In the first edition of his new column for Badger GP, FIA Formula 3 ace Callum Ilott takes to the keypad to tell us all about just who Callum Ilott is, his journey in motorsport and how a dramatic opening weekend of the 2016 European FIA F3 Championship unfolded.
Badger on board
Hello! Firstly, I’d like to say that it’s great (of course) to be writing for Badger GP. I like the alternative approach; hopefully I can add to that this season with my monthly column.
Who am I?
My name’s Callum, I’m 17 years old and I’m from just outside Bishops Stortford. I started my journey in motorsport back in 2005 when I was just seven years old; the same year Dan Wheldon won his first Indy 500. A couple of years later I raced karts with Simon Wright’s team who Dan raced with back in the 1990’s.
By 2014, at 15, I was the senior CIK-FIA European Karting Champion and had won a number of international grade events as both a junior and senior karter. My achievements were enough to see me qualify for an FIA international B race licence to progress to car racing. I reckon it’s a shame the licence rules have changed to prevent future karters making the leap to F3. I know a few karters who could make the leap to F3 but will no longer get the chance. I guess a future Max Verstappen will go straight to GP3 instead!
Red Bull backed my first season and inspired the jump direct from karting to F3 and working with those guys was invaluable; I learnt a lot, gained a lot of experience and ended the season 12th overall with a best finish of P3 at the Nürburgring. It was a year of learning but I felt I had unfinished business!
My 2016 season
I had a few offers on the table this season but in the end I decided to join Van Amersfoort Racing for another crack at FIA F3. Why? I think we’ve got a real shot at taking on Prema in the title race, plus a couple of new Red Bull Juniors for the fun of it!
Round 1: Fire to First
This was one of those weekends when everything is thrown at you and just when you think it’s going to be a disaster, you dig out a proper result!
Normally the Thursday of a race weekend includes a track walk and working with the team on set up. For this round, we had an official test day so it was an opportunity to properly get to know the track pre-race. However, test day didn’t go my way as just as I was practicing some dummy race starts, things got a little heated and the car caught fire. By the time the flames were out, the car was a bit over-done. Luckily for us, another team, T-Sport, came to the rescue and offered us a spare chassis. Not very F1!
For race one I started dead last because of an engine penalty and had nothing to lose (literally!). It was an entertaining race; I got my head down and made my way through to P10 to grab the final point. For a car that had been put together in a hurry, it felt surprisingly good and wasn’t too slow!
Race two was even better. I was lucky at the start to not get collected in the chaos and found myself P2. I kept pace with the leader Nick Cassidy until he made a mistake at Signes and ran wide. I managed to pull a few seconds clear but a late safety car closed the pack back up again. We had just one lap left to run when the race restarted and with the rain increasing, making it very slippery, I did what was needed for the top step of the podium.
Taking the win after all the weekend had thrown at us was an incredible feeling. I have to dedicate this, my first car win, to the team for all its hard work.
Race 3 didn’t go quite to plan, well not my plan. I stalled from P3, however I eventually got going and found myself having some strong battles in the midfield. So I just missed out on points but we’ve got another 27 races, so plenty of time to collect some more.
Next up was a trip to the mountains in Switzerland as it was still my Easter holiday – my last chance for a break as I’m doing my AS levels alongside a busy race schedule in the next few months!
Next time round I’ll talk more about F3, the car and the drivers I’m racing with this year. Thanks for taking the time to read this and if there’s any tips or things you’d like to know, let me know! Be sure to give me a follow on Twitter or Instagram at @callum_ilott!
Callum returns to action this week at the Hungaroring for rounds 4, 5 and 6 of the FIA F3 Championship.