Yesterday Jack Harvey clinched the British F3 title at Donington Park with Carlin Motorsport, so we thought it would be interesting to look back at the interview he gave us in 2010, at the tender age of 17-years old.
At the time he’d just lost out on the European Formula BMW title, having been punted off the track at the final round. His appetite for a major title remained undiminished, so it’s been particularly rewarding to see him achieve it after just two seasons in F3.
The interview was originally published on Nov 5th, 2010, not long after Harvey obtained his driver’s licence – hence the reason why we brought along a BMW 335i M Sport to play with while we talked.
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“My friends often ask me if I get scared by what I do or find it intimidating and I have to say no, of course not. It’s not because if I did I’d be slow but it’s because if you’re scared of this sport you’re going to be a danger to yourself, to others and likely to cause an accident. So no, I’m not scared at all.”
These words sound like some age-old quote from the legendary Ayrton Senna, but instead they’re from the person most likely to succeed Lewis Hamilton as Britain’s next top racing driver – 17 year old Jack Harvey.
Lincolnshire based Jack only passed his driving test a couple of months ago and yet already has an enviable racing CV to his name, having won numerous karting championships and on a fast track towards Formula One.
2010 saw Jack mixing it in the F1 paddocks as he competed in the European Formula BMW Championship – leading the series for much of the year before cruelly being punted out at the final round, and losing the title in the process. Undeterred and still regarded of one of the most promising talents of recent years, next year will see Jack step up into the British F3 championship with leading team Carlin Motorsport.
We caught up with Jack during a test session at Silverstone to see what makes him tick, talk about his plans for 2011, and find out what he thinks about performance road cars. To make things a little more interesting, we brought along a BMW 335i M Sport fitted with the full complement of BMW Performance Parts to see what someone young but extremely capable thought of BMW’s take on spicing up one of its most sporting models.
It will come as no surprise to find that with over 300bhp and a spine tingling exhaust upgrade, the BMW 335i M Sport was to young Jack’s liking. Thanks also to a brief demonstration from Jack of what this car will do, I can attest to his complete lack of fear behind the wheel..
During our time with Jack, we learned about his unswerving focus and dedication towards his ultimate goal of F1. Jack is different to many drivers at this level in there being no fountain of cash behind him – he’s supported by the Racing Steps Foundation who fund his progression and review his performance at the end of each season before deciding on whether to invest further in his career.
That’s quite a lot of pressure to handle at such a young age, so it’s rewarding to find that he has been short-listed for the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC Award in 2010.
You may already recognise Jack from his TV appearances next to Jake Humphrey and Eddie Jordan during this year’s BBC F1 coverage, something Jack speaks more about in our chat below. What was most refreshing about speaking to Jack though is that despite the obvious media training he has received, there’s an independent minded, articulate and witty guy that shines through.
Jack’s Racing Career – The Past
RO: You won many titles in karting but what was the moment you decided “I want to be a professional racing driver?”
I guess it was in 2006 when I won the British Junior Championship – I was 13 years old. That feeling of winning at the peak of junior racing in the UK is one that can’t be bought. A lot of work and preparation is done by a lot of people and when that comes together and you win, like I said it’s a feeling you can’t buy.
That’s when I decided this is what I wanted to do. In the grand scheme of things, winning the British Junior Kart Championship versus Formula 1 isn’t very much, but that initial spark gives you the energy to keep pushing as hard as you can all the time.
RO: 2010 saw you race in the European Formula BMW Championship, talk us through the season in terms of highs and lows.
I had a pretty good rookie season in 2009 which led me into 2010 on a good footing. I had a fantastic season really, we were competitive at every race – our weakest race was at Spa and we still finished 3rd and 4th which wasn’t too bad! We had 7 wins out of 16 races, 8 poles, 7 fastest laps and were on the podium 13 times so it was a close championship.
With those statistics it can be hard to understand why you didn’t win it because in any other season I would’ve run away and won it with races to spare, but I was obviously involved in a very tough fight. Unfortunately I saw the championship slip away as I got pushed off track at the penultimate race of the season at Monza.
RO: How did it feel going into the final round leading the series and then losing it all?
A lot of hard work is done in the year and as soon as I was in the gravel I knew it was over – we’d gone from 9 points in the lead at the start of the race to sat in the gravel and 21 points behind. It was going to take a miracle to win the championship, luckily I won the race the next day so that maybe took the shine off the championship for the other guy, which is … [laughing] maybe not very nice!
But we had the last laugh and obviously we wanted to win the championship as that goes without saying, but in a different way I learnt a lot as a driver and I think at the moment that’s the most important thing.
The biggest thing that I learned was how to handle the increasing levels of expectancy. If you’re not fast, people begin to wonder why. As a driver you want to do well for your sponsors, everyone involved and most importantly for yourself. In this second season, being able to deliver under pressure when you know you need results to secure backing for 2011 is what I learned the most.
RO: Next year you’re going to be racing in British F3 with top team Carlin Motorsport, backed once again by the Racing Steps Foundation (RSF). What does the RSF do for you and how has testing been so far?
The RSF are a fantastic organisation that support young talent, who without their financial support would not be able to do what they do. I was lucky to be picked up in 2009 by them and I’m in no doubt that without their support I wouldn’t be here – I’d still be karting. Their support is phenomenal and they give all their drivers the tools they might need to one day reach F1.
So far in British F3 testing I’ve been right on the money
British F3 testing’s been really good so far, right from the first day. I’ve been right on the money and the RSF have been responsible for putting me into F3 with Carlin and the team have been as good as I thought they would be. They’ve been so professional and you get the impression they’re only in it to win – as a driver it’s imperative to be part of that kind of environment.
For 2011 I think we’ve got to be in a position to fight for the championship. That was the goal this year and that’s certainly going to be the goal for next year. There are quite a lot of second year drivers staying on but the goal is probably to win the championship. I’ve got a great team behind me and I don’t see why we can’t.
RO: You were recently nominated for the prestigious Autosport BRDC award – how did that feel?
It’s quite an honour really. People in motorsport know how prestigious it is and whilst you don’t really focus on it, you know if you have a good season you could be nominated. I think in a way it’s nice that people recognise the work that’s gone into the season because you don’t just turn up to the track and drive fast, a lot of preparation goes in to make it all happen. So to be nominated and then reach the final six is a fantastic honour.
RO: Your media profile has increased this season after a few appearances during BBC’s F1 coverage, what’s that like and does it make you realise this is all really happening?
To be involved in the Formula 1 paddock has been absolutely mind boggling. I mean you arrive and there are just so many personnel there, trucks, hospitality units, everything. It’s kind of intimidating really, especially in my first year where I’d gone from racing at the highest level of karting and then go to the biggest motorsport stage in the world, that’s quite a jump!
I was quite lucky to be featured on the BBC a couple of times and it helps cement that desire that I definitely want to be there, and the will to do whatever it takes to get there. That little taste of what it’s like has been awesome and to have that all the time would be (and I know this is such a cliché) a dream come true.
RO: What are your career goals from here on in?
Long term I obviously want to become Formula 1 champion …
Next year we want to try and win the championship, we’ll have to see obviously but that’s the goal and I’m going to try and make it happen. For the long term, we obviously want to be F1 champion. I think it’s important to be the best prepared driver you can be and then go into F1, not be the youngest champion but just be the most worthy.
F1 has so few seats available and now it looks like you need to take a large budget with you as well to get an okay seat, not even the best seat, so we’re keeping our options open at the moment but still pushing to get into F1.
RO: Okay so let’s say that F1 didn’t happen for whatever reason, would you consider racing in other disciplines?
I think this is the glorious thing about motorsport; there are so many different avenues you can go down. I think DTM is quite an obvious championship but you could go to America or do Sports Car racing. You’ve got to push in one direction at any one time and just see where that takes you.
RO: Apart from the adoring young girls throwing their telephone numbers your way, what are the best (and worst) parts of being a successful racing driver?
Well I have to carry a long stick around all the time to beat them away! No seriously, I think for me – and I don’t know about other people – it’s the coming back from a weekend knowing you were the best. If you’ve won, you were the best that weekend. Is the glamour of it one of the best parts? Well I imagine it gets more glamorous as you move up as at the moment I think we’ve drawn the short straw! I think it’s just that inner feeling of knowing I did a really good job this weekend and there’s not many opportunities in life where you get do that
Racing is massively time consuming. I sacrifice a lot for my racing but I know the rewards and returns will make it worthwhile.
Conversely, it’s very time consuming. Massively time consuming actually. I do sacrifice a lot for my racing but you need to and what I’d say is over some of my friends is that I know what I want and wish to achieve and okay, whilst that might be hard to get there, the rewards and the returns will be much greater. There are a lot of hard things like getting up at 5:30am to go to the gym, going before school and then after too, that’s hard and doing it all week takes it out of you. I’m also in my final year of A-levels and fitting in school with all of this is quite challenging!
RO: What advice would you give to young drivers who want to emulate what you’ve achieved so far?
That’s quite a challenging question to answer. Generally you’ve got to be good in all areas. I think you’ve got to specialise in one particular area but the other areas have got to be better than average as well because there are so many people trying to get those few seats, so you’ve got to stand out and show “you should sign me because of these reasons.” It’s everything, things like people skills and talking to the media is all important too, so I think you’ve got to be an all-rounder and that’s really hard.
RO: You seem to have been around in the racing scene for a while, but you’re still only 17 – what was it like learning to drive a road car despite racing cars every other weekend?
That was quite a bizarre feeling! Obviously I was already racing cars so I could drive road cars, but I wasn’t too refined at the little things. My instructor didn’t give me too much jip, but the thing I struggled most with is that you go away for a race weekend and you’re pushing so hard all the time and then you come back in the mind-set of driving on the road … it’s something I wouldn’t say was difficult but it was definitely something I was conscious of.
RO: What do you currently drive?
I’m very lucky that BMW gave me a 1-series, because I don’t know many people who have such a good first car. On the road it’s a really good car to drive, it holds the road really well and the 1.6i engine has enough grunt to get about quickly if you need to – and obviously I don’t do that! – but genuinely it’s a really nice car.
This BMW 335i today though is awesome! It’s pretty fast, you can obviously tell it’s got all the extra bits on it and the brakes are really good – I love the BMW brand anyway, so I’m just a very lucky boy right now.
RO: What do you look for in a road car?
I think you’ve got to look for endurance really because with my 1-series I’ve only had it 5 weeks but I’ve covered over 4,000 miles already, so I need something that’ll get me from A to B. I wouldn’t say it has to be quick, but just quick when you need it to be but more importantly comfy because doing a lot of travel, I don’t want to be uncomfortable in the car. There’s a lot to look at but it’s just got to be right for you and ensure it’s no more powerful than you can control…
RO: When Fernando Alonso was at Renault he famously drove an ordinary Megáne on the road, rather than supercar, because no road can replicate the buzz of racing in F1. Do you consider yourself a quick road driver?
No, not really. I genuinely don’t drive that fast on the roads. I know my abilities and I know that if I ever needed to drive quickly I could thanks to years of experience I have over and above that of my friends, but you can’t drive fast on the roads because you can do a lot of damage not only to yourself but to other people and I definitely wouldn’t want that on my conscience and I’m sure others wouldn’t either.
RO: What are your dream road cars?
Oh, good question! Well I think the Bugatti Veyron is quite a cool car, but I’d genuinely like a BMW M3. Also I guess just to own a Ferrari would be awesome but I have little bit of an obsession with AC Cobras. I really like heavy muscle cars, I loved the Dodge Viper, just an awesome car and that would also be one of them.
I don’t know, there are so many good cars available but I’d love to have a Cobra with big meaty wheels, I’d just love it! I think it’d be funny parked in the paddock, I’d have to get a cowboy hat as well to top it off.
The BMW 335i M Sport with BMW Performance upgrades
Although Jack only got to enjoy a couple of hours in the 335i M Sport, we held onto the car for a few days to understand what it’s like to live with this half-way house between a standard 335i and M3. The car we drove is a 302bhp 335i M Sport fitted with all sorts of flash goodies from the BMW Performance parts catalogue, as standard this car is available for £38,215 OTR but with the full-fat spec as tested our car tipped the scales at a heady £53,897 OTR.
From the moment we collected the car at BMW’s HQ in Bracknell we knew this was going to be one of our less discreet road tests, thanks to the striking Alpine White paintwork and stripy BMW Performance decals that hugged the sides of the 2 door coupé. Coupled with the raw and throaty BMW Performance exhaust system (a must have £995 option), it became obvious that the BMW Performance upgrades were more than just superficial.
Our test car was fitted with a six speed manual rather than the SMG system, something which pleased me as I like to be fully involved with the whole experience of driving and BMW’s short throw ‘boxes allow just that. Other interior upgrades that were noticeable at standstill, were the lashings of carbon fibre and the soft figure-hugging bucket seats (a £3,641 option, gulp!). Those in the rear get the more luxurious yet less sculpted leather seats. After many hours of continuous motorway driving the bucket seat proved comfortable for my 6″4 frame and yet tightly hugged my body when pressing on down B-roads, an balance that’s often difficult to achieve.
With the simple and intuitive (despite what ‘experts’ may say) iDrive set up and ready to go, inserting the key fob and pushing the start button is a glorious occasion every time. The sound of the twin-turbo straight-6 is far throatier than you’d expect, with a conspicuous growl as the car idles at around 1,500rpm before relaxing down to a slightly more sedate 900rpm once warmed up. When Jack first fired up the 335i his face was like a child on Christmas day, before sarcastically commenting, “Yeah, it’s definitely got nothing on my 1 series!”
On the move itself, the car isn’t as mean and as intimidating as the low speed sounds would suggest, with the M Sport more than happy to cruise along in 6th at low revs. The weight of the sports steering wheel could be judged as heavy, but I found it immersive and it allows you to be firm and precise when cornering, providing good feel for what the tyres are doing.
If you want to push on then there’s plenty of fun to be had – especially in 2nd and 3rd gears, partly because that’s where the exhaust note is most audible and also because in any gear higher you’re deep into licence-losing territory. The 335i is fitted with two small turbos which spool up quicker than one large one, which means that lag is minimal unless you’re completely out of gear. Given how forcefully the power arrives I would recommend leaving DSC switched on, as I often found the traction control light illuminating quite energetically when exiting a damp roundabout. You’re missing very little by leaving it on, as it still allows plenty of fun to be had without getting in the way.
As a driving experience I cannot fault the BMW Performance enhanced 335i M Sport. It sounds great (numerous passers-by of all ages gestured approvingly to hear it blipped at traffic lights), the ride with the sports suspension kit is firm but not unpleasantly so and ultimately it will vanquish most things on the road should you feel so inclined. The question on my mind before seeing the car was “who it’s for?” and “is there really a market for such costly upgrades to a car which is already so impressive as standard?”
Having now lived with the car, the 335i M Sport is certainly made more desirable by the BMW Performance upgrades, although if I was specifying my own upgrades from the BMW Performance catalogue I would give the grey racing decals and carbon boot spoiler a miss, yet definitely keep that gorgeous sounding sports exhaust. I like the idea of a stealth 335i that unassumingly slots into traffic but when I choose to push on, it’s there to do so, but with all the additional Performance Parts only being visible to just me. And of course with that exhaust, audible to everyone.