Brown in pole position to finish top of the class
Macalister Bryan meets a young man who is learning to handle pressures on the track and back at school
Saturday 13 June 2009
Drop the name Dan Brown into most British conversations and your response will probably contain the words "Da Vinci and Tom Hanks". If you use the name Dan Brown in motor racing circles around the tracks of Britain, you are likely to hear "very young and very quick".
It's a big week for Brown, the 17-year-old from Billericay, Essex. He is the youngest ever driver in the Avon Tyres British GT Championship, and, remarkably, he is currently leading the super sports car championship in a Mosler MT900.
Not only that, but he is slap bang in the middle of his A Levels. "Friday morning at 9am I have an economics exam, I finish that at 11am, race to the airport and on to a plane to Knockhill for mid-afternoon," Brown says. "Unfortunately we'll miss testing, but I'll do a bit of revision in the evening. We do qualifying and race on Saturday and Sunday. So as soon as that's over we race back to the airport as 9am Monday morning I have a geography exam."
The GT Championship is not the usual habitat for young drivers. The series brings together the likes of the Ferrari 430, Aston Martin DBR9S, Dodge Viper, Ford GT and of course the seven-litre Mosler MT900 of Brown and Gregor Fisken. Each car has two drivers who change over during pit stops. The cars are "equalised" to ensure close racing.
His smooth, unflustered driving style and confidence in conversation are a reflection of a maturity beyond his years, both on and off the track. "I take the schooling pretty seriously as Dad made it clear when we first started racing that if my grades slip – then racing stops," he says. "I've matched it pretty well so far, but these are my final A2 examinations and I need to get the grades and decide if I'm going on to university."
As with many drivers, Brown began racing in karts, although unlike some, who are put in a kart as soon as their legs reach the pedals, it was Brown's choice to pursue motor sport. "My dad used to race in production saloons, and we used to get taken along," he says. "If anything I really didn't enjoy it. It was boring. As I got to around 11, I started bugging him about going karting. He managed to put it off for a year as he knew what would happen once we got involved. So I started karting at 12, and did a few years, just at club level. I got a few good results. Dad has a friend who ran the T-Car Championship and he let me drive a car. That was it, 'Let's get into car racing Dad!'"
It was a very different experience to karting but Brown took to it like a natural. "In 2005 we did a few races to see if it was for me, I loved it, so we committed to race in 2006 as our first real go at a championship. I finished sixth. We went back to T-Cars in 2007 and I won the championship."
Brown's emerging talent did not go unnoticed and he was offered a test drive in FPA. It was a learning curve, higher speeds, down-force and more technical. "I finished eighth, the highest rookie, so I was happy with that," he says.
"A friend of Dad's then let me have a run in the Mosler at Magny-Cours and that was it, I knew what I wanted to do. GT racing is unique, and it would be very special to win the British GT Championship."
What is the GT?
*The GT Championship features races between GT3 and GT4 classes.
*Seven UK venues host the 2009 Championship, along with an international event held at Spa, Belgium.
Today Knockhill, 4 Jul Snetterton, 19 Jul Donnington, 16 Aug Silverstone, 19 Sep Brands Hatch
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