Motorsport: Ready to rumble

By Eric Thompson

The last time Chris Van der Drift raced here was in a Ferrari-engined A1GP car. Photo / A1GP
The last time Chris Van der Drift raced here was in a Ferrari-engined A1GP car. Photo / A1GP

One of the stalwarts of New Zealand motor racing both in New Zealand and overseas, Chris van der Drift, is back home passing on his formidable racing knowledge to some of racing's young guns.

Van der Drift is working with the M2 team as a driver coach and go-to man for all five rounds of the Toyota Racing Series.

He is primarily looking after Thai driver Tanart Sathienthirakul, who is making his first foray into open-wheelers after a successful karting career. Former A1GP Team NZ engineers Mark Pilcher and Jonathan Moury, with whom Van der Drift had success when he raced in A1GP, run the M2 competition team.

"I know the driver as I have worked with him in Europe in go-karts as his mechanic back in 2007," 24-year-old van der Drift says.

"Now that he's racing a car it helps that he knows someone here in New Zealand. Tanart is improving a lot and the speed's there now.

"We're now working on his race craft and starts and as he starts piecing it all together he'll get there. Step by step he's improving."

Van der Drift made world headlines after he launched himself into the air at 240km/h - courtesy of Julien Jousse's car - and tried to take out the overpass bridge at Pilgrims Drop during a Superleague race at Brands Hatch in 2010.

The former Formula Master, Formula BMW and Formula Renault champion broke his right ankle and right little finger, fractured his shoulderblade, broke two ribs and damaged his left index finger.

But just a few months later, he was back in a Superleague race in which he finished a creditable seventh.

"I'm feeling really good and I don't really notice the injuries any more," he says.

The flying Kiwi is not too certain about his plans after his commitments with the TRS championship are finished but o Europe after the last round at Manfeild.

"I guess it will be all last minute when they realise they can't get any drivers. I'll get a call and go racing again."

It would appear Van der Drift has become yet another victim of modern motor racing where drivers no longer get to go racing on talent alone.

It's all about having access to a bottomless pit of money or an extremely wealthy benefactor.

Van der Drift has been building a reputation as the man to put in a car at the last moment when all else has failed - and to go very fast.

"I don't want to stop racing at the moment so I'll keep pushing," he says. "And as long as you keep showing your face around the circuits people don't forget you.

"I'm not ready to give up yet so I'll keep trying."

Van der Drift wasn't forthcoming on exactly who he has discussed the future with but he hinted that his future could be something in Auto GP, which used to be the Euro Formula 3000 and Euro Series 3000 where some of the older A1GP cars have found a home.

And he has not ruled out racing saloon cars.

"World Series would also be very nice but you need a big budget for that," he says. "That's something I don't have at the moment unless someone comes along and GP2 is out of the question because of money.

"The tin-top guys are also asking me to come and race for them but I'm delaying that for a bit as I still want to race single-seaters.

"Having said that, I'm open to all options and I'm talking to some touring-car guys as well, and GT racing.

"But it all depends on money again," says Van der Drift.

- NZ Herald

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