The all new Stilp HARD. Academy recently launched has had an amazing response over the last week or so and several meetings and conversations are now taking place as we look to end this season on a high and put plans in place for 2018.
AJ Sofroniou, who will now always be our #001, is the 1st driver to join our academy to begin an exciting new chapter in his racing career. In what is very much a family operation, it is so important to not only provide the development opportunity and support for up and coming racing drivers but to be able to build a career in house with one team is a real bonus.
Aj at just 9 years old is very excited, “I can’t wait to get started for next year and looking forward to meeting my new team mates when more drivers join the team. I think I can do very well in Super one with the Stilp HARD. Academy.”
Jordan said “Well what can I say, I’ve worked with Aj from the start, from the very first day this time last year, he really caught my eye with his natural ability to drive. Ever since that day I have worked as much as possible with him to really see what he has to offer. He has impressed, not just me, but a lot of people around the motorsport paddock, on and off the track. His ability to listen and take everything on board is great, and this is a major key to any driver’s success and Aj does this like it’s second nature. Aj has the ambition and determination to make it all the way and he’s shown his talent already in his first year. Now signing with Tony and I in the academy, we will make sure that Aj gets that extra support needed to build his profile. I feel that Aj is now ready for another big challenge, so we are entering him into the British Super One championship in 2018 and I cannot wait to see how he performs, I am extremely confident that he will succeed in this and his racing career will really start to build some momentum.”
Tom Kimber-Smith, driver manager added, “AJ has come a long way in such a short space of time. Last year was his first taste of Karting and having watched his final few races of the season you would not believe that he was a rookie. I have been in motorsport for many years and competing at the highest level, it amazes me how much hard work AJ is willing to put in. He understands already the dedication needed and the learning obstacles that he must overcome to succeed and win. Having signed with the Stilp HARD. Academy for the 2018 season, there is no reason now why AJ cannot win races.”
Tony concluded, “This is a real exciting time for the team all round and the Stilp HARD. Academy is the perfect start in motorsport for aspiring racing drivers to really learn what the industry is all about both on and off track. There isn’t enough support commercially for our stars of the future, so to be able to offer this kind of programme is amazing and we are very fortunate to be able to do so. There are some amazing talents out there and we are very much looking forward to seeing how far we can take them up the Motorsport ladder and build a strong relationship along the way. It all start now with our 1st signing Aj #001”
Team HARD. Racing are ready to take a ‘sizeable step’ up the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship grid in 2018, after agreeing a deal with widely respected and experienced engineer Geoff Kingston.
With a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the BTCC as well as other motorsport disciplines from Formula 1 to sportscars, Team HARD. are confident that the arrival of the highly-rated Kingston will be the next step towards becoming a front-running team.
Tony Gilham said “Geoff is arguably the best engineer in the BTCC paddock and it is no secret that we have been trying to secure his services for the past three years. That said, only now do I believe that the timing is right for us to work together as we continue to work our way up the grid. We have a great friendship and that is the perfect platform on which to build a very good working relationship.”
Gilham went on to say, “We both have the same drive and determination as well as a winning mentality that has brought us together for 2018. We both believe that we will arrive at race one of the season with a package capable of rivalling any team on the grid. This is another clear statement of our intent and having had Geoff involved for just a few days so far, it is quite clear that he will take us to the next level and improve us in all areas. With the right drivers in our cars there is no reason why we are not able to challenge for race wins and we will be aiming to take the Independent Championship come the end of the season”
Those sentiments are echoed by Kingston, who aside from working for some of the biggest teams in the BTCC over the years, was instrumental in helping to drive Jaguar to the World Sportscar Championship crown and Le Mans 24 Hours glory in the late 1980s, before contributing to Benetton’s race-winning success with Michael Schumacher in Formula 1 in 1993.
“I was looking for a fresh challenge like this, and when it came up, it just seemed like the perfect fit at the right time,” he explained. “Having known Tony for a few years now and seen how they have developed as a team, I feel that together we can build on that and really create something special. The CC is a very strong car and with a few upgrades over the winter will be a force to be reckoned with once again.”
“The one thing Team HARD. have lacked until now is a little bit of engineering experience – which is what I can bring to the table. With very little differences between these cars, the skill is in finding the limit from what’s available; that can be pretty elusive – but with the NGTC regulations as they are, it means that everybody has the same opportunity, which means it all comes down to how you use it.”
With seats still available and ongoing discussions with drivers, it will be interesting to see who Team HARD. will be signing in the coming weeks.
The Team HARD. Racing Motorsport ladder is now complete with the addition of our new race academy headed up by professional racing driver Jordan Stilp and Tony Gilham.
Jordan has been involved with the team for a few years now and the time is right to develop our relationship further and provide an opportunity that is very unique to Motorsport and take our development programme to a whole new level. It is a very unique concept that now offers stars of the future a one team journey from karting and junior racing all the way through to the top of the GT and Touring car world.
Tony said “Jordan has been great in helping our existing drivers develop as part of our GT programme whilst also working with his own junior drivers in the karting series. Karting is very new to me but I am very keen to learn all about it and help where possible to nurture young talent and assist them every step of the way.
The addition of the new Stilp HARD. Academy kart team will extend in to junior racing with the introduction of Ginetta Juniors for 2018. We have already signed our first academy driver with news to follow over the next few days.
Jordan added “I have been working with Tony and the team for a while now and have admired what they have built over the last few years. We have had several discussions over recent months and we both have the same vision with providing this opportunity for up and coming racing drivers. Motorsport is a very tough industry as I have found out myself, so to be able to work with Team HARD. and create something like this is a perfect platform on which to build on. We have lots of plans in place already and are very much looking forward to launching the academy and talking to interested parties.”
Tony went on to say “We all know Motorsport is one of the hardest places to be at times and so to be in a position to have built something so unique and offer what is an opportunity of a lifetime for these young drivers is testament to the people we have around us. We offer a full management programme and assist in every area a modern-day racing driver needs to be successful and rise to the very top. I cannot wait to get going and begin working with these little superstars.”
For the first time in almost 20 years, a BTCC car will take part in a night race. This will take place at Brands Hatch this weekend for the Britcar finale in to the night event.
Jesse Chamberlain and Ben Wallace will be the lucky pairing to enjoy this unique opportunity and we very much look forward to welcoming Jesse to the team and also seeing Ben continue his rate of progression within the Team HARD. motorsport programme.
Jesse said, “Thank you to Team HARD. for giving me this opportunity to race in this exciting event. It’s been a career goal to race in a BTCC car and to do that with Team HARD. is a dream come true. I’m looking forward to the challenge of the after the dark racing and especially as this is the first time in so many years that a touring car has entered in to this type of event and I’m honoured to bring back the touring car to endurance racing with me at the wheel. I’m also looking forward to racing with Ben and I’m sure we will be competitive and will be pushing for a great result.”
Ben commented, “Like Jesse I am honoured to be given this opportunity and can’t wait to get out on track for what will be my first time driving a BTCC car. I’ve been with Team HARD. for a couple of seasons now and I’m loving every minute, it is amazing that one team can offer such a variety of cars for its drivers and enables us to build a real strong relationship as we look to continue my development as a driver and build on my career. This will give us plenty to think about over the winter as we look at options for 2018.”
This isn’t the first time that the Team HARD. Toyota Avensis, previously piloted by Jake Hill, will compete in the Britcar Championship this season having already been raced by Adam Hatfield at Oulton Park picking up a class win on its debut.
Tony added, “A very warm welcome to what is very much a family team to Jesse and looking forward to working with him this weekend. I’m sure he will love every minute and I’m keen to see how he adapt to the new machinery. He is a great driver with lots of potential so we will see what we can do as we look forward to 2018. Ben has been involved with us for a while now and is still so young but way ahead of his years with his maturity and have no doubt that he will shine this weekend on track. It’s always exciting to see the team HARD. colours on a BTCC car and especially in a night race which always adds to the experience.”
Team HARD has made the first move in the driver market this off-season, today confirming Bobby Thompson as its maiden signing ahead of the 2018 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship.
Thompson will be entering his third season with the stable, following a highly successful campaign in the Volkswagen Racing Cup where he secured the overall title.
Team Principal Tony Gilham works hard to promote talented prospects through the Team HARD ranks and he feels the time is right for a move up the motor sport ladder into Britain’s premier championship, the BTCC, for what is a dream move for the young racer.
“Bobby is an outstanding young talent and we’re excited to see how he fares against the top touring car drivers in the country,” said Gilham. “We have a very strong package and we are improving all the time as a team.
“Bobby has already proven to us that he has what it takes to compete at the very top and it is great to have got this deal done very early to give us the maximum amount of time to prepare over the winter. It is a big step up but one that we believe he is more than ready for and have no doubt that he will do us proud.”
“I have had a fantastic year after winning the VW Racing Cup and now Team HARD have given me the opportunity to step up to the BTCC,” said the 20-year-old. “I’m absolutely over the moon, it’s been my dream for as long as I can remember.
“I never had any intentions on trying to get to Formula 1 or anything like that, it’s always been touring cars and it’s always been the BTCC.
“It’ll be a big step up, I’m sure of that, but I think we’re ready for it – we know what to expect. We had a test last year at Snetterton and it was amazing how much more grip there was available than in the VW Cup car. It’s more demanding and I’m already working on my fitness.”
“I’ve had three years with Tony really, starting back in 2015 in the VW Cup. I had a good year, finishing seventh or so in my first season then I topped it off last year coming into the BTCC as a champion. I’m so grateful to the team for making it possible and helping us to get on the grid and I’m pleased to have the chance to stay loyal. I can’t wait to get underway!”
Gilham added: “It is testament to the whole team and the unique concept that we have created, that enables us to be able to work with our drivers in this way and provide what is now the complete ladder all the way to the top level of British motor sport.
“In what is a very tough industry, what we have makes it possible for racing drivers like Bobby to achieve their life-long ambitions and more importantly, with the same team.”
VAG Trophy final round at Oulton Park 28th October 2017
So that’s it, final round of VAG Trophy over. After, let’s say, a bad start with a totally ruined car, I qualified P8 and finished race 1 in 5th. I managed to improve on this and finish race 2 in 4th. That secured me 3rd place overall in the championship.
I need to give a special thanks Steve Merron, Darelle Wilson, Paul Harrison, Charlie Russ, Elliott Wood making the impossible possible to build me a car again.
Team HARD. might not be perfect but its the best Team to race for. Big the support and commitment by Ben Kattenhorn, Tony Gilham, Debbie Gilham, Debbie Squires, Andrea Hurcombe, Richard Prime, Ray Creasey, Oli Baker, Steve Johnson.
I can’t believe that’s it for 2017. But their might be one or the other opportunity before the end of the year.