Sam Neary, in a Silver-Am partnership with his father Richard in the Team Abba Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, will be contesting his second full season in the Intelligent Money British GT Championship when the season gets underway at Brands Hatch on May 22 -23.
The 19-year-old driver was recently inducted into the BRDC Rising Stars programme and has opened the 2021 racing calendar with four wins in the GT Cup Championship.
Sam Neary spoke with EnduranceandGT editor Andy Lloyd about his career to date and his ambitions for the future.
Sam, your start to the 2021 season in the GT Cup Championship, with your father Richard in the #88 Team Abba Racing Mercedes, has yielded four wins including a victory by nearly 30 seconds at Brands Hatch. How did that weekend in Kent feel to you?
“I felt really comfortable in the car. This season I’ve felt amazing, the best I’ve ever felt. It’s looking like a really interesting year and I felt really good that weekend.”
With your father’s active interest in motor racing and in the automotive industry, how inevitable was it for you that you became a GT racing driver?
“My dad’s been involved in racing for over 30 years now and he got an interest in it again when I was about 12 years old and that was when I fell in love with the sport. We entered the Silverstone 24 Hour and I was there washing wheels and cleaning the car and that was when I realised that I wanted to be a driver.
“So, at the age of 12, which is very late, I decided I loved the sport and at that point it was sort of a done deal that I was going to become a racing driver.”
2020 was your first full season in the British GT Championship. What were the best memories that you took away from last year?
“2020 was incredible and I think it was possibly one of my best years to date. One of my biggest highlights was the second race at Donington in the wet. It was my second time ever in the wet so I was still very new to it. I remember starting 12th and coming into the pits leading the wet-tyre runners in P4. I remember overtaking everyone and everything worked that weekend.
“We had an unfortunate incident at the end of the race but during the race I felt incredible in the car and it seemed to work out how I wanted it to – definitely one of my fondest memories.”
What were the main learning points that you took away from 2020?
“Definitely qualifying. I struggled with qualifying quite a bit last year. It was a tough learning curve trying to get that peak (in the tyres) that other drivers can get so that was probably the biggest learning curve. We think we’ve fixed it for this season which, at GT Cup, I seem to have shown quite a bit. But that was definitely one of the biggest learning curves.”
Two years ago you were chosen to join the Motorsport UK Academy’s Team UK Futures Programme and this year you have been inducted into the BRDC’s Rising Stars programme. How do those programmes help and support you as a young driver?
“Motorsport UK supported me when I was just starting out on my career and they helped me massively in finding contacts. They put me on the correct path that has helped me get to where I am now. I became Motorsport UK Young Driver of the Year in 2019 which was an incredible honour.
“To be announced as a BRDC Rising Star is incredible too as they are the most prestigious club in all of motor racing. I’ve not spent too much time with the BRDC yet as it’s only just been announced but we have a lot of plans. Hopefully if I can carry on delivering, we can have a very strong relationship in the future.
“The biggest names in motor racing are part of the BRDC so listening to how other drivers have made it and how their careers have evolved under the BRDC is one of the main advantages that I can benefit from.”
What does a day in the life of Sam Neary look like during the racing season?
“During the racing season, I’m very busy. During a race weekend it’s hectic – I’m constantly going through data and studying it to see how I can get that extra little bit of lap time. When I’m not racing during the week, I’m painting trucks at the Abba Commercials factory. The company is the main thing that’s supporting my racing currently so to give back, and to have that experience with everyone, I think is really important.”
How does the dynamic work racing with your father?
“It’s the greatest experience I’ve ever had. I can’t really explain the feeling when he gets out the car and I get in – it really has brought us even closer together than we were. It’s hard to explain the buzz you get from it but when you see your dad out there and when you get in the car, it’s cool in both parts!”
What are your ambitions as a sportscar driver? Where would you like your career to go from here?
“I think, as many young drivers, we all want to win Le Mans. Le Mans is the greatest 24-hour race in history so that would definitely that would be number one goal.
“But also becoming a factory driver is up there. I want to be one of the youngest factory drivers ever and it still looks possible. So I think becoming a factory driver and winning Le Mans are the two aims for most young sportscar drivers and hopefully we can get there.”
The 2021 Intelligent Money British GT Championship gets underway at Brands Hatch on May 22-23 before visiting Silverstone, Donington, Spa-Francorchamps and Oulton Park. The traditional season finale will be held again at Donington on October 16 – 17.