Introducing Nigeria's First Racing Driver

Originally on www.pulse.ng

For years Nigerians have been obsessed with motorsport, with a growing community of millions of fans from around the country. The most dedicated fans fly out to places like Abu Dhabi to watch the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton battle out on track, with many more watching tentatively from back home.

There is also a thriving community of enthusiasts who organise and take part in unofficial racing events around Nigeria which is most evident in places like Lagos and Abuja.

Until very recently, there hasn’t been any Nigerian participation in professional motorsport. There are many talented young Nigerians who have achieved impressive results in Go Karting but are left unable to progress due to a lack of infrastructure and funding for motorsport in Nigeria.

However there is an exciting young emerging talent currently racing in the United Kingdom - Ovie Iroro. He started his motorsport journey here in Lagos, where he won the first ever Go Karting championship he entered in at the age of 16. He later moved to the United Kingdom where he studied full time along with pursuing his racing career. He also gained further Go Karting experience by competing in the Rye House club championship and winning the award for the top rookie. 

In 2012 he signed up with a Formula Renault team, where he took part in a successful training program over a few months as his first taste into F1 style single seater racing.

In 2014, history was made when he signed up to be the first Nigerian to ever compete in the British Formula Ford Championship, which is the same place the likes of Jenson Button and the great Ayrton Senna started their car racing careers. He achieved impressive results in his debut season, including top 10 class finishes and is currently undergoing a training program for a full on assault for the championship next season.

Later on in 2014, he was invited to represent Nigeria in the FIA Young Driver Excellence Programme, competing against drivers from all over Africa.

Since then, Ovie has been training regularly while completing his Mechanical Engineering degree at University College, London. He has set his sights on a championship challenge next season which he is currently training for.
Over the next few weeks, Ovie will be giving us a valuable insight into the life of a racing driver, including his fitness and training regime. This would include quality advice for young drivers and engineers that would like career in motorsport. We would also be discussing the future plans for motorsport in Nigeria and revealing ongoing plans to organise International motorsport events in Nigeria.
Be sure to keep an eye out for these and in the meantime you can find out more on his website www.ovieiroro.com. Follow him on his social media pages for regular updates: Twitter and Instagram @Ovieiroro Facebook: Ovie Iroro
 

Donington Race Weekend Review

Prior to the race weekend, I had never been to Donington Park before, which meant I had to spend a test session learning the track and improving my lines while still getting used to how the car behaved in the corners around the track while all other drivers could focus on getting faster straight away. 

There were two 40 minute test sessions on the Thursday. It took me just one session to get up to speed and by the end of the second session, I managed to set the 4th fastest out of 6 drivers in the scholarship class and just 0.2s of the next driver. What makes that more impressive was the fact that I managed to do that while still learning the car and the track and driving on a set of old tyres (most drivers switched over to new tyres for the second test session). I also set my fastest time on the very last lap of the 2nd session having taken 0.4s off my previous lap time which showed that I could have gone even faster if there was more time! On to qualifying…

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There was a 20 minute qualifying session on Saturday morning. The 2 quickest lap times were recorded which determine the grid positions for Races 1 & 3. About 3 laps into qualifying, my car developed electrical issues which kept making my engine cut off at the final chicane whenever I attempted a flying lap. This meant I was unable to complete a fast lap but I still managed to qualify ahead of 2 cars.

Race 1 was my best race of the weekend, I started and finished 11th (5th in class). I had a really bad start which dropped me to dead last but I managed to recover the 2 places I had lost at the start during the race. I had one or two moments in the race where I almost went off the track but still managed to hold it together. There was even a 2 lap safety car period during the race and in the end I was just behind the car in front and catching him when the chequered flag came down.

 A very wet Race 2

A very wet Race 2

Race 2 was very wet and slippery after a heavy downpour on Sunday morning. I had never driven or raced this car in the wet before so my only objective was to take it easy and bring the car home so I could have a baseline to work from in the afternoon. I didn’t push the car to anywhere near it’s limits because I simply didn’t know how it handled or how much grip it had in the wet so it definitely wasn’t the time to be taking any risks. I started 11th and finished 12th. I lost 2 places due to a bad start but quickly regained one place on the exit of the final corner and held that position till the end of the race.

 Race 3 Crash with Greg Holloway

Race 3 Crash with Greg Holloway

Race 3 was definitely the most action packed race of the weekend but unfortunately my race ended after the first few corners as I was one of four drivers who didn’t finish the race. After a better start, I still dropped 2 places but managed to hang on to the back of the car in front. I was going much quicker at the time so I decided to get past as soon as possible so I could stay with the rest of the field. I swept from the outside to the inside of the driver in front and went for the overtake down the inside, but he probably didn’t realise I was there because he turned in on me which damaged one of the steering rods and forced me to retire.

This was a very memorable weekend for me, my first ever weekend in competitive car racing at this level which turned out to be hugely successful. I managed to meet and surpass all the objectives I set before the weekend. Can't wait for the next one!

Formula Ford is set for another exciting season of Track Action!

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As 2014 dawns, Formula Ford is set for another exciting season of track action, with the series returning to the British Touring Car Championship package of events for a second season of live-televised excitement, and one of the richest prize funds in British motorsport: a £30,000 cash fund for successful competitors.

The Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain will feature 30 races – three 20-minute sprints at each of the season’s 10 BTCC meetings, with live TV coverage on ITV4 in addition to a post-screened highlights show. In addition to this unrivalled racing track time, Formula Ford offers two exclusive timed test sessions before each meeting as well as a 20-minute qualifying session.

The £30,000 cash prize fund is not the only innovation in the pipeline for 2014. This season will also see the introduction of a reverse grid for the second race of each weekend, bringing Formula Ford into line with the sporting regulations of many international single-seater series.

Importantly, technical regulations are to remain largely unchanged: “This gives teams and drivers a stable cost platform on which to budget,” says Gerard Quinn, Head of Ford Racing in Europe. “It is important to note also that the costs of competing in Formula Ford are completely transparent. The drivers in Formula Ford this year will have some great incentives, not the least of which will be the chance to win their share of a £30,000 cash prize fund.”

Ovie Iroro set For Ford Debut

Nigerian novice Ovie Iroro is to join the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain next week. The 20-year-old from Lagos will make his racing debut at Donington Park over the Easter weekend (19/20 Apr) and is set to contest the rest of the season with Richardson Racing.

Ovie, a mechanical engineering student at University College London, moved to the UK two years ago not only to study but also to pursue his track career. “There is very little opportunity to race anything other than karts at home,” he said, “and so the best option for me was to move to Britain to make the next big step. I’m looking forward to it, and my aim is to spend this year learning so that I am well prepared for a full season and a proper campaign in 2015.”

Andy Richardson, who last year himself raced the EcoBoost Mygale which Iroro will drive, said: “We have tested Ovie already and we’re looking forward to giving him the benefit of our experience. Formula Ford is the very best place to learn the art of single-seater racing. It will be a steep learning curve for him but he has talent and is starting in the right place.”

Ovie acquitted himself at Thruxton this week in his first official Formula Ford test and will test again at Donington Park on Thursday ahead of his race debut.