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Phil Hanson: From Forest Edge to Le Mans in 4 years!

Phil Hanson: From Forest Edge to Le Mans in 4 years!

Phil Hanson. The youngest ever driver to place at the 24 hours Le Mans. It’s the biggest race in the World and at just 17 years old Phil finished 9th in the LMP2 class to make history. How did he do it so quickly? Who was involved? Can it be done again? Here’s everything you need to know about this inspirational story.

Phil started racing back in 2013 when he approached Rob Dodds (Team Owner of BKC Racing) at Forest Edge wanting to get into the sport. Rob is quite a big part of this story, even when it comes to Le Mans. Rob has helped several drivers into the car World and helped them get all the way to the top. Previous BKC Racing drivers include Nigel Moore, Lando Norris, Dean Stoneman and Ricky Collard. At this point little did Phil know Rob would be one of the first men he’d shake hands with as the chequered flag waved in Le Mans.

Rob decided to start Phil off in the Mini Max class. He was just 13 years old and it’s a great start for novice drivers. Racing at Forest Edge Phil showed quickly showed signs of being someone who could go far in the sport. He had natural ability and he was most importantly putting the hard work in!

In 2014, Phil’s first full year, the Junior X30 class had started to grow and BKC wasted no time in moving Phil up into the competitive class. Phil continued to put in impressive results at club level and made the odd appearance in the LGM Series. Phil also competed at Kartmasters and finished a respectable 13th.

Watch Phil take the 2015 Junior X30 title below

Moving into 2015 and it was to be Phil’s last year in karting and an impressive one at that. The Junior X30 class now had a grid in Super One and Phil entered for a full title assault. Over the season 24 drivers took part and heading into the final race of the season at PFI it was still all to play for between Phil and Harry Platten. Considering this was his first British Championship Phil showed his true talent to recover from a bad start to the race to get back to a championship winning position and take a historic win.

As good as his performance was at the last round, the fact he was able to quickly bounce back from a disappointing start to the season was even more impressive. His post-race interviews were also making him look the perfect package with Phil able to speak very confidently on camera. Away from Super One Phil also competed in the IAME International Final and SKUSA Supernationals XIX in Las Vegas.

Phil becoming the 2015 Junior X30 British Champion

One person who was a key part to his success in karting was Alex Ferris. He was Phil’s mechanic and mentor at BKC Racing as he went on a journey that led him to become the Junior X30 British Champion and without Alex, under the guidance of Rob Dodds, that may not have happened. Phil has always been very grateful for his contribution to his short and successful karting career.

With Phil’s career now fully accelerating it was at this point he made the decision to move on at just 16 years old. Staying under the wing of Rob Dodds, Rob connected Phil with Tockwith Motorsport to compete in the Britcar championship in the Audi R8 LMS. Phil needed a teammate for the Endurance Championship so Rob brought in former BKC driver Nigel Moore. Nigel has raced at highest level in karts and cars with great success, including an appearance in the Le Mans 24-hour race in the LMP1 class back in 2009.

Together Nigel and Phil, with Tockwith Motorsport, challenged for the title in a championship that couldn’t have been closer! The team qualified pole for the final race only for Nigel to spin in the tricky conditions on the warm up lap. This all meant they’d have to start from the pit lane and Phil and Nigel both drove an impressive race to recover and finish 2nd, putting them on the same points as the Mosler Car. But with Hanson taking more wins over the season he and Moore would win the title on countback! Two years and two close ends to the championship for Phil!

How Phil and Nigel won the 2016 Britcar Championship on joint points!

From there being good teammates they went out to race in the Asian Le Mans Series in the Ligier JS P3 car. It was a step up in class, completely new tracks (Zhuhai, Fuji, Buriram, Sepang) new competition, longer races and a tougher challenge. But Phil continued to pick up tiles with himself and Moore picking up two race wins, three podiums, three poles, two fastest laps and a ticket to the 24 hour of Le Mans! They were one of six teams in the class to gain an automatic invite and the only British team.

That championship win saw Hanson qualify for the biggest races in the World in the 2017 in the highly competitive LMP2 class! To prepare Hanson, with Moore, entered races in the European Le Mans Series and FIA World Endurance Championship to get used to the car and the competition.

Phil blasting through Eau Rouge during preparation for Le Mans

Of course, for the 24-hour race Hanson and Moore would need another teammate and that came in the shape of ex F1 driver Karun Chandhok. Karun approached the team wanting to take part in the event and it was hard to turn down given his experience in the sport.

As for the event, itself the team didn’t qualify the best, but in the race they were able to finish 9th in class of the 24 teams completing a total of 351 laps. But it wasn’t just about the result it was about a 17-year-old who raced with an ex BKC Racing driver in Nigel Moore and an ex F1 driver in Chandhok in the biggest race in the World in front of a crowd of over 250,000 people and the millions that tuned in over the duration of the race.

Le Mans Team

It’s quite a remarkable story for someone to go so far so quickly and it begs the question what happens next? Well FIA WEC looks the next target before they may even start setting their eyes on a Le Mans win. The story is an inspirational one that saw two drivers who both started with BKC Racing, take on the biggest race in the World as teammates in their second year together.

Written by Chris McCarthy

 

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