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Racers in Isolation: Michael Simpson

Ginetta LMP1 driver Michael Simpson on building squirrel tables, early kart meetings and his ’89 Ford Orion…

Photo: Michael Simpson

Sportscar365 is asking drivers from around the world what they’re doing during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they’re coping with the racing downtime.

This edition features Ginetta factory driver Michael Simpson (Twitter/Instagram) who represents Team LNT in the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1 class.

Where have you been sitting out the coronavirus pandemic?

I have just been at home in Hessle, East Yorkshire, UK with my wife Katie and two boys Charlie and Freddie.

How have you been keeping busy during the UK lockdown?

Honestly, it has been a challenge with the boys, I have to home school them and the novelty wore off after the first week.

My wife is a key worker and I really struggle when she is not around!

Luckily, or maybe unluckily for me, I had purchased a lot of DIY materials before the UK shutdown so I have managed to decorate four rooms in the house which put me in her ‘good book’.

Some of my other jobs have been more fun, building bird and squirrel tables for the local hospital gardens. The one below is outside the Oncology Department at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham, East Yorkshire.

I’ve been rebuilding my custom Triumph Thruxton and enjoyed my first ride out to the coast.

The best aspect of the lockdown has been the exercise permitted with the family, we have enjoyed some great walks and bike rides and it is nice to just take some time away from the hectic life and just enjoy what have.

Myself and around 40 members of the British Racing Drivers Club organized by Sam Bird ran a solitary half marathon for our heroes in the UK National Health Service, we raised over £40,000. I am not one for running and prefer cycling so to do it in 1hr 45mins and raise so much charity made it worth the effort.

How has your sim racing been going? And what’s your setup?

My setup is very humble, I can’t believe the amount of drivers blowing £5k-£10k on home sims in lockdown! They must be doing well!! I have a PS4, Playseat and Logitech G29, everything has been done on GT Sport and I’ve been running well.

Sportscar Worldwide has been running a championship for GT3 machinery with BOP and no setup allowed. It’s really close, good quality racing.

My teammate at Ginetta, Charlie Robertson, won season one and I won season two, and they are going to run a third season so it’s game on.

I have done a few guest appearances in other series, usually qualifying on the front row but I seem to have trouble getting around Turn 1.

Ginetta is hopeful to get an entry into the Virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans race which looks like an all-star lineup. Hopefully our entry is approved and we will run it from our simulator based at Ginetta HQ.

I’m really excited about this. It will be in accordance with the usual regulations and I have no doubt it will be the most realistic virtual event held.

What music have you been listening to recently?

Great question! We love music in the Simpson household. My boys keep asking for Adore You by Harry Styles which seems a great summer anthem for this year.

We have everything on, to be honest. You may have seen from my odd moonwalk or pitstop practice dance that I like to move so I am sure the neighbours are getting fed up with the garden antics by now.

My favorite is old RnB soul/funk, always James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Rick James, McFadden & Whitehead, Curtis Mayfield playing in the house.

It needs to be a beat to make you want to dance or I’m not interested really.

My number one on my playlist at the minute is I Found Lovin, by Fatback Band.

What was the first motorsport event you attended? Or an early one that was particularly memorable.

I used to attend kart meetings before I could race. The race that got me going was in my hometown of Hull – The Hull Kart Grand Prix!

It was a massive race with good prize money. It attracted all the big names, Jenson Button, Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson, Charlie Hollings, Darren Manning and my buddy and teammate Guy Smith.

I was one month too young to take part and I was gutted. I was seven years old and to have the proper two-stroke engine, running on Castrol R, screaming up to 20,000 rpm around the streets of your home city Is what dreams are made of….well that’s what my dreams were made of!

My first memory of car racing is going to Silverstone in 1992 for the F1. That was where I fell in love with the Williams FW14B; that Renault engine still makes the hairs on my neck stand up.

It was demonstrated at the Silverstone Classic the other year and I’m not joking, I had a little bit of a man moment as it was tipped into Abbey for the first time.

What series or different motorsport discipline would you like to try?

I would really like a go at the British Touring Car Championship in the future. I have been a huge fan since a kid; it was one of the few series broadcast live on terrestrial TV in my childhood.

Watching the Super Tourer age with the works entries and drivers such as Steve Soper, John Cleland, Tim Harvey, Alain Menu, David Leslie……hard racing!

Working for Ginetta for 12 years, I have had the privilege of supporting our huge UK Championships which support the BTCC. The racing is mega close, the media and public profile must be one of the largest supported of any national racing.

What was your first car, and what was your favorite thing about it?

Well this is embarrassing, I was working from 16 as an apprentice engineer in the Military Aircraft Industry and had to pay my way.

By the time I paid my rent with my parents and a couple of nights out with the boys it did not leave much money to buy a car and insure it.

It was the year 2001 and I purchased a 1989 Ford Orion. I need to make it sound a little cooler and tell you it was the Ghia Injection model with a 1600cc 16v!! OH YER!

It was bright red, pepper pot alloys and no brakes whatsoever. I purchased for £350, kept getting it stolen as you could break into it with the old half a tennis ball popping the central locking trick, so I sold it for £500 to the village hard kid and I thought I was a genius.

Unfortunately, about six weeks later there was a knock at the door from the said ‘village hard kid’ and the head gasket had gone! That took some smoothing over!

What’s the one thing you are most looking forward to when you first return to a racetrack?

We have unfinished business to do in WEC. Lawrence, Ginetta, AER and all the other partners have put a lot of effort into the revival of Team LNT, and the Ginetta LMP1 car deserves to be on the podium at Spa and Le Mans.

If Spa goes ahead it will be the best part of 10 months since I went down the pit lane in the P1 car at Bahrain last December.

That feeling when you build the AER boost up and turn off the pit lane limiter makes you go cross-eyed on a normal day, so after a 10-month lay off it will be a serious kick in the backside.

Pull a few gears, quick shake of the head to refocus the brain and then it’s time to tip her into Eau Rouge… If that isn’t worth looking forward to then I am in the wrong job!

Photo: Michael Simpson

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