Interview by Peter Burns – Asia Motorsport Development
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, where did you come from and why did you choose TOC?
I was born in in the UK in Hayes, West London. I lived there for 10 years and my Dad ran a workshop for panel beating, bodywork and spraying cars. When I was 10 years old I moved to Kenya and my Dad opened up another workshop doing the same thing with cars that he did in the UK. He also had his own private rally team and for two years he ran a Subaru S10. That was probably the first time I became interested in motorsport, with my Dad being the driver and seeing the commotion on the race weekend. Even though I wasn’t really part of it, you could feel the adrenalin and atmosphere and I told myself that one day that’s what I want to do.
So how did you end up in Malaysia?
I had finished my High School in Kenya and I was looking to apply to a college. My first choice was London, but my Dad knew a motorsport photographer in Malaysia and he asked him about colleges here, so we did our research and found out about TOC. The one thing I really liked about TOC, which was different from the London colleges, was that it was 70% practical and 30% theory. For me I have never been to much of a books person. I know it is very important, but I have always been more interested in the practical side of things and that was what caught my attention and made me make my choice to come to TOC and to Malaysia.
What course are you on and why did you choose it?
I’m studying for a Diploma in Motorsport Technology. I chose it because I wanted to be in the motorsport field. I wanted to get exposure into motorsport, to see what it was like, because I had been watching motor racing from a very young age and I wanted to be specialise more in motorsport than just ordinary cars.
Can you remember when you started to become interested in motorsport?
I think it was roughly during my Dad’s period in motorsport when he was doing rallying. I liked watching Formula One and the World Rally Championship as a kid, but to actually see it with your own eyes in person made me really really full in love with it. In Formula One my favourite driver was Michael Schumacher, I used to collect all his caps and all the flags and I used to love watching him in Formula One.
The great thing about Michael Schumacher was not just his natural ability. They say Mika Hakkinen had probably more natural ability, and Mika was the only one he feared, but what Schumacher did have was a very strong work ethic.
Why did you volunteer for the Caterham motorsport experience, which was nearly three years ago?
This opportunity came up in TOC and to be honest when Caterham first came to TOC I was just a first year student. It wasn’t really meant for first year’s, but I still went for the briefing to find out how everything was done. After that I begged and I begged and I begged to please put me in. I was determined to prove myself and show what I can do it. Thankfully they finally agreed and I was only the first year student to join the crew with Caterham, everyone else being second years with more experience than me.
Joining Caterham has taught me a lot, not just about motorsport, but also in daily life. Important things such as discipline, keeping yourself neat and tidy, doing your work properly, attention to detail and always try to be a perfectionist. It has taught me a lot.
How do you think that this experience will benefit you in the future?
It definitely will help better me because I have direct experience in the motorsport field. I have seen how everything works on a race weekend and I have gained so much experience from it, so hopefully in the future if I’m to join a racing team I will be very well prepared. I now have that perfectionist mindset of how to do things, thanks to you! It really has given me an upper hand and will really help to put me ahead of the rest.
To turn it around the other way, how has the education you received from TOC helped you on race weekends?
TOC teaches you a lot as well. You learn about the daily routine and discipline. Another thing was TOC taught me how to use a dyno, which we use for the Caterham cars. When the Caterham cars came to the college I knew straight away what to do because our college provides that education. I knew how to use the dyno to tune the cars, to see their horsepower and to see their torque. TOC also teaches you to clean up after your work. That’s one thing I brought into Caterham. To always keep your work neat and tidy, keep yourself clean, keep your work area clean and always put your tools back when you have finished with them so that they don’t get jumbled up. During a race weekend in the action, things can fly around here and there, so when you need do something it has often to be done within seconds, so you need to know where everything is. You need to be organised and TOC has taught me this.
Yes, a cluttered workspace usually means a cluttered mind!
What is the next step on your career path after you leave TOC?
My internship will start soon and hopefully I will be able to work with a Malaysian race team. In that time period I am looking to see what the scope is to be able to work with a race team and gain a lot of experience from it.
What are your career aspirations, where would you like to be in 10 or 20 years time?
In the next 10 years I would like to be with a motorsport team working with race cars. I want to gain as much experience as I can and then maybe after 10 years I could be able to run or own my own race team!
Thank you Suhaib, great talking to you and good luck with your future career in motorsport.