Tony Gilham
Team Hard

The Winner is Announced

The Winner is Announced

Mar 1, 2013
Team HARD. invited the 3 finalists down to the Head Quarters to announce the winner and give the runner up’s some news from our investors.

Tony began his speech thanking all the competitors for making it such a tough decision, he also went on to thank his investors for helping the Team put on the scholarship and finally thanked Racing Line and Hankook for their support and encouragement to put the scholarship on.


In 3rd place was John Langridge, John impressed all with his determination and fitness.


I first saw TeamHARD scholarship advert in Autosport. It is a great prize on offer, so I thought it was worth a shot. The first day was held last Autumn at Prodrive’s proving ground. There were plenty of entrants and I instantly picked up on the great atmosphere of excitement.

We were all to be driving road going Golfs and Corsas this first day, around a track no one will have seen before. So, it was a fair playing field and a great way for the team to assess you straight ‘out of the box’. We had two sessions on track with instructors and both times I went away with some useful tips and feedback on my driving. As well as driving, the team bought along their race truck, a VW Cup car and a BTCC car for everyone to look around, which was a nice touch.

Tony took the time to speak with every individual twice – between the runs and also at the end of the day to give them targets and feedback. This was very impressive as there were over 100 entrants!

I was asked back for round two – which was to be at Brands Hatch on 20th January. Unfortunately this coincided with the largest snowfall of the winter, but we did go to the TeamHARD HQ for their open day. It was really excellent to see behind the scenes of a racing organisation in the top championship of British motorsport and see all of the other strings they have to their bow.

So with the snow cancelling day 2, everyone who had made it through the first day (64 in all) turned up for the final day of the scholarship at Brands Hatch on a lovely sunny February day.

Everyone was nervous, but after my sighting lap with the teams new BTCC signing Jack Goff, I felt more at ease. The first activity was on track with an instructor for 4 or 5 laps, so they could again assess your driving. With 64 drivers to get through, this took all morning so the atmosphere was quite tense as people went out for their turn.

Everyone drove road going Golfs for this exercise around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit. It seemed to go very quickly for me as we were back in the pits before I knew it! Then the waiting began as Tony and his team had to – somehow – knock out 34 people in one fell swoop.

Fortunately for me, my name was called and I was then getting my kit on for the fitness test – run one lap of the track! I was never a particularly strong runner at school, but have been training hard over the last few years and running has been a part of it. As 30 of us started off up towards Paddock Hill Bend I thought to myself “there’s no way I’ll keep this pace up!”. As the run went on I managed to stick to my speed and took the lead on the final straight to take my first ever running victory!

This race – along with a media exercise – got us down to 20. We then went out on track with the road Golfs for another session so Tony could get us down to the final 10. This would mean a chance to drive the actual cup cars – something I had really wanted to do. They didn’t disappoint and were fantastic to drive. We each had two sessions – one with Jack and then a break before jumping in with another BTCC driver, Howard Fuller.

After all of the track activity, Tony decided (quite rightly) that he would need some time to consider who should make his final 3. So we all left and crossed our fingers for four days as we waited for the phone to ring.

I was slightly taken a back when Tony told me I was into the final 3! Amazing. Good job I was sitting down. Que high fives in the office… followed by even more anxious waiting! We were invited to the Team HARD base that Friday – this time for the announcement. We spent some time there looking around the cars, chatting to the team and relaxing.

Tony got everyone together and said how difficult it had been to decide. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it. Although I felt I did well in all of the tests, I wasn’t really watching anyone else at the time. I just knew there wasn’t much in it and any one of Tom, David or I could have won. Tony called my name first, which meant I was third. Obviously gutted! But then, it wasn’t a three horse race at all, over 100 people entered back in November. Then the news came that it wasn’t all over and there is still a chance to work with the team this year and in the future. As I type, this is something I’m trying my utmost to organise; because I think they are a great organisation with bags of potential. We’ll have to see how it pans out.

Overall it was a fantastic experience. We were all made to feel welcome and we were all given the same chance. The team were very approachable throughout the entire time, answering any questions or just to chat, while the instructors always gave you something to go away and think about. The passion of the team impressed me most though – especially of Tony. I never once saw him sitting still and he really considered everything before making any decisions – all in an effort to keep a level playing field, which will never be easy in a competition of this nature.

So, if you are thinking about entering – do it! In the final there was an amazing mix of racers, karters, Xbox players and even one lad who had only just past his driving test! Everyone has the same chance to win and everyone will leave with something – memories, more knowledge, or maybe even a drive in the VW Cup. I even picked up a few friends along the way! John Langridge, March 2013.

In Second Place Tom Barley, he impressed with his media and driving skills.


Racing cars has always been my dream and passion. Growing up I idolised my dad as he raced Corvettes and Camaros at Brands Hatch. 15 years later, I got the call. ‘Tom, how do you fancy going racing?’ I thought I’d reached my highest high, racing beautiful cars around famous circuits, but deep down I knew, this is a hobby, I’d realised now that racing was more than a hobby to me, it’s what I wanted from life. You know the ‘everything else is just waiting’ phrase? Yeah, I was there.

In the meantime Tony Gilham had progressed from the Porsche Carrera Cup into the BTCC, and both his business and racing team were growing rapidly. Tony understands as well as anyone how difficult it is to make the jump into professional motor racing, and luckily for me and 163 other hopefuls, he decided to ‘give something back.’ Queue the Team HARD VW Scholarship. A unique, ‘winner takes all’ opportunity to win a drive in the VW Cup with Team HARD. When I read about this online I couldn’t believe my luck. This way my chance. This was how I was going to make something of myself. I had to enter, and promptly called the team and reserved a space.

The first round soon came. Coventry, Pro Drive, and lots of nervous yet hopeful faces. Before long we were all given a number, sat down and briefed by Mr Gilham himself. I’ll never forget the words ‘This isn’t a prize aimed to just give someone a years racing. We want to develop someone into a full time racing driver, and ensure they can carve out a career in motorsport.’ Music to my ears. I started to realise how special this opportunity was. The day was based on two runs around the airfield track in road cars, sitting with established drivers for evaluation. The wait between runs was agonising, but the surprisingly nice aspect was getting to know the other guys and girls that were there. A group was quickly formed and we really helped each other through what was for most, a nerve racking day. Everyone wants to do their best and not make a silly mistake that would ruin their chances of progressing. My two runs went very smoothly, and luckily for me I was told at the end of that day that I was through to the next round. Jeez what a relief! I instantly felt sorry for anyone who had to wait for a phone call later in the week, which I would find out later in the competition, just how horrible that is!

After an attempt to hold the second round at Brands Hatch was cancelled due to snow, the date was rearranged and the anti was up’d! Ben, who was running the scholarship, informed us that the winner would now be picked from the results of this round. The day was outlined for us, the basic principle being that eliminations would happen regularly! After regrouping with ‘the crew’ from the first round it was time to go out in higher powered road cars, again under the scrutiny of current racers.

The day started with 64 hopefuls, and after two short runs around Brands Hatch in VW Golf’s, eliminations were made and we were down to 30. Hearing the names for this 30 was painstakingly awkward. As the list went on I was desperate to hear my name, and then finally ‘Tom Barley.’ I tried to contain my excitement, but was grateful for the support and congratulations I received from the guys around me. One half fist pump is acceptable, right?

Next up was the fitness test. No pain, no gain! In short, a lap of Brands Hatch indy, on your feet. I’ve probably completed over 200 laps of brands hatch in cars, but I’d rather do all of them again, in a Morris Minor with flat tyres then I would run another lap of it. I’d been training for the fitness aspect of this scholarship, but there’s no getting away from it, Druids and Graham Hill Bend were designed for horsepower, not Barleypower. I made it round in a respectable 12th place, out of 30 runners, so whilst not overwhelmed with my performance, I think it was clear that I’d given it my all, the noises of pain I made across the finish line said it all. I was soon given an interview by current Clio Cup, and 2013 BTCC racer Jack Goff. ‘How was that, Tom?’ ‘Difficult, but I was never going to give up. This is my dream, and I’d do anything to make it.’ A couple more questions and Jack was I hope, satisfied. The next set of eliminations would get us from 30, down to 20. I had unthinkable body parts crossed. 20 minutes or so later, and the names were called. And breathe… I’d made it. Another half fist pump, naturally. The lucky and no doubt extremely grateful 20 would be going out once again in the VW Golf road cars, and after one more evaluation, the final 10 would be selected. My time in the R32 Golf was enjoyable, and I began to get a good feeling from the seasoned racers that I sat with. As always, it was over in a flash and I was left hoping and praying that I’d done enough to get me through to final 10. Whilst I had always wanted to win this scholarship, to make it to the final 10 was a really big target for me. This way I could leave the day knowing I’d had a go at each stage, and been given the opportunity to show what I could do. Alongside that, the last 10 would be let loose in the teams current VW Cup race cars. A completely different animal to a Gti road car.

After a nerve racking wait, Tony addressed the last 20 in the media suite, and after short debrief he began to read out the names of the last 10. At that point, I’d never experienced anxiety like it. I’m thanking god that I don’t get this anxious before an actual race! It’s at times like this when you realise how much something means to you, when the hunger for success eats away at you. You need this kind of pressure, and you need to want. My name is called, and a feeling of huge relief comes over me. I cannot believe I’ve made it to the last 10 from 164 entrants. I hope I’m what the team is looking for, I hope it’s me that gets to race under the Team HARD. banner. Enough of that, it’s time to get suited and booted in my race gear for two runs in the current VW Cup cars. 250+ bhp, stripped out, purpose built machines. This is more my thing, and I’m so fortunate to get out and have a go, sitting next to both Jack Goff and Howard Fuller is a privilege itself, let alone having them evaluate you and give you a couple of suttle hints and tips when they can. The 9 other finalists were all great, and we got on well which was a nice surprise considering what was at stake. Although we were technically up against each other now, I think it was clear that nothing could be gained by any level of silliness, and if anything we were supporting each other.

The VW Cup cars were fantastic to drive, and I could feel myself getting quicker and quicker each lap, I could feel that there was a huge amount of potential in us as a unit, and I just wanted to keep going, braking later, taking more curb, carrying more speed to the apex, but as with all good things, the sessions came to an end, and that was it, I’d done all I could. Had I done enough? Were Team HARD. going to be interested in me? Did I fit the bill? I knew the other guys had a lot of talent, and you could tell that no one was running away with it. Only time would tell. Oh that precious thing called time, which it turns out stands virtually still when you are awaiting a call 4 days later to find out if you are into the final 3. Finally! Wednesday, 4pm, my phone buzzes and reads ‘Tony Gilham’

TB – Hi Tony
TG – Hi Tom, how you feeling?
TB – Anxious!
TG – Unfortunately mate…….. you’re going to have to get away from work early on Friday, you’re in our final three!
TB – Yes!!!!!!! Thank you Tony! I’m overwhelmed. I’ll see you on Friday afternoon, I can’t wait!

So that’s it, I’m in the final 3, from which a winner is chosen. Nothing more I can do now, just have to wait for Friday afternoon and try to sleep in between, which would be virtually impossible!

I’d visited the team HARD. HQ on their opening day a month previous, but when I arrived on Friday afternoon it felt different. I now had the chance to be involved with these guys on a serious level, ideally I’d be wearing the HARD. brand and taking to the track in one of their cars. Being at the impressive team facilities made that all feel very real. Family members and friends had come along for moral support, which always helps, but once the talk from Tony had started I felt extremely nervous and uncomfortable, the adrenaline was actually making me shake!

So this was it. Months of hard work, dedication and nerves come down to this moment. Someone’s life will change today. Someone will become the latest addition to Team HARD. Without further a do, 3rd place goes to…. John Langridge. I could breathe again. John is congratulated and so he should be. 3rd out of 164 is a great achievement, but you can see the hidden disappointment on his face, as you could on mine just minutes later. We were all there to win, after all. The winner, of the 2013 VW Cup Team HARD. scholarship is…… David Sutton. David is presented with his trophy and a handshake from Tony. Queue the flashing cameras and wild applause. I couldn’t have been more envious, but I was also happy for David. He’s a really nice guy, who’s clearly got a lot to give in the drivers seat. He’s going to be a great addition to the team. Perhaps now is the time to mention that I’ve also been signed by team HARD! As a close runner up the team proposed a fantastic offer to get me on the grid for 2013. I couldn’t believe the opportunity that they had put together, and needless to say I didn’t need asking twice. The low of not winning to the high of this, what are they doing to me, I’m thinking!

So there you have it, I was runner up to a well deserved winner, and still walked away as a signed driver for team HARD. racing in the 2013 VW Cup. If you think this was a journey, wait till the season gets underway and the real drama starts!

Huge thanks go to Tony Gilham and Ben Kattenhorn from Team HARD. I’ll be forever grateful to them for giving me this chance to race for such an exciting new team, and I know there’s only one way to pay them back. Results.

See you trackside.

David was the winner, he was just all round the complete package that we were looking for.


So after having a very successful karting career and dabbled at barc formula Renault what now?

I saw a advert in the Autosport for a VW scholarship caught my eye. This looked a promising scholarship with a new but successful team. I Paid my entry fee and entered the first round. At the first round the team Had a VW cup car and touring car there and thought to myself I wouldn’t mind driving on of those one day, who knew it would come true.
Succeeded in the first round , but looking around knowing some of the other drivers I knew it was not going to be easy, To win this would be life changing and had to give it my best shot.
Knowing I was fairly fit but not 100% called on a ex employee Leon who was now a fitness instructor and he agreed to help, After 6 weeks of hell, in the best shape ever off we go to round two.
It was a cold but dry day at Brands good conditions for testing. Sixty four in the first round down to thirty two in the afternoon. We then had the fitness test and I finish in the top ten.
Down to the last twenty and another run in the road car would decide the top ten.The top ten was then announced. My name out first, another 10 laps in a race car would decide the winner.
Could not remember when I was last as nervous, put on my race suit gloves and boots and then five laps in the race car.Pushed as hard as I could without making any mistakes ,it was if the car was set up for me,really enjoyed it.

Then five laps in the other car,this was left hand drive but after a lap did the same pushed hard trying not to make a mistake. Tony then thanked us all for our efforts and would announce the top three on Wednesday by telephone.

After a very nervous three days, I waited at work for the phone to ring.Tony called well done David you are in our top three. I told all friends and family but not my dad he was undergoing surgery but I left a message tell him when he wakes up.

I went Down to the factory on Saturday and took my Granddad with me We had a look round met some of the team we were very impressed with the set up.I was praying to win this prize , and then the time came for the presentation.

Third place John, my mouth went dry and I started to shake. The next thing tony called my name out I couldn’t believe it.

First thing I did is get on the phone to dad and then said a big thank you to Tony and his team. This is a life changing experience and I will work HARDER than ever to repay the trust they have placed in me.

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Tony Gilham

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