A young Aberdeenshire driver is geared up to take the motorsport world by storm as the new racing season kicked off last weekend at Donington Park National track.
Fergus Chalmers, 16, from Alford has been juggling National 5 exams with his fledgling career in the UK’s longest running and most prestigious junior series, the Michelin Ginetta Junior Championship.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother and father, Fergus has already recorded success on the circuit, knocking on the door of a top 10 finish in a field of almost 30 cars in his section last year, and achieving an end-of-season podium finish at the Brands Hatch GP circuit layout.
His outstanding debut season followed a final eight placing out of 65 entrants in the prestigious 2020 Michelin Ginetta Scholarship for 14 to 17-year-old drivers but, far from putting the brakes on, he has now set his sights on a top five finish in 2022 and is hoping to attract sponsors interested in joint success.
The G40 Junior has become one of the most well-known models on the British Touring Car Championship support bill, and is every bit as exciting as the main event. For an ambitious young driver like Fergus, it is the perfect place to be, and he knows he’s got a challenging – and exciting – season ahead.
Mum’s the word
Fergus said: “I’ve always loved watching my dad and brother race at various gravel rally and tarmac events, and I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel myself.”
Although his dad and brother are mentors to him, Fergus’s driving career can be credited to his mum who taught him to drive at the age of 10.
Fergus says: “When my oldest brother turned 17, he had his first car which was a Renault Clio. I was out with my mum one day and she was driving it. We have a little private track road down to our house, and so she let me drive, just to try and learn.
“I stalled a few times and then I managed to get going,” he recalls. “From there I just had that little bit of experience with clutch control up and down the road because you can’t go fast, you’ve got to slow down, so changing gears, I learned that quite quickly.”
Taking a spin around the track
And only six years later his mum was rewarded with a race around Thruxton with Fergus behind the wheel, hitting 150mph and taking corners at 115mph.
“Thruxton is the fastest circuit that we drive on all year so I was surprised that she came out on that one. I think she handled it quite well. She said she enjoyed it,” he laughs.
His father and brother have helped him fine tune his skills, though, providing him with insights and specialist knowledge not many drivers have access to.
“Between the both of them I have learned a lot of over the years, which I hadn’t really noticed till is started driving,” he says. “Things like car control and how to treat the car. If you and the car act as one, your drive better.”
Sponsorship and support are crucial for the drivers in their early careers. Fortunately, Fergus has some solid professional backing with title-winning race team Preptech behind him.
He has also recently secured a new partner, with Mitchell Scott (formerly Gibbs) of Inverurie supplying him with a kilt for the season. Mitchell Scott also supplies The Kilted Chef – Craig from Eat on the Green – making Fergus The Kilted Driver!
With the ambition of racing dominating life during the season, it’s easy to forget that exams still have to be passed, and Fergus has a special thanks to Alford Academy for their support.
“I’ve been away so much. They’ve helped me to catch up with my work and make sure that I’m still getting it done, so I appreciate that,” he says.
The best part is being out in the car and being able to drive as fast as you like.”
And once exams are over he can focus on the road ahead. Options for the future remain wide open at this early stage of his career but he favours touring cars.
“The British GT, even single seaters maybe, Formula 3, but I think I prefer racing in the touring cars – it’s more interesting,” he says.
So which car would he choose to race around a track in?
“At the moment it would be a 3 Series Beamer, the touring cars, or even the Infinity on the touring cars,” says Fergus. “Things like the Mercedes, the Lamborghini in the British GT as well – things like that look awesome.”
Having a good relationship with your team is definitely critical. They work to make sure the car is up to standard – and that you’re up to standard.”
And when he passes his formal driving test, what first car does a young racing driver choose? Well, the answer might surprise you.
“I want a Fiesta but not the new style one. The mark 6 Fiesta 2004-2008.”
And not surprisingly, he has his remap planned.
“I’ve been brought up around my brother with his cars, modifying them and things like that. The mark 6 Fiesta is something that I’ve wanted for many years now.”
For a car enthusiast, there is no better job, and Fergus’s love of driving is evident.
“The best part is being out in the car and being able to drive as fast as you like, working with your team mates and working with the team,” he says.
“Having a good relationship with your team is definitely critical. They work to make sure the car is up to standard – and that you’re up to standard.
“The most difficult part is trying to find those final tenths out on the track!”
Fergus knows there is plenty to learn but the future looks bright for this talented young driver.
“Working as part of a team, staying calm under pressure, respectfulness of competitors and how to pick yourself up and get back behind the wheel when things don’t go to plan are all things which I’m lucky to be learning,” he adds. “As well as driving fast!”
The Ginetta Junior Championship season runs from April to October and supports the British Touring Car Championship, including a Scottish leg which will take place at Fife’s Knockhill on July 30-31.
For more information go to ginetta.com/g40-junior