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Q & A with Nicolas Hamilton

Saturday, March 26 2011

As well as the opening three races of the 2011 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, Brands Hatch will host a busy programme of support race action this weekend (2/3 April).

In the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup, a familiar motorsport surname will line up on the grid as Nicolas Hamilton - younger brother of former Formula One World Champion Lewis - will make his motorsport debut with the Total Control Racing team.

Nicolas carried out some final pre-season testing at the Kent circuit last week, when he also took part in an exclusive Q&A about his decision to go racing and his hopes for the season ahead.

When did you first decide to go racing?
NH: I decided at the end of 2009 but I didn't get into a car until September 2010. I went to Bedford Autodrome and spent two days in a PalmerSport BMW M3 GTP, which was when I realised that I could drive quite well and felt pretty confident.

Then in February I spent some time in a PalmerSport Renault Clio Cup Racer - I couldn't try the actual race car at that point because I didn't have a racing licence and the car needed to be modified. It wasn't exactly the same but it was a good compromise.

Although you've played a lot of racing games, this is your first experience of an actual racing car: how does it compare?
NH: The first time it felt pretty weird because I'm used to online simulation games, but in a real car you can't jump in and push straight away; it's not like you can press escape if you go wrong! The games do a good job but it's better to learn in real life.

How does Brands Hatch compare to its virtual equivalent?
NH: When I played it as a game I never really liked Brands Hatch, maybe because I struggled for pace online, but its a completely different experience when you get here. I love it completely, it's unbelievable!

Brands Hatch Indy circuit is such as small track but it's difficult to be fast - you can easily drive around it but it's all about finding that extra tenth of a second.

Why did you choose the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup?
NH: I didn't want to race people that were out on track just for fun, I wanted to race people looking for a career. The Clio Cup has a great bunch of drivers to learn from as they've got good pace. They've also got a lot of experience from racing in other series.

Have you set any expectations for yourself this year?
NH: I've never raced in my life so the best thing for me to do is just to get in the car and progress slowly. I think in my first race I might be left behind a little bit, but I'll be aiming to stay on the back of the rest of the field. And the day of my first race is mother's day so my present to my mother will be to bring the car home safely!

Hopefully once I'm on the pace I can get nearer to the front by the end of the season. I'm just going to keep pushing and see where it takes me.

How have preparations been going for the season?
NH: It took a long time to get my racing licence, so I've missed a lot of testing. The other teams have done twelve or thirteen days' testing, but I've only done four days.

How has Lewis influenced you?
NH: When I got in the PalmerSport Clio in February, Lewis came along and helped me out. It made me realised how good he is as he's so consistent - he can get into any car and be fast. He gave me some pointers and I ended the day only a second off his pace, which I don't think is bad!

I look up to Lewis a lot and have a massive amount of respect for him and the way he handles things. He's taken on board and got over a huge amount of pressure over the years - I want to know how he does it as it's not normal!

Lewis deserves every bit of his success as he works so hard and puts in all his time and effort. I remember when he won the 2008 F1 World Championship, at the end of the race when he got out the car a