""I got over the wall first time". Not something you expect to hear from a racing driver whilst talking about their achievements to date, but then Charlie Martin is a racer like no other. The wall in question, you'll be "
Charlie Martin – what’s next?
What next for Charlie Martin?
“It’s gone really really well. I’m really pleased with it.”
That was the phrase that Charlie Martin used not once, but twice back when we caught up in mid-2018, as she exclaims her joy at the way she has adapted to her first season in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge, after a distinguished hill climbing career in France.
We caught up with Charlie at Thruxton and after securing three podiums in her first three weekends of the season, it’s safe to say Charlie is thoroughly enjoying her time adjusting to the rigors of track racing.
“I’m feeling really positive” Charlie expressed. “It’s a hard series and people have been racing in it for years. So all things considered I’m doing as well as I’d hoped. It’s different to hill climbing.
“In hill climbing you can have a lot of pressure because you don’t get back after a mistake, so the pressure you experience before a hill climb you’ve obviously got to have everything mapped as you’d like ahead.”
One of the main differences Charlie has endured during the GT5 is having to avoid others around her as she navigates different circuits. Especially considering she doesn’t have the advantage of downforce to shave time off of her laps.
“I find when the race starts I feel quite calm which is quite good. I think the mental preparation from hill climbing feels like it helps me coming into a circuit race. Obviously you need to be very neat at hill climbing and precise so having that I feel I can apply that to a bigger circuit, I feel quite confident in that.
“The big difference for me is that there is no downforce, compared to the last three years its taking a while to getting used to that. Especially somewhere like Thruxton where it’s so fast and you haven’t got any downforce to help you so that’s something that I’ve had to get my head around.
“I find overall it’s a good training ground. Essentially it’s about driving quickly under pressure, without making any mistakes. The key thing with this is all the traffic and how you deal with that. And I think I’m finding the psychological aspect of having people behind you in your rearview mirror, – not letting that get to you – and focus on what you’re doing that’s a very new thing to me.
It’s unsurprising that being amongst a crowd of drivers – at the starting grid in particular – is something that Charlie is having to get her head around.
It’s not all about how well your car performs, or how good of a driver that you are, you need to be able to negate other drivers at the beginning of the race no matter your position on the starting grid.
Being able to predict what other drivers are going to do and keeping to your line when racing is important. As is not following fellow competitors, something Charlie insisted to us when we met.
“It’s very easy to just follow traffic and not be doing what you are meant to be doing. There’s a lot to learn this year. There is things like spacial awareness I found I adapted to quite quickly and the visibility is not too bad in my car. I feel like I’m adapting to it as well as I could of hoped.”
Perhaps one of the advantages Charlie has is her background in engineering, she would do after being around the family engineering business Percy Martin Ltd as a child.
“I think it helps when I look at a car that’s damaged” said Charlie. “I know from an engineering point what’s involved in fixing it and it gives you a good understanding of what’s going on with the car.
“From a mechanical level I understand why you need to do certain things and why I shouldn’t do certain things. I think if you have an understanding it gives you more of an appreciation when you’re driving someone else’s car. Ultimately you want to get that car through the race and through the weekend. I think you can never have enough knowledge.”
However she was never tempted to give the mechanics at Richardson Racing any tips. “I think I’ll hang fire on doing that. The guys here are pretty good and they know what they’re doing.”
Whilst Charlie maybe finding her feet amongst the highly competitive GT5 series and is enjoying competing in her home nation, she admitted that France still has a special place in her heart.
“There’s things that I love about racing in France. I love French culture and I love speaking French all the time, the foods great and the weather is generally very good too. So I’d be lying if I said there were things that I won’t miss a little bit. But we’ve actually had sunshine this year in the UK.
“In hill climbing your set up in a village so it’s a very relaxed atmosphere and everybody’s super friendly and you sort of know everyone. Whereas here especially somewhere like the British Touring Car the teams are a lot more professional in terms of the way they setup. I think as long as we get some good weather I don’t think I’m going to miss France too much.”
After meeting Charlie and listening to how passionate she is when talking about racing you can definitely see her steely determination come out. This was something that was also sparked when discussing her second-time competing on UK game-show Ninja Warrior.
“Not as successful as my first time. I just missed my jump! It was an incredible experience being on the show. I came into it last year with big hopes of trying to get into the final, but you make one mistake and you’re off the show. I was a bit gutted to come off so soon, but it’s something that I’d do again if I have a chance.”
Since meeting Charlie continued her good start to her first Ginetta GT5 Challenge series, but has also returned to France and tested her skills by completing her first LMP3 test at Chambley in a private session with Racing Experience. It was her first outing in a 420bhp V8-powered Ligier JSP3 LMP3 car.
Charlie is of course no stranger to downforce due to her hill climbing career and this test run gave her some valuable experience in endurance racing and help her reach her goal to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
For 2020, the plan was to race with Adrenaline Motorsport in Germany, but with the Covid-19 lockdown, it seems sim racing might be the only viable option. When racing resumes, Charlie will compete in the VLN championship, and make her 24-hour debut
in the ADAC Total 24 Hours Nürburgring.
For the time being Charlie will compete in the online ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge, which will be available live globally across Formula E’s social media platforms including on the official YouTube channel, Facebook page and Facebook Gaming
site, Twitch channel and Twitter.
The esports championship was announced via virtual press conference and will raise money for UNICEF, with whom Formula E have partnered in support of its global coronavirus appeal.
Charlie said: “I am thrilled to be invited to compete in this esports championship. My entry to racing as a child was through console games and my love for esports and sim racing has continued to grow. In the midst of this difficult time for everyone, an opportunity to go racing, to provide some exciting entertainment for a good cause is very welcome and I am looking forward to the first test.
“I’m excited to have an opportunity to race among so many talented drivers. The Formula E championship always offers such thrilling racing and I’m in no doubt that the Race at Home Challenge will be just as action-packed, particularly in the elimination format. That will keep us all on our toes.”
If the former hillclimb champ regains some of that success, she could find herself in a real Formula E car…
LMP3 test pictures credit: Darren S Cook Photography
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