Phil Hanson is the young endurance racing driver to watch. During his short career he has already smashed records and competed in prestigious races such as Rolex 24 Hours, at Daytona, alongside two-time F1 champion, Fernando Alonso. He is also the youngest top 10 finisher in the history of the world-famous Le Mans 24 Hours.
HedgeBrunch caught up with Phil to talk career dreams and required qualities for endurance racing.
HB At what age did you first show an interest in endurance racing and when should young drivers racing to ensure they’re experienced enough to compete?
PH I probably started later than I should have, originally I wanted to be a football player or rugby star like most school boys, it wasn’t until I was 11 or 12 I really started to take an interest in kart racing and 13 or 14 when I got my karting license. I was fortunate to start winning championships early and started to get noticed by serious teams. I would recommend getting involved as early as possible, you can start kart racing from 4 years old! Karting is also great at any age, as its not just for children, there are serious adult championships as well with full time professional drivers.
HB Are there any milestones or certain trophies a budding driver should be aiming for?
PH I would say just race as much as you possibly can, weekends, evenings, foreign championships etc. I would also say have something to fall back on though, job wise. Everything in racing can change very quickly and you should always have another career idea to fall back on.
HB When did you realise you could become a racing driver for a living and do you need to have made it a certain age?
PH I was probably 17 when I realised it was probably a university or racing decision and I think most young athletes have to make the choice around that age. However we are all living so long on average these days you could make the decision to be become a racing driver in some form later in life, you just need the passion and time to dedicate to it.
HB What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make for your racing?
PH Bar university and a normal social life (I can’t really drink and have a strict diet and training regime) it would be skiing! Before I got into racing for a brief period I considered being competitive skier. However, sadly I now can’t ski due to the risk injury. Its something I’ll definitely pick up again once I stop racing.
HB What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a budding driver?
PH Make sure it’s something you really want! It’s such a competitive industry and you really have to be willing to sacrifice a lot to achieve. I’ve seen a lot of people get into it for the lifestyle and the parties but at the end of the day its a 7 day a week job with a lot of pressure and commitment. You can still get into racing at an older age and be a ‘gentlemen driver’ as they are known. That’s not in the endurance category necessarily but there are lots of racing category’s where they are regular fixtures.
HB What’s been your biggest career highlight so far?
PH Either racing at Le Mans when I was just 17 or the World Endurance Championship win in Bahrain. Le Mans was crazy because in France you have to be 18 to get a driving licence and there I was at 17 driving round one of the most famous tracks in the world.
HB Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
PH Ideally in a manufactured drive with a long contract for career security. I would also love to get a Le Mans win under my belt, but then what racing driver wouldn’t?
HB What’s the one natural ability a young endurance racing driver should possess?
PH Very good hand eye coordination is a basic one but it’s something known in the industry as ‘the feeling’ – it’s almost making sure all 5 senses are connected to the car. It means you understand the car better and can push the car, making for better quality racing and lap times. You can only know you have it once you tried racing – so best way is to hit a track day and have some fun finding out.
HB What are you looking forward to most this year post lockdown?
PH Apart from seeing friends and family like everyone else, I can’t wait to go out for dinner, because I follow a strict diet I choose my cheat meals very carefully. My favourite restaurant in London is Daphne’s on Draycott Avenue, it’s round the corner from our place in town and the staff are so friendly. They have a menu that never fails; their Ragu is always excellent.
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