Ahead of the 2016 season, I caught up with Team-HARD driver Kieran Gallagher. With a seat confirmed, Gallagher is hoping to take part in his third BTCC season this year, funds allowing. We discussed his early career, some of the problems in motorsports today, and what the Scotsman hopes to get from the new season…
I’ve been working recently on the support series and looking at some of the young drivers’ careers. So how did you imagine your career when you first started out and how is it different now?
I started out in Scottish Legends having a bit of fun in club racing, just happy to be racing. Then along came an opportunity to race at Spa Francorchamps in the Volkswagen Cup. Within 13 months I was two wheelin’ through the chicane at Knockhill in P13 in the BTCC…
So yeah, it’s a little bit different!
What advice would you give to the youngsters?
I don’t want to sound cliché, but don’t give up. You make your future. Your decisions depict what that will be.
Don’t think anything is out of your league. Think big, dream big, win big.
When you were younger, did you get much support to get you into racing?
From family is where it started. Then, as my sales pitches came into play from previous jobs, the sponsors started coming.
The best way to start is to beg and borrow from friends and families. Anyone who works in a small business, you know. Local small businesses are more likely to sponsor a local racer than further afield.
Don’t try and make money starting off. Try and make ends meet. Like me: I don’t want to earn money from my passion of racing. Anything over and above goes to charity. All I want to do is race, not earn.
What charities are you supporting? Or does it change?
It doesn’t change. It is Yorkhill Children’s hospital I have raised for in the past and I will continue to support. It’s close to home and I’ve seen the work they have done for some of my friends’ children in the past. Their stories are heart-warming and some are heart breaking.
Stepping up from VW Racing cup to BTCC, what was the biggest challenge?
Having an understanding that NGTC cars are like nothing else you will ever drive. Confidence was the main factor. Not only understanding that the level of speed you can take into a corner, but through the corner too, was a whole new ball game.
Other than that: getting used to signing autographs. I’m just a surveyor who races cool cars at the weekend. People wanted my t-shirts, photos with me, autographs and other merchandise. This baffled me and still does.
I can imagine that must be pretty insane. So, what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned from BTCC so far?
To be humble, respect the fact that people spend GOOD money to come and see us race.
A lot of drivers forget that, without the fans, motorsport would be dead.
In 2011, I was standing on the roof of my beaten up civic watching BTCC at Knockhill, cheering for Shedden. I didn’t think I’d get on track in my life, left alone race against him two years later.
Would you be able to give me a bit of a breakdown of the costs involved in BTCC?
Per weekend you can be anywhere up to £10,000 in tyres and brakes alone.
A test session can be anywhere from a few grand to £8000-10,000.
A front end rebuild for a bit of nudging can set you back £2000.
The Rockingham crash cost £17,000, put it that way. That was 2.6G of force backwards into a two tonne concrete block.
How soon after the crash were you thinking about the cost of it?
Whilst going backwards
If motorsports in general were cheaper to take part in, do you think we would still see the same style of driving or the same drivers at the top?
Not a chance.
Even if you took a zero off the end, I don’t think we would see the same faces. There is so many people out there with extreme talent that go unnoticed and undiscovered due to lack of budget to race in ‘prestige’ championships. I, for one, would love to see that. Sport should be about talent, not money. That is the sad truth.
So you’d say money is shutting out talented drivers?
Money rules all.
Look at Paul Di Resta in Formula 1: An absolute legend of a driver, absolutely stunning talent with ballistic outright pace that was lost to other drivers with bigger budgets.
It’s the same in every championship all over the world.
What prep do you have left to do before the 2016 season starts, besides raising money?
I’ve been training fitness wise, which is something I hadn’t done much prior to 2015. The lack of fitness in a race car really shows. And this time it’s game on!
Do you plan to do the entire season this year?
If I get the budget that would be the intention.
Moving away from the money, what’s your goal for 2016?
Ultimately, I just want to make up for the lack of excitement and entertainment I was not able to give my fans last year. If we make it, it’s going to be a big one!
Featured Image Credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/carryfiasco