Driver spotlight: Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton
They’re the youngest driver crew ever to win a British GT race, but you wouldn’t know it talking to HHC Motorsport’s Will Tregurtha and Stuart Middleton.
The GT4 championship leaders, both just 17, sound wise beyond their years when discussing the dream start to their first season of GT racing, which has already featured a victory and further podium in the opening three races. That’s contributed towards a handy 15-point lead in the Drivers’ standings, as well as a 25.5-point Silver Cup advantage.
Of course, the class has been here before, and is now something of a magnet for young talent eager to climb the ladder towards a potential manufacturer-backed GT career. Jamie Chadwick and Ross Gunn, whose youngest-ever record Tregurtha and Middleton lowered by 208 days at Rockingham last month, impressed many en route to the GT4 crown two years ago, while 2014 champions Jake Giddings and Ross Wylie were just 18 and 21 when they won the title.
It’s those achievements that Tregurtha and Middleton are hoping to emulate, albeit against greater strength in depth. But while both drivers expected to find the going tough, their transition from Ginetta Junior championship rivals to British GT co-driver title protagonists has so far proven relatively straightforward.
“A lot of people said the jump would be tough but, actually, it’s not been as hard as we expected,” reckons Tregurtha. “We certainly hoped to be near the front - that’s what we’re here for - but we didn't anticipate leading the championship this early. Stuart and I have adjusted well to Ginetta’s GT4, which is much quicker than what we raced last season. But that’s only made the experience even more fun!
“Obviously there are a few differences you need to get used to. I hadn’t raced for more than 15 minutes at a time before this season, plus there’s also pitstops and sharing the car to factor in. But it doesn’t take long to get used to those elements, while working as a team to find the best compromise between the two drivers is also very rewarding.”
Like his co-driver, Middleton believes lessons learnt in Ginetta Juniors have helped the pair hit the ground running in British GT.
“We saw the entry list and knew we’d be up against a lot of experienced GT4 drivers, but competing in Ginetta Juniors is instinctive and that’s played into our hands this season,” he reveals. “It was the perfect step: you learn all about race craft and the racing itself is very close, so every lap feels like a qualifying effort. Maintaining that level of concentration and consistency over a longer period is harder but at least we had a head start.”
Another reason is undoubtedly the pair’s pace, which was clear for all to see last season when they went toe-to-toe for the Ginetta Junior crown. Tregurtha, the younger driver by seven months, ultimately prevailed after a hard fought but always amicable title scrap. And it’s that level of respect between the two that he believes was crucial to them joining forces in 2017.
“We’ve known each other since karting and were friends before Ginettas but it’s how we raced against each other last season that gave us the confidence to be co-drivers,” he confirms. “2016 was tough on track but we trusted each other completely and, even though we weren’t team-mates, actually worked together in some of the races to gain an advantage. At Thruxton we helped each other gap the field before going at it side-by-side for the last 10 minutes!”
Middleton agrees, but also cites HHC - whom he was trying to beat throughout 2016 - as a major contributor to his winning start to the year.
“I knew the HHC guys a bit before British GT so it wasn’t entirely like walking into Will’s team and trying to win them over. Obviously we were rivals before but they’ve made me feel very comfortable, possibly because of how much respect we had for each other after such a close title battle. They’ve also got to grips with the championship very quickly after stepping up at the start of this year, which has helped Will and I progress even more.”
With two-thirds of the campaign remaining and plenty more points to play for it would be premature to hail Middleton and Tregurtha as champions elect. But following such a good start to the year surely anything other than a serious title push would represent a disappointing first season in GT4?
“The results have been fantastic and everyone’s very happy but we are very aware of how quickly things can change so we’re keeping our feet firmly grounded for the time being,” says Middleton. “But yes, the ultimate goal remains winning the championship. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.
“Consistency will be key; we don’t need to try and win every race, especially as success penalties can have a big impact the following weekend. We’ll carry the maximum 10 seconds at Snetterton, but as a Silver crew must also serve a longer minimum pitstop time than the Pro/Ams. So it’s about continuing to manage all those variables for the rest of the season.”
Tregurtha is more forthright: “We’d have been over the moon with third at the start of the season but the goalposts have moved and aiming for anything other than the championship is now pointless,” he says.
“We’ve proven we have the pace but are also very aware of the other contenders. Graham [Johnson] and Mike [Robinson] are a really quick Pro/Am pairing, while the McLarens are very fast. We had a great fight with Sandy [Mitchell] and Ciaran [Haggerty] for victory at Rockingham and their car is rapid in a straight line. So they’re going to be tough to beat at some of the faster circuits still to come.”
Alan Hansen famously claimed you’d never win anything with kids. Not for the first time a couple of youngsters are eager to prove him wrong.