Photo: Norbert Hartwig / Ben Wallace.
Team HARD has announced that ex-VAG Trophy driver Ben Wallace will contest a full season in the 2018 British GT Championship alongside young German driver Nick Worm who, in 2017, competed in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship.
Ben Wallace spoke to EnduranceandGT,co.uk about the VAG Trophy, the forthcoming British GT Championship season and his involvement with StudentMotorsport.com
2017 was a very busy year. What were the highlights for you, Ben?
“Well, certainly Brands Hatch where I had to race in the VAG Trophy and the British GT Championship. As much as it was a highlight, it was also a bit of a task going from front-wheel drive and then quickly jumping over to rear-wheel drive. Not many people have done that on the same weekend so that was a bit of a highlight. it was successful as well!”
“Spa in British GT Championship was a highlight. I made my Championship debut there and my race result was tenth which, as it was a very strong grid, I was really happy with.”
“I missed out on the VAG Trophy due to a few crashes but it was a highlight because I got a race win at Snetterton and I got a couple of podiums. All round 2017 was a good year for me.”
What were the learning points that you took away from the season?
“For 2018 the main learning point is trying to keep my nose clean. I’ve developed being more aware and thinking ahead now but I’ve learned over this past year that it’s not all won in the first corner. You also have to keep the car in a shape where it’s still drivable for the next driver. That was definitely something for me to learn driving in British GT.”
How did the 2017 British GT drives come about?
“Tony (Gilham – Team Principal) gave me the opportunities and I took them because that was what I want to continue working on. Team HARD has helped me to develop me tremendously as a driver and the fantastic opportunity to drive in Spa was recognition of the effort I had put in.”
Going to Spa to drive the Ginetta G55 GT4 must have been quite a moment for you, wasn’t it?
“That track is unreal. I’d been there the previous year with the Golfs and I’d made my debut with the Golfs there the year before. So I’ve only been there twice but this time going there with the GTs was an unreal feeling. You can’t even describe the feeling.”
“Going up Eau Rouge and out to the back of the track you do really need courage. It’s a great track and I really do enjoy it every time I go there.”
You clearly enjoy a great relationship with Team HARD. How has that developed?
“Team HARD is quite a family team and I like the family atmosphere. It’s very welcoming. They also took the time, especially Tony, to help me at certain points with my driving that I’ve worked on so that obviously really attracted me.”
“Hopefully I can carry on with them as it is an amazing team to be around.”
You’ll be driving the Ginetta G55 GT4 in the 2018 British GT Championship. What does the Ginetta offer you when competing against newer machinery such as the McLaren 570S and BMW M4 as you’re going to be this year?
“The Ginetta doesn’t have as much power but it’s a very well-balanced and forgiving car. It tells you what it wants you to do and it tells you how it responds to certain things. it’s so well-balanced that it forgives you for minor mistakes.”
“There’s also so much natural grip in the car, especially in the wet, that the car is always able to compete with the likes of the BMWs, Aston Martins and the McLarens. I think it will still be a very competitive car this year. We’ll see in the first round!”
Now that you will have a driving partner for the season, will you need to adapt how you approach your set-up requirements, do you think?
“Yes, you will have to find a balance because not every driver drives the same or likes the same set-up in the car so you need to find a middle ground that still feels comfortable for both drivers. However, I don’t think it will be that hard. You always need to adapt and learn, especially in the endurance categories, to get the best out of the opportunity.”
You’re a contributor to StudentMotorsport.com. How did that come about?
“JP Latham (Founder of StudenMotorsport.com) was my mechanic for the Ginetta Juniors at Brands Hatch. I spoke to him again at Autosport and he asked me to contribute to the site which I was very happy to do as, being a student myself, it was an opportunity to give back.”
And I understand you’ll be carrying the StudentMotorsport.com logo in 2018 on your race suit.
“I’ll be carrying it on my race-suit and on the car as well.”
What advice would you give to an aspiring motorsport professional about getting involved with StudentMotorsport.com?
“For somebody who’s starting out in their motorsport career, StudentMotorsport.com is a great website to provide help and as a forum to ask any questions. It’s a good guide where professionals or people who are currently studying, can give them a tips and share their knowledge.”
Studying motorsport at college or university is a relatively new development. What advantages is your education going to provide you with as a driver as you move forward, do you think?
“It gives you more insight into the car. When you understand how the car is working, the more you can tell your mechanics or engineer how to set up the car. You’ll understand more about the car and understand better how to drive the car more appropriately.”
In the past you’ve said that that BTCC was a career goal for you but with the British GT Championship this year, are you starting to think that maybe GT and endurance racing offers more attractive long-term career options than sprint racing?
“The British GT Championship will offer a strong grid this year. The whole endurance category is going to become more popular and stronger so at the moment it looks more attractive. After my first outing in the Ginetta at Spa I fell in love with the whole concept. The advantages for a driver is that you get a massive amount of seat-time. I think, for the long-term, it’s where I want to go.”
“In endurance and GT racing you’re more likely to travel the world and be approached by amateur drivers who want a pro to drive with. It’s a more appealing category.”
What goals have you set for yourself for the forthcoming season?
“That’s a good question. I really want to gain as much experience as I can do, obviously, to do well. I don’t want to sound too arrogant but I hope to be somewhere in the top 5 or top 10. It’s always difficult to say and we’ll have to see where we are, pace-wise, after the first race.”
The 2018 British GT Championship opens at Oulton Park on March 31 – April 2.