A family affair for Airwaves Racing at Dunton shakedown

Liam Griffin, Airwaves Racing
Liam Griffin, Airwaves Racing

Photo by: Pat Cranham

It was a family affair for Airwaves Racing this week as they were joined on track by father and son Phil and Alex Dowsett at Ford’s official test track in Dunton, Essex for shakedown preparations ahead of this weekend’s penultimate round of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship at Brands Hatch.

Phil Dowsett will be a familiar name to many motorsport fans through his racing career during the seventies and eighties. After starting out in Formula Ford in 1973 and managing a 5th place finish in the 1975 National championships, he then went on to race single seaters including Formula 3 and Formula Atlantic finishing 2nd in the 1979 and 1980 Formula Atlantic National Championships. A move into Production Saloon and Touring cars soon followed, leading to a works drive with Toyota Team Toms in 1987 - 1990 where he regularly competed in a Toyota Corolla GT. In 1988 and 1989 Phil won consecutive class D (up to 1600cc) titles, becoming the last ever driver to do so and finished as runner-up in the championship overall in 1988, five points behind champion Frank Sytner.

No stranger himself to the limelight, Phil’s son Alex is currently one of the UK’s top cycling professionals racing with Team Sky, which he joined earlier this season team having previously ridden for Lance Armstrong’s Trek Livestrong under 23 team. As well as winning the Chrono des Nations espoir category, Alex has also racked up podium positions at the Tour of Utah, Tour de l'Avenir and Cascade Cycling Classic in 2010, with his biggest victory of that season in Team GB colours at the U23 European Time Trial Championships in Turkey. He followed that with a silver medal-winning performance for England in the Commonwealth Games time trial. In his first season for Team Sky Alex has secured two Pro Tour wins at the Tour du Poitou Charentes and Tour of Britain. More recently, he also secured the GB national Time Trial title in August 2011.

The Dowsett duo’s ties to the Airwaves Racing team come in the form of Team Manager Oly Collins; nephew and cousin to Phil and Alex respectively. What started out as a little light-hearted family banter regarding racing careers and achievements soon turned serious as both Phil and Alex were invited along to the team’s shakedown this week and challenged to a race!

As has been the case on a number of occasions already this season, they were protests from the opposing camp that the Mountune-powered Ford Focus ST had an unfair advantage with the on-board turbo as the unique race took to the track. However, much to the relief and thankfully for the salvation of Team Manager Oly Collins and Airwaves Racing driver Mat Jackson’s personal pride, the Focus won on hands down on the day, despite Alex managing to set an impressive speed of just over 40mph on two wheels!

The Airwaves Racing team are now focused on getting their Championship challenge back on track at Brands Hatch, Kent for round 9 of the BTCC this weekend and will be joined by Alex and Phil for qualifying on Saturday before Alex jets off to China to compete in the Tour of Beijing.

Airwaves Racing Team Manager Oly Collins said:

“It was great fun to have Phil and Alex along on Wednesday and for them to see what’s involved for the team during a shakedown. The race was between Mat and Alex was highly entertaining, even if Alex did complain about the unfair advantage of the turbo…but we’re well used to that by now!”

Team Sky Pro-cycling rider Alex Dowsett said:

“It was amazing to see how intricate the cars are and the Airwaves boys were as fascinated by my bike as I was by the Focus! I don’t think they could believe the costs and weight of the bike and just how much carbon fibre is used on the bikes at this level.

“There are a lot of similarities in how we both prepare as a rider and driver ahead of racing, but we’re worlds apart in regards to the cars and bikes. In cycling it’s 95% about the rider and the bike only has a small impact on the results whereas in the BTCC so much more time is spent on the car, it was a real eye-opener to experience.”

Ex-BTCC racer Phil Dowsett said:

“As expected, things have moved on so much since my racing days. The cars are so much more sophisticated now and it’s a very complex game nowadays. Spending the day with the Airwaves Racing team really underlined how much pressure there is on the whole team - not just the driver - to get it right and the whole set up process is incredible.”