Ryan Sharp: 'In the pit lane you're busy – the last place you're looking is in front'

An email conversation with the GT Championship racing driver


Formula One is the most high-profile of motor sports, but the FIA GT championship – which stages the third race of the 2008 season next weekend in Adria, Italy – is claimed by fans and participants to be the most exciting. Justify that boast for us, please. GT is about so much more than the sheer speed, noise and technology of Formula One. Our cars are twice the weight, have a much greater braking distance. So there is much more overtaking. We've got all the big names of motor sport's heyday: Aston Martin, Maserati, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette. We're seen as endurance but most races are two hours, which isn't long at all. And with two drivers used per car per race – separately, but each for a minimum of 35 minutes – it's as much about a team, strategy and car than about one man.

Lewis Hamilton is a more easily recognised figure in motor sport. But you've left him trailing on the occasions you've faced each other. Were you too good, or was he just rubbish at the time? We raced against each other in 2002 and 2003, when he was 17 and 18, and I was 23, in Formula Renault. I was older. He was more experienced. I started at 21, he'd been doing it since he was a kid. He came in with the hype of future world champion. That first season he finished above me. The next year we raced four times and I beat him in all four. I was probably with a better team at the time.

Did he ever pull out of a pit lane and smack you up the backside?

No! I'm sure what happened to him in Montreal was a one-off. I'd be pretty surprised if he ever did that again. People keep asking me, "How could he do that?" But at 100kph in the pit lane you're busier and with more to think about than at any other stage in a race, checking so much and watching out for stray people trying to get to the pit wall that the last place you're looking is in front of you. And you wouldn't expect stationary vehicles where Lewis hit them.

What was he like when you knew him? And do you envy his career trajectory? A nice guy. His whole family was nice. Professional. Focused. He was one of a whole group of drivers hoping to make the climb. From the outside, you could be envious of McLaren investing so much in him for so long, but then he's had the accompanying pressure and expectation on him that a lot of others couldn't or wouldn't want to handle.

You race an Aston Martin, for Jetalliance Racing. Does that mean you get the pick of their road cars for free? And if not, what do you drive when you're at home in Buckingham or back in Aberdeen, where you grew up? And how many, if any, points do you have on your licence? I wish I had the pick. If we're doing a promo event I can get an Aston Martin to drive but not usually. At home I've got a Renault Mégane, which I won for second place in the series in 2005. I've got a clean licence, but maybe not for long. I was on my way to a business meeting the other day and fear I might've been clocked just exceeding the limit by a mobile camera unit. Hopefully, they were having a break at the time.

You won the opening round of the season at Silverstone (taking the RAC Tourist Trophy) and then came seventh in the next round at Monza. Who's more likely to win their respective drivers' title: you or Hamilton? I'd have to say me. I can take charge of my own situation, whereas I can't influence what happens to him.

Aside from the classic Formula One circuits like Silverstone and Spa, the GT Championship visits some unusual circuits, like the street race in Bucharest and the last race, in November, in an extinct volcano in Argentina. Is that as odd as it sounds? The GT is trying to attract as wide an audience as possible to races, hence a street race. The Argentina circuit, San Luis, is still under construction, at Potrero de Los Funes, but it'll be like a street circuit, around a lake in a natural bowl. Being the last race, it should be an experience.

Most racing drivers prepare for races of no more than two hours. How do you prepare for the race at Spa-Francorchamps, which is 24 hours? Be healthy when you get there. The last thing you want is a cold or to be under the weather. Heat is also a problem, in stints up to three hours, so rehydrating fluids are essential.

GT racing is starting to rekindle some of the aura of its Fifties and Sixties heyday, and will assume full World Championship status in 2010. But as a participant, do you really feel it is catching up with the likes of Formula One? In a way, but it's totally different, sports cars and Formula One cars, and the fans of each are quite separate and would probably turn their noses up at the other. Taking over from world touring cars in popularity is probably a likelier scenario.

What's the worst crash you've ever had? My first one, back in 2000. Not because I was badly injured – that's never happened. But I was in Formula Ford, there were few sponsors, and you pay for damage yourself. I smashed up the side of the car, £5,000 of damage, and I thought, "I wonder if it's all over for me now".

What sporting event would you pay the most to see? I'm a Manchester United fan, so if it hadn't been for my racing commitments I would have paid quite a lot to be in Moscow to see the Champions League final. Coming from Aberdeen, I'm a United fan because of Alex Ferguson.

Have you ever thought about becoming a tax exile? No need. I wish there was.

Nick Harris

The FIA Championship's third round in Adria, Italy, can be seen on ITV 4 at 3pm next Sunday.

Attachment

*Born 29 April 1979.

*From Newtonhill, Aberdeenshire.

*Lives Buckingham, England.

*Car Aston Martin DBR9.

*Team Jetalliance Racing (FIA GT Championship).

*Career 2002 Formula Renault.

2003 Formula Renault in Germany, winning the title, beating Lewis Hamilton en route.

2004 Formula Renault V6.

2005 GP2 Series.

2006 World Touring Cars.

2007 to present FIA GT.

*Praise indeed "Ryan is not just a great driver, but a great thinker" – Sir Jackie Stewart.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world (Getty)
news
Environment
environment
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Jackman bears his claws and loses the plot in X-Men movie 'The Wolverine'
film
Arts and Entertainment
'Knowledge is power': Angelina Jolie has written about her preventive surgery
film
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing