The GT4 class of the British GT Championship seems poised for a major revitalisation in 2014, with new cars, new teams and an influx of young talent; and hoping to be at the front of the grid throughout the season is the Beechdean AMR pairing of Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings, who will campaign a new Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
22 year old Wylie’s career began in karting and progressed through Minis and VW Cup, both in the UK and in Germany. DSC caught up with him at, of all places, the Daytona International Speedway (where he was a guest of AMR) and began by asking why he had decided upon British GT for the next stage of his career.
You’ve got to be realistic. To go down the single-seater route is a bit of a lottery and you certainly need a big cheque book to go along with it, but to be honest I always wanted to go down the GT route. Coming from Dumfries and Galloway, Allan McNish was someone I’ve always looked up to and I’ve aspired to a career like his.
It is. I don’t have a management contract or anything with him, but he’s always been really great to me. We’re both from the same home town, so that’s how it started initially.
I won my first British karting championship when I was 16 and ever since then Allan’s kind of taken me by the arm, which is invaluable really.
Are you from a racing family?
No, not at all; my family’s in the sawmill business, so at the opposite end of the scale from motorsport. But they’ve always been very supportive of my career.
So how did the motorsport start?
When I was three years old I got given my first quad bike, so I was always hanging onto something going fast and was always interested in speed; and, like I say, having Allan coming from the same town gave me someone to look up to and made me think ‘I want to have a shot at that’. Initially, my parents said no to motorsport and told me to take up football or something, but one day we ended up at a kart track and I was hooked. After that, a combination of nagging my parents and saving up my money eventually led to my first kart and it’s gone from there.
Karting has traditionally been seen as a prelude to single-seater racing; does it offer the same benefits to racing saloons and GTs?
I think so. Karting teaches you the basics of racecraft, which is the most important thing – you also get some understanding of set-up, although you don’t have dampers etc. in karting. I went from karting to racing an underpowered front-wheel drive machine, and now I’m moving into a powerful rear-wheel drive GT car, so we’ll see.
The first test in February will be important; it’ll be the first time I’ve driven the Aston.
How did the Beechdean deal come about?
I’m a member of the MSA Academy and last year we got taken on a tour of Prodrive. I was taken aback by the whole operation, and then got talking to fellow Scot John Gaw and things just escalated from there, really.
What benefits does the MSA Academy give you?
It’s good in that it brings up and coming young talent together and takes us to seminars and fitness training at Silverstone. I find it really useful through gathering the thoughts of other drivers and discussing how to improve in certain areas. And, of course, it gives you a bit of status. Also being a BRDC Rising Star helps in a similar way; it’s good for your profile and having the BRDC connection helps with finding sponsorship.
The GT4 Aston, it’s fair to say, hasn’t fared too well against the Ginetta historically, so how are you going to take the battle to them this year?
It’s difficult to say having not done any testing yet. I’ve done quite a lot of simulator work at Darren Turner’s Base Performance, getting a feel for the car, but obviously the Aston Martin is heavier compared to the Ginetta. It’s hard to say, but hopefully we can rise to the challenge.
How well do you know Jake – have you raced against him before?
I haven’t, but we’ve got to know each other quite well over the past few months and we’re coming from a similar background of racing underpowered cars, so it’s going to be a big learning curve. But we both know that success in GT racing is all about teamwork, so we know what we have to do.
Have you driven all the 2014 circuits before?
The only one I haven’t driven is Spa – I’m really looking forward to that one!
What lies beyond 2014 for Ross Wylie?
There’s nothing set in stone yet. Obviously, I’ve committed to a full year in GT4, so there’s a bit of structure there, but it’s all really down to me to grab the opportunity with both hands and showcase what I can do.