In the latest in our series of Australian’s in Europe, we caught up with young Aussie driver and two-time Formula Vee Champion Kent Cross, who despite narrowly missing a drive in this years Formula Renault series, is determined to bounce back onto the motorsport scene with a vengeance in 2013. We spoke about the Australian camaraderie in the UK, how a driver stays sharp when not behind the wheel and a certain famous pub in Mentmore…
Kent, you’ve had a meteoric rise through Formula Vee in Australia. What was it like making the leap into UK Racing?
Yeah, the couple of years I spent racing Formula Vee were probably some of the best and most helpful years when beginning my single seater career. Moving on from Karting to Formula Vee in my view is the best and most natural way to learn how a racing car works and it’s definitely benefited in my move to racing in the UK. I won’t lie the first year of coming to the UK was extremely tough; leaving family and friends wasn’t something I was looking forward to. But I mean in the long run this is all worth it. Europe is the birth place of motorsport and I always knew I would be over here at some point. I love it here and can’t see myself moving back to Australia for a while.
I noticed your first Formula Ford race at Brands Hatch was right on the edge from the get go. What were your impressions of the sweeping nature of Brands after experiencing Australian tracks (given we’ve lost a lot of the great circuits like Amaroo and OranPark).
That meeting was an interesting one and the term “thrown in the deep end” certainly comes to mind. I hadn’t raced all year and then to be put on a circuit and in a car I had never driven, racing against the best drivers in the UK was a challenge. But it was a fantastic experience and despite the steep learning curve, I felt for my first UK race it went very well. Honestly I think that circuits in the UK are on a whole different level when compared to pretty much any circuit in the world. There is so much history involved in and to know you are driving where some of the greats made their name is an amazing sensation.
You’ve tested both Formula Pacific BMW’s and Chevron GR8’s. With the BMW Formula waning slightly and the economy the way it is, do you think more emphasis should be put on promoting more cost-effective formula like the Chevrons?
Intersteps this year (Formula BMW) hasn’t been as strong as some of the other series ie; Formula Renault BARC. I think the trouble is that now days we are getting to many new series. You can only have so many slicks and wings or GT championships and unfortunately as nice as it is to have a new series each year, this also means that some of the series that have been running strong in previous years are going to see a decrease in numbers. Which I think is a shame, as the cost of new series just seems to be on a rapid increase.
As an instructor at Palmersport, you get to drive machinery that you mightn’t otherwise have the opportunity to sample.
Do you find this helps you as a driver or can instructing “dull” the senses somewhat? Yeah it definitely helps you as a driver for sure. You might not be driving, but you are basically driving the car from the passenger seat. It’s strange how it works, but I really feel that since doing the instructing it has made me a better driver. It’s one thing being able to drive a car fast. It’s another to tell someone else how to do it without having a steering wheel in your hand. But it has been great and I really enjoy going to work. Having said that some days can become extremely dull, but you get that in any job and the way I see it, it’s much better than working in McDonald’s ahah!
How do you ‘keep your eye-in’ when you’re not racing?
Lots of laps playing F1 2012 on the PS3 aha! It is hard when I am out of the car for so long. But as I said before I think the instructing really does help, since I am still in a car most days. I still go to the gym 5 times a week, becomes a part of my daily routine. It might be painful but it does keep me motivated as anything can change at a moment’s notice and I need to be ready to race. I just keep my eye on the outcome at the end of all this and it usually keeps me going strong.
There seems to be a strong ex-patriot group of Aussies in the UK such as Olly Rae, Ash Miller and Matthew Brabham. Has this been a help in terms of supporting one another?
It is nice to see familiar faces around this year; it’s like a blast to the past. Seeing all my mates who I used to race back home is great and it makes being at the race track more enjoyable than when I used to go by myself. In terms of supporting each other, that’s a hard one. I have a very competitive nature and as much time as I spend with the other drivers, I try not to give anyone a competitive edge on me, haha as shallow as that sounds it’s just how it is in the industry.
Like you’re compatriot Ash Miller, lack of funding has unfortunately seen you scale back your plans to run the BARC Formula Renault Championship this year. Flying back from Australia to test is a sign of your commitment despite the deal falling through at the last hurdle.
Yeah, that was a real shame. I was ready to get back to the UK and get on it. Leaving the sunshine and the beaches was hard enough haha. But it’s just one of those things. Its motorsport and throughout the years I have learnt that these things will happen. There is no use crying over spilt milk, you just need to keep on pushing cause something will always be around the corner. Like my dad always says to me if it was easy everyone would be doing it.
You’ve obviously had support from the famous ‘Stag’ pub in Mentmore. How did that come about?
Haha ahh yes, I get a lot of interest in this one. A good magician never reveals his secrets and a racing driver never reveals those “important” sponsors. I am extremely grateful for all the help the 2 of them have given me and the opportunities they gave me this year and last have been great, not only in terms of my racing but also in boosting my confidence. To have the support from people that high up in the industry is just amazing.
Can you let us know what’s in the pipeline at the moment? And what are your plans for next year?
At the moment its coming up to that time when need to finalize everything for 2013. I recently partnered up with the watch manufacture David Mason Watches. They will be with me throughout next year and I’m looking forward to working with them some more. We also have a few people we are speaking to and have a couple of options racing wise. I’m not one to tempt fate so I won’t say much more and until I’m sitting in the seat nothing is for certain. But I am quite confident that you will see me tearing it up on the track again and back on the top step of the podium (:
Kent, thanks for speaking with us!
You can reach Kent Cross at www.twitter.com/KentCross
Interested in funding Kent? Go to www.gofundme.com/tcejw
Check out Kent’s new sponsor at www.davidmasonwatches.co.uk