As Ben Stiles seeks to make his mark in the fiercely competitive world of motor sport, he found the time to pull into the pits to talk to Peter d’Aguilar about racing and his hometown of Bexhill-on-Sea
At Levels Raceway (Timaru, near Christhcurch in New Zealand)
FROM BEXHILL TO BRANDS HATCH
en Stiles has three factors working in his favour. First of all, his father Trevor is himself a former Formula Ford champion. Secondly, Ben hails from Bexhill-on-Sea – the fabled birthplace of British motor racing. And thirdly, the fact that he is an outstanding driver also helps. Twenty-four-year-old Ben has already made an impact on the winner’s podium by clinching victory in the 2019 Universal Racing Series Classic Formula Ford 2000 National Championship, winning eight out of eleven starts at iconic venues such as Donington Park, Silverstone and Brands Hatch and recording the fastest laps at five of the six circuits he competed at.
“I’ve always dreamt of winning a motor racing championship but, until recently, the cost involved has always been an obstacle,” says Ben. “To
win in my first season, after only two years racing, is a dream come true.” As well as winning championships, Trevor also managed his own Formula Ford team. Having taken a twenty-year break from the sport, he is now heavily involved in his son’s burgeoning career. “It all started when dad went out to New Zealand on holiday and found himself near a racetrack, and they offered him a drive,” Ben explains. “I was just finishing my degree in Motorsport Engineering at Bath University. Dad suggested I joined him out there and then I got the chance to drive in the New Zealand National Formula Ford Championship.” Ben and Trevor now divide their time between New Zealand and England, working together on Ben’s racing car – a real father and son team. Ben’s success in the UK championship has given them both great satisfaction. “It wasn’t easy,” he noted, “due to a lack of finance, we often had to use second hand tyres.” Ben won his first race, in Anglesey, and he followed it up by passing the chequered flag first in seven of his next ten races. This year he is hoping to graduate to the European Championship in his Van Diemen RF82, or take a step up to Classic Formula Three, for which he’ll need finance for a specialist car. “Ultimately I’d love to get into historic Formula One, but at 24, I may already be too old to be scouted,” says a wistful Ben. Great drivers from the seventies, eighties and nineties – James Hunt, Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna (who also started out in Formula Ford driving a Van Diemen) are where Ben draws his inspiration. “Racing in those days was tough and risky. The drivers showed great commitment and courage. The cars we drive in classic Formula Ford are from that era. While the circuits nowadays have better safety features, our cars are just as dangerous.” What makes a good racing driver? Ben believes it’s an instinctive ability, because everything happens too fast for conscious thought. To be successful, both car and driver need to be in perfect working order, and in perfect harmony. The fact that their car is highly competitive – despite their limited financial resources is due to Ben’s
8 SUSSEX LIVING | February 2020
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