Derby-based 22GT Racing was born out of a passion for racing Aston Martins. We talk to the men behind it
We visit 22GT Racing at its Derby base and in its second home: the pitlane
THE NAME SAYS IT ALL. Well, almost. It was an unusually strong passion for racing historic and modern Aston Martins that led to the creation of 22GT Racing in 2006. But the story starts a long time before that. Back in the 1970s, a young Tom Alexander was racing karts with conspicuous success – indeed, he was a member of the British kart team and a contemporary of Terry Fullerton. Terry who? Those of you who saw the Senna movie may recall that Fullerton was the adversary that Ayrton Senna most respected in his entire career. As with so many drivers, it was karting that set Tom on the racing path. And it’s relevant to this story because it’s his original race number, 22, that lives on through the business.
After giving up racing professionally at 21, success in the world of telecoms gave Tom the opportunity to indulge his passion for Aston Martins, and in the 1990s he enjoyed much success racing DB4S and DB4 GTS, among others. He became particularly well-known for racing an historic, ex-us, white DB4 GT – a car he still owns and races today. But then he had a craving to try something a bit more upto-date. ‘By 2005 I had a hankering for some modern racing,’ he recalls. ‘I heard a rumour that Aston Martin were entering GT racing with a new car, and after speaking with David Richards I committed to buy the first DBRS9.’ That car was featured in Vantage issue 15.
‘I raced it with Tiff Needell in 2006, which was great fun,’ continues Tom. ‘And, on the back of that, 22GT was formed in March 2006 to enable the racing efforts to be self-sufficient, at that time helped by sponsorship.’
Leading the business from day one has been Nathan Harrison, who apprenticed at the highly respected Aston Engineering in Derby. ‘I got to know Tom well when I was at Aston Engineering and we just clicked,’ says Nathan. So when Tom proposed setting up a business, Nathan jumped at the opportunity. ‘I’d started as an apprentice in 1997,’ he says, ‘so by this time I was ready for the challenge.’ And he’s been the cornerstone of the business and de facto team manager at all the events they’ve attended ever since.
In the early days, 22GT pooled efforts with Barwell Motorsport to field a team in the European GT3 Championship. Such are the complexities of running modern racing cars at top-flight events that the two Aston race teams, though competing on the track, were also helping each other behind the scenes. ‘The arrangement worked very well and other teams co-opted 22GT to help them run their cars subsequently,’ says Nathan.
In 2007 the team raced in the British GT Championship and increasingly the car was driven by sponsored customer drivers as the GT3 category burgeoned. Meanwhile, the logistical demands of running cars at European events made it an easy decision to expand the business to support other racers and give the business more ‘critical mass’. Today the operation has three full-time employees and 12 part-time – a common business model these days.
Racing and supporting modern Astons continued until 2009 but the global credit crunch caused sponsorship to contract very rapidly, and with it much of motorsport at that time. The silver lining was that it led 22GT to focus more on classic racing, with the preparation and support of cars at such events as the Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival and many more. As a result, 22GT now has vast experience of preparing and running classic as well as modern racing Aston Martins at events. While most Aston Martin businesses drift into racing from a repair and restoration core business, 22GT is unusual in having done the exact opposite. This is perhaps not surprising, given the huge surge in events over the past 15 years where Aston Martins can compete, and it applies to modern as well as historic cars. With the shadow of the economic downturn receding, the team has been running GT4 Astons again, since 2014 for the fatherand-son pairing of Chris and Mika Brown and in 2015 for British GT contenders Jon Barnes and Mark Farmer.
‘With many events being over many days. there is a considerable investment in car preparation and the time required of competitors,’ says Nathan. ‘The drivers and owners need support and some peace of mind so that they can feel confident that they can finish an event with the
‘WHEN A CAR IS TAKEN TO AN EVENT, IT IS 100 PER CENT READY’
Above and right Workshop facilities include a four-post ramp. Race prep and support is 22GT’S core business, but it also offers detailing and accident repair. Tom Alexander (above right) set it up in 2006 with Nathan Harrison (right)