Home Featured Q&A with Alex Gill

Q&A with Alex Gill

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photograhy

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photograhy

Twice a Super 1 National champion, Doncaster’s Alex Gill left karting as one of the top British up-and-comers in circuit racing. In 2014, he placed fourth in Protyre Formula Renault in his debut season in cars.

Having proven himself on the national scene, the 17-year-old now has his sights set on Europe.

So, Alex, tell us about the upcoming tests that you’re taking part in.

Well, we might be testing in February, depending on what the weather will be like, but most of the running will take place in March.

Which category will you be testing in and with which team?

Well, I tested with Mark Burdett Motorsport in Formula Renault 2.0 in December at Valencia and we were one of the quickest cars there. But I raced with Fortec in Protyre last year and we’ll be testing with them shortly. I think they’re a great team, they’ve won NEC every year since 2012 so we just want to see how that goes.

I really want to race with Fortec, because, obviously, I know they’re a great team. I look forward to seeing how they work and hopefully I’ll get along with all the mechanics and engineers.

So, your ideal plan for 2015 is doing the NEC series with Fortec?

Yeah, I think that would be quite good… maybe do a couple of Eurocup rounds to see what it would be like to race against people who’re doing it for a second year.

If you do land that seat, what will you be aiming to achieve in 2015, given Fortec’s stellar track record in the series?

Just doing the best I can, really. If I come away winning, then I’ve carried on their great streak, but I’m just going to try to do the best I can.

There’s some great people doing it this year, like Louis Deletraz, for instance. It’ll obviously be really hard to beat him ?cause he finished second last year, but a great team like Fortec, it should be doable.

You’ve done your two rounds of Protyre with MTech in 2013 and then did the Autumn Cup with MGR. So how did you end up with Fortec last year?

Well, the rounds I did with MTech was because I needed a team to race with and they were a great squad for starting off. They weren’t right at the front, but they weren’t at the back so it was ideal for me to get to learn the car.

MGR had obviously won the series, so I did the Autumn Cup with them. We had good pace, but I made a lot of mistakes, still getting used to the car. Fortec, meanwhile, won it with Ben Barnicoat.

So, after that weekend, we spoke with Fortec’s BARC manager Dan Mitchell. He offered us a test and I absolutely loved working with them, the car and the mechanics. It was a great relationship to have.

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

You’ve started your full-time Protyre season at Rockingham with a victory, a second place and a late puncture that denied you a full set of podiums. That should’ve made you the main championship contender, but it didn’t quite work out. How come?

Well, yeah, I had a great start, but it was kind of hard after that. I was the only driver at Fortec and MGR had four cars. We were kinda set back cause we could only do one setup at a time. So it was hard for us to try different setups.

When we got it right, we were really quick, like at Snetterton. But, in other races, we struggled a little bit with the setups and I didn’t have much data to work with. I only had my laptime against a different day’s laptime, while MGR had four sets of laptimes.

The team were obviously doing their best, but we just didn’t have the numbers.

Your name was on the BRDC F4 Winter Series entry list this year, but you did not end up taking part. Why so?

Well, I got offered to do the Winter Series with MGR and I thought it’d be interesting to try my hand at a different car. I was pretty quick on my first ever day in the car, albeit struggled a bit in the dry.

We were getting up to speed, but then we had a gearbox problem, which ruled me out for the rest of the day. Then, at night, we realized the engine would need to be changed, which would see me miss out on all of Friday and head straight into qualifying.

So, the team and I decided that there was little point in me racing because I wouldn’t have had the experience the other drivers had. I did relatively well in Protyre, after all, so it’d make me look bad if I went straight into qualifying and was doing rubbish.

In your national karting career, you’ve won a lot of trophies. Which one are you most proud of?

I’d probably have to say my first Super 1 title in 2009 ? in the Cadet class. That was the first championship I’d ever won and I was just 12, so quite young.

Despite your status as a major British junior single-seater talent, you still find yourself doing work as a mechanic/driver coach for young local karting drivers. Why?

Well, I don’t know, part of it is obviously that I do it to get money. But I do like it. I remember, when I was a little kid, I used to look up to people like Jake Dennis who were moving up to cars. And now that I’ve moved into cars, I can be a mechanic for kids who know who I am and they look up to me more. I feel like I’m giving back to karting a little bit and that’s always nice.

Going back a bit, how did you get your start in racing?

Well, my dad used to race 250cc gearbox karts when he was around 19-20. But he never had the money to move up to cars. So, when I was born, he’d already had a kart made for me for when I was ready and old enough. He took me out racing and it was kind of my way of bonding with him, ?cause he obviously loved the sport and he really enjoyed doing mechanic work for me. He’s been there ever since.

You make it sound like going into racing wasn’t much of a choice for you?

Yeah, I kinda got born into it. I grew up around racing and my dad was always kind of pushing me to do racing. I’d be like ?dad, I want to play football? and he’d be like ?no?. *laughs*

Do you have any complaints about that? Do you regret it in any way?

No. He’d always want me to progress in whatever I was doing. If I really wanted to play football, he’d probably be supportive of that. But, given that racing was something I really liked doing, he showed a lot of interest and put a lot of effort into it.

Your end goal is probably Formula 1, just like it is for most of your peers?

Yeah, I’d obviously love to be there, that’s everyone’s dream. But a realistic goal for me is just to become a professional, to get paid to drive. F1 would be great, but I love driving anything, really. So, if I got paid to race, that’d be my dream job. I don’t think I could work behind a desk ? I like to be outside and really active and I just love to drive cars.

So, if F1 doesn’t pan out, which other championships would you be looking at?

Well, I quite like endurance racing. I’ve always wanted to do the Le Mans 24 Hours because of the excitement that surrounds it. And, really, I’d love to do World Endurance.

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography