18-year-old Moh Ritson is a GT racer on a mission with his sights firmly set on winning Le Mans and the Rolex 24. After seasons in the Junior Saloon Car Championship and the Dunlop Endurance Championship, the Leeds-based driver sat out 2020 to test GT4 machinery. Moh has returned for 2021 in the GT Cup Championship, driving the #26 Paddock Motorsport McLaren 570S GT4 alongside teammate Tom Rawlings.
After the opening rounds at Donington, Ritson and Rawlings lie third in the GTH drivers standings, taking second in class in Race Two.
Moh Ritson spoke to EnduranceandGT’s Andy Lloyd about his motorsport journey to date and his ambitious plans for the future.
Moh, firstly very well done on your first outing in GT Cup at Donington. You must have been delighted at how that weekend went.
“It exceeded expectations definitely. We went into the weekend as a new team with a new car and Tom and I hadn’t met until we arrived for testing on Friday. It was all very new, and we were almost taking it as a learning weekend.
“Once we got into those first sessions, our confidence increased, and we decided to see what we could make of it. The result in qualifying on the Saturday was a big confidence-booster. We weren’t right at the sharp end but, looking at the data, we knew that we could easily be running in the top two in class in the first qualifying session. The mood within the team was amazing all weekend long, even when the first sprint race on Saturday didn’t exactly go to plan. We all bounced back and got the podium in the endurance race so it was great.”
How did you feel leaving the circuit knowing that you were third in the GTH standings?
“It was amazing. In previous years of racing while I was learning, I had tended to run in the mid-pack most of the time so to come away from the first weekend in GT Cup P3 in our class, a class which is a highly competitive, is a great confidence booster. It’s the reassurance that we can push forward from here and build on this. It’s not an excuse to sit back – we want to turn that third place into a second and then into a first. But It’s a great place to start as a team and I’m really happy with it.”
You’re still in your teens but you’ve got a lot of race miles behind you. What got you interested in motorsport in the first instance?
“It’s a bit of an unconventional route as there’s no family history with racing. It was at a birthday party and we had some little rental karts. My dad bought me a motorbike helmet and I thought ‘this is so cool’ and it went from there. I drove indoor rental karts every weekend until I was 15. I then met Tockwith Motorsport who were the first team I raced with and I did some karting at their outdoor track in one of their pro karts. I then decided that I wanted to make a career as a driver.
“Tockwith Motorsport let me drive their Citroen Saxo in the Junior Saloon Car Championship and that was the same year I did the Ginetta Junior Scholarship and made it to the final. We then decided to work hard to get the sponsorship and see what we can make of this because we didn’t really know at that point if I had the pace, the speed and the talent to make a career of it. So there were two years – the first year in the Saxo and the second year in the G50 – where we just tried to mix with, and talk to, the right people and just do the right things to give this a good shot.
“At the end of 2019 we got a double podium in Portimao in the GT4 Southern European series and that was a big moment when I decided that this was my life now and from that point on everything revolved around my racing.”
Where did the motivation to focus on GT machinery in preference to single seaters come from?
“I think a big influence was the history of Tockwith Motorsport with their GT and prototype background. Almost from day one, that was the approach that I was surrounded with. We also found that there were more business opportunities for us in the world of GT racing which made it more of a possibility for us. There’s so much more space for branding on the car.
We felt that, for our sponsors after the Junior Saloon Car Championship, the GT racing route was the right one and it also felt like the right route for me personally because I’ve always had this goal of being on the top step of the podium at the Rolex 24 or Le Mans. That’s always been the focus for me. To this day I still don’t know exactly what it is but GT racing is what I’m focused on now.”
You sat out the 2020 season and you tested the McLaren 570S GT4 and the Porsche Cayman GT4. Moving up from Ginettas, what were the biggest learning points in testing those two cars?
“A lot of it was, surprisingly, the driving assists. The Ginetta G50, which I think was designed in about 2008, has no driving assists whatsoever. Stepping into a modern day GT4 car was a big shock for me. There were a lot more buttons and everything’s electronic so I think that was the big learning point.
“So learning how to drive with the assists, not against them, was a big learning point and also the step up in speed. The Ginetta G50 GT4 was about four to five seconds a lap slower than a current spec GT4 car. That was quite a big thing for me, to push a car harder and find new limits because these cars were faster than anything I’d driven before.
“That was why it was almost a blessing in disguise having last year off because it gave me a chance to find my feet in modern GT cars and not be dropped too far into the deep end by going straight into a full season of racing with the stress of not being on pace straight away. That was almost taken away so I had a lot more time to analyse everything I did throughout last year and though it wasn’t a season of racing, it gave me time for reflection which I think was really important.
“The test in the McLaren came at the end of last year and I got a call on Sunday night to be there first thing on Tuesday morning and it was like one of those scenes out of the movies that every young racing driver dreams of – that last minute call-up. I arrived and there was the full McLaren set-up with all the screens and a full crew working on the car. These are things I’d watched in videos and now I was part of it so I would say that that was a big difference – the whole step up in approach.”
You’re driving with Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher’s Paddock Motorsport team, which is a new team with two very experienced racers as team owners. How did the introduction to Paddock Motorsport and your teammate Tom Rawlings come about?
“It goes back quite a bit. We’ve been working with Darren Andrew, who’s been helping us on the partnership side of things, since the end of 2019. Darren came to me about the McLaren test back in October last year and at that test day I met Kelvin and Martin and ended up chatting to them. At that point I didn’t have a drive sorted for 2021 and it was one of those things were everything just fell into place. I met Kelvin and Martin at the track and all three of us got on really well straight away. I really enjoyed the test and we kept in touch with Kelvin and Martin and they invited me to go and meet them. My parents came as well and we left the meeting that day knowing that these were the people we wanted to race with. We knew from the second we arrived that this felt right.
“One thing led to another and we were tested at Snetterton in March and then GT Cup came around. I hadn’t actually met Tom till the test day of the first round at Donington so I didn’t know him before hand but we talked the day before testing and got on really well. The atmosphere in the team was great throughout the race weekend and my engineer was fantastic to work so everything just feels like it’s fallen into place.”
Your website highlights how you work with your commercial partners. How important is it for a young racing driver in 2021 to work effectively with sponsors and partners?
“I think it’s so much more important than it comes across. It’s one of those things that can so easily be forgotten but it’s very important if you want to develop a career as a race driver. You can be as fast as you want on the race track and you can set as many purple sectors as you like but if you don’t know how to look after sponsors, business partners and their clients, you’re not going to have the budget to go racing.
“I see it as just as important as the driving to be honest, if not more so. It’s what makes you stand out and it’s what gets you on the grid.”
You’ve stated that your goal is to win Le Mans and the Rolex 24. Are you on the right path, do you think?
“I think so, yes. I think that was one of the reasons we signed so quickly with Paddock Motorsport. Kelvin and Martin have both raced together as teammates. Martin’s been to Le Mans but he’s got Kelvin with him now and I’m sure Kelvin wants to do the same thing and so do I, whether it’s Le Mans or the Spa 24 or any of those big, high profile races that everyone wants to win. We all share that vision and passion and it would be nice if all three of us can win one of those races in the same car.
“We’ve got amazing support from McLaren who’ve now provided a path for us this year. We are working with some incredible engineers from McLaren backgrounds and all sorts of different racing backgrounds so there’s all these different networks who have just come together as one and I think it’s putting me, Tom, Kelvin and Martin all in a good position going forward to make something big of this.”
Rounds 5 and 6 of the 2021 GT Cup Championship take place on May 1 at Brands Hatch. Live streaming can be found on the Championship’s YouTube channel.