FILES FLYING HIGH
After initial success in the UK, Josh Files is now a man making waves in Europe.
Four titles in seven years. That’s the remarkable record of success Josh Files has to his name, despite a far from conventional career path so far.
An impressive first full year of racing in 2010 netted the Thoroughbred Sportscars Championship overall crown and helped Files to progress to the Renault UK Clio Cup – winning the series in his third year in 2013, which he backed up with the Clio Eurocup title in the same year.
The two years afterwards brought some Clio success, but were slightly more tumultuous.
“I did both [Clio UK and Eurocup series] in 2013 and I won both, which was great,” says Files, whose record is all the more impressive given he didn’t race karts. “But because the Eurocup didn’t finish until November, we didn’t make any decisions for 2014 and as a result we were too late to really put something together. I’d won two championships and then had nothing to do.
“I had another go at Clio Eurocup, but most of the others had new, more powerful cars and my engine was knackered – so I gave that up.
“For 2015 I was offered a free drive in Clio Italia so that was a bit of a no-brainer really. I had four DNFS through mechanical failures and because I was so far behind we decided I’d back up my team-mate. I won the last race of the season and in the end I only finished 20 points behind – it was just a case of what could have been.”
For all his head-turning on the continent, though, it was an ordinary showing (on the results front) at Macau last year that laid the path for Files’ most recent success. Driving an under-developed Campos Racing Opel Astra in the new-for-2015 TCR International Series, Files managed only a best finish of 13th, but that performance caught the eyes of the Target Competition squad.
“Everyone asks if it was a mistake,” says the 25-year-old of his initial trip to Macau. “It was to go in that car, in hindsight, but it was from there that I actually did the deal for 2016.
“I think they [Target] were impressed that I’d managed to get the Opel around there. They didn’t wait to get home, they found me straight away and asked what I was doing next year… I was invited to their Christmas party, we got chatting and then did a deal.”
The ‘deal’ in question was a drive in the regional TCR Germany series, which Files was more than happy to take on instead of tackling the International Series immediately given his lack of experience in “powerful touring cars”.
That decision proved a shrewd one. Starting the season with a double win, Files added three more to his tally – the last of which sealed the Norfolk racer the title with a race to spare. But even with a clean championship run, things weren’t as straightforward as they appeared.
“We were meant to drive Opels, but the Astra was just garbage,” he adds. “We made a decision quickly and said to Opel we couldn’t drive the car. Target hired back a SEAT from 2015 for Oschersleben [round one]. I just put my personal performance in and managed to win both races – given how badly we were on the back foot, that was quite an achievement.
“We hired a different SEAT for round two but I just didn’t get on with it. I don’t know why, there was just something about that car – it was unbalanced, we couldn’t ever corner weight it properly. We had massive, massive understeer on new front tyres and we just couldn’t work out how that was possible.
“After that, we had a bit of a break and Target said they’d buy cars for the next round. SEAT and Volkswagen couldn’t deliver, but Honda said they were ready. What luck that was, because it’s just a superb car. Straight out of the box, the first time I drove it I said it was going to win me the championship – and so it proved to be.”
Having found a base car to work with, the title rarely looked as though it would head any way apart from to Files. Come the season end, he was 53.5 points clear of his nearest rival, and celebrating a fourth crown.
What’s next? A second trip to Macau awaits this weekend, with Files taking his championshipwinning Civic and likely to be in much better shape than he was 12 months ago. Outright victory looks a long shot, with a six-car Chinese Touring Car Championship contingent expected to be faster on the streets of the Chinese Special Administrative Region, but Files heads to Macau with the ambition of mixing it at the front with the TCR International protagonists.
As for next year, Files made no secret of the fact that he wants to step up to the main series, but as yet there’s no deal in place – and he admits one may not be sorted for some months.
But however long one takes to sort, Files has proved he is up to
Files clinched TCR Germany crown in ’16