We interviewed Toby Goodman, who is new to the MINI CHALLENGE this season. We sat down with him at the first round at Donington to find out about his background and thoughts on the season ahead.

Great to have you with us Toby, let’s start by asking you what class you’re in?
“Cooper Pro.”

How did you end up here in the MINI CHALLENGE?
“Last year was effectively trying to find a drive for this year so we were doing a little bit of testing with Excelr8 motorsport in Ginetta Juniors and that didn’t really work out so we stayed with Excelr8 and they offered a drive with the Cooper Pros and we couldn’t turn it down. When we looked more into the championship, the more we fell in love with it, it’s such close racing and it has the jump up into JCWs. I know the winner of last year’s JCW class is now in BTCC so you’ve got that progression.”

You’ve come from karting, is that right?

How did you make that step from karting to car racing?

“They’re completely different animals really, you can go from a kart into one of these Cooper Pros but we took a year out last year. We did a few test days with Excelr8 Motorsport. They’ve been brilliant. Helping me along, especially with the data and the mechanics helping me to make that transition.

Effectively, all you’ve got to do is forget everything you’ve ever learnt from karting and then just start fresh. It’s almost like two different trees. The tree of karting and the tree of cars. When you make that jump, you start right at the bottom again and you don’t really know anything about the cars. But after a few test days, I found that the coopers are just an absolute joy to drive especially with the slicks, they’re just so grippy but with the reduced power, it’s not too hairy to drive and so I managed to get to grips with it relatively soon but it’s always just about those last couple of tenths that are the hardest to find. “

How did you find testing this weekend?

“It was a decent day actually. I did some first wet sessions, having never driven in the wet before, especially on my own as I’ve always had an instructor in the car. It was a big learning curve, especially going into the old hairpin, that was basically a river so that was interesting but once you get the grip you can push it.”

You’re racing with Excelr8 Motorsport. How do you find working with the team?

“They’ve been absolutely brilliant. As I said, making the step from karting into cars for all drivers is really difficult but the amount of help and support I’ve got from the mechanics and the engineers has been absolutely sublime. It’s made the transition really smooth. Also the data analysis they do is so professional and especially with Excelr8, you can really dive deep into it. There’s full data sharing between all the drivers as well so I can compare my data with seasoned veterans and learn from that. They’ve really helped me just to learn not only the tricks of the trade but also technique with the cooper pro and getting my head around moving into cars.”

How long have you been racing?

“The first time I went karting was in Portugal when I was about 7 and my dad always promised me that by the time I was 8 he’d take me karting because my dad used to do karting but when you go the first time, that bug just grows and grows so I kept on going back. So I’ve been karting since I was 8 so about 8 years.“

Coming from karting, you’ll know the car racing is expensive. Have you had any support with you racing?

“Yes, another way Excelr8 have helped me is that I won the Excelr8 scholarship which gave a lot of money towards testing last year and a little bit onto racing this year as well. Furthermore, I’m driving the Bizkarts car this year so they support and maintain the car so that’s been a massive help as well. But the main support has been from Excelr8, taking me from karting and where we were, now being able to afford to do a full season in the Cooper Pros has been absolutely amazing and I’m over the moon for that.”

What’s your goal for this season?

“I think before today, I hadn’t really got any idea of how quick I am compared with the rest of the field. Now I think that a good aim would be the Rookie Cup but I think it’s just going to be about consistency and it’s so close so I think race technique in the car is important as well. But really just finishing each race and learning as much as I can for next season where I can aim a little but higher. I think I’d just be really chuffed if that happens.”

What about long-term goals?

“My goal has always been to become a professional. To be able to do what I love, which is racing and actually get paid for it, for me would just be absolutely amazing. F1 isn’t the be all and end all, there’s an emerging world of sportscar racing, world endurance championship, LeMans etc. I think endurance racing attracts me and I find it really intriguing. I’ve done a couple of 24-hour kart races and I’ve absolutely loved them. I think my eye is on getting into something professional, maybe Blankpain or GT racing in general would be really cool.”

Would you think about moving up to the JCW class?

“I think if we had the budget by the start of the year, we wouldn’t hesitate to make that jump. We’re lucky enough to have Bizkarts supporting me this year and they support drivers all the way into JCWs so maybe if I do a decent couple of years in the Cooper Pros the opportunity might arise but for the minute all I’m focusing on is learning as much as I can in the Cooper Pros and keeping it on the black stuff really, I don’t want to make too many mistakes at this time as they are crucial for later on in the year.”

You can see Toby racing again at Snetterton on the 12 – 13 May for Round two of the Cooper Pro/Am & S Class Championships.