How many 17-year-olds do you know who spend Monday to Friday studying, and at the weekends go rallying? When he’s not studying at the Loughborough College Motorsport UK AASE Academy for young drivers, Bradley Sampson is out on track honing his craft in his green and black Mitsubishi Evo. One afternoon, Christopher Sharp caught up with the teenager to find out what’s what.
Let’s start off with the obvious, how did you get involved in motorsport?
I’ve always wanted to be involved in one way or another. Right from when I was a child, I was in the rallycross paddocks so I always felt it was a natural progression to move into doing it as soon as I physically could.
I always loved karting and whenever we were on holiday, it was always more and more go kart tracks, always begging for one more try! We were on holiday in France, and during one of our karting visits I was told I had the record for the month on the track were at. My grandad said, “Hey, you’re pretty good at this. Maybe we should get you in the real thing”. I’m pretty sure he’s regretted those words ever since!
How and why rallycross specifically?
I got involved within rallycross for two main reasons. Firstly, my Dad’s good friend is a British Rallycross Stock Hatch Champion so had a lot of links within the sport from the start. Secondly, we live no more than a fifteen-minute drive from the “Birthplace of Rallycross, Lydden Hill, which really mean it’s extremely cost effective in terms of testing.
Rallycross is also relatively cheap and very supportive series; the whole paddock looks out for each other. I remember one time a Saxo rolled and caught fire early one morning, and 4 or 5 rival teams worked none stop to get the car fixed and ready to compete in the finals.
Have you had to face any challenges as an LGBTQ+ person in the paddock?
So far, I haven’t had to face any challenge which a non-LGBTQ+ person wouldn’t have to face as well. Whether that’s because no one knows or not I wouldn’t be able to tell you! As it stands everyone who has found out has never had a bad word to say about it and life just goes on as normal. When one of the people I’ve raced against, and become good friends with, found out I was gay, it opened a conversation about how the person he’d bought his car off was also gay. It’s allowed me to realise it’s a lot more normal than you think.
When I recently started out in motorsport, I hadn’t really heard of any LGBTQ+ role models or much representation within the sport but that has changed since I have got more involved. I believe that it would be beneficial for LGBTQ+ people to have a clear role model within a major series that shows them that, just because you’re LGBTQ+, doesn’t mean you can’t race. Overall, I think there could be improvements to the state of representation.
What are your plans for the future in terms of progressing up the motorsport ladder?
For the foreseeable future my plans are to use my Mitsubishi Evo to build a British Rallycross Car which could be used within the BRC events. I love to build the cars from scratch and the mechanical side of how the cars work. I would much rather build a car than hire from a team. In the future when if I have enough recognition doing well in rallying, I would love to transition into circuit racing. GT cars are my ultimate goal but that’s a long way away. I do feel learning my craft within rallycross has helped me greatly with car control, the more sideways the better!
Even though you’re only seventeen, what advice would you give to someone in the LGBTQ+ community who wants to get into racing?
My advice to someone who is just starting within racing or is looking to get involved would be don’t be too hard on yourself. Car control is very hard to learn and will take a lot of trial and error so don’t just think you’re not fast enough. If you keep on pushing you will get faster, just don’t expect to not crash.