Next up in our getting to know you feature series is Lanan Racing’s Piers Prior. The British driver is finally making the step up to single seater competition and has a hugely interesting back-story to tell.
From caravan travels to ‘BBC Radio Burp’, support from his family including his ‘hi-vis’ father, and winning several major motorsport competitions, this is a story well worth reading and enjoyed with a cup of tea and a biscuit or two. Over to Piers…
1. Where is your hometown and can you tell us anything interesting about where you’re from?
I’m originally from Thorpe-le-Soken in Essex, near Clacton-on-Sea, but I currently live in Loughborough where I attended the University (when I’m not driving). A fun fact about Loughborough: due to the success of the university’s elite training programmes and facilities, if it were a country it would have come 17th and 10th in the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics respectively!
2. How did you first become interested in motorsport?
I’ve been hooked with the sport ever since I was a kid when my family used to visit race weekends. My younger brother and I would wander around the paddocks trying to sit in as many racing cars as possible, we were barely older than toddlers. I remember sitting in Stephen Jelley’s British F3 car as a kid and thinking how cool it was, and now here I am; it’s a dream come true.
One funny story was at Rockingham, I must’ve been about seven, my brother five, and we had walkie-talkies so our parents could call us back to the caravan for dinner or whatever. Somehow my brother and I managed to tune into the radio frequency of the circuit tannoy, and we proceeded to broadcast our newly formed station of ‘BBC Radio Burp’ to Rockingham and the wider area, much to our parent’s embarrassment. Great memories!
I had GTR2 on my Mum’s laptop as well and used to spend hours on that when I was young, even before I’d driven a Kart, I think that triggered my desire to drive.
My Dad, he's always been by my side supporting me on and off track – Photo: Simon Burchett
3. Who has been your biggest career influence so far?
My parents have been the main influence on my career, especially my father, he’s been the most supportive father I could have asked for. In the 13 years I’ve been racing, mostly in karts, he’s attended pretty much every race, often in our caravan which you’ll still find us in at F3 weekends. Having his unrelenting support and encouragement has been invaluable and I can’t thank him enough. He’s also my biggest fan. You can’t miss him at race weekends or test days, he’s almost always in his hi-vis jacket cycling around the paddock on his little folding bike – if you see him stop him and say hello, he’s always up for a chat.
As well as my father, Aback Productions have been a massive help in recent years, from a managerial and promotional point of view. Having met when I won the 2014 Lets-Race-2-Reality competition, they have documented and aided my career in every area. You may have seen some of the short films online, which they have and will continue to produce through this year, and going forward. I owe a lot to them.
X30 Senior at Whilton Mill - Photo: aback productions
4. Tell us about your career so far and how it has got you to this position in British F3 now?
I’ve been racing since I was nine, mostly in hire karting. I started at a local indoor track, and then moved to outdoor hire karting at Buckmore Park, and began to move further and wider from there, doing a lot of solo and team endurance karting all over the country.
In the last couple of years I’ve been racing in X30 Senior mostly at Whilton Mill as a privateer with just me and my friends/mechanics Scotty and Brian, and we managed to win the Whilton Mill club championships in 2018. We would have liked to do some higher-level karting but we were always on a shoestring so mostly stuck to club level racing.
I have entered several competitions which have afforded me many incredible opportunities, such as the aforementioned Lets-Race-2-Reality competition which gave my first taste of a racing car in a Dallara F3 with Carlin back in 2015. In 2015 I also won the Henry Surtees Foundation karting challenge, and then came third the year after, from which I was awarded tests in F4 with Falcon and Formula Renault 2.0 with MP Motorsport at Rockingham and Jerez respectively. These were incredible opportunities that just fuelled my hunger to race in cars. I’m hugely excited to have finally been given the opportunity by Lanan to race a full season in F3 this year.
Last year I had my first car racing win in F1000 at Silverstone thanks to Henry at Chiron World Sport cars. I wasn’t supposed to be racing, but his normal driver didn’t turn up due to illness and I got a last-minute call from Henry asking if I’d like to race. I didn’t need asking twice! I had to borrow a suit, race underwear, a HANS, all about 15 minutes before qualifying. I qualified sixth in race one, and managed to win from 17th in race two when it rained on the formation lap with everyone being on slicks. It was a great weekend.
Mini Challenge Donington 2016 - Photo: David Young
5. How has testing in British F3 gone for you so far?
With my limited car, and even more limited single seater experience I’ve been taking things steadily. I’ve had four days in the car now, one shakedown at Oulton Park, the two days at Snetterton for the media day, and then one day at Silverstone. Having never had more than a day in a car at a time I’ve been relishing being able to get my teeth into the Tatuus BRDC British F3 car, and I’ve surprised myself how quickly I’ve been able to get on the pace! Finishing P3 on the pre-media day test was a shock in my second day, but also very encouraging going forward as I’m still learning very fast, largely thanks to Lanan. I’ve been preparing in Simutec’s simulator in Bletchley, near Milton Keynes, and it’s obviously been paying off as I’m feeling more and more comfortable in the car with every test day, and every session. I’m still learning and improving almost every lap. There are still some areas that I need to work on to be consistently fast, but I’m working with the team to make sure they’re strengths by the time the season starts (whenever that will be).
6. When the season starts, which circuit are you most looking forward to racing on?
I’m just hugely excited to even be racing in this series at all. The calendar has some incredible tracks, and to be racing at circuits like Spa, and Silverstone GP is awesome. However, it’s always been a desire of mine to go flat out around the Brands GP circuit, it’s one of my favourites from sim racing and I can’t wait to experience it in one of these cars.
Testing the British F3 car at Snetterton - Photo: Jakob Ebrey
7. What is your aim for the 2020 British F3 season?
To be honest I have no aims in terms of results. I’m a firm believe that results come as a consequence of how well you perform so my focus is on extracting as much as I can from myself and the car with Lanan. Of course, it would be nice to get some strong results this season, and some wins would be very welcome, however I know how high the level of competition is in this championship, and some of the guys we’re up against are very experienced so that will be tough.
I believe in my ability however, and providing I continue to develop my driving effectively, and we have the sponsorship to finish the season, there’s no reason why I can’t rustle a few feathers near the front.
8. When you are not racing or testing, what do you do to keep yourself busy? Are you a gym/fitness fanatic or do you have any interesting hobbies you’d like to let us know about?
I’m very busy away from the track. I’m in my final year of my Automotive materials engineering course at Loughborough University, and it’s pretty full on! Balancing my time until I graduate in July with basically a full race schedule will be a challenge, but I’m committed to doing both to the best of my ability.
I’ve always enjoyed sports, and I do quite a bit when I’m not driving. I used to play cricket for my local village and school teams at home in Essex, but since moving to university I’ve really got into playing squash, for which I now represent the university. Playing a couple of times a week with training and matches, supplemented by my own strength and conditioning at the Uni gyms keeps me fit and ready to drive any car or kart. I take pride in my fitness and I haven’t had any issues driving the car yet, so it’s obviously working.
2018 Whilton Mill X30 Senior champions, our 'team' - Photo: Aback Productions
9. What are your ultimate career ambitions?
My ambitions are to race and be competitive at the highest level, regardless of genre. So far I’ve raced Minis, an MG3, F1000, and soon to be F3, so I’ve sampled a variety of cars and was comfortable in them all despite their differences, so I don’t see just one path for me. I know I’ve got the ability on track, and I’m working away from the track to create a professional career for myself going forward as a driver and brand ambassador. I’ll be networking all I can this year and making the most of this incredible opportunity and use it as a platform to build a career on. I will also (hopefully) have my engineering degree from Loughborough to supplement this, hopefully that will only aid my career in terms of the technical side of the car to get the most from it.
Most of all I love motorsport and racing, and I’ll be involved whether I’m driving or not. I’ve had an incredible 13-year relationship with the sport and I look forward to seeing what the future holds, whatever it has in store for me.
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