Tom Gaymor interview

Former karter, Tom Gaymor, 32, now advises racing teams and governing bodies on ways to develop and nuture young racing drivers. He also commentates on F1 and covers all of Eurosport’s LIVE motorsport. Here’s what he has to say:

I only raced in Formula 6 but I won a two-year scholarship to La Filière. I entered a competiton at Silverstone, it was called the fast track competition and it was an open competition aimed at SuperOne karters. I won that. The guy that came second was British Formula A Champion, Lars Sexton. So it’s funny really, as it shows that you can have lots of talent but not be competing at the highest level.

Alonso and Raikkonen won’t work. In F1 there’s a lot of data capture and a lot of data share. When you have two very strong individuals they’re focused on their own programs and the marginal gains they can make. So they don’t freely share the information. With Massa and Alonso, Alonso won’t see Massa as a threat and Massa will see Alonso as someone he can learn off and that makes the team powerful as everyone works together.

Vettel isn’t a machine because even machines break down. He’s on another level, he’s relentless. In some ways Ricciardo is fairly unlucky because he’s going up against one of the best drivers who as ever lived. He’s got nowhere to hide. Vettel is nothing short of incredible, you know, really special. One thing that drivers find  hard when it comes to competing with Vettel is that he never gives up. He could go out and barrel roll the car through a gravel trap  then get back in the car and the next lap he’ll break the lap record.

The MSA have to do things differently. They’re trying to enter the modern era in a sense that they’ve been viewed as a rules and regulations body for a long time but they’ve realised that if they’re to move inline with other National Governing Bodies then they have to change the way they operate. They’ve developed a whole new sports strategy plan, they’ve realised the value of a British world champion to the British economy and they know that in order to create British world champions you need to have a responsibility towards a grass roots level of the sport and grow the sport. They also have performance programs like the MSA Academy to help nurture the talented drivers we’ve got.

How can you not admire the Racing Steps Foundation? It’s an intiative setup by a wealthy businessman who has an interest in helping very talented individuals that haven’t got the backing to achieve their goals. Their remit is to turn those inidividuals into professionals and by that I mean drivers who are earning money. That doesn’t have to mean F1, it can mean Indy Car, DTM, GTs, anything.

I, Tom Gaymor, think the MSA do a good job with the limited resources that they have available to them. They’d like to do more and  I’d love to see them do a lot more but it’s very difficult for one reason: everything costs money.

You’ve probably never heard of The Surrey Boys. Although, you might have heard some of these names: Christian Bakkerud, Duncan Tappy, Sam Bird, Tim Crighton and Ollie Millroy. We all started off with Andrew Crighton at Sandown. They all wanted to beat Tom Gaymor!

I had missed a lot by not competing at the highest level in karting and not having a career in karting. I realised that a background in karting would have helped me out, massively. I didn’t opt not to have a career in karting I just got into the sport late and further on in my career. I had the ability but I did not understand how to compete in a Championship.

How to win a championship. If you want to become a racing driver, well, what do you do? If you want to become a footballer, you go down to the park on a Saturday, join a team, kick a ball and if you’re good, you’ll get picked, play more and make your way to a higher level, surrounded by like minded people. Motorsport is a closed book and that’s what the MSA are trying to change. If your parents aren’t into it then the chances are you won’t be able to make it in motorsport. Even if they are into it, they’re either brave or stupid, knowing how much it’s going to cost them.

Formula 6 is where it’s at! That was the series I raced in. Roger Sheffield! Some mega karters came out of that series and it’s still going.

I guess you could say winning La Filiere was when I burst onto the scene. At 17 it felt like I had made it. I raced against Clivio Piccione and Ruben Carrapatoso . These were guys I looked up to when I picked up my copy of Karting Magazine at Sandown. Then there they were a few years later, my team mates.

We trashed a chateau the night before one of our races. It wasall Alexandre Premat’s fault. He was the biggest joker at La Filiere. And we trashed Olivier Pla’s car he didn’t talk to us for a while. We used to pick on Lars Sexton as well. One night out at Le Mans we picked up his Mini and put it in a parking space that was so  tight he couldn’t get it out again. You’ve got to enjoy your time on this planet. We all got on at La Filiere and we all had fun.

The FFSA are doing things the MSA can only dream of. However, the FFSA have got a lot of money and are partly funded by the government. You’ve only got to look at who’s come up in the last decade to see how much influence they have: Sebastien Loeb, Sebastien Ogier, Jean Eric Vergne, Jules Bianchi, Romain Grosjean, Charles Pic. They’ve all come up with support of the FFSA.

Italy have a problem: there’s no Italian F1 driver. That’s unheard of. Ferrari are trying; they’ve got Raffaele Marciello and Antonio Fuoco in their driving academy. Those two could have what it takes but they’re a couple of years off yet. When I was racing I was haunted by a fear of failure. I’m a nervous person and that’s because I take pride in what I do. You have a dream and every time you’re in the car you put a lot of pressure on your own shoulders. When I started commentating I wasn’t as nervous. I was older, I had more life experience and it’s not a dream it’s a way of life.

You can buy success in karting. Karting has fallen into the trap that other formulas above it have fallen into. People got greedy in the boom and now we’re living with an ecomony that means supporting karting at that level is so much harder. The money needed in order to compete is massive. My biggest gripe about karting is that there’s a huge gulf between budgets of drivers on the same grid. You can buy success in karting, talent always rises to the top but you can still buy some of that talent.

Karting needs to be much more accessible, much more affordable. The MSA need to come in and govern it. They also need to get control of all the splinter series as these just dilute the sport. It’s difficult enough to know what series to pick when you’re young and talented but these days it’s not just difficult; it’s a lottery.

Is Karting too complicated for fans? I’m involved in motorsport and I lose track. Where is the long term sustainability within this market if new formulas are continually created at the expense of existing championships? Personally, I think this is where National Governing Bodies and in this case, the MSA, need to get involved. This is an area that cannot go unregulated any longer. Long term development and sustainability has to be a priority here and if you leave the future up to the competitors creating these formulas, then we are in trouble. How can a manufacturer or investor who is desperate to market their formula be interested in long term development for their competitors? It’s an impossible reality. The same can be said for the UK single seater scene too.

For all we know, the next Sebastien Vettel could be competing in Club 100 right now. There are some good people in those arrive and drive series and it’s good to see them gaining in popularity as they’re a good way to figure out whether you’re any good before you go bankrupt.

My plumber is quicker than me. He’s called Johnny Brandon and I don’t know many people who are quicker than him in a go-kart. He’s an unbelievably talented individual and I’m not just talking about fixing leaky taps! Fuck me is he quick in a go-kart. He is a prime example of someone who didn’t have the backing to go as far in the sport as his talent would take him. He goes fishing now. He’s probably the fastest fisherman I know.

I still beat Rick Parfitt Jnr when we go karting. Johnny Brandon and I were much quicker than him and Brandon was a couple of tenths quicker than me. Rick will never admit that, will you Rick? Can you beat Tom Gaymor? I don’t think so.

Where do you go when you pop out of karting? At the moment you can do the Renault programme and although some people resent them for that, Renault do it well. They’ve got a FR 1.6, FR 2.0 (NEC, ALPS Eurocup) and FR 3.5 and now they’re bringing back Renault engines to F3. Plus they have prize money. You might not like what Renault are doing but they do have a ladder in place. I am a huge fan of what they do.

Commentary is hard but when you’re commentating on a specialist sport, it’s even harder. Nine times out of ten, when a sport is watched by enthusiasts, those enthusiasts know a lot and are ready to pick you up on any mistake you make. You have to be on the ball or they’ll be the first to shoot you down. The next person who shoots me down, well, I’m going to invite them to sit in my seat for a day.

You can follow Tom Gaymor on Twitter @TomGaymor