Passion Meets Performance - the new Ferrari 488GTB

Passion Meets Performance - the new Ferrari 488GTB

The pursuit of perfection – precision, passion and performance combined. One misty, rainy and rather drab morning in Zhuhai, I was given the chance by world renowned Italian marque Ferrari to test drive the latest 488GTB and Spider offerings. Upon arriving at the track, the dull grey weather was broken by the bright colours of the traditional Ferrari red GTB, and stunning yellow Spider. I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of this stunning looking car, but a short drivers briefing by Corso Pilota head instructor Marco and fellow race driver Andy Yan would have to be sat before I would drive in earnest. They particularly focused on the weight balance and distribution of the chassis and it’s improvement from the 458, while also stressing the development of the electronics in order to best deploy the 670BHP from the turbo engine to the rear axle.

First order of the day was a couple of laps as passenger – something I’m not particularly used to of course! – but the high end interior was highly comfortable and you immediately notice the attention to detail in the aesthetic design. The track was quite wet, and with the car setting in the aptly named ‘wet’ setting, the car felt very… safe. Not something that racing drivers always want to experience of course! However, in a straight line you get a great mind bending speed time warped sensation when on the loud pedal – and the accompanying symphony is an absolute joy. It’s now my turn to enjoy being in my more accustomed drivers seat, and I immediately fall in love with the uber-ergonomic wheel which fits my hands perfectly, with a heads up display to match. The rev lights on the wheel are bright and swift, and add to the enjoyable driver’s experience. The car has a lot of grip and feels exceptional under braking – of course, with all the car’s driver aids switched on, it was doing a lot for me, but I still managed to have some fun. I think I would have to come back on a dry day with the aids off to really push this to the limit and give a bit of a better idea as to the balance and performance of the chassis. One of my main gripes, mainly with the Italian manufacturers, is the decision to put the shift paddles in a fixed position – unlike similar offerings from Porsche where they follow the wheel. I’m a racer – and I think these high performance machines should offer the safest solutions because I did find myself having to think and take a hand off the wheel to change gear on occasion – which would not be the best idea especially driving on the twisty roads down to Big Wave Bay for example…

Next up to test was the Spider version of the 488. With the prior few laps of experience now, I was straight down to business and had a lot of fun – more so than in the GTB, but it is very hard to put my finger on why exactly! Anyhow, it was a good excuse to head back out in the GTB for a final time and a direct back-to-back test. I think the settings that the manufacturers manage to achieve so that the ordinary driver can control these cars are quite something – and essential for those with less experience, but I can’t help but feel my enjoyment was being heavily curtailed so much as I felt I was playing a computer game with all the aids on. Still, when the system decided to give me the power once the car was fully in a straight line it really was something to behold - and the braking performance and ability to change direction in the slow speed corners was tremendous fun.

The latest offering from the prancing horse well exceeds previous performance levels in every area and offers a fantastic benchmark for the competition. With the powerful turbo engine, seamless sequential gearbox, and the attention to detail in all areas to make it extremely aesthetically pleasing, when you get behind the driver’s seat of this beast you will be sure not to be disappointed… 

At a damp Zhuhai track with Ferrari

At a damp Zhuhai track with Ferrari


Remember Why You Started - Racing Tips by Dan Wells

Remember Why You Started - Racing Tips by Dan Wells

Tonight was a really great evening at Tazmania Ballroom. I saw that Formula One World Champion Lewis Hamilton was in town, and I figured that if he was here on a Tuesday, then it's a near guarantee he'll be at Taz. I didn't want to wake up in the morning and see statuses that I didn't get the chance to meet him, so I headed out and bumped into some friends at Taz. After playing some ping pong (I used to play for county in the UK, first time playing properly in 7 years - was good fun!), Lewis arrived. I'm not really a fan of taking snaps with celebrities, or bothering them so much, because at the end of the day they are still people who just want to enjoy themselves, but thanks to Glecy Vhee and the great staff at Taz, I was able to meet Lewis and chat with him for a bit.

Firstly, I have to say my experience was that he was a genuine and warm person. I said something of the following in our brief encounter "Lewis, my name is Dan and I'm a fellow British race car driver. In 2009, upon watching your amazing performances in Formula One and becoming obsessed with the sport, I decided to drop my studies and become a race car driver. I first spoke to your father in that year, after I broke into the British Grand Prix paddock actually, and was totally inspired. My father re-mortgaged our house to put me through a season of Formula Ford where I won races, and then I was picked up by the RSF and put into Formula Renault. I beat Kyvat in the UK Finals Series, but then without further sponsorship I moved to Hong Kong with 800 British Pounds with a dream to make it to the top. I've won my last 11 races and managed to test the WSR 3.5 car, beating the European Champ on my first and only morning in the car."

At the 2009 British Grand Prix with college friend Stephen Derbyshire. This weekend, Steve gave Dan the courage to sneak his way into the F1 paddock (with no less than 3 lines of security!) and speak with Lewis' father for a few minutes, before being kicked out by security - but the seed had been planted and Dan had made his decision to pursue his racing dream. 

At the 2009 British Grand Prix with college friend Stephen Derbyshire. This weekend, Steve gave Dan the courage to sneak his way into the F1 paddock (with no less than 3 lines of security!) and speak with Lewis' father for a few minutes, before being kicked out by security - but the seed had been planted and Dan had made his decision to pursue his racing dream. 

Of course, being in a loud club in a VIP area, it can be quite challenging to get a message across, but Lewis responded in a really warm and engaging way, saying to keep on pushing through and that it will be worth it in the end. Inspired by my girlfriend Siu Nga Chong who had asked if F1 racers mentored younger race drivers (akin to that of experienced yoga teachers taking on less experienced 'apprentices'), I asked if he would be interested in doing such a thing - so I passed my business card to him and he gave me a very firm handshake, looked me straight in the eye and told me to keep pushing.

I'm not really one to get starstruck when meeting celebrities, but afterwards I realised the significance of this event. It made me think back to something I've not often given much credit. Without Lewis Hamilton, I would not be a racing driver today. It was he who got me so passionate about the sport, and who gave me my first belief that if I had the talent, I could get to the top of motorsport (in whatever shape or form). Now, he may or may not ever get in touch via my business card, but I feel very sure that this will not be the last time I meet Lewis, and I dream that one day I can have the pleasure to race alongside him just as I have done so in my dreams.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to not only meet one of my heroes, but for the experience not to disappoint me, but surpass my expectations. I wish Lewis all the best in the 2016 Formula One World Championship. Tomorrow I'll be re-doubling my efforts in my path on the motorsport ladder...

#‎Believe‬ ‪#‎BelieveInLH‬ ‪#‎F1‬ ‪#‎Racing‬ ‪#‎Motorsport‬

On the Fast Track to Speaking Chinese!

On the Fast Track to Speaking Chinese!

One of my New Years Resolutions in 2016 was to learn Mandarin. For me, I have always known the importance of the Chinese market for my career and that it would be a great thing to learn anyway, but I never set aside the time necessary or sought out the right teacher to progress. Thanks to my BNI Networking Chapter, I met Alice Han and I decided it was time to take action! I'd like to be able to converse with sponsors, race teams, and speak fluently in my interviews on Chinese television for example.

I have just finished my second Mandarin lesson for the week, recapping the last 8 lessons in my text book and then learning how to book a plane ticket with a travel agent...
There are some parts of the language which are easier than Spanish (which I learnt at school) - for example, you do not need to change the verb depending on the tense - which makes learning them significantly easier! There are some set rules which you have to think of before answering, for example, you have to state the time of the action (i.e. next week) before stating the action itself, but once you get used to this it isn't too bad.

Click above to go to the NiHao website!

Click above to go to the NiHao website!


I am focussing about 80% of my effort on learning the pinyin, but Chinese characters are very interesting to learn and write, albeit they are very challenging! There is even a set order that you have to do the strokes in order to make the character.


Thankfully the lessons are really enjoyable and done in such a way that advances my learning quickly and efficiently, so much so that the time flies by!


If you would like to learn Mandarin or Cantonese in an enjoyable and effective manner, please contact Alice via clicking the link below or contact me to introduce you!

The Benefits of Reaching Your Pinnacle

The Benefits of Reaching Your Pinnacle

Training is a very important aspect of a racing driver’s armory. It may not look it, but racing a car at speeds up to 340kph requires a huge amount of strength, stamina and cardiovascular performance. We can endure G forces of up to 5 times the force of gravity when we drive through turns at these speeds – it can feel like your head is being ripped from your shoulders. Likewise, when we go from 300kph to 80kph in the space of 80 meters, we must be able to exert a huge amount of pressure through our left braking leg in order to maximise the performance, while maintaining complete control throughout the movement. If we are not physically fit, then performing to the high level necessary becomes near to impossible. 

Many drivers start from a young age where they experience the effects of g-force and the effect that racing has on our heart rates (we can reach 160-190bpm over a sustained period of 2-4 hour periods, depending on the race event). As I started quite late, at the age of 18, I did not experience the grip of a hot Italian race track on super sticky karting tyres – and due to lack of testing I have to ensure I am as fit as possible before I get in a race car. 

My off-season weekly training includes roughly 3 strength and conditioning sessions, 4 runs, 2 spinning sessions and 1 yoga session. This enables me to improve my strength, cardio performance, flexibility and mindfulness on a balanced program of holistic improvement. The benefit to the mind is of huge importance too and fits in nicely with my mental performance work at Sonia Samtani’s coaching center. 

Watch the Pinnacle Performance promotional video here...

I remember back to 2015 when I was racing Asian Formula Renault. The car and tracks were not particularly challenging to me physically, but I was to be rewarded by Renault with a test in a World Series by Renault car (basically, Formula 2!) at Motorland Aragon, in Spain. Every comment I had heard from other drivers was that of drivers lasting half of a morning, maybe half a day, before they were physically exhausted. Thanks to my work at Pinnacle Performance, where I trained there pretty much every day for 21 days in the build up to my test, I found myself in a place where my body was able to deal with the task ahead. 

As a driver, we have to jump into a car, and be in a zone of absolute peak performance regardless of circumstances that are thrown at us. For me personally, this test was an opportunity to show my talent in a ‘big’ car in Europe, directly measured against F1 team backed drivers, European Champions and the like. Although I had never driven the track, or the car, I went there as prepared as I possibly could be, full in the knowledge that I had a program from Pinnacle, who have a wealth of experience working with athletes in a whole host of disciplines, which would allow me to achieve my goal. I was definitely the fittest I had ever been going into that test. And the results showed – I completed the test, with close to nil physical effects or fatigue which the team’s and engineers positively commented on. 

The feeling of being at peak performance in the body cannot be underestimated. I work to ensure my soul, mind and body are at the highest level possible now to reach my goals. And I can happily say that going into the new race season in 2016, I have surpassed my peak fitness of November 2015, and am even more ready for the challenges which will come my way in the coming race season. 

If you are a driver or athlete who would like help in performing to your highest potential, feel free to come along to Pinnacle Performance with me for a trial session. 

All the best. 
Dan.

Click above to go to the Pinnacle Performance webpage...

Click above to go to the Pinnacle Performance webpage...

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS

No matter what profession, there's always a lot more behind the scenes than people outside the industry could possibly imagine. Whether it be modelling, writing or banking, normally we only get to see the end product; the tip of the iceberg, the glitz and the glamour, without having a true insight into what it takes to get there. Motorsport is no exception, and perhaps it's even harder to get a good idea as to the behind-the-scenes activities of those involved, as the race events only take place on one or two weekends a month over an eight-month season.

Bernie Ecclestone, the man at the helm of Formula 1, recently said that Lewis Hamilton was the sport's greatest ambassador. Hamilton is always one to generate a good headline to stir up publicity, and sometimes his comments can be discounted as smoke and mirrors, or as politically motivated.

Yet Ecclestone has a good point here. He stated that drivers such as Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel were "not good for business" – both married, the latter with a child and former with one on the way, they try to avoid the public eye and keep their lives as private as possible.

Hamilton, on the other hand, gets exposure on the fashion, music, and lifestyle scenes. Formula 1 is often criticised for its overly refined corporate nature, where all drivers trot out the same repetitive lines at each appearance, and generally err on the side of caution to keep their sponsors and teams happy. But now we have a British world champion who's happy to hang out with models and music stars in his garage, doesn't fear to wear some often quite outlandish apparel and, to top it off, is performing to arguably his highest level yet in Formula 1.

You can tell that Britain's highest paid sporting star is happy in who he is and what he is about. But his life away from the track will differ greatly to 98 percent of the other drivers competing in international motorsport today.

To get to that point, it takes an awful lot of work, skill and determination. Since my last column in June, I've been keeping myself pretty busy in my efforts to work my way to the top. Immediately after my double race wins in Malaysia, I travelled to Monaco to watch the Grand Prix. If you haven't made the trip, I'd heartily recommend it – the stunning weather, gorgeous scenery and the ability to get close to the car makes it a real spectacle. I spent much of the week with the people behind the soon-to-be-opened Louis XIII casino – and Stephen Hung organised a fantastic party on the Friday night of the Grand Prix weekend. It was a real mix of business and pleasure, as are most GPs, and I had some positive meetings with potential sponsors from both Europe and Asia.

Following this I flew to Shanghai to driver-coach one of my sponsors who races in the HKAA Autosport Challenge events, but then fortunately I had a couple of weeks to do the necessary leg work to follow up on my meetings, and to also attend some great events. These included a gala dinner for the Half the Sky Foundation, which raised nearly HK$8 million on the night at the JW Marriott, and my team, BlackArts Racing, was happy to donate a track day for four people with myself as driver coach to contribute to the efforts.

I also particularly enjoyed making an appearance alongside Jessica C and Phoemela Baranda at the Hong Kong launch party of Bomberg watches at Tazmania Ballroom, emceed by model Sarika Choy. And lastly, shooting with Prestige for last month's "40 Under 40" feature in cooperation with Tiffany & Co.

With many meetings and events in the run-up to my following race, my schedule was pretty packed, even to the point that I delayed my departure for Zhuhai. Managing my time so I'm able to get the most out of myself on and off track is important, and one way that helps me is by switching my phone to airplane mode when I'm at the track so I can concentrate on the task in hand.

Fortunately, the race weekend went very well. I was fastest in practice, took double pole position, two race wins and two fastest laps, winning the final race of the weekend by eight seconds. I took the lead of the Asian Formula Renault Championship on that weekend in June and as I write this I'm looking forward to the next couple of races in Shanghai.

I'm also working on a few exciting projects over the next couple of months. These I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon.

THE FAST SHOW

THE FAST SHOW

MOTOR RACING IS a complex sport, where the ladder to the pinnacle – Formula 1 (F1) – is slippery at best, and near impossible for most to climb. In the UK alone, there are 35,000 racing-licence holders, with a plethora of series at national and international levels through which a driver can progress. The number of seats on an F1 grid in 2015? Just 20.

There's a saying that racing began five minutes after the second motor car was invented. In those days, of course, it was something only the wealthy could enjoy, and even now the costs of buying and then servicing a car, entering an event, paying for crash damage and suchlike are so punitive that the average Joe has a huge hurdle to overcome just to get out there and compete.

During the 20th century motor racing grew massively in Europe, with F1's rise to total hegemony of the motorsport scene being propelled primarily by a single man, Bernie Ecclestone. As the sport became ever more popular, TV rights, advertising and sponsorship revenues grew exponentially, yet this also enabled drivers with natural talent rather than deep wallets – people such as John Surtees, Graham Hill, and René Arnoux – to rise to the top and win. More recently still, there's Lewis Hamilton, who was spotted by McLaren at the age of 13, Sebastian Vettel, whose early career was backed by BMW and Red Bull, and Jenson Button, who struggled through an underfunded season of Formula 3 before being picked up by the Williams F1 team in the early 2000s. That, however, was a time when sponsorship revenue was high – tobacco advertising was still permitted, the credit crunch was several years away, and companies could happily be seen to be spending money.

Today's F1 teams are under greater pressure. Tobacco sponsorship is now a distant memory, while alcohol advertising – which in any case represents a fraction of what the cigarette companies invested in the sport – is under threat too. This combination of circumstances has seen the rise of the “pay driver”, a term once derogatively used to infer that he's there for the money he brings to the team and not for his talents at the wheel. Yet on the current F1 grid, roughly eight drivers receive salaries from the team, while 11 bring sponsorship from which they get a cut (there's also one who's just hanging in, neither being paid nor bringing in any money). The latter category includes talented drivers such as Felipe Nasr, whose backing from Banco do Brasil has aided his arrival to the Sauber F1 team, while the somewhat more questionable Pastor Maldonado occupies a seat at Lotus through the money he brings from Venezuelan oil giant PDVSA.

In 2009, at 18 years old, I was stacking shelves at a Waitrose supermarket while studying politics and economics at college. It's probably fair to say the likelihood of me becoming a racing driver was pretty low – but after watching the 2009 European Grand Prix, I made the decision that this was what I wanted to do. Three months of pestering my father led to him eventually knocking on my bedroom door at 4 o'clock one morning, and asking me to talk with him downstairs. He told me that there comes a time in life when, once you find your passion, your dream, you have to follow it – but only if you're willing to give it your best and risk everything in order to make it come true. I told him I was.

The following week I was testing a 120km/h racing kart for the first time, and a few weeks later entered my first ever race. After starting 24th and last (rookies must start at the back), I worked my way up to eighth position, setting the fastest lap of the race, which has never before been done in a field of 23 experienced racers, many of whom had been karting for the best part of 10 years.

The following year, I was entered into a Formula Ford Championship in the UK, winning five class races and coming to the attention of the Racing Steps Foundation, which backs selected British drivers. A gruelling six-week evaluation process concluded with myself and McLaren F1-backed driver Oliver Rowland getting the support to graduate to Formula Renault UK.

By the end of 2011, I'd finished second in the Finals Series, beating current Red Bull F1 driver Daniil Kvyat in a 30-car field. And though no opportunities to continue my racing career came up, I knew I wasn't going to give up. This is when the opportunity arose to race for an ambitious Chinese race team, KCMG, and I moved to Hong Kong to pursue my racing vision.

I've now won races not only in Formula Ford, but also Formula Pilota China and the Formula Masters China Series as well as Formula Renault.

As I write, I've just returned from the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia, where in the second round of the Asian Formula Renault Challenge and in 42-degree heat, I took pole position, fastest lap, and two wins (with margins of 17 and 11 seconds). It was then that my partnership with Prestige – whose logo you'll see on my car and helmet this year – officially began. By the time this is published, I'll have attended the Monaco Grand Prix, where I was hoping to speak with potential backers who can support my climb to the top. Later this month I'll be racing in Zhuhai, China.

I'd like to thank Prestige and my other partners – BlackArts Racing, CTPS, Start JG, Pinnacle Performance and XYZ – for their support this season. Over the months ahead I'm looking forward to bringing you more insights to the world of motorsport, so watch this space!