At a wet Silverstone in 2016 Jack Manchester had competed in only his fifth race and won it, by eighteen seconds. Manchester may not have been on the racing scene for very long but the 18-year-old from Surrey is making waves and the right people are starting to notice.
After being scouted by Audi, Jack will be competing in the Audi Sport TT Cup in 2017. Pretty impressive for someone who has only had one season of racing.
“I had no karting experience when I started” Jack explained, “I hadn’t even learnt to drive a road car so I was driving the Radical before I even drove on the road. I felt I was playing catch up on developing my skills to be at the sharp end of the grid but I felt I was progressing after every race. Then the last three rounds of the Radical Challenge we finished on the podium at each race meeting. The highlight being the win at Silverstone followed by a win at Monza in the European round.”
At 16, Jack’s career was on a different path as he was one of the youngest pilots to get a solo flight in both a helicopter and an aeroplane but had always retained an interest in motorsport.
“I knew of Mark Blundell and always had a big passion for motorsport so I had always wanted to drive a race car. Mark helped me with that, he organised for me to test in a Radical and I got hooked. It was a great experience and from there we decided to race for a year and see where we could get to. Kieren Clark of MB Partners (Blundell’s management team) helped to coach and develop me”.
Even after just one year of racing, his results had not gone unnoticed as Audi invited him to a scouting session at their Headquarters to assess potential drivers for the TT Cup.
“Mark was great and told Audi about my results and progress in the Radicals. I was invited along with other young drivers to their test track and factory for assessment of our driving capabilities. After the tests, a few of us were invited to drive the TT Cup car and from that, I was selected to drive in the series.”
The Audi Sport TT Cup is a one make series in Germany which supports the DTM championship. The Cup is strictly controlled by Audi making it very much a drivers’ championship. No testing is allowed at any of the venues prior to the race except for one day at the Hockenheimring.
“Before the test we had a fitness camp for a week in the German Alps to analyse our fitness and advise us on where to improve. We were allowed just one advisor at the test so Kieren and I just concentrated on car set up to help us in the long run”.
The drivers are only allowed to adjust tyre pressures and the anti-roll bar so understanding how changes to the setup affected the car was important to Jack.
“You can really change the balance of the car especially on the exit and mid corner. Tyre pressures are going to be key throughout the race as knowing when they are at their best and when they will drop off will be key in the 30 minute races”.
MB Partners have two DTM drivers in Gary Paffett and Tom Blomqvist so Jack will have some familiar faces in the paddock.
“They have been a real help and it’s good to know their support is there if ever I need it. Mike Conway, another of MB Partners’ professional drivers, has been a great help with the Radical due to his decorated sportscar career”.
Jack has also been using the MB Partners Simulator to learn the new tracks, “The simulator has been a brilliant tool for Hockenheimring and it will be for the other tracks on the TT calendar. Kieren has been great in my first year of racing as well, helping with my braking techniques and my throttle pick up – which has been vital to what I have achieved.”
It is clear from talking to Jack that he is keen to make the most of new opportunities and develop as a driver. Jack explains what benefits there are to working with Audi Sport.
“Working with a manufacturer, seeing how they operate behind the scenes, analysing the data and talking to engineers helps me as a young driver. They have been brilliant with teaching us about our role in the media and have helped us with mock interviews, it’s a great platform for young drivers”.
But where does Jack think he can improve the most?
“When I first started it was finding huge chunks of time here and there and now it is finding tenths of a second, by breaking it down and improving. It will be interesting moving to front-wheel drive, as I have never experienced that before. This year is a new style of driving, with a new car, at seven tracks I have never raced at before – but I’m ready for the challenge!”
So where does Jack see his future? “I think I want to keep my options open. I don’t want to focus too much on one area, people tend to be too streamlined and don’t look at the bigger picture. I’m not adverse to anything, but I think I would prefer the sportscar route as my style of driving suits the aero and I enjoy the downforce”.
No long-term goals set just yet then, so what does Jack see as his targets for 2017? “In the Radicals I want to be competitive and consistently at the sharp end of the grid. I think in the TT Cup I don’t want to be caught up in needing to win, I will be looking at 2017 as a development year for myself as a driver and making the most of the opportunity with Audi. A top-ten finish in the championship would be nice”.
Jack will have his hands full balancing the TT Cup and selected rounds of the British Radical championship. He clearly has the speed to compete at the front and is surrounding himself with the right people in order to carve a successful career as a racing driver.