After winning the Formula Ford Festival he made the big step to the USA to drive the Champcar World Series. But, in 2008 Champcar and IRL merged into the Indycar Series and Dan Clarke lost his seat. Now this talented British driver is fighting back to return in the USA and to become a seat in the Indycar Series. Meanwhile, Dan Clarke defended his country in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsports. RacingInside.com spoke to Dan Clarke in an exclusive interview.
Dan, you are a talented British driver and most of our visitors will know who you are. But could you please give a short introduction about yourself to the visitors that do not know you?
I am Daniel Clarke, also known as Dan Clarke, and I am a British race car driver. I grew up in South Yorkshire and then Maidenhead, Berkshire after I was 13 years old. I started kart racing when I was 8 years old after winning a local newspaper competition for a free ride at a kart track and never looked back. I then progressed through karts and Formula Ford to Formula 3 and then to the USA in the Champcar World Series and most recently I had the honour of driving the Team Great Britain car in the A1GP World Cup of Motorsports.
How did you get involved in racing? Have you always wanted to become a racedriver yourself? Did your parents always support you?
As far back as I can remember I was always playing sports and full of energy. I was mostly into football and played for teams until I was 8 and caught a Formula 1 race on TV. As a young, impressionable kid, I was immediately drawn to Ayrton Senna and instantly became a follower. That discovery changed my goals at 8 years old and I started wanting to be a racing driver and the games I would play as a kid became fantasies of being a Formula 1 driver.
Did you start your career, like many other drivers, in karting? Do you think karting will be an essential step in the career of a race driver?
I raced karts from 1993 till 2000. When I reached Formula Ford in 2001, I didn’t have much car driving experience. But what I lacked, the race craft learnt in karting would make up for. I recommend anyone to start in go-karts. For a start it is much easier on the wallet to find out if you’re determined enough to make it than jumping straight into cars!
You have raced in different formula cars throughout the years. You have started with Formula Ford and also driven Formula Renault 2.0, Formula 3, Champcar World Series and A1GP. What are the main differences between all those cars? Which car, do you think, is the most exciting to drive?
The most interesting races in the beginning were Formula Fords, because those cars can race so close together and it is easy to overtake. So, the racing is exciting to watch and participate. But that can also lead to a lot of accidents. Moving to Champcar was a huge step up for me in power and speed. I had to train super hard to catch up also, but I was able to shine very quickly in that series as a rookie in 2006. I credit that rise to really facing the big challenge head on. That’s something that has always motivated me; facing a big challenge. I guess that’s how I’ve been able to rise from being raised a small town in South Yorkshire to becoming a professional race car driver with achievements at national and international level.
In 2009 it is quiet around you and your activities in racing. Is there still an option to drive the remainder of the 2009 season or are you already looking to the 2010 season?
The merger of IRL and Champ Car presented a big change in American racing in 2008 and now the economy has hit the sport hard in 2009. My main focus has not changed throughout. I still look to maintaining a career in the USA and also with the A1GP Series. 2009 has some potential opportunities to race and 2010 is also looking very positive.
Every racedriver has good and bad moments during his career. What is your best moment in racing, until now? What is the moment you would like to forget as soon as possible?
I would have to say racing really well at Brands Hatch in the British round of A1GP in front of all the home fans was a real boost for me personally. I really put on some speed for them, driving back from 14th place.
Champcar also holds a lot of fond memories for me. I really enjoyed those races and came close to a lot more podiums than I achieved in the end. Getting the pole-position in my rookie year, scoring my first podium as a rookie and in 2007, driving from last place to 2nd at Road America and then standing on the podium with the Newman Haas big guys and Paul Newman gives me fond memories.
I don’t have any events I would like to change. There has been a fair share of controversy in my career and a lot of people have and probably still do judge me on some past events. If I could change anything, I would change their perceptions because they haven’t seen how much those past events shaped me and helped me to continue learning and improving. My 3 races in A1GP this year are testament to my endeavour to constantly grow and improve towards being the best race car driver I can be and I hope everyone in motor racing noticed that.
If you take a look at your future, what will the future bring to you then? Are there special targets that have to be accomplished during your career?
When I was 8 years old I made a conscious decision to make a career in motor racing. Obviously, I’ve grown a lot since then but I still hold to the goal of making racing my life. I enjoy a lot of other things now as well as racing, but my main rewards and feeling of self-fulfilment come from racing and giving it my best effort and focus. Continuing to build on the success I’ve had so far is my goal, wherever that takes me.
If you could change your life with another racedriver for just one day. Who will be the one you are changing with?
I would love to be in the Indycar Series right now against my old competitors and helping to bring that series back up to the main stage in the USA, where it belongs.
Although the racedriver is the one that really scores the results, there are always a lot of people on the background that also have a big influence on the results and career of a racedriver (sponsors, mechanics etc.). Is there a special person in your career that you would like to thank, and why is that person special to you?
I credit Chas Cole, my manager, for a lot of my achievements in racing. He took me on at the end of 2001 and has helped shape and guided my career since then. It wouldn’t have been possible without his expertise and passion.
On top of that, key people have stepped in throughout the years and really supported me and opened doors for me. For that I am eternally grateful and it has helped shape my life so far into a collection of very fond memories and friendships.
Many people think that the life of a racedriver is all fun and just a dream. But if you take a look to the ‘inside’ of racing, what is the hardest part of being a racedriver?
It requires a lot of self belief and dedication to get those rides and deals that everyone else around you is trying to get also. It is highly competitive and not like other sports where you are judged solely on talent. Here you need to find the deals and get them fast before others.
What would you like to say to everyone that is dreaming of a career in racing?
If you really want it, go for it. And stick to that. Resist the temptation to be swayed by the people around you because competitors and industry people will try to raise doubts and difficulties and judgement from time to time. Especially, if they feel threatened by your abilities.