Michael Macpherson (Interview & Main Photo – Hayden-Media, January 2015)
Rising Scottish star…
H-M. When did you start racing and what inspired you then?
MM. I got my first run in a kart when I was 10 years old and started racing that same year which was 2010 when my Dad bought a second hand Honda Cadet. I hadn’t thought about karting until I was given my first try in one, and so I can’t say anything had inspired me at the time. My Dad had raced single seaters when he was younger but had never tried to encourage me to get involved, and it was a friend of his who got me to try a kart.
H-M. Who or what inspires you now?
MM. Since I started racing karts I have become really interested in all forms of motorsport and especially in the history of motorsport. I read a lot of driver autobiographies and have just finished one on James Hunt, and I’m reading a book on the history of the Ecurie Ecosse race team just now. I have read two or three books on Ayrton Senna, and if anyone inspires me now then it has to be Senna. I love watching the Formula 1 cars from back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Jenson Button is another driver that really inspires me. I don’t like the way drivers these days can seem so boring when they’re interviewed, as if they’ve no personality. They never seem excited to be doing what they do and hardly ever smile. I like the way Jenson always looks like he’s going to say something jokey, and the way Daniel Ricciardo is always smiley and sounds like he’s having the best time of his life.
H-M. What achievements are you most proud of to date?
MM. My first three years racing was in Honda Cadets back home in the North of Scotland, but the grids had become really low so I was only racing against a handful of Cadets once or twice a month. When we managed to enter Super One in 2012 in Honda Cadet, it was a real shock to be out in grids of thirty karts on tracks that I’d never seen. So when I managed to qualify on pole at round 5 at Wigan as a rookie it was an achievement I was pleased with. But Wigan was also the last time we managed to race down south that year. I’ve won Championships and many trophies back home but my speed in testing and the experience I’ve gained whilst doing my first full year in Mini Max down south in 2014, is an even bigger achievement. We did all last year on the one chassis, engine, carb, coil and exhaust of our own, and I think with the long distance we have had to travel, that it’s a really big achievement both me and my Dad should both be proud of.
MM. My favourite kart track is Glan-y-Gors in Wales. I’ve been there twice in Honda and twice in a Mini Max. I like the fast flowing layout of the track and have usually gone really well there except in last years Super One round. I’d been testing there just before Super One and it had gone really well, and my team (Tooley Motorsport) and I were really looking forward to Super One there, and thought we were on for a good result. Friday testing went well again but in qualifying my transponder only logged my out lap, and I was on the back of the grid for the heats. Unfortunately things just went from bad to worse that weekend, but its still my favourite track. My favourite car race track is Spa, in Belgium because it looks like a very fast flowing track.
H-M. Favourite car?
MM. My favourite road car would be the McLaren GT P1. I’ve seen it close up and it’s a fantastic machine.
H-M. Whats the best advice you’ve been given about being a racing driver?
MM. Try to work just as hard out of the car or kart as in it. I used to get frustrated about the amount of karting a lot of the drivers I race against get to do compared to me, but the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet that are now encouraging me into single seaters in a couple of years time, are always pointing out that the driving is only part of the racing driver package, and the way I am out of the kart impresses them. I might not get as much time driving as I would like, but I work really hard on things in my control out of the kart. I do a lot of fitness and strength work and I’m quite careful about what I eat and drink. I recently went to an MSA Masterclass and that gave me a lot of advice and ideas.
H-M. How do you prepare for a race weekend?
MM. To be honest I like the days leading up to a race weekend. I get my race kit organised and packed up early. I have to take Thursday off school for travelling to a race weekend because of the distance we have to travel, so I try to get all my schoolwork up to date and any work I will miss being away from school. Sometimes I will do my work on the long journeys to the tracks. If it’s a track I’ve not been to, then I will find out as much about it as I can before I go there.
MM. I do a lot of running in evenings after school and on weekend mornings. It’s been too dark lately after school to go running where we live, so I made up a circuit training plan and I do a 40 minute session in an outbuilding we have on the nights I can’t get a run in.
H-M. Have you ever been on a simulator?
MM. No, I haven’t had a chance to go on a simulator yet, but would love the chance to try one out. My friend Sandy Mitchell goes on the Red Bull one regularly as part of Arden, and he said it’s brilliant.
H-M. Tell us about your first win?
MM. My first win was in April 2011 in Honda Cadet at my local track in Golspie, up in the North of Scotland. The following year I went on to win every heat and final that year to win the North of Scotland Kart Club Championship.
H-M. Do you have any dietary plans which you feel may aid/help your fitness?
MM. I don’t have a specific diet plan, but I am quite careful about what I eat. I enjoy healthy foods and avoid fast foods, burgers, etc… and I don’t take fizzy drinks, especially energy drinks. I don’t think I need to be on too strict a diet at my age.
MM. The hardest part for us isn’t really the racing, it’s the travelling. Even Larkhall is over 3 hours travelling for us, Rowrah is 6 hours, with PFI 9 hours away, and a track like Whilton is a 12 hour journey with stops. It means travelling on a Thursday if there is Friday testing. We normally get home between midnight and 2.00am in the morning, and from Whilton it was 5.00am in the morning. I’ve never missed school on a Monday morning although I’m very tired on a Monday. The crazy thing last year was that the furthest away races we did were at Buckmore Park in Kent, but they were the weekends I was home earliest as we managed to get cheap flights from Inverness, and I was actually home at 10.30pm on the Sunday nights. The travelling is another big reason we don’t manage as many race weekends.
H-M. Do you have a favourite racing memory?
MM. I have lots of great memories since I started racing. One of my best memories was when I stayed with Drew Tooley for a week and prepped karts, stayed with my mate Josh Skelton, and then went to Alton Towers before going for my first visit to Shenington. It was a really chilled out week and a lot of fun. I liked Shenington and was quickest in testing. The racing went really well for me that weekend too. I’ve also got loads of great memories of driving all over the UK with my Dad in our van. It is tough but it’s also been a lot of fun.
H-M. What would you say were your happiest times in karting so far?
MM. The second half of last year in my first full year racing down south. The first part of the year was quite tough as I didn’t know most of the tracks or drivers . My pace was there from the beginning, even the first session out on new tracks like Buckmore, but my lack of racing experience made it tough. But the second half of the year was much happier times for me. I’d gained a lot more experience and had got to know a lot of the drivers. We also travelled to a lot of the races last year with our friends Steve and Sandy Mitchell, which was a lot of fun and made the journeys go by a lot quicker. I’ve known Sandy since I started karting back up in Golspie, and so we had a good laugh together on the journeys. The three Buckmore weekends flying up and down with Sandy and Steve was great fun.
H-M. Did you have any bad moments in karting?
MM. I had a big crash at PFI at the beginning of last year and ended up having to go to A&E in Lincoln, where they found I had a fracture to my ankle. The hospital didn’t plaster it but said I’d be on crutches for a couple of weeks, but I stopped using them after a couple of days and was determined to get fit again as quick as I could. Four weeks later I was back out at PFI in a new kart, as the one I crashed was wrecked. I still have a burn mark on my ankle which looks like it will always be there as a reminder.
MM. All the drivers I have competed against in Super One are quick, and I respect them, but I’m not any more impressed with one driver over another. In cars I like what Scottish driver Ciaran Haggerty has done since coming out of karts and into Formula Ford. Graham Brunton, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Dalziel have worked hard to give Ciaran a great chance, and he has paid them back with great results in Scotland and down south. It’s the route I want to take and that’s where my focus is. I’ve met Dario two or three times at Knockhill and at the SMRC Awards Night, and he is just the coolest and nicest guy to meet.
H-M. What changes have you noticed in karting since you started competing?
MM. For me the biggest changes have been coming from a grids of sometimes three or four Cadets in the North of Scotland to competing in much bigger grids in Super One. In karting itself it seems to get more and more professional each year with the Teams in the paddock, the way the karts are turned out and also the drivers themselves. My parents just say it’s getting more and more expensive!
H-M. Where next and what are your ambitions?
MM. I want to go into single seaters when I’m old enough and that would be in Scottish Formula Ford 1600. It’s really taking off again in Scotland thanks to people like Graham Brunton, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Dalziel and others. I think a lot of drivers will move from karts into it in the next few years. Graham and Hugh McCaig of Ecurie Ecosse have been really encouraging, and they have been advising me a lot, so I’m really focused on getting into single seaters. So for the next couple of years its just trying to keep racing in karts and at a national level. I don’t think Super One is probably something we can afford to do in 2015, but we hope to do as many club races as we can. We all want to drive in Formula 1, but realistically my ambition is to make my living driving as a professional racing driver at the highest level I can achieve.