When Tom Mills participated in GB4’s Donington Park media day in March, he wasn’t expecting to race this year. But last Sunday he was crowned champion.
Mills wrapped up the title with a round to spare at Brands Hatch driving for his father Kevin’s team, KMR Sport, which also clinched the teams’ championship for a second time.
“It means a lot,” the younger Mills told Formula Scout. “It’s been a lot of work this year to make sure we had the budget to keep going meeting-on-meeting. We made it. The pressure’s off now.”
The 18-year-old arrived at Brands Hatch with a 98-point lead over Cooper Webster, needing to only extend his advantage by seven points across the weekend to be uncatchable. That looked likely after winning the first two races from pole.
“Everyone was talking about it and hyping it up a bit,” Mills said of the title possibility. “But I knew if I didn’t get it done this weekend I had a big advantage for [the final round].
“The pace was good and I qualified on pole. When I was leading and they were catching me a bit I was like ‘I’m under pressure here, let’s not make any mistakes’, As soon as I could relax, I had the pace and just gained again.”
Starting from 11th in the reversed-grid race, Mills made up places from others’ mistakes and with Webster only managing fourth, his risk-free drive to seventh made him champion.
“I didn’t overtake a single person,” Mills said. “They all fell off in front of me and I just got stuck behind Zack [Ping], the dirty air around here is so hard. Finishing seventh is actually good, I had to be mature about it.
“I could see [Webster] hadn’t gone forwards as much as I thought he would, and that meant I didn’t have to take as many risks.”
Mills’ achievement is something that had looked unlikely when he shook down KMR’s third car at the pre-season media day. Having topped that test, he found the budget for round one at Oulton Park, claiming a win and the points lead.
That early form and help from sponsors allowed Mills to keep going, and he took full advantage by adding seven more victories across the next four rounds. He now holds the series record of 10 wins.
“We really didn’t think we’d be here,” said Mills. “We weren’t just saying that, I honestly didn’t think we were going to get to do it. Even at Oulton, we still didn’t have the budget to go for the next round.
“It was just thanks to the results there that we managed to piece it together, thanks to all my sponsors, they’ve just kept me going every meeting and it’s got me here which is not what we expected.
“As a second-year driver everyone has been expecting me to win. But it shows, coming back for a second year does work, you learn so much. It’s definitely a fantastic championship and it’s allowed me to make a name for myself.”