At the UK Open meeting next weekend at Skegness an unfamiliar name will start from star grade for the first time.
Drew Lammas is not a driver many BriSCA F1 stock car fans will know much about. He has raced in F1s at three meetings this year, starting as a C-grader, and has already notched up three race victories, winning at Birmingham, Hednesford and at Skegness on Good Friday.
So, who is this Drew Lammas?
Lammas is 27 and lives in Welwyn Garden City, where he works for the family double glazing business. He began his short-oval racing career in Spedeworth Ministox between the age of 10 and 15. After just five meetings he was promoted to star grade (a trend that seems to be repeating itself in 2017) and kept his red roof for the rest of his Ministox career.
“We were doing 50-60 meetings a year, so it was quite a hectic time,” says Lammas. “I won the London Championship in the Minis. Back then they took away all the big races like the World, British, and European Championships because they felt it created too much pressure on the kids. So Spedeworth put on a few lower championships and I managed to win one of those.”
After he grew out of the Minis, Lammas went into a non-contact formula, Stock Rods, for a couple of years, and again won the London Championship.
During this time Lammas’ motorsport career went in an entirely different direction, diverting from short ovals to circuit racing, when he won a scholarship to compete in the BRSCC T Car Championship in 2005.
“I raced under Graham Hathaway Engineering,” Lammas explains. “So I got sponsored to race T Cars for a year, including at Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Silverstone and in Ireland.”
Despite lacking the budgets of some of the other drivers competing in the series, Lammas was still able to beat many of them. His rivals included Max Chilton, who went on to Formula One, Oliver Webb, winner of the 2014 European Le Mans Series and Alex MacDowall, who drove alongside Jason Plato for Chevrolet in the British Touring Car Championship before moving into the World Touring Car series and then the European Le Mans Series with Aston Martin.
“I did well,” Lammas admits. “The top boys did a lot of pre-meeting testing, whereas I couldn’t. I would turn up on a Friday and learn the track in my free practice time.
“I ended up finishing fifth in the championship in the end, so I was quite pleased with that.
“But for the second year there were no funds – the big boys were spending £100,000 a year and I was definitely not spending that much!”
It was then Lammas opted to return to the short ovals following the route taken by older brother Mark, who made the switch from Minis and 1300 Stock Cars, and then into BriSCA F2.
“We had a few friends involved in BriSCA like John Lawrence and Simon Farrington,” explains Lammas. “So my brother made the switch to BriSCA F2s and I went over with him.”
I hadn’t really looked at racing in F1 at all, but in about October last year I saw that everyone who got into a F1 really enjoyed themselves, so I was really intrigued as to why
While racing in the F2s Lammas won the UK Open at Skegness, a track he likes, in 2012.
“I enjoyed F2s, but I wasn’t out racing twice a week like most of them do,” Lammas says. “And that is what brought me down in the grades, and hence why I started off of at white in the F1s, because they dropped me one grade lower that I had previously been.”
“I hadn’t really looked at racing in F1 at all, but in about October last year I saw that everyone who got into a F1 really enjoyed themselves, so I was really intrigued as to why.”
Lammas’ first experience in an F1 was at last year’s Gala meeting at Birmingham.
“I tried to source a car for Gala night and Murray Jones kindly let me use his car,” he says.
“Obviously, the car is a lot wider, and a lot louder. In an F2 we have a rear wheel guard, which means you can lean on cars. But on Gala night I learnt pretty quickly you can’t do that in these, because the American Racer tyre is quite soft and pops very easily.
“I did alright and Murray gave me the option to buy the car. I pulled a few strings and managed to get it.”
The Jones car was bought and transported back to Welwyn Garden City in mid-January this year.
“Once I got it back, I did a full strip down of the car,” Lammas says. “Mainly to learn the car and to see how it was all put together, because although the basics are like a F2, I wanted to know every nut and bolt of the car.
“So I tidied it up a little bit, made a couple of small changes to the suspension, and then built it all back up again.”
Lammas’ first full meeting was at Birmingham last month, but the first half of the night didn’t quite go as hoped.
“Birmingham was all a bit of a rush, as it always is,” he says. “I had done no pre-season practise in the car, so had to do my testing on the night, more to see if anything fell off after the full strip down.
“The first race didn’t quite go to plan. I got a puncture after a few laps in my heat and I was winning the consolation until I hit the wall and the car cut out.
“I think was just down to an aircraft switch coming down and knocking the ignition off so we have since ripped the switch out.”
The Hertfordshire driver made amends in the Grand National, winning his first race in BriSCA F1, and followed up with a heat win at Hednesford the following afternoon.
“To be honest, because I’m so new to it I didn’t change too much from Birmingham to Hednesford,” says Lammas. “But throughout the day I changed a few bits, like rear axle alignment and picking tyre sizes just to compensate for a bit of cross-weight.
“It went back a bit in the Grand National, but that was through wrong tyre choice. I need to get more of a selection of tyres and different sizes.
“In F2 you can bolt a new tyre on and you’re pretty much ready to go. In these, it is far more critical to get it right – so I’m trying to get my head around that.”
Despite his early success, Lammas is a realist, and he knows now he is starting from red grade he has been thrown in the deep end with little experience. The UK Open meeting will be a baptism of fire, but one he is ready for.
“Obviously it is a big step up from the F2s,” says Lammas. “At Hednesford, I got in amongst some of the top drivers in the final, which was a bit of an eye-opener. But it’s what I need. I need track time, I need to get the laps in and I need to get in amongst people.”
The most important thing for me at the moment is time in the seat. So as long as I can keep finishing races, I will be learning with every lap
“Everyone I have spoken to has been very friendly and told me not to be afraid to come over to ask for any advice. The F1 crowd seem to be a great bunch of people and have a laugh along the way. I think we made a really good switch and we are all happy and I have a good little team around me.”
“I’m really pleased to be a star grade driver, but obviously it is going from one extreme to the other. It is one way to learn, so I am just going to take it all in and learn amongst them really.
“The most important thing for me at the moment is time in the seat. So as long as I can keep finishing races, I will be learning with every lap.
“That is the aim for the Skegness weekend – I get on well there anyway, so I want to just keep it on the track and learn my craft by watching.”
One target Lammas intends to aim for is the World Final at Ipswich. He is only racing Tarmac this season, and has only the one car. He could be drawn at Stoke. What then?
“If I can qualify for a semi-final that would be brilliant,” he says. “If I got Stoke I would take the car there and do the best I can.
“Did about seven meetings in the F2s on shale, which didn’t end too well because I broke my hand! But if that draw came up I would take my place on the grid, definitely.”
Neil Randon 2017
Photos courtesy of Colin Casserley
One aspect of the sport Lammas is keen to highlight is the sponsors who help keep him on track.
“Firstly I must mention MDM Pyramid Ltd – our family business. Peters Brothers Ltd have sponsored me all through my career so I am always grateful for them standing by us. I have a couple of new sponsors – AD Bly Construction – it is good to have them on board, and Traymor Building Contractors. There is also Simon Farrington from F2 (Kiltech Decorators) and Blythewood Plant Hire (Mark Peters) and it’s nice to have him on board this year as well.”