Hillclimber Charlie Martin was enjoying a strong start to her season.
However a nasty accident in France has left her in a race against time to repair the car before her next event. She’s now set up a crowdfunding page to try to raise the money needed.
“My 2016 season got off to a flying start with two podiums out of the first three races – I was 2nd at Hebécrévon & St. Gouëno,” said Charlie. “The car felt absolutely on the button from the first drive and this being my second year in the championship I felt confident to push harder than ever. Round four went well and I slipped to 5th in a big class, but finished way ahead of my time from 2015 (3.5 secs which is a lot in hillclimbing!).”
“Sadly I hit bad luck at Vuillafans last weekend, on the final run of the day the sun was very low (5pm) and driving through shade it completely blanked out my visor as I turned into a corner. I misjudged my entry and hit rocks on the outside, which fired me into a concrete wall on the other side taking off all four corners…”
“Inevitably the car suffered a lot of damage and without a team to help me (I currently run the car on my own) I was forced to leave everything in France with a driver who runs his own team and lives nearby. The clock is ticking and I’m desperately trying to raise money via crowdfunding to help me find the budget to fix the car in time for the next race at the end of July – I just want to get racing again.”
Before the start of her season, I caught up with Charlie to find out more about how she discovered her love of motorsport.
“I first went racing with a school friend and his dad when I was about 8 years old. They competed in a Morgan 3 wheeler on circuits and hillclimbs with the VMCC. It was great fun and as much as anything I like going away for the weekend and being in the paddock surrounded by all the sites & smells of Castrol R and vintage cars. Being part of the Play Station generation, I grew up playing Gran Turismo and this was perhaps the beginning of my obsession with speed & racing.”
“After passing my test I really got into cars. This was around the time that Max Power was pretty huge and all my friends had giant wheels, lowered suspension and loud exhausts (me too!) so I got sucked into car culture from a few angles. I was still doing race weekends my friend Hamish, who was by now racing a Morgan (I sometimes passengered), and also went to Le Mans three years running as well as Donnington which is not far from me.”
“I currently drive a Formula Renault in the Championnat de France de le Montagne, which is the French national hillclimb championship. Last year was my first year competing in France and in this car too so it was a big step up for me, especially as I ran it entirely on my own with virtually no support! Personally I love hillclimbing as it’s very intense and over in mainland Europe people race on closed roads in some spectacular scenery, you need a good memory to be able to accurately visualise the whole course during your drive. Also the speeds that the top cars hit are quite crazy – just Google David Hauser at St Ursanne le Rangiers in a GP2 car and take a deep breath!”
“For me there’s just something so exciting being around racing cars and motorsport, especially when you are involved some way yourself. There’s really nothing like the buzz you feel in the paddock first thing in the morning with everybody getting ready and working on the cars. You hear the engines getting warmed up, people are busily working away and the energy around you builds and builds, you just feel very alive at that moment. Mainly though I love speed and pushing myself as fast as I dare go, the feeling that I get when I’m driving is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced – it’s that complete focus when there nothing else in the World except you, the car, and the track.”
“Racing is like one huge extended family, you move around the country with a group of friends and do so much socialising together so that part is really important for me too.”
I asked Charlie about her hopes for her racing career.
“It depends how realistic I’m being but if I could pick anything then to drive at Le Mans 24hr is my ultimate, it’s just such a special race with all the history that goes alongside it – just to go and spectate is an unforgettable experience so to actually race (and finish) there must be like nothing else.”
“Back in the real world my dream is to compete in the FIA European Hillclimb Championship – it moves through all of the major countries from Portugal right across to Croatia. I’d need to run with a team due the distances involved (I couldn’t drive my van so far!) but to compete in so many countries in beautiful scenery and on incredible courses would be something very special.”
Is there a dream car she’d love to drive?
“Good question! Well in terms of historics it’s got to be something from the 60/70’s and a sportscar with a big V12. My three favourites are the Porsche 917, Matra 670, or Ferrari 512PB – I just think the cars from that era were gorgeous to look at, incredibly scary, and had virtually no silencing. Moving into modern day perhaps a McLaren F1 GTR or an Aston Martin LMP1, I’ll never forget the noise one made doing a demo drive up Shelsley Walsh… wow. In hillclimbing I love the look & sound of the Osella PA20 but it would have to be a Norma M20 FC with a Zytec V8 – if you search for Simone Faggioli on YouTube you’ll know why!”
“One who I was lucky enough to meet was sportscar legend Derek Bell, I asked him to sign my helmet (he wrote a message too!) and we chatted briefly which was amazing, he was so approachable and very kind. What he achieved in cars with virtually no crash protection at insane speeds (in the Porsche 917 your feet are ahead of the front axle…) makes him something of a god in my book.”
“Also Georg Plasa, a German hillclimber with the most incendiary sounding Judd engined BMW who was killed tragically a few years ago – he was someone I looked up to and despite having never met him, I’d watched hundreds of his videos and was so upset when died.”
“Susie Wolff for obvious reasons – I so wish she could have been given the chance to race in F1, even so she’s a huge inspiration to me.”
“Finally Chris Harris, I think he is a really engaging presenter, he’s funny and a good driver too – a great combination!”
Which four motorsport figures would Charlie like to interview?
“Andy Priaulx, as the only hillclimber (I’m aware of) who’s made it into top flight motorsport I’d love to pick his brain.”
“Peta Solberg, one of my favourite rally drivers – he has a great personality and a nice smile too!”
“Gordon Murray would certainly be an interesting person to speak, he’s surely one of the most talented & influential designers of our time.”
“Tom Kristensen as the only driver to win 9 times at Le Mans, he must have some fab stories.”
“It’s all about France again this year, possibly an event in Switzerland depending on how my season is going. I’m also hoping to qualify for the FIA Hillclimb Masters at Ecce Homo in the Czech Rep this October, it’s the second running of the bi-annual event and sees the best hillclimbers from all over Europe invited to compete head to head on a 5km course – I’ll be representing GB if I get an entry so my performance this year means more than ever!”