Goodwood Glory: The Apex Interviews Nick Padmore
On this week's episode of the Apex, we are joined by four times Masters Historic Formula 1 champion and Goodwood lap record holder, Nick Padmore. Nick climbed the ranks of single seater racing and excelled as a Works driver in Radicals, before becoming more involved in historic racing.
Alongside his impressive resume, Nick is also one of the world's leading driver coaches, and holds the unique ability to transfer his knowledge and experience to other drivers. He joins us today to discuss his career highlights, that iconic Goodwood lap record, and to share some of his coaching insights.
Archie Hill interviews Nick Padmore for The Apex by Custodian. Recorded and produced by Archie Hill. Transcribed by David Marcus. Edited by Archie Hill, Jeremy Hindle & Charles Clegg.
Nick, welcome to the show!
Thank you for getting in touch and inviting me. I haven't done too many of these. As you can see I am not very well prepared with my iPad, that's about it, but I always enjoy these because with me, what you see is what you get, so I will give you all the gossip, all the behind the scenes stories, so yes, let's have a bit of fun, hopefully make it exciting for your listeners.
I watched you for years racing at Goodwood, so I am very keen to pick your brain, and very grateful to have you on, so thank you. I suppose your start into motor sport, was it related to your father racing classic minis, is that where it all began?
Yes, that's where it all started. Dad has been racing since the 60s, so I was always being, not dragged, actually I was dragged, because at the beginning I was all about fishing. So dad would go off racing and I would go carp fishing. I wasn't interested in motor sport at all, and then I can't remember the year, probably 1988 or something like that, one of my neighbours had a kart in the garage, and I went over there one day and they opened the garage and I was like oh god, next day, all the fishing gear was up for sale. I even still remember writing the advert out, it was so funny, I sold the lot, and yes, that was the start of an amazing motor sport career and life and all my friends and family that are involved in it.
So where was your dad racing?
He was always mainly at Brands Hatch and Lydden Hill and Silverstone, places like that, in a Mini Miglia, which we have one now. It's something I loved. I loved the mini scene and I thought one day if I can actually buy one, I will, so yes, luckily it all came together really.
I suppose having been around that environment, was a career in motor sport always the plan?
It was yes. We had no money so we begged, borrowed and stole, thank you to everyone, just to get the wheels in motion. We had a village garage in Lye, Surrey, and it was very good because I used to go out to the customers and serve fuel, and behind the till we would have pictures of the Kart or the Formula First, and that's how we raised sponsorship, because of course when they are paying, they are looking at the picture, and that was it. So it was all about money, how can we get the money to go racing. I wanted to do this as a job, not Formula 1, because we never had that money to get me that far, but anything else really.
So you worked your way up through the junior formulas, is that right, it was a Formula First, Formula Ford, that sort of thing?
That is correct, I did Formula First, and then that was for a few years because we didn't have enough money to do the whole season, so I would just pick and choose the big meetings, all the winter series, and then yes, I did a year in V6 Euro car, which I do smile about that, because every time I smell gear oil, it just reminds me of that car and what a terrible year it was, but it was a learning curve. We did that and we always ran the cars ourselves because it was a lot cheaper, and we always had something to sell at the end of that season to put the money into something else and go forward. So yes, V6 Euro car, then Fiestas in 2000 on the touring car package, then a bit of Formula Ford, a bit of F3. It's amazing when I think back, I've done a bit.
You certainly have! But I think it was in Radicals that your motor sport career took off?
Yes, Phil Abbott and Mick Hyde gave me a massive opportunity, and they brought me in to coach their customers, that's where it all started, so 2004 or something like that, and then it was pairing me with a gentleman driver, so I would coach him/her and then race with them as well. I think I was with them for six seasons, so all the pro sport, SR3, SR8 days, and that was great and that taught me so much. Dealing with gent drivers and lady drivers in the series, and working with Phil Abbot and Mick Hyde. And Radicals are mega, they are very good.
Just for those who might not be fully aware, how do you describe what Radicals are, what is the Radical Series?
It's like a Le Mans car. It was always positioned as the Le Mans feeder series, so it's like a Le Mans prototype with a motorcycle engine. I believe now they have gone to a Ford engine, but just a great car, a good endurance car, it would teach you so much about wings and slicks, and they just run and run and run. Obviously they are a few quid now, but they are just great fun, and also you have the passenger seat in most of these cars, so if you are brave enough, you get in the passenger seat and get some tips from the scary side, but yes, when I look back at that, they sounded fantastic, and really the SR8 and the very early SR8, just reminds me so much of when I am driving historic Formula 1 cars now, it is very similar, it moves around a lot, and loads of grip, loads of power, and it sounds the business. So I look back on those days and it certainly taught me so much.
And you were doing that for six years I think as a works driver?
Yes, I think it was six or seven years, and then after that I went to V de V in Europe, which was like an LMP3 car without the roof on it. It was massive, V de V ran for years, long distance races, and I shared with a good friend of mine who I still drive for now, he actually owns the Arrows A11, it's Jean-Lou Rihon, so that is how we first met, and we are still racing together now. He is not bored of me yet, he hasn't gotten quite as quick, so that is good.
We will certainly come onto the Arrows A11 a little bit later. When did you make the transition to historic Formula 3?
That was a big opportunity by Max Smith-Hilliard, again, one of my customers I have been coaching for years. He bought the car because he wanted to get used to single seaters. So he bought that car to get used to a manual box and everything else from Radical, because that's what he did before. Then I think I first raced that March 783 in 2014, and it was so good. It was really good, no power but loads of grip, and generally I do like cars to move around a little bit, so it was different, but I won a lot in that car, and it definitely helped me to get back into single seaters, because it had been a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed that and Max gave me some massive opportunities. Then the Williams FW05, which was the first Formula 1 car I raced at Spa.
So that was your foray into historic racing?
Actually dad bought an FIA Mini Cooper S, probably that was 2008 or 2009, and I think that was my first race in that. Then I would share a Lola T210 with Phil Hall, always at the Silverstone Classic in the Master Sports Car Race. That was when it completely bit. So I was still doing V de V in Europe, that was coming to an end, and then the historics, just one or two races, then another one, then more coaching, and then yes, that's how it snowballed really.
The Masters Historic Series are absolutely incredible, and I think of all the championships that one could compete in, the historic Formula 1 championship is just extraordinary, what was it like going into that championship, what were the cars like to drive? It just looks unbelievably cool.
My first race was at Spa in 2014 in the Williams FW05, the Walter Wolf car. When I look back at the photos of the cars I have driven, I have driven 38 Formula 1 cars now, from 1958 to 2005, it's mad. I look and think, did I really drive that? But of course when you are in the car, you are getting on with it, the adrenaline takes over, the buzz of everything, and to go out, I remember my first qualifying sessions in that Wolf was at Spa, and it had been torrential rain, and then it was dry. So I went out on slicks, l'Eau Rouge with greasy slicks, great, a nice way to start, but that went very well and I loved it.
The level of racing in that series is insanely competitive as well, this isn't just about enjoying old cars.
The guys and gals who own these cars don't buy them just to drive around and look at me, I've got a Formula 1 car, a good majority of them are fully lit, they are really pushing, and it's great, because why not? They've got the cars there, they've got the great teams to run the cars, and yes, it's close. Sometimes a little bit too close, a bit of wheel banging. I had some wheel banging at Brands this year coming out of Druids, and these are big cars. It reminded me of the Formula First days, but the Formula First days were a lot cheaper than these cars really. I was in a JPS Lotus and I think it was a Tyrrel 012 that banged the wheels, that was a bit big.
A bit nerve wracking I bet.
But also the circuits as well, you mentioned Brands Hatch and Spa, I imagine racing at Monaco in those cars is completely wild?
It's like someone has just got the scenery and gone (gestures scenery being planted right in your face). For me I always go on about the view, which sounds really weird, but these cars have got very good history, and these tracks have got phenomenal history. So for me, obviously Monaco is a fantastic experience, it goes very quickly, but the view is just bonkers. Going into Casino Square and turning through there and in the tunnel and stuff like that is just really good. It's one of those where Monday comes around very fast, and I always say to my wife Claire, did we just do that? Everything is so quick, and I have done that now three times, on the podium every time, but I still need that win, so next year that's the plan.
The noise, the smell, the atmosphere as well, it's just like a time capsule almost, it completely takes you back.
It is, when you are walking close to the track, you can hear it's alive already, the atmosphere and everything. It's an incredible opportunity, I have been very lucky to do it. The last couple of years with ChromeCars and Britec, it's a lot of fun with those guys. They run a lot of cars, their JPS Collection of course, so next year we hope for bigger things.
Is there a stand out race that you have had in those historic F1 cars?
Yes at Monaco, probably my first ever time I went there was 2015, and it was a delayed start, so the engine was overheating on the line, and I was qualified third. It was overheating, I could see the needle at 110, and they delayed it more and more and I couldn't turn it off, and I was about to get out of the car because it was overheating. I looked on the screen to my right and I could see the camera had zoomed into the back of my car and you could see the water coming out. The last thing I want to do is damage the car, but there was a slight conversation beforehand, and they said if there are any issues, just keep going, don't worry about it. I thought oh no, I can't overheat. So I looked at the marshal to my left, and I remember saying I'm getting out, and he went, are you sure, and then he let us go. So that was it, so I managed the car for 28 minutes and kept overheating and cooling down, through the tunnel it was getting really hot, and then I was having to short shift to cool it all down, and I finished third, and I went to pull in the pits a couple of times during the race, because I was thinking this is going to go bang in a minute, and thank god it didn't. I love a story like that. It was quite stressful. I just remember looking at that water temp gauge for 28 minutes, that's all I remember, and then the celebration afterwards was quite good.
I bet, why was it overheating so much in the tunnel, is that just a lack of airflow?
It was a very hot weekend, it was really humid and just through the tunnel, obviously it's real slow on the approach to that, so the temperature is quite high, and probably by the exit of the tunnel it was cooling down a bit, but just every time through the tunnel I thought oh god, it's getting hotter and hotter. So thank god it lasted.
Talking about Monaco, the theme continues with historic circuits because you are a pretty big name around the Goodwood scene. I watched you race a Lola T70 Spyder that you set a couple of lap records with, how does that rack up to you and what have your experiences at Goodwood been like?
It's been a dream come true really, because I have been teaching there since 1997 with Peter Geffen, and I had always wanted to race there, and then I had one opportunity to do a mini race in 2009 in dad's mini, sharing with Richard Atwood. So I thought this is my moment, I am finally going to race at the Goodwood Revival, and then the car blew the engine in qualifying, so that was that, end of. So then I had to wait another good few years, and I think it was 2015 when Phil Hall, I gained a massive opportunity from him, he said look, do you want to race my Lola T70? Really? Never driven it before. I went and did 10 laps at Donnington just to see what it was like, scared myself absolutely crazy in that car, and then went to Goodwood, put it on pole and won the race. That was a dream weekend. It doesn't always go like that, but it is a great car. I would love to buy that. If I won the lottery, that's the first car I will be buying.
How come you love it so much?
Because it's so much fun to drive. It's really quick, down the Lavant Straight we were almost 170 mph, and then when you look in the rear view mirror, you see all the fuel come out of trumpets. That is just one of the rawest cars I have ever driven. Hats off to those guys who drove them properly in period, because the races were long and the safety wasn't fantastic and they were just so fast. It is a great car.
And racing it at Goodwood as well, if it's a scary car at any circuit, it must be even scarier at Goodwood because the lack of run-off, the circuit hasn't changed much since the 50s, which is a great thing, but as a driver…
You have to treat the place with a lot of respect. If you do get it wrong there, it could be very big, touch wood. Also it's not my car, so you have to look after that car as well. You don't want to drive into people and upset their weekend and piss them off. You go there with that in mind, but also you want to drive quickly, you want to have a lot of fun, and you could win. That car there, it’s ultimate.
The other thing that you are very well-known for at Goodwood is obviously the Goodwood SpeedWeek lap that you set in the Arrows A11, could you try and talk us through that lap from your point of view?
There is a bit of a story behind that beforehand. So Jean-Lou Rihon bought the car, Kev and Andy and Chris managed to get the car up and running to do a demo at Brands Hatch. I think it was Auto Italia Week. So we did the demo and then Goodwood contacted us and said do you want to bring the car to SpeedWeek, we are going to run this event, no crowds, but it would be great to get the car out. So Jean-Lou was like look, I can't fit in it, do you want to drive it? Okay, yes, so we thought we were just turning up and doing a demonstration run, then literally three days before, they said no, we want you to do the outright lap record. Okay, right, this will be good.
I had from the Shell building to the exit of the Chicane to warm my tyres up, which is really just the rears, and the carbon brakes were just cold. So the first launch off the line, I thought phew, I didn't stall it, because it's quite easy to stall that car, but the first time into Madgwick was just, let's just turn and see, and it absolutely dug. Then once you feel that confidence in the car, that's it, just keep it going. So flat through Fordwater with loads of sparks, which is great, and then on the run down to no name, St. Mary's part one, as people like to call it now, I was just left foot braking just to try and generate a little bit of temperature in the brakes, for when I needed them for St. Mary's part two. So yes, my left leg was just trying to get over where my right foot was flat, and I was just breathing on that brake pedal to get them warm. But yes, that first run was pretty special. I think the second run we had a fuel issue problem, and the third run was good. Could I have gone quicker? Probably, but not much. Did I enjoy it? It was amazing. It was just a shame that we couldn't have the crowds there. I completely get why, it was a great event to be involved in. I was in seven cars that weekend, so it was a busy weekend. When you listen to that car on that lap going round, it sounds fantastic, and the commentator Sam Hancock, he was loving it, he is a good friend of mine. It was just magical, I would like to go back and do it again.
I hope you get the chance. Like you say, that video on YouTube with Sam commentating is fantastic. I will put the link to it in the written version of this interview so people can find it, if they haven't seen it already. He is getting so excited watching you drive around there, it's brilliant. Did you have a feeling once you had crossed the line, like okay, that was probably it, you knew going in that you would be able to set the record if the lap came together?
Not really no, but it was just drive it and see, which is probably the best way of doing it, rather than Kev and Jean-Lou involved in the car, it wasn't like oh, we've got to do this, it was just go and have some fun, just drive the car, don't be an idiot, don't go off, just push. Once you feel the tires working, especially into the first corner, then you are like actually, I can push a bit more now. That's why Fordwater was flat. It is lovely going through there flat in that thing. Yes, it's just confidence. The car gave me the confidence, apart from the brakes, but the grip was really good.
It's interesting, from a circuit point of view, we had Tiff Needell on the other week and he was talking about these old circuits, in particular Goodwood not having any run-off, but that actually being a great thing from a driver point of view, being able to identify the brilliant drivers, because they can be that close to the barriers, whereas if you have run-off, okay, most drivers can keep it flat through there and you can't really notice much of a difference.
Yes, that's why I do a lot of my driver coaching there, because you have to be so accurate, there is only one line around there. If you come off line, then you could be in a bit of trouble. It's a great place to coach because you have to keep the speed up, and just be so accurate and keep looking miles down the road. Then when it rains there it's great, because it's so slippery, and you have to go off and look for the grip and learn what to do, so yes, it is a good place to be, and it's a lovely drive there for me, so it's even better.
Some of the driving roads around Goodwood are brilliant. Goodwood champions historic racing and it is something you have been massively involved in, where do you see the future of historic racing heading, do you think it will become more mainstream?
I can see it just getting bigger and bigger. I think now you are going to see a new generation of cars. I think 80s and 90s is going to get bigger. There might be a 90s Formula 1 series happening. The touring cars have always been popular, so the newer 80s, 90s and 2000s touring cars, they are going to be the next ones. I think Formula 3000, there needs to be a series for that, because that would be really cool. I think it is just getting bigger and bigger. It's the noise, the cars look good through the corners, they are moving around a fair bit. The events are nice, they are popular. I think the historic scene is just booming. Even in Europe with Peter Auto, because I am racing that as well, I have been doing that for the last four years now, the grids are huge. I think in the HTC which we drive a Group A BMW, we have always got 40 plus cars in that, which is amazing. So yes it's booming isn't it, which is good.
That's fantastic. I am a huge fan, as a spectator as well, just to watch, it's a lot more, like you say, just the noise, the smell, the way the cars look, it's got a real aura about it. You alluded to it there, another big part of what you do is driver coaching, I imagine that to be a very rewarding process for both you as a coach and the person learning to drive, is that fair to say?
Yes it is, and I love it. I find it a real good challenge and normally a productive day. You walk away and go right, brilliant, we found a second or whatever, but what I like is people buy these, let's say historic race cars. They have always wanted to buy this car and they might have seen it racing and then right, I've got the car and now I need to learn how to drive the car, relatively competitive but more importantly just safe, knowing that you are going to get around. So that's what I do, so anyone from just coming into historics or wanting to win the championship, then that's mainly my customers I have been dealing with. It's great fun. If you go back to Radicals, a lot of the modern cars now have so much grip, that you can just jump into them, feel the grip, that's it. But then you get into historics and the car doesn't stop moving around, even under braking, so you have to give them the confidence that the car is okay when it is moving, because it is just moving on the sidewall, normally the sidewall of the tire, and it's explaining that, demonstrating that with videos and data and everything else. I love it, it's really good. It's gone a bit quiet now for the coaching, because obviously it is the end of the season, so I am looking forward to getting it all back up and running in January.
Absolutely, I am looking at getting my race licence next year, so I might be giving you a call.
Yes, perfect, do it, it will be good. What are you going to race?
I haven't decided yet, I am open to suggestions. What would you recommend for someone who is looking to get into it?
I always say Mazda MX5s and the MK1s, because the thing is, a lot of people say motor sport is so expensive. It is, but if you look for a cheap series and you race in that to learn your craft and try and do as much racing as possible, on relatively little money, it is the way forward. The MK1 MX5s, they move around so much. I use a lot of those for the coaching I do, because they run on treaded tires, they run all day and they teach you so much. The racing can be a bit too close at times, and so I would never race one of them, I would probably get beaten up, but it's just a brilliant tool to start off in.
I guess from someone who hasn't experienced any of the coaching yet, what does it actually look like, what is the process towards making someone a better driver? Are you doing a lot of in the car with them, or is it just primarily video and data work?
I am really obsessed with it. Once we get going, just to try and help as much as possible, I normally spend a lot of time in the passenger seat, which once you are getting a bit faster, I decide to exit and get out of there, but you can just see and feel so much from the passenger seat, so why wouldn't you? So once I have got them to a certain level, and I think they are going quite quick now, I go to the VBox or a similar system and use that. It is very useful, and also corner spotting, that's what dad used to do for me in the karts back in the day. It's still really good because you can hear what they are doing and watch what they are doing, then come back and tell them what's going on and then go back out. So there's a good few ways of doing it.
Have there been any hairy moments in the passenger seat?
Touch wood, there have been a few over the years, obviously a few hairy moments because I have got no hair. Whenever I am in the car I say look, just take it easy. Obviously you are going to push, just take it easy and enjoy it, but just remember, I've got a busy week this week.
I asked this question to Oli Webb and I am curious to see what your answer is to it, because he does a bit of driver coaching as well. The question is… is there one stand out technique or alteration of driving style that is most effective at making someone a better driver?
I would say it's really the observation. If you are looking miles down the road and you are planning everything a lot sooner, then you are going to learn a lot quicker. Then it is really carrying that speed. It is carrying that speed into the apex, once you have got that, then it's back on the throttle, and then it's trying to reach full throttle as soon as possible. It sounds easy but it's not, and as smoothly as possible. So it's a mixture of the vision, the technique of rolling into the corner, keeping that speed up, and then you just keep improving from there.
That makes a lot of sense. Oli was quite big on the art of late braking, but I imagine that's quite a difficult one to teach you know, depends how ballsy your driver is.
I am not a late braker, I don't really brake that late, because I tend, I don't want to give away all the secrets here... but I want to get off the brake, so I would brake relatively sooner, but then get off the brake earlier, take the speed in, then think about the throttle. Corners are different, but that's my sort of, yes, I don't really brake very late, not that I remember.
And has your love of historics filtered through to your own personal garage?
Yes, but I don't have the money to buy historic cars. I have the Mini Miglia, so that's my baby, but that's 1980, but then I have an E30 318is BWM road car, and then an old Mini as well. So just for my budget, that's where it is. Then I have a few BMXs which everyone takes the mick out of.
Here we go…I have got a Raleigh Aero Pro Burner, which is wicked. It is an original from 1984. There is a Christmas ride that we are doing and I am going to do it, so it goes into London, and then all the retro BMXs meet up.
I don't know what we do when we meet up. Then I have another Mag Burner as well, so yes, it's got to be done.
I grew up mountain biking and I have some lovely bikes at home. I have got a slopestyle bike and a dirt jump bike, so I completely understand your obsession there.
Oh nice! I lived on my Mag Burner when dad used to race, so when I finally got the Miglia, I did it in my dad's old colour scheme, and then I had to go and buy a Raleigh Mag Burner, so every time I use the Miglia now, the Mag Burner is there. Stuff like that has got to be done.
I think there is a huge overlap as well between people who are interested in cars and bikes. I don't know if it's just the fact that they have got wheels and there's just a sense of freedom that is associated with that, I think that was for me what it was.
Yes, definitely, but I don't use the Mag Burner too much, I don't want to wear it out, it's a big investment…
I’ll have to find a picture of it and put it in the article, I can't really picture what they look like. It was a bit before my time.
Oh yeah! It was the 80s.
I think to end, I want to ask you some quickfire questions. If you could race in any era in any category of racing, which would it be?
Can-Am back in the 1960s and 1970s. And also Super Tourers in 2000.
It's not really quick fire if I ask you to expand on them, but why is that?
Super Tourers is what I grew up watching, and just loved the Super Tourers. The Can-Am stuff is because I love the T70 Spyder so much, just to go back and experience it with those legends at those tracks would be unbelievable, really cool.
What is your favourite circuit that you have ever driven?
Suzuka. It was always Spa and Spa is still way up there, but then I went to Suzuka, and I didn't do any sim work to learn the track, and I was just an idiot not doing that, because it was so difficult. The first sector was so tricky. It took me a while to learn it. Actually it's a funny story. I arrived at Suzuka and I thought I've got to walk this track. It was at night and it was all flood-lit. I thought that's handy, I will go and walk the lap, and it's a big lap, as we all know, you see it on TV. So I got halfway around and thought oh, this is perfect. Then they turned the lights off. So I am right over the far side, it was pitch black and I did the rest of the lap with my iPhone torch, just to try and get back, but it was so cool. It was a great event. I was driving a Fittipaldi F5A, Max Smith-Hilliard's car, and it was brilliant, I was on the podium there in that car. It's a cool place, I would like to go back there. It is really old school and so fast, and the grounds are brilliant. I had a long last family there that I never knew I had, which wouldn't leave me alone all weekend.
Racing in Japan is huge. Tiff spent a lot of his time racing in Japan, a big part of his career, and I hadn't fully appreciated it but it's crazy, it sounds really cool.
Yes, and it was packed and they were arriving at 6 in the morning and Mika Häkkinen there to give out the trophies, and they were just hanging around the hotel waiting for him to go to breakfast. It was so cool to witness that, it's really good.
Finally, what is in your dream three car garage, if money was no object?
Super Tourer, so I would like the Nissan Primera. It would have to be a Group C car, and it would have to be either the Mazda or the Silk Cut Jaguar. The other one, probably the V12 Aston Martin GT3 car I have raced a couple of times this year, the Bilstein car from 2013, it would have to be that, just for the pure sound and the look of it.
Fantastic, great choices. They run those Silk Cut and Mazda cars at Goodwood, you ought to try and get a go up the hill in one of those.
I have only driven one Group C and that was a Nissan NPT-90 and I raced that at Dijon, and then unfortunately the owner missed a gear and blew the engine, so that was game over, but I want to do more Group C. A big hint there.
Take note, that sounds fantastic. Nick, it has been a pleasure having you on, thank you so much for your time.
Again, thanks for reaching out, and hopefully a few people found that interesting and I hope to see them all at a race very soon.