Ben Hanley was a real star in karting. Now, the talented British driver is trying to make his way up in motorsports. RacingInside.com spoke to Ben Hanley about his years in karting and his view on the future.
Ben, 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?
My name is Ben Hanley. Originally I am from Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I started racing karts when I was 9 years old and then progressed through the ranks. Then I went onto racing cars: Formula Renault 2.0 3 years ago, then moved up into World Series by Renault Formula Renault 3.5 and I did 2 seasons in that before making the switch up to GP2, which is my first season in it right now.
How did you get involved in racing? Have you always wanted to become a racedriver yourself? Did your parents always support you?
I got involved in motorsports very early as my father was a stockcar driver, so I have always been involved in a racing environment. I was fortunate enough to get a kart as a present and had a go on the local car park and really enjoyed it. Then we went to a test day at Wigan, which turned into doing a race once a month there. After that I went to another track, and another and before we knew it I was racing just about every weekend. My parents have always given full support to me and I think this is a key aspect in what I have managed to achieve in racing.
You have started your career, like many other drivers, in karting. During your period in karting you had some major successes, mainly with Maranello. Did you enjoy your period in karting and do you think karting will be an essential step in the career of a race driver?
I was karting for a long time in comparison to other people who switched to cars after 1 or 2 years in the top class which was FA now KF1. I have stayed there for 5 years because I felt I was learning so much each time I race or tested even up until the last race I did and I was enjoying it so much.
Yes, I had some major successes but also some very difficult times which I feel have made me mentally stronger as well. I certainly feel that karting is essential if your goal is to be a racing driver.
You have raced in different formula cars throughout the years. You have started with Formula Renault 2.0 and also driven the World Series by Renault Formula Renault 3.5 car. Now you are racing the GP2 Series. What are the main differences between those cars? Which car, do you think, is the most exciting to drive?
The main difference is the power: Formula Renault 2.0 is about 180BHP, then the World Series by Renault Formula Renault 3.5 is 450BHP and GP2 is 650BHP.
However, also the possibility of changes to make to the car, like springs, differential etc. increase from the Renault 2.0 up to the GP2. So it becomes more complicated because of the amount of variables. The physical aspect also increases with the extra grip/downforce there is, you need to be fitter and stronger to be able to get the maximum out of the car. The new GP2 car is amazing to drive and very, very quick. So up until now it’s the one I prefer.
In 2008 you will drive the GP2 Series. What are your expectations of the coming season?
This season I want to win every race, if I didn’t I’m in the wrong sport. But I also have to be sensible, it’s very difficult to win the championship in your first year but not impossible. So I’m just aiming to be consistent, scoring points and hopefully win a few too. The key to a championship is consistency.
Every race driver 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?
My best moment so far .. that’s a difficult one. In karting it would be winning the Winter Cup and Margutti Trophy back to back as it had never been done before. In car racing it would be the win I had last year in Magny Cours in the wet because the team and I was so dominant.
The moment I would like to forget is at La Conca during the World Championship in karting, when my engine broke in the pre-final on the second to last lap. We were dominant all weekend and the team had put a huge effort in then something broke in the engine and it was all gone.
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?
My goal is Formula 1. That’s what I have been aiming for since I started racing and now I’m in cars that’s my special target. When I was in karting the target was to win the World Championship but the major chance I had was ruined, like I answered in the question before this one.
If you could change your life with another racedriver for just one day, who will be the one you are changing with?
It would have to be Michael Schumacher so I could find out how he prepares himself for a race. A lot of people say his preparation is the best which gives/gave him the edge.
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?
There are a few people who I would like to thanks, they know who they are because they are a big part of my life. Especially my father, because he always supported me and introduced me to karting. He always told me never to give up, when he passed away I had a difficult year racing but he was right. I didn’t give up so he has got me when I am today.
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 race driver?
The hardest part of being a race driver is when you are not at the circuit. This is why people think it is all fun, because they only see the racing. There is a huge amount of training/preparation (about 4 hours a day physical training). We spend our lives living out of a suitcase away from friends and family and finding sponsors is an extremely difficult job on its own.
What would you like to say to everyone that is dreaming of a career in racing?
Never give up.