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Nic Hamilton practice session at Rockingham

Interview with Nicolas Hamilton

May 192017

It’s been over a year since Nicolas Hamilton has turned the wheel of a race car for his British Touring Car debut, and it’s fair to say the scene has missed him, as much as he has wanted to be racking up laps. You see, despite the famous surname, there are absolutely no free rides for this 25 year old; and only after more than twelve moths of hustle, training and hard work, can he return to the where he wants to be the most.

Rewind the clock to 2015 and Nic made motorsport history as the first ever disabled athlete to compete in the legendary British Touring Car Championship. Armed with a full race team and support crew, Nic’s arrival caused a huge stir in the BTCC paddock. Unfortunately, the season didn’t quite to plan though – technical and budget issues, hampered progress on track and drained his race funds faster than his 300bhp car could eat new tyres. By the end of the season it was clear to Nic that something had to change.
Juggling his work developing race-simulator games and a packed public speaking schedule, Nic has now single handedly pulled together a deal that will see him drop the clutch on a full 18-race campaign in the Renault Clio Cup. Not bad for someone that wasn’t able to walk eight years ago. While loading up to hit the road for Oulton Park – host venue for round one of the 2017 Clio Cup – we grabbed 10 minutes of his time, to get the inside line on the latest chapter of this truly remarkable racing story.

with a condition like mine, you don’t know what’s possible.

Hi Nic – it’s great to see you. Almost go time now – what’s in store?

A full season of Clio Cup this year, and I’m mega mega excited to confirm my participation in the series, and properly get going with it now. I’m really proud to have done it all myself too. I drove Touring Cars in 2015, then took a year out because I wanted to work towards getting the budget [for the Clio season] – it’s not easy nowadays to get the money that you need for racing. It’s a reality now with the help of Monster Energy and all my other sponsors. The first race is this weekend – so not long!

How did the deal with your new team come about? 

The coolest thing in a way is that I can really catch people out. What I mean by that is that most people think because of my brother I have things gifted to me on a plate; and it’s not like that at all. When it came to WDE I literally just went on the Clio championship website, and looked through all the results from the past seasons. I saw WDE were one of the top teams. After that I sent some emails out and tried to get some deals together. It was all about finding something that would work for me as a driver and with the budget. WDE have a lot of experience – they’ve got a veteran – Paul Rivett – who is three time Clio champion, so that’s someone I can really learn from. I think it’s going to be a strong and really positive team.

Clios are familiar territory to you though…

I did 16 races in 2011 and 2012, so not a huge amount of experience to shout about. Those races in ’11 and ’12 were really the first time I had driven anything in competition seriously, so it was a huge learning curve. I moved up to European Touring cars in 2013, and BTCC in 2015, which helped build my experience even further. Once you drive in a range of classes you realize there’s a lot of cross over in the skills. You can pretty much drive anything really. Coming back into Clio Cup – yeah you have to learn the new car, and then there are my modifications that need to go in. One thing is for sure; it’s going to be a very tough series.

Have you had much time in the car for testing?

We’ve only had two days in the car so far, but like I said I’m a lot more experienced than I have been at the start of previous seasons. The thing with Renault Clio Cup is that it is one of the toughest one-make championships going. Everyone is on the same kit, so the times will be tight. There will be 25 cars on the grid. I’ve got to work hard to develop my skills as the year goes on. I’m pretty used to being thrown in at the deep end to be honest, so I’m excited for it!

When people think of Nic Hamilton, what do you want them to think/say about you?

I don’t want people to have a bad word to say about me. I try to keep myself as positive and strong and as delightful when I meet someone as possible. Hopefully when they think of me, they think “inspiring”. Someone that has defied the odds, always conquering goals and trying to achieve them without fully having the ability.

The Hamilton name carries a lot of weight and responsibility, how do you want to stand out?

Being a Hamilton brings lots of pro’s and con’s, especially coming into motorsport. I’m always going to be in Lewis’ shadow. Eventually I want to get to a point where I’m standing on my own, in my own light. Instead of Lewis Hamilton’s brother, it’s Nic Hamilton. It’s getting there slowly, I’m getting bigger profile wise just on my own. You’re never going to shy away from the whole connection of the Hamilton family and I’m proud of that because we’ve all worked so hard to get to where we are today.

When/how did the passion for driving start for you?

I followed my brother from about the age of one. I was pretty much born at a race circuit. I never really knew much about it and I was at the circuit every weekend and started remembering drivers by their helmets. It was probably around the age of seven when I realised that I wanted to have a go but with a condition like mine, you don’t know what’s possible. I went in a little go-kart at that age and crashed and that scared my parents and from then it was pretty much “racing isn’t for you”. It just developed over time. I got into gaming and simulation gaming and got the opportunity to start my own career and develop my own career and my racing craft.

What are your current favourite video games for you right now?

Well, I work and develop Project Cars so personally for me, I’ve got to say it’s my favourite. If it’s not racing, then probably Fifa, Call Of Duty, UFC is always good fun. A lot of my time goes on developing Project Cars 2 at the moment which should be out soon

What is your user handle? Can people race you online?

At the moment they can’t, but as soon as Project Cars 2 comes out, I’ll give people my handle so they can race me.

Do you prefer the VR world of racing or on the track?

In a simulator, VR one hundred percent. Never use a monitor if you can help it. VR is absolutely phenomenal. I have one and I do all of my development on VR. Once you use VR you’ll never go back to the standard way. But nothing beats the real racing experience.

You seem to love to prove people wrong when they say you CAN’T do something. Who’s the last person you proved wrong and for what?

Gosh, that’s a big question! I suppose the most important one would be two things. My doctors saying I’ll never be able to walk and my dad saying I’ll never be able to drive really well. Proving those sort of people wrong and sitting here today with my car here, having a great test day, working on my legs all the time, it just makes me stronger. I think my dad actually believed in me, he just makes my life more difficult because he knows I’ll probably exceed his expectations

Aside racing, what other sports are you in to? Are there any you want to take up?

The thing is, my legs affect me in so many different ways. What I’d love to do is ride a motor cross bike. I want to try and put my mind into different sports and show people that I don’t just race race-cars, I could achieve goals in loads of different things. I’d love to take up new things. I always try things once, even if it doesn’t work out or I struggle, it’s just about taking that opportunity and seeing what you can do with it. Ten years ago, if you were to tell me I’d be sitting here with my car behind me, having achieved what I’ve achieved already, I would have never thought that would have been possible. You never know what you can achieve when you try something new

What modifications are in your Clio?

The coolest thing about my Clio is that it’s a car that we haven’t modified at all in terms of the pedals. That’s a big thing for us. Normally every car that I drive, the team have to modify quite severely. But because the pedal box was almost coming from the bulkhead – roof hinged, and not from the floor – it really benefitted my legs so I didn’t have to change much with the pedals. I’ve got a hand clutch on the steering wheel – but that’s about it really. Pretty simple!

Have you got any circuits you are particularly looking forward to?

My first race is this weekend at Oulton Park. I haven’t actually driven there for five years I’ve missed the circuit to be honest – it’s a great place to race and will be a great place to debut at. There’s not much room for error; if you make a mistake you’re in the wall. It’s very undulating; lots of bumps and dips. I’m really looking forward to Snetterton too. It’s got its own Hamilton corner – which wasn’t named after me, but we’ll say it was! And then there’s Brands Hatch GP at the end of the year, which was where I had my best result in 2011 and 2012 – so there’s lots to look forward to.

What’s your main focus for the rest of the year?

Development. I’ve put myself in this position to get my own sponsors and my own funding. My parents and my brother especially aren’t involved. I sat in my car today thinking “well done Nic, you’ve given yourself this opportunity”. The rest of the year, I’m just going to focus on developing as a driver. I’m not going to be setting the world alight or get podium in my first race. For me, it’s a long term goal, a long term process. I’ve developed a lot as a driver being away from motor sports. Coming back in, I’ve learned a lot more. I’ve got no expectation, I’m just going to see where I get and keep pushing on from there into 2018.

Any final words?

One hundred percent I’ve got to say a big thank you to Monster Energy for the continuous support. I’ve worked so hard to get this and I’m really proud to be here. All my sponsors have been very loyal. A massive thank you to everyone who believes in me, for putting their heart and soul into my story, my journey and what I’m about. Hopefully in the not so distant future, you’ll see me standing on the top step.