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Number 34 returns to the track

After two years out of a racing car Tony Gilham showed last weekend that he still has what it takes to compete at the sharp end.Round 3 of the 2014 British GT Championship.

Gilham made his return behind the wheel in the VW Cup last weekend at Silverstone and it was clear that it was a last minute decision for the Team HARD man.

Speaking to Kent Sports News about his weekend back racing, he said: “I wish I had decided to do it a bit earlier so I was a bit more mentally prepared and car prepared really. I always said if I was going to do it then I would do it properly.

“I went out for qualifying and the car wasn’t really ready, the pressures were wrong and I literally just threw my overalls on and did it. We qualified out of position which was frustrating, as much as we said we would never do it, we started the weekend on the back foot.”

They may have qualified on the back foot but as the weekend went on Tony’s performance in the car got better and better.

He added: “In race one we got hit on lap one and had to have a pit stop for a puncture, I was stone last and half a lap down on everyone, we were then actually the quickest car on track at times. I got the second fastest lap overall, we had the pace in race one but unfortunately because we were out of position we got back up to 16th but had to go past 15 cars just to get there, after catching the train up which took me three laps to do. So I made the best of a bad situation.

“In race two I started 16th and was up to P5, I was overtaking this season’s race winners and past champions which was good as I was only just getting back in the groove after being out of the seat for nearly two years.

“The tyres were good, the pace was good and the race craft was surprisingly good, and there was some good overtaking. Starting in P16 made it hard and we were up to P5 by the last lap and then something magical happened to a couple of the cars, and they just drove past me on the straights for some reason. That dropped us to P7 and really we weren’t far off fourth on the last lap and then those moves dropped us to seventh.

“There are a lot of positives to take really bearing in mind how it all started, I have a couple of regrets that I wasn’t a bit more ready for it. I kept saying yes I was going to do it and then no I wasn’t going to do it, I couldn’t make a decision, because of the finances and making sure that it was ok with my teammates and everything. When we finally decided to do it, it was literally just before qualifying.”Round 3 of the 2014 British GT Championship.

Despite being out of the car for nearly two years, having concentrated on running his own team it showed that Tony has lost none of his talents for racing cars.

“Especially as I have never been to Silverstone GP circuit before either, I had to learn the track and as I instruct and mentor all my drivers it was difficult as I haven’t been to the GP circuit before, learning a new track was tough and then to get back into the race seat after being out of it for so long was good. It was also my first time in the new car with all the new kit and the wider wheels, I was very new to it but I soon got back into the groove which was quite promising really.

“We had a spare care there at the weekend, basically because Howard Fuller had a big accident we had his original car repaired and we used that on the test day, and we didn’t have a driver in our spare car just in case here was anything wrong with Howard’s, once that proved to be all good to go we were left with a spare car.

“We have an obligation to the sponsor to get that car out, we weren’t stuck or forced into it or anything but it would actually work out cheaper for me to drive than not to drive. I enjoyed it nonetheless and it was good to get back racing, I want to race and it is in me to be a racer and out on the track full time but it just depends on what happens with sponsors.”Round 3 of the 2014 British GT Championship.

Tony clearly enjoyed himself and he would love to get out on track racing again this season if the opportunity was to present itself.

He said: “I would love to be a regular in the seat and at this stage I couldn’t say whether I will be back out again, I would love to be. I work closely with all the drivers and we have had lots of positive feedback from them and I enjoyed being out on track with them and we are all looking to improve together.

“We all learn from each other, I learn from them and they learn from me. As much as I am there to mentor them there is still things I can take from what they are doing as nobody is perfect and we all need to help each other along.”

Team HARD very much has a reputation of giving young up and coming drivers and opportunity in the cars and this season is no exception.

Tony added: “The drivers are very up and coming, Simon (Rudd) is getting quicker all the time. Tom (Barley) obviously has had some decent results, Rockingham was very good and by the end of Silverstone he was bang on the pace.

“We know how quick Howard is but for some reason he is having such bad luck this season, Kieran (Gallagher) is learning as well and this was probably his strongest showing. It is good to be working with these up and coming drivers and it was also good for me to get in there and show that I have still got pace and I can do a job. The last thing that I want is to be telling them what to do and then go out there and be slower than them, because then why would they listen to me.”Round 3 of the 2014 British GT Championship.

The VW Cup hasn’t been kind to Team HARD this season with two massive accidents for Tony’s drivers in the opening weekend but since then it has been an upward curve of momentum for the team.

“It was a very unfortunate start to the season, there wasn’t really anyone to blame it was just unfortunate. Howard got caught up and Kieran had a parts failure, it wasn’t ideal but we got over it.

“We had a short turn around, we rebuilt Kieran’s car and we have got back out there and in the last two weekends we have been stronger than ever from a team perspective. We have come massively forward in terms of the VW Cup.

“I am almost wishing now that I raced at Rockingham, I did do the test day up there and was really quick. I was tempted to drive that weekend and had I done that I could have been up there in the championship because looking at what happened with Aaron and others we could have been right up there near the top if I had only missed the one race being Oulton Park.

“The team is definitely going in the right direction we are talking to some other drivers and we are always looking to add more cars and drivers and work with sponsors. We are building something, we built our touring cars and unfortunately that didn’t work out quite as we wanted it to.

“We are long standing with the VW Cup having raced in it myself and we won it in 2007, and we put close to the championship winning livery on the car for last weekend. That was last minute and we were doing that at the track over the weekend ourselves. It was a very interesting and positive weekend, and we have had a lot of positive feedback since the weekend as we keep growing.”

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