Grass Roots Sport And The Local Business Community

Even if you’re not a Formula 1 fan, most people have heard of household names such as Lewis Hamilton, David Coulthard, Nigel Mansell, and Ayrton Senna.

One individual hoping to join these great names is young up-and-coming racing driver Tommy Foster, who comes from Cornwall and is a Newquay local.

In May 2021, we interviewed Tommy to find out a bit more about his background, his ambitions, and what the support of local businesses means to him.

Hi Tommy! Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’ve always lived in and around Newquay. When I was younger, I attended St Columb Major Primary School, and for secondary school I attended Treviglas Academy.

I enjoyed school, but from a young age I was fascinated with cars and racing.

My parents took me to Monaco when I was around six years old – I remember saying to myself that I wanted to do that!

My parents were very supportive, and about a year later I started at the local Arrive & Drive. It was such a great experience, as I could feel the power and freedom that being behind the wheel gave me.

I loved the experience so much that I ended up going several times a week. Arrive & Drive is such a great activity – I highly recommend anyone who has an interest in cars to find their local branch and try out the experience. It’s great fun!

After regular sessions, I decided I wanted to take it more seriously. From there, I went into the professional side of karting and got a cadet kart.

Karting was amazing. It was something that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I found that I was really good at it. I steadily moved up the ranks and eventually won several English and British Championships.

However, I always wanted to do more, be in a faster class, and progress further.

What happened after your Karting career?

It was my first year racing in a car, and again it was something that I had always wanted to do. But I am now racing in Le Mans P3.

How does LMP3 compare to F4?

Personally, I prefer LMP3. The car is better, it has more power, more downforce, and more grip. The car itself is heavier, but the power it gives you more than makes up for it!

It’s a really fun car to drive and I’d like to think I’m doing quite well. I won my debut race and am really hoping to keep that winning streak going.

How did it feel to win your debut race?

Honestly, it was just nuts. There was such a mixture of emotions.

When I was in the race itself, I didn’t see the chequered flag go up. I’ve had it drilled into me so many times that even if I thought I was on my final lap, unless I’d seen the chequered flag I had to keep going.

There have been a few races I’ve seen where the driver thought he was on the last lap – when in fact he wasn’t – then started celebrating and slowing down, which cost him the race.

At the time, everything was a bit of a blur, and even though I’d completed the race I didn’t see the flag go up, so I kept on racing.

I was being told on the radio that the race was over and I had won, but I kept responding saying ‘no, no I didn’t see the flag go up, I’ve got to keep going,’ and I carried on racing.

It was only after receiving several messages down my radio that it got through to me that the race was over and I’d won.

If you’d asked me before the race where I hoped to place, I would have responded that I was just hoping to be in the top 5. To be on the podium was the dream. Now to think that I’ve won it… I just don’t know what to say. It’s amazing.

Was the win a big surprise?

I think winning was a surprise not just to myself, but to several others as well. I hadn’t raced at all for 2 years, as I didn’t get into a racecar throughout the whole of 2020.

Did you have much time to practise before the race?

To be honest, I had very little time in the vehicle.

Before the race, I managed to practise in the car on the official test day, then had one day from the pre-season test. It wasn’t a lot.

In total, I think it was around six hours of testing and getting to know the vehicle before having to race in it.

When did the race take place?

The race I won took place in mid-April 2021. It was quite daunting, having not raced for so long, but the feeling of joy from participating and winning was immense!

When is your next big race?

The main race I’m looking forward to this year is, of course, the one at Le Mans taking place in August.

Who has been instrumental in helping you get this far?

Without a doubt, my parents.

They have been my biggest supporters, championing me ever since I first showed an interest in racing. They’ve done everything they can and have helped me emotionally, financially, and by being there to support my career and my ambitions.

Aside from my parents, I’m tremendously grateful to the various businesses and sponsors who have shown an interest in me and have had faith in my career. I also feel really lucky and grateful to be endorsed by Prince Albert of Monaco – he’s been a tremendous support to me and my family, and has really cheered me on. 

Locally, several businesses have helped with my career.

I would like to mention Fistral Beach Bar, and Hendra Holiday Park – both based in Newquay – Elite Wealth Management, based in Penzance, and The Cornwall Kitchen Company, located in Wadebridge. All these businesses have been incredibly supportive, and without their help, it would have been really difficult to get to where I am now.

What do you wish people understood about racing?

The highs of racing are tremendous, but what isn’t seen as much is the flipside; the trials and tribulations of the journey.

Grassroots sport is difficult. Motor racing is not cheap and for my career to move forward and progress up to the faster levels, there is a financial aspect that needs managing. For me, racing is my life and passion, and I am fully committed to it.

The local businesses that have contributed and allowed me to carry on this path are showing faith in me; any support from local businesses is hugely appreciated and we are always grateful to hear from anyone who can help in any way.

I’m happy to show my appreciation however I can. To give you some idea, I’ve recently been helping out in a bar and cleaning a forecourt!

The adrenalin rush you get from watching motor racing is incredible, and knowing that I’m one of the few individuals who gets to experience it from behind the wheel gives me a real buzz.

Unfortunately, at present, something that I am having to keep in the back of my mind is that each race may be my last, simply because of a lack of funds. It’s quite a bizarre feeling getting into a car, uncertain if this will be the final race. It makes each race precious; it puts additional pressure on you, as you want to do your absolute best and make sure it counts.

What are your plans for the future?

For now, I’m looking forward to going to Monaco this year. While there, I’ll be analysing the techniques and driving styles of all the drivers to see if I can adopt any of them to help me in my races.

After Monaco, I’m heading straight off to get ready for my next race. Once on the track, I can forget about everything except for the car, the track, and the race.

Tommy Foster was interviewed by Marie Serrano

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