After an imposed four-year hiatus from full-time competitive motorsport, former Formula Palmer Audi driver, Emma Selway will embark on a season-long VW Cup campaign with Tony Gilham’s motorsport crew Team HARD. If Emma’s stunning Lotus Elise Trophy results are anything to go by, the VW class are due for a shake-up. Emma kindly donated some of her pre-season time to speak with us about her journey so far and plans for 2013 and beyond…
You’ve just teamed up with Tony Gilham’s outfit, Team HARD for the 2013 VW Cup. Can you tell us how that deal came about?
I spoke to Tony via social network back in November regarding testing his Touring Car; we spoke on the phone and asked me if I had considered doing the VW Cup. He told me more information about it; it made more sense me looking at a step just below BTCC due to me not having a full time drive for 4 years. Although, my full participation in the series will depend on what investors I can bring to the team and whether I can reach budget requirements.
Obviously there’s a direct link to the Team HARD BTCC team from there. Has there been much discussion about a future seat in the main game? Have you been given performance objectives or will Tony be taking a “play it by ear” approach?
BTCC is definitely my aim. We have spoken about the step up but have agreed that it will depend on my performance during the 2013 season. We haven’t set exact targets but I am sure we both have a similar understanding on what is considered a good enough performance to move up. Also funding is always an issue, along side my results I must find investors.
Your transition to open wheelers to tin-tops has been meteoric with two wins in your first three races in Lotus Elise Trophy. Do you put this down to anything in particular?
My first weekend in a tin-top was a great success, a bit of an unknown at the start of the weekend as I had only tested the car once. I just seemed to suit the car and the close and competitive driving too. I knew before that weekend that it was only a one off as the team had a view to sell the car, they didn’t put any pressure on me for a win, even though that is what I set out for anyway. We had a lot of fun and the success was an added bonus.
With Formula 2 and now Formula 3 now feeling the economic pinch, do you see tin-tops as a more viable alternative for young drivers in the UK at the moment?
I really believe that tin-top racing is the future of motorsport, for one there is more longevity in it. Only a select few make it all the way in single seaters, whereas tin tops can offer so much more and at a far more sensible budget. It opens up avenues for more racing series’ such as prototypes, endurance and the multiple GT formulas.
You’ve mentioned it’s been a long while since you were able to plan your movements ahead of season. Have the few years away from driving full-time strengthened your resolve or help you devise a racing structure rather than perhaps accepting one-off drives that may not have lead to something permanent (or given you enough time to adapt to the car)?
To be honest in this game you have to accept anything that comes your way. Even in a one off drive you have time to prove to people why you should be given more opportunities. A full-time drive is always great if you have the backing there to make sure you can get that year upon year, but one off drives can be a lot of fun and give you chances to drive cars that perhaps originally you wouldn’t. Any race experience is good experience no matter what it is in, or on!
Your single-seater career and current tin-top calling was seperated by a stint in motocross in 2009. What was it like riding again after a 7 year absence? From a balance perspective it must do wonders for your confidence in a car – it worked for Damon Hill!
Motorbikes have always been a massive passion in my life, for as long as I can remember. Motocross was my first taste of motorsport at 12 years old. When my car racing career came to an abrupt halt after Formula Palmer Audi I needed to find a way of dispelling my excess energy and need for speed! I bought myself a motocross bike and started riding as many weekends as I could with friends. As well as being great fun it helped keep my eye in and kept me sharp. I also own a road bike, a GSXR-600, it keeps my 2-wheel itch under control! It helps me understand vehicle dynamics more as well as being able to enjoy road driving again.
In 2008 you competed against Jolyon Palmer and Alex Brundle in Fomula Palmer Audi. It reminded me a bit of Guido Van de Garde finally joining Vettel and Di Resta in F1 after waiting in the wings for years. It goes to show there are more paths in motorsport nowadays than what’s generally accepted. Does this cross your mind watching Jolyon in GP2 and Alex in GP3 and Le Mans?
There are far more series’ than people realise. Back in the day the set path to F1 was Formula Renault, F3, F3000 or similar and then F1. These days you can go from DTM to F1, as Paul Di Resta has proven. Look at Dan Wheldon, he was in the class of Button, Davidson etc but decided to take the route to America proving that F1 is not the be all and end all. There are many professional racing series’ the world over, I may meet Alex and Jo again in the future or we may just stay on our separate paths. Each driver has different interpretation on what the top is; to some BTCC or WTCC is the top, some GT1 or DTM, or others F1 or Indy Car.
Obviously your work with Palmersport gives you access to a lot of different machinery to strengthen your skills, but do you find coaching has improved your analytical approach to driving away from the pressure of a race weekend?
Yes, I have found working at Palmersport very helpful in assessing the way I drive and learning how the cars work and react dynamically. Before I used to just drive fast and know I was driving fast, but not know why. Now, after instructing for 6 years, I can “feel” a car a lot better and read what it is about to do and why it is doing it.
You’ve worked with Jaguar, Toyota, BMW, Vauxhall and Mercedes in a promotional sense to name but a few. Have you found corporate events and launches have given you a slight competitive edge in the marketplace as a driver?
In a professional sense it has helped as I can meet more people from all sorts of walks of life, but as a driver it does not make a difference really. It is a great world to be involved in as I get to drive some fantastic road cars and teach dealers things they did not know. I have made some great friends and increased my work commitments as well, on track and off.
Anthony Hamilton has come on board as a mentor with you recently. What’s it been like collaborating with someone who’s been through virtually every level of motorsport?
Anthony I have known each other for a very long time, the Hamilton family and I were close friends in my earlier racing days. Since Lewis reached Formula One Anthony’s commitments needed to change, which I fully respected. I keep in touch with Anthony now and again and enjoy watching Nic since he embarked on a career in motorsport too. He is a very inspirational person and a very cool guy!
Emma, all the best for this year and we look forward to watching your success in the VW Cup and beyond!
Thank you. Please feel free to follow me on Facebook: Emma Selway, and Twitter @emmaselway24