I interviewed Kevin Thomas, a man who restores Formula 1 cars based in Leeds. His latest project is the last Caterham F1 car, the CT05, which saw action during the 2014 season. He’s aiming for the car to be running by the summer of this year.
What is your first motorsport memory?
When I was little I used to go to Brands Hatch a lot and spend time with people like Barry Sheehan, because you could get to meet them back in those days. Back then, as a twelve-year-old, I would probably six times a year when all the world champions were racing and you could just walk up to them and talk to them.
Were you hooked straight away?
I’d say so yeah, with the access to it, you could talk to them one week and they’d be on the tele the next so you felt like you knew them. You could never dream of doing that nowadays.
You’re an Electrician by trade, is restoring F1 cars more of a hobby for you then?
Yeah definitely, I wanted to buy [an F1 car] but I couldn’t afford it so I had to build one up. I didn’t have thirty or forty grand to pick one up off the shelf.
Did you ever want to become part of a Formula 1 or maybe even start your own motorsport team?
Life’s taught me that if you want something when you get it it’s not the same. Keeping Formula 1 as a hobby means that I enjoy it, if it was my job would I enjoy it as much? Probably not. I don’t think that you can do Formula 1 as a whim, you either do it properly or as a hobby, I don’t think there’s a middle ground for that.
Have your restored any other F1 cars?
Back in 2009-10 I restored a 2001 BAR Honda T-car, never raced but it was tested by Villeneuve and Panis. Then I owned the 2001 BAR chassis that came third in the Spanish Grand Prix and now I’m trying to get a Formula Renault engine to run the 2014 Caterham in the summer.
How did you go about getting these cars?
Well this one, the Caterham, was in an auction when the administrators of Caterham shut the factory down. I bought the wrecked one and went about finding out how to restore it.
What have you got planned for the future? Have you got any other cars that you want to restore?
My sole focus right now is the Caterham. It’s the newest F1 car in private ownership and the only running hybrid F1 car that doesn’t belong to a team. When it’s up and running, I want to be sponsored by Caterham and travel the world doing track days.
If you could own any F1 car, which one would you choose?
Probably a Ferrari or a McLaren, it’s the ultimate F1 car because they’re so rare and you can’t get them. It’s should be one that’s iconic and that was driven by a great driver like Alonso’s Renault or Schumacher’s Ferrari. But if I had to pick it would be Senna’s McLaren which he won in at Donnington in 1993.
What would you say your favourite era in F1 is?
I would say now, it’s always the latest which is why I like the technology of F1. I love being impressed by the new things that are coming out. I’m not a retro person, I wouldn’t want a 1970’s car over a 2016 car. The amount effort that goes into these cars grows and grows each year. The point of Formula 1 is to look at it and go “wow! How did they do that?”
What are your predications for the 2017 F1 season?
I think having seen the cars it should be a better season than the last few. I think Hamilton and [Mercedes] still have the edge but Ferrari also seem strong. If Vettel has reliability, he can drag things out of a car so let’s see! Bottas should come second, then Vettel and Ricciardo in fourth.
If you want to follow Kevin on Twitter his handle is @KevTs and his Caterham website is caterhamf1.co.uk
Everybody at Essaar wishes you the best of luck!