Simon Arron talks to a driver with feet on the ground, mind on the podium
The distinction is subtle. Nick Tandy’s recent GT conquest in the Daytona 24 Hours was his first in a factory Porsche, but not his first as a works-contracted driver. Brits had a serious tilt at victory in each of the four classes, but in the end Tandy – sharing with Austrian Richard Lietz and Frenchman Patrick Pilet – was the only one to strike gold. It was his second major coup in a matter of months, following his success in the 2013 Petit Le Mans.
Porsche recruited Tandy at the start of last year, after he’d enjoyed a fruitful few seasons in 911s. He won on his UK Carrera Cup debut, at Silverstone in 2009, finished second the following year in both the German Carrera Cup and the Formula 1-supporting Supercup, then lifted the German title in 2011.
“When I joined the factory roster,” he says, “I looked at the other drivers’ CVs and saw long lists of wins at Sebring, Le Mans, Daytona and elsewhere. I thought, ‘Wow, it would be amazing if I could win a couple of those and have a good career with Porsche’, but I’ve already notched up two significant victories. That breeds confidence throughout the team and hopefully it will have a snowball effect.”
Tandy began his career by following elder brother Joe into Ministox and then Mini Sevens. In 2005 he won the BRDC Single-Seater Championship – a novice initiative – and then competed with distinction for two years in Formula Ford. He won the 2006 FF Festival on the road, driving a Ray run by his brother’s recently established Joe Tandy Racing, but lost first place following a safety car misdemeanour. He made amends in 2007… ironically after rival Callum MacLeod was penalised.
After a brief and productive flirtation with the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series, he graduated to F3 with JTR in 2008 and established himself as a front-runner, although his first victory didn’t come until the summer of 2009, at Rockingham. The timing could hardly have been more exquisite, for reasons that were all too painful: Joe had died in a road accident little more than a fortnight beforehand (although his team continues successfully to this day).
It wasn’t long afterwards that Nick first sampled a racing Porsche – and a fresh career path loomed.
“I’m contracted to drive GTs,” he says, “and right now I absolutely love my racing. I enjoy competing in the States [he’s doing the full Tudor United SportsCar Championship with Porsche-contracted Core Autosport] and relish being part of a factory team. I fancy doing this for quite a few more years – and winning a lot.
“I love the fact US circuits are different – and change is always good. I’ve previously raced on only four of the 11 we’ll use this year and they all seem a bit old-school – more like Oulton Park than Bahrain, which suits me. There’s a real fun factor about racing in America, too. It has a very different atmosphere.”
Did he ever imagine he might one day forge a career away from the single-seater maelstrom?
“Absolutely not,” he says, “and that’s probably the same for 99 per cent of all young, F1-minded racers – as I know from running youngsters in our family team. You gain experience as you grow, though, broaden your horizons and eventually work out that sports car racing is the best option. You get to take part in the finest races, you can earn a living if you make the right moves along the way and it’s a most enjoyable racing environment, which for me is the best thing about it.
“I look at F1 and wonder how life must be for the drivers. It’s a bit like being a professional footballer, isn’t it? Real-world living is kind of over. If I were in F1, I doubt I’d be able to nip into my local bar…”
Career in brief
Born: 5/11/1984, Bedford, England
2001-04: Mini Sevens
2005: BRDC Single-Seaters
2006-07: Formula Ford
2007: Palmer Audi
2008-09: British F3
2010-12: Porsche & GT racing
2013-date: works Porsche driver