Motor racing is a fickle game. It is not so physically
dangerous as it was, but it is a mine-field (it was Sir Stirling Moss who said
that he remembered when motor racing was dangerous and sex was safe!). You can
be the greatest talent in the world, but if you don’t get the breaks, you will
never get close enough to F1 to even be seen. Today I am giving a kid a break -
and so can you.
His name is James Grunwell and he is 15 years old. He
impressed me from the first meeting - a well presented and polite young man,
wearing a Williams F1 T-shirt. Proud of his achievements so far, but not
big-headed either. The kind of kid that you would be proud to call your own son.
Like many of our children, school did not hold him enthralled
- in fact by the time he was 13 he was under achieving. To reverse this trend,
his father, Joe Grunwell, promised him a go-kart if James were to improve his
marks. What you have to also understand is that this kid had been watching F1
since he was five years old. This was an irresistible carrot. The deal was
struck, and true to his word, the grades improved, and James got his backside in
The parental idea was that the go-kart would be a fun
incentive, but for someone with the competitive urge this is not enough.
“Racing” is the name of the game. James entered his first go-kart race in
2002 and the 13 year old came 4th in his first outing, in the closely fought
Yamaha 100 class. In his second race in the 2002 season he came 3rd. He was also
hooked. He is a ‘racer’.
In 2003 he continued with the Yamaha 100 class. The season
covered seven meetings at tracks all over Thailand. In this rough and tumble
class he crashed out while leading the final three times, but his four finishes
were all on the podium. He has a raw talent.
This year he moved up to the top class in go-karts, the
Intercontinental A. He has four more events in this class and I am sure he will
do well, as he gains more experience against much more seasoned campaigners in
this top class. He is also having a run in a 1,000 cc Morris Cooper in the
support races at the Bira Circuit, including the main Asian Festival of Speed
(AFOS) event. In his first Mini event this month, he came from the rear of the
grid and hacked his way through to 2nd in eight laps. He has the much needed
competitive urge. Let us also not forget he is still only 15 years old, an age
where he cannot even hold a road license!
James knows that motor sport has a ladder you must climb. For
a young fellow based here, it is AIM Racing’s Concept I single seaters and
then perhaps the Asian Formula BMW. After that it is the European Formula BMW or
Formula Renault. Be a top runner there and he can join the likes of Kimi
Raikkonen who went from F. Renault into F1. It is not easy and it is a long
road. It is also an expensive road. This is where you can help.
Even at this early stage, competitive motor sport costs
money, but sponsorship has its benefits for the sponsors too. Messrs Marlboro
and Vodaphone know this and this is why they plough millions of dollars into
Michael Schumacher and his team, just to get their names in front of the viewing
Let’s look at the James Grunwell situation. Millions of
dollars are not necessary to get a young driver started. He has got this far
through Mum and Dad, and as James said, “I went round all my uncles and aunts
begging for money.” However, he won’t get much further without outside help.
Being a racer myself, I can recognize another one, and that is why I have
decided to help this young driver. An important part of his racing CV is known
as “column inches”. I will do that for James, mentioning his sponsors
wherever possible, provided we can get him enough to keep going. One already
there is Shenanigans in Pattaya (who I have just mentioned) and it was landlord
Kim Fletcher who brought James to my notice.
He is British and his mum is Dutch. There are many businesses
with Euro origins in this country and I am suggesting you look at how yours can
help. The budget he needs for two years in Concept I is around one million baht.
That is only 100,000 baht for each of ten sponsors, or 50,000 baht each for 20
companies. It is a gamble. You may not see our ‘hope of tomorrow’ make it to
the top - but on the other hand, you just might. You could be hitching your
wagon to a star. As a worst case scenario, you will have had fun being part of a
racing team in Thailand. I can tell you from my own experience of motor racing,
that all my sponsors during my motor racing career enjoyed it.
So can we give a really nice young man a leg-up the ladder?
For any of you in a youth oriented business, he would be a natural, but for the
rest of you entrepreneurs it is up to you to see how you can use the involvement
- even such things as employee rewards to be able to be part of the team for one
meeting. Or just come and have fun yourselves. Kim Fletcher came back from Bira
so enthused he’s going again next month!
Acceptance of sponsorship has to be ethical too. James now
has one Irish Pub (Shenanigans) assisting, so he cannot run another. If a real
estate company comes on board, he cannot display the sign from another competing
company. It is a case of ‘first in best dressed’. You can contact me through
the Automania column in the newspaper for more details. I believe he is