuit on the calendar without adding too much cost would be to have a second race in northern Europe the week before or after Spa so as not to add an extra crossing, travel and so on.
Q8. British GT4 was slow to get going but now has variety and far more entries than GT3. There was talk at one point of splitting GT3 and GT4 up which ultimately never happened. I think that was the correct decision but where do you stand?
I think it was the right choice to keep GT3 & GT4 together. British GT is a multi-class championship and should stay that way.
Q9. In 2017 you got the chance to drive the Red Line Racing Porsche in Carrera Cup. The Nationwide car has been front running for several years so it was a great opportunity to show your skills in front of the TOCA crowd. How did it compare to a GT4 and were you worried about being at a disadvantage from a one off drive?
It was a fantastic opportunity to drive a competitive car. It was very different to the GT4, more power, no ABS, no TC, rear engine. It is always hard to jump into a series part way through, especially something as competitive as Carrera Cup. I wouldn’t say I was particularly worried about being disadvantaged I just adjusted my expectations to suit the circumstances. It was a steep learning curve in a car that requires a very particular driving style but it was great to learn another car and learn from another winning team.
Q10. In 2018 you got your hands on a Mercedes GT4 which is one of the newer GT4 cars. Such cars are not cheap and can be made redundant by newer cars rather quickly. Would a sub class for earlier generation cars help or, as now, is moving them to the likes of GT Cup fine?
I think with BoP older cars can still be competitive, the Aston Martin GT4 is one of the older cars in GT4 but is still just as competitive as the newest gen cars. I think the way cars filter into series like GT Cup/ Britcar and alike works just fine at the moment.
Part 3 – racing practicalities
Q1. To get started in racing you need to pass the ARDS test to get your license. For all of us who have never done this, what did you have to do and did your previous karting experience help?
The ARDS requires you to pass a written test consisting of multiple choice safety based questions and also a physical driven part to show you can implement those safety aspects. The Karting version is very similar so I would say it did help me in a way but most of the ARDS test is common sense.
Q2. These days we hear drivers getting points on their license for various incidents. Talk us through what you can get points for, can you appeal and what are the ramifications of getting points.
Points on your license can be for a multitude of things such as overly aggressive driving, causing a crash or even disobeying marshall’s and officials. Many of the penalties that are applied to drivers or teams can be appealed although some cannot. Points on your license ultimately can lead to you losing it or being banned from racing for a set period of time.
Q3. As the holder of a racing license, what happens each year in terms of new driving or safety rules, are there any periodic reviews of your skills, do have to have an annual eye test and do you have to re-do the test when you hit a certain age?
Every year you must renew your license. You also have the option to upgrade or downgrade depending on your level of competition and requirements. There is no official periodic safety test although in British GT we take the Sean Edwards test each year which is a safety based test which requires each driver to score a certain number of points based on their FIA driver grading. Drivers over 18 with an International license are required to pass a medical including an eye test each year.
Q4. Over in America, James Hinchcliffe talked about Indycar drivers should have more say with a version of F1’s GPDA and how some drivers race with no insurance. For any driver racing in a UK series, what do they have to have, what can they have and what are the implications of not having cover?
There are multiple motorsport specialist insurers in the UK who can provide cover for drivers (though) there is currently no requirement for drivers to be insured personally. For many drivers the cost of the insurance is way too much for the amount of cover that they can get. For professional drivers who are earning their sole income from driving it is surely a must.
Q5. When you started out looking for drives with the likes of Jamun and Cliff Dempsey Racing, what is the sequence of events during negotiations? (ie do you go to the team first, do the team come to you, do you get sponsorship first and then look for a team etc.)
For someone with limited or no budget, normally you speak to the teams first whether they come to you or vice versa and then you put a package together to try and attract sponsors. When you have a budget to spend you can be more picky and try to negotiate better terms for the money you have available.
Q6. Racing drivers often do driver coaching for up and coming drivers and/or track days. Talk us through how these work [ie do young drivers approach you, what do you do and how much time does this take up] and are track days as scary as I can occasionally imagine them to be when someone turns up thinking they are Lewis Hamilton?
I don’t think there is a set way this comes about, some drivers chase work and others have people approach them. I do a lot of coaching work with drivers up and coming and gent drivers. I do tend to avoid instructor work at things like track days in road cars. Because of the success I’ve had I can be a little more picky about who I want to work with.
Q7. A lot of drivers have day jobs. Are there people from all professions racing on UK tracks and any popular ones for racing drivers to hold?
There are a number of professions around the paddock amongst the pro’s but I think many of them are instructors for MSV or for various manufacturers like McLaren. The Am’s in the GT paddock are from all walks of business!
Q8. There are some drivers which will race full time and then completely disappear only to return a few years later. James Thompson and Tom Boardman spring to mind. To do this, do you need to be working from the family firm or have a lot of money saved to take time off?
I think any driver that races full time is in a very fortune position to either be employed and paid to drive or to be in a financial position where they are comfortable and free from any burden in that respect. Most ‘professional’ racing drivers are in the family situation where they can focus solely on their race program. I would love to be in either of those positions!
Part 4 – Thoughts on…
Since you started, there are not as many single seater categories in the UK for the aspiring F1 drivers to race in and British F4 numbers have struggled. Discuss.
British F4 has been an expensive entry level for many drivers – compared to the days for Duratec Formula Ford budgets have doubled! If you look at Formula Ford 1600 numbers are very healthy, but a competitive budget is £50k and not many drivers have £200k to spend on entry level racing to be competitive against the likes or Arden, Double R and Carlin. Also it is too close in performance and budget to British F3 so you have two series competing for the same pool of drivers who can afford it.
I’m not a fan of the look but it’s necessary to help push safety standards up. I quite like the look of the shield concept being investigated by Indycar.
Track limits is a hot topic and something probably needed to be done – Copse at Silverstone, and turn 1 at the Red Bull Ring and Hockenheim spring to mind.
I don’t have an issue with track limits as long as the rules are enforced consistently. At MSV circuits it is impossible to breach track limits and get away with it because of the camera system. At places like Silverstone it is down to an interpretation of different marshals watching a corner for long periods of time and the outcome is not consistent.
Kerbs, markers and tyres to stop corner cutting.
I’m not keen on markers and tyres to stop corner cutting, they pose too much potential for hazards on track and flying debris. The tyre stacks at Snetterton are just dangerous, they restrict the drivers view of the circuit and can cause huge damage if the car in front clips them and pulls them straight into your path. I think the sausage kerbs are a much better way of deterring drivers away from corner cutting.
There are too many race meetings in the UK.
There does seem to be a lot of meetings in the UK now. I think it would be better if BGT, TOCA and BSB all got together to avoid clashes with each others schedules where possible.
Success ballast. For or against.
Gravel traps or endless tarmac run off.
TCR is the way forward for touring cars.
Not sure, it doesn’t personally float my boat but neither does the current BTCC car.
Series a driver looking to race in Indycar or F1 should look to do (assuming budget not a problem).
F1 – F4 domestic, FIA F3, FIA F2
Indycar – USF2000, Pro Mazda, Indy Lights
Series a driver looking to race in touring cars or GT should look to do (assuming budget not a problem).
Touring Cars – Clios
GT – Any high level single seaters.
The W series.
I can’t see the point. Seems like a waste of money that could be put to better use within the sport to nurture all talent not just that of a specific gender.
Part 5 – Quick fire answers.
The best UK track to race on: Brands Hatch GP
The best international track you have raced on: Spa Francorchamps
The track you would love to race on: Nordschleife
The series or car you would love to race: Indycar or FIA Masters F1
The Malvern bucket list is: Pretty long! Le Mans 24hr, Indy 500, VLN, Bathurst 12hr, Monaco, Daytona 24hr, Suzuka, Aussie V8’s, Spa 24hr, Dubai 24h, Abu Dhabi 12hr.
The best driver you have raced against: Can’t decide.
The best driver you have raced against who should have gone further: Lee Bell (Karting)
Your most embarrassing racing moment: Haven’t really got any embarrassing moments. One of the worst was being mega excited to race at Spa in British GT 2017, travelling all the way there to complete only two laps all weekend due to a technical problem.
Your proudest racing moment: So many proud moment but winning the Formula Renault championship with a shoestring budget and the smallest team in the paddock against long established teams was particularly satisfying.
Thank you to Scott for taking part. You can follow Scott on Twitter (@ScottMalvern) and at UK racetracks in the British GT Championship. We wish Scott all the best for the 2019 season and would certainly love to see Scott race in the Indy 500 or around Bathurst in an Aussie V8.