Horsham GT racing driver Alex Reed
PUBLISHED: 09:35 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 09:35 03 January 2017
Eighteen-year-old Alex Reed from Horsham is a GT racing driver, combining his time on the track with his academic studies in music production. He spoke to Jenny Mark-Bell
Many 18-year-olds are new drivers, making their first tentative forays onto the road. Not Horsham’s Alex Reed. The racing driver, a former Hurstpierpoint College and Collyer’s pupil, first got hooked on driving at speed when his dad took him karting for his birthday: “I found that I had a real talent for it: I really enjoyed it and I was a lot faster than anyone expected.” Now he’s drawing to the close of an incredible year with Lanan Racing, during which they took the podium at Spa-Francorchamps, the Belgian circuit that’s also part of the Formula 1 calendar.
For those who don’t know, GT, or Grand Touring, features supercars which have been changed to race cars by means of adapting the bodywork, aerodynamics and engine. “It’s a radical change from a road-going supercar to what is a sort of monster,” says Alex. Each race lasts between two and 24 hours and the physical and mental endurance mean a stringent training programme is essential. “Physically, it’s very important to train as much as possible, at least four or five times a week,” says Alex. “Motorsport drivers go through similar levels of training to Olympic athletes: we spend a lot of time going to gyms that are made specifically for motorsport drivers and we train almost every single part of our body.”
Each team is made up of up to 30 people, each with a specific job to do, and each individual is fundamental to its success. “It’s not just the driver that decides how the race goes,” says Alex. “It’s crucial that you trust the team and the team trusts you to do a good job. There’s a huge amount of trust involved in running a team and being a part of it.”
Anyone who has been glued to Formula 1 racing on television knows that the relationships and dynamics between drivers can be fascinating – if occasionally rather fraught. Because of the tensions and competitiveness involved, Alex sees it as good sense to maintain healthy relations: “It is key to have a good relationship with other drivers, not just teammates but actually rivals as well, because it’s good to be in forgiving mood.”
After rising through the ranks, racing in variously a Fiesta FT, Clio Cup and Lotus Exige, Alex now drives a Ginetta, saying “it’s extremely fun to drive”. But he drives a Vauxhall Corsa in everyday life and says he’s very safe on the road.
Of his successful past year, he reflects on the obvious career highlight to date at Spa: “It was the race that we weren’t expecting to win, because of the dynamic of our car compared to the Aston Martins, McLarens and things like that. We were supposed to be losing but somehow we managed to win the race in style.” After such success, next year’s season will hopefully hold more of the same: “This year was sort of the test for us to see how far we could go being rookies, and next year will be the ultimate test whether we can actually win the championship or not.”
To people who complain that motorsport is elitist and inaccessible for most people, he would say: “They are absolutely right. It is incredibly expensive. It is a sad, sad situation to be really honest but at the same time it just makes me so much more grateful to be in such a privileged position as to be racing. If I ever did have the chance I’d start a programme where less privileged people could be in that position. That’s the main dream for me, to start a programme like that.”
And if you’re anxiously anticipating a child’s 17th birthday and imagining their first time behind the wheel, he has some advice – start them young. “You don’t even have to be racing to be driving on circuits under the age of 17. Taking the junior licence and doing track days and things like that is actually a really eye-opening experience because it not only teaches you how to control a car properly but it can also teach you awareness, which really helps when you get out on the road.”