Sandy Mitchell: Monza Interview 20 | 04 | 2018

    A MONTH AFTER celebrating his 18th birthday, and just two years after making his sportscar racing debut, Forfar’s Sandy Mitchell is living the dream, writes Jim McGill. This weekend he’ll fire up his 190mph Black Bull Lamborghini Huracan for the opening round of the Blancpain GT Championship at Monza, home of the F1 Italian Grand Prix. (Related: Black Bull ace Mitchell aims to build Blancpain GT success)

    The youngest-ever race winner in the British GT Championship when, aged 16 years and 169 days, he steered his McLaren home to victory at Snetterton in 2016, Mitchell appears to have surfed the fast-track to the success since stepping out of single-seaters.

    But while some might have that impression of the former karting champ, now in his first year studying the MSA Course at Loughborough Sports College, the reality is something different.

    Mitchell remains the quiet, softly-spoken young man who took his first tentative steps in an Aston Martin GT4 sportscar on a cool day at the end of 2015. Sure he’s grown up. He’s taller, more mature, more confident. But what remains is that measured, near-innocent self-confidence and clinical professionalism. Blowing his own trumpet is something this Scot doesn’t do.


    Much of that stems from his traditional family upbringing in Letham. Not renowned as a mecca for partying and living the highlife, the Angus town has provided the perfect backdrop to Mitchell’s early years.

    Schooled at Dundee High School, and playing for his local football team, the young Scot passed his ‘official’ driving test not long after his 17th birthday. That released him from having to rely on the archetypal “dad’s taxi”, and for the last 12 months he’s had the automotive freedom to go where he wants, when he wants.

    But this weekend he’ll swap his 1.6-litre Ford Focus for his super-slick, menacingly black Lamborghini, backed by Huntly-based Black Bull Whisky, and prepared by championship-winning Barwell Motorsport.


    And Mitchell, a member of the prestigious British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star scheme, is relishing the step up from GT4 to the faster, more powerful GT3 class, targeting more podiums and, ultimately, race wins.

    “Obviously it’s a big step up from GT4 to GT3, but I’ve really enjoyed the progression,” the Scot, who also has personal backing from Black Bull boss Euan Shand, explained. “We’ve tested at Portimao in Portugal, Paul Ricard in Southern France, Monza and finally Silverstone, and I’ve been really happy with the process and how quickly I’ve adapted.

    “It’s been great to learn alongside my new team-mates, and I’m enjoying the increase in speed, power and sheer cornering ability of the Lamborghini Huracan.”


    The Scots young gun will share his car with 23-year-old Italian Michele Beretta, and 20-year-old Croatian Martin Kodric. The trio will contest the new, ultra-competitive five-round Blancpain Silver Cup Junior Pro Class.

    And as if that’s not enough, Mitchell will also make his 24-hours debut when he contests the Blancpain GT’s Blue Riband race, the Spa 24Hours, at the end of July. The championship also visits Silverstone, Paul Ricard and Barcelona.

    And the youngster is relishing the opportunity to race his Lamborghini on some of F1’s most iconic circuit.

    “The calendar takes us to some of the most iconic racing circuits in the world, and I’m certainly looking forward to it,” Mitchell smiled. “I like the tracks. They’re a lot more open than some of the British GT tracks, which can be quite tight. I think the grand prix tracks suit my style of driving quite well.


    “So yeh, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve obviously raced at Silverstone and Spa before, but the other three — Monza, Paul Ricard and Barcelona — are all new to me, certainly in terms of racing. But at least I’ve been to them all now, so now I’m looking forward to going racing there.”

    Is he daunted by the step up from GT4 to the more powerful, aerodynamic and race-focused GT3 competition?

    “Not really. Moving up to GT3 has always been in my plans since I was in GT4,” he stated quietly, with that underlying confidence which emphasises it has, indeed, always been the next step of the masterplan.

    “I always like the challenge. I saw that doing the LMP3 drive with Sir Chris Hoy last year, when we won first time out at Donington. I also experienced that when I was thrown in at the deep end with McLaren at the start of my sportscar career. I’ve always liked rising to the challenge. I love being given the opportunity to prove myself.”


    It’s that simple, basic honesty which is no doubt one of the reasons Mitchell continues to attract the support of local companies such Thorntons Law, Close Brothers, and Stirfresh, plus Christie Digital and Stampede Global, two companies which operate on the world stage.

    “I’ve got to thank all the sponsors, including Euan Shand and Black Bull, which have continued to support my career,” Mitchell continued. “And this year I’m delighted to add two Dundee-based companies — InverTay Homes and Provisio Funding — plus Montrose-based Celurca Investments, and iconic Scots brand Tunnock’s to my portfolio of Partners. Having such a strong core of local companies is hugely important to me.”


    But such is the appeal of the likeable and professional young racer that he has also attracted the support of one of the UK’s popular household names, Duerr’s. The Manchester-based company is the oldest family-owned jam maker in England.

    But perhaps the most important facet behind Mitchell’s attraction is quite simple: he’s fast.

    Quizzed about it, he plays a straight bat. How did the pre-season test at Paul Ricard go? “It went well. All three drivers were close, and we worked really well together.”

    What he won’t tell you is that on the controlled qualifying runs for all three drivers, it was Mitchell who was quicker than his two more experienced team-mate. Of course, perhaps we shouldn’t read too much in to that, but what it did was highlight that this young Scot is more than happy to do his talking on the track.


    Now though he, and team-mates Beretta and Kodric, are focused on delivering a strong opening performance in Italy this weekend.

    “We know from pre-season testing we have a good car, a good team, three good drivers, and good pace,” Mitchell said. “But as always, we won’t know exactly where we stand until the first qualifying session at the weekend.

    “That said, we know we’ll be competitive and I can’t wait to get into the Lamborghini to finally go racing again.”

    Related: Mitchell steps up to Blancpain GT3 with Black Bull

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    Jim McGill

    Pictures: Copyright Jakob Ebrey


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