Cars and golf
Racing cars was a huge passion. But through this time, I was playing golf at a pretty high standard, Junior Pennants at Cronulla Golf Club, and was kind of juggling both at the same time.
I wouldn’t say I was on course for a professional career in golf, but I loved the sport and thought about getting into coaching.
It’s only later on that I started to realise there are plenty of similarities between golf and motor racing – despite them appearing to be so different – which might have explained why I enjoyed the two so much then and still do.
Both sports are equipment intensive – you’ve got to know what you’re using if you want to get the best out of yourself. They both require precision, patience and plenty of practice. And, they’re both you, out there at the mercy of the elements. The conditions, on a golf course or a race track, are the same for everybody at any particular time.
Given those similarities, it’s no surprise to me that there are plenty of top drivers who are very good golfers. Some, such as Alain Prost, Damon Hill and Eddie Jordan were, or are, professionals and are heavily involved in the sport.
For me, however, there eventually came a time when – largely because of finances – I had to call a temporary stop to my golfing forays, which sadly included parting ways with my most-prized golfing possession.
That time came when I ended up in Europe, genuinely chasing my motor racing dream. After Dad and I played around in club racing for about three years, my parents wanted me to go to university before I continued on, which I did. But the day after I finished uni, I jumped on a plane to the UK to do an International Racing Drivers School course at Donnington Park.
It was a week of basically learning about everything to do with motor racing. It was an amazing experience with about 30 top young drivers from around the world. At the end of the week, we did a race – and I won that race by a lap and a half.
The general manager of the facility said he’d never seen that happen before and asked me if I could hang around. They ended up subsidising me to stay for their world scholarship competition, which started 12 months later. And I won that. That cemented my career choice.
We’d take the chains off the bike and bake them in the oven in this special oil that was supposed to get into all parts of the chain. It stank the entire house out.
The sad part of that decision was that, to fund racing in Europe over those next five years, I had to sell everything I had – including my Ping Eye2 beryllium iron golf clubs! They were my pride and joy, so it was a big decision. From that point, there was no turning back.
After those wonderful five years in Europe, I came back to Australia and won the Formula 3 Championship, which is like driving a smaller version of a Formula 1 car. From there I won a Formula 3000 Championship in Australia, which is a step closer to F1.
I then moved to Europe again to drive for one of the Menardi Junior F1 teams before coming back to Australia to spend six years racing for Lamborghini, including in that crazy Bathurst 24-Hour. After that, I joined Mercedes Benz, who I’ve been working with since 2010.
From dirt bikes to go-karts, over to Donnington and through the ranks, it’s been a fast and sometimes bumpy ride in a sport that offers up all sorts of challenges. It’s one of the best things about motor racing – you never know where it will take you or what obstacles you’ll face.