Cheshire's on pole with motor racer Andy Meryck (with audio)
The county's drivers are at the vanguard of a new generation of motor racers, as Paul Mackenzie reports
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Britain is enjoying a golden era of motor racing with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button dominating the podium at grand prix but they had better check their mirrors because the next generation of Formula One champions are closing in.
Andy Meyrick is leading the pack just five years after he first climbed into a racing car. The 24-year-old competed in last month’s Le Mans 24 hour race and is also driving in a series of endurance races in America.But although he grew up just a mile or so from Oulton Park, his turbo-charged career is a far cry from his experience of track racing.
Andy, a former pupil at Chester’s King’s School and Helsby High, said: ‘I was about five and took part in a bike race around the circuit,’ he said. ‘I can’t remember if I won. Probably not.’
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Fortunately he has a better record behind the wheel, having raced through the ranks to be considered one of the sport’s hottest prospects.‘I started racing when I was 19. That’s quite late in motor racing terms, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and most other Formula One drivers started when they were young children.
‘I had a track day at Oulton Park for my 19th birthday and I loved it. I’d just finished school and I pleaded with my dad to let me race. He’d raced before I was born and he said it’s expensive but we did a deal - if I bought the car he would help support me in the first season.’
Dad Peter drove in the Formula Ford 2000 championship in the late 70s and early 80s, hanging up his driving gloves in 1985, the year Andy was born.
Wages saved from a job in a CCTV factory bought Andy his first car and he took his place on the grid for the North West Formula Ford Championships. His main aim was to enjoy himself but Andy finished the first race in second place and won the championship in his first year. A couple of seasons later he made his Formula Three debut - following the usual route of the big name drivers in Formula One.
‘I raced in 12 of the 22 races, won seven and had nine pole positions and was leading the championship by a long way but then I was struck down with a virus and was taken quite ill. I was sidelined for four months and couldn’t finish the season. That was very tough to take.’
Andy has since made the switch to sports cars but added: ‘Formula One is still a strong possibility. I would love to have a crack at it.
‘I grew up watching the battles between Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill and I was always on Schumacher’s side - he’s the ultimate professional and the ultimate driver.’