Interview with Autosport’s Scott Mitchell

SITTING outside of the Ambition Motorsport awning, it’s easy to forget the skill and race-craft these young drivers acquire so early on in there karting careers. Daniel Ticktum, formerly of Project One Racing, is sitting just across from me in the back of his new-found teammate’s van, laughing and joking with his new mates, who before Saturday he didn’t even know. But when you talk to him, he shows all the maturity of someone much older than himself, understands the way things should operate within a race team and has a firm grasp on reality, as well as maintaining that dream of racing in Formula 1 shared by most, if not all, drivers when they started.

Dan was at Buckmore Park testing ahead of the final round of the 2009 Super 1 Honda Cadet Series in just over a week’s time, competing in the fifth round of the Buckmore Park Summer Series, getting in valuable – and competitive- track time, as well as assimilating with his new team before the big one. Considering the occasion, not to mention the fact that his main rival for the British title is competing as well, he wasn’t there to mess around. “Pole, and win every race!” was his slightly tongue-in-cheek response when asked what his goal was for his first race with the team. It was a sentiment echoed by new team manager Paul Janes, who said upon confirmation of the deal ”We are delighted that Daniel has chosen us to represent him for the rest of the 2009 season, our main goal is to win everything Daniel enters for and with new improvements being made to his equipment we are sure he will shine.”
When pressed again, Daniel began “I want to finish…” before cutting his sentence short, and one couldn’t help notice his eyes wander to the huge motor home parked almost directly opposite, which just so happened to be that of one Jamie Caroline. He didn’t need to complete his sentence; it was clear who he wanted to beat. This desire to win, or at the very least beat his S1 championship rival, was the result of a seasons’ worth of battling with Caroline, the two youngsters the only drivers to win a Super 1 final (out of five) in Honda Cadet this year.
Billed as one of the pre-season favourites, Ticktum started the S1 season in dominant fashion with a crushing victory, from pole, over the competition at a rain-soaked Fulbeck. He then followed this up with pole position for the finals at Glan Y Gors and Larkhall, only to have both races curtailed by incidents which plummeted down the order. He bounced back well at Clay Pigeon, overcoming a DSQ in the second heat to fight through to 2nd after gridding P10. Hoping to return to winners circle at Ellough Park, he could “only” manage 2nd after suffering from a down-on-power engine on a track where outright engine deficiencies cost much more than usual. As Dan said himself, “I wasn’t able to use my race engine at Ellough, and down the straight Jamie [Caroline] was just driving away from me.”
Unfortunately for Dan, Caroline had made the most of this misfortune to rack up 4 wins on the trot, including a clean sweep at the last round. This means that Dan, although leading overall by 1 point, trails Caroline by 8 points going into the season finale at Buckmore Park. Bringing us back to Sunday. A strong showing in qualifying saw him pipped to pole by just over a tenth of a second, in a session where he ultimately would end up fourth on the grid, highlighting the level of competition present. In the heat and subsequent pre-final, Dan and Jamie would battle the entire race distance to decide who would take pole position for the days’ main race, and whilst Dan would lead the majority of both races, he was bested in both by Caroline. And yet, it did not seem to deter the Ambition driver. “We’ve got a strategy”, Daniel said, again showing a level of maturity that belies his tender age. It certainly seemed so, as Dan stormed in front to take an early lead. Unfortunately, as has been the story of Dan’s season, his race was ruined by an incident with Caroline at the uphill hairpin, dropping him right to the back of field, whereas Caroline would go on to recover from 5th and win.
I was unfortunately unable to get hold of Daniel at the time of writing. His insight into the collision would not only have served to give his side of the story, but would also have been a measure of how he deals with this sort of disappointment. Certainly, talking to him regarding his accidents at Glan y Gors, where he was involved in an incident mid-race, and Larkhall, where he was nerfed off at the start, he seems to take it all in his stride. Nonetheless, it was an encouraging debut for a driver who billed his new team “as good as Project One, if not better”, and was quick to praise the performance of the teams’ rookie drivers Jonathan Wilkes, James Waite and Ty Newstead in the Clubman class. It is a partnership that is very much just beginning, but already the shoots of a burgeoning partnership appear to be showing signs of life.