Why did you choose TOC?
I love cars! Originally I went to Heroit-Watt University to study Mechanical Engineering. However, after the foundation I just found it a little to difficult to continue and I then found a great alternative choice in TOC. My passion for cars actually came from playing the ‘Need for Speed’ and ‘Gran Turismo’ a lot. In Gran Turismo there is a part in the system where you can tune the car, change the gear ratios and the engine performance. This was where I really found my liking for this. The reason I chose TOC was because they had a reputable certificate and it could carry me on further in my studies, as I am aiming to not only get a diploma but also a degree as well.
Which course are you on and why did you chose it?
Currently I’m studying Motorsport Technology. Why did I choose it? Well because I didn’t just want to learn about servicing cars, I wanted to be more advanced. I want to tune cars and make them go faster.
Why did you volunteer for the Caterham motorsport experience?
I had never actually been to Sepang until the first day that I joined Caterham. It was one of those sort of experiences that come to you, a chance for you to experience something different. I am a chance taker. When I see a chance that comes to me I take it, because I missed out on so many chances in my life that I have regretted many times over and over again, and because of this I have changed my attitude to life. Every time I see a chance that I think is worth it, I will take it. When I was younger I was very afraid to do things alone because I didn’t have that self confidence in me.
How did you find the Caterham experience? Was it what you expected?
It really gave me the experience of being in a race team and the co-operation of working with everybody, which is something that you don’t often see a lot in workshops.
What lessons have you learnt from the experience and being at the track?
It’s all about being on time. It’s all about teamwork. The level of performance that you need and get is very, very high. There is so much demand to be on time, so much perfection and so much communication between each other.
At the most recent Caterham race meeting you were thrown in at the deep end because you were one the few who had race experience, as we had a lot of guys who were there for the first time. Did that put extra pressure on you and how did you respond to that?
Yes, the last time I was set up as a leader and that gave me a lot of extra pressure. I am not normally the leader type of guy. I usually follow and so putting me as a leader was a very weird place for me to be. It is something I don’t normally do and it is very much out of my comfort zone, but it was something that I needed to learn.
The leadership role is an experience which everyone needs to experience. You need to learn to understand what needs to be done. If you are the leader but don’t know how to do it, then things will fall apart. The whole team can fall apart and everybody wants to scream at each other, and that is really not good. I was on the verge of that on that day, but my Mum always told me, what is the point at screaming at one and another? If you need to get something done, get it done, there is no point in screaming. Even if everyone is frustrated, you need to try and keep everybody cool. Keep everybody in the zone that is workable and comfortable for everyone. If someone is really not comfortable in doing something, then maybe if you can switch that person around to a role that they are more comfortable and efficient with, then do it. I kept all of those things in mind at the same time. Okay this guy can’t do this, but maybe this other guy can then do that! Also if there is not enough people available at one time, then I could go round helping and put someone in my place for the moment!
You hit the nail on the head. It is going out of your comfort zone, but I have to say you did very well and rose to the occasion. So what specifically have you enjoyed about being involved in the motorsport experience and how has that benefited what you are doing at college now?
Thank you very much for the compliment. In terms of motorsport it actually has given me the idea of what a race team feels when we have to take care of the car and the drivers. We have to get it ready before the drivers come and before the track opens. It may be a rush feeling, but it is that feeling of pressure in having to meet deadlines. You have to learn to work under that pressure. It’s not that I enjoy working under pressure. What I’m saying is that it helps the body and mind to learn that you don’t have to be so stressed out when you are doing this. This was a very important thing to learn and I am grateful that this has taught me to control that.
The other thing that I enjoyed is that Caterham has taught me is that even though there are deadlines, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get it done earlier. There is always time for something in between and even if something happens at the last minute, you can get it done fast enough as you have had the experience of pressure.
To turn it around the other way, how has the education you received from TOC helped you on the motorsport side?
The most important thing is planning. For example, you can’t just put a turbo on a car just to make it go faster. Everything has to be planned out first to balance what this increased performance will mean in relation to other aspects of the car. In racing a lot of how the car has to be set up for a race is governed by the rules and regulations. You can’t do just what you like. The emphasis is to plan before you do anything. Even if that means you have to plan a month or a year ahead, do it. If it has to be done, then it has to be done the right way.
What are your career aspirations and where do see yourself being in 10 to 20 years time? You are starting off on the journey of life, where is your destination?
It would be nice to work with Caterham which would be a great place to start! I see myself starting as a mechanic or technician and then working my way up into the racing world. Hopefully one day I would like to open up a workshop on my own for modifications and tuning.
What is the next step on your career path once you have finished at TOC?
Once I have finished at TOC it will be to get my degree. There are two places currently that TOC offers which I am eligible for with my diploma. One is in Korea and the other one is in New Zealand. Korea does require you to have some amount of foreign language with you for your studies, however my Chinese is not so good. In New Zealand they offer a three year course, but because the TOC subjects are quite similar to their first year subjects I am exempted from the first year. I would prefer to go to New Zealand although the cost is a little bit high, but not as high as going to Australia or the UK or the US. There is a good motorsport scene there and it could be the place to be.
Thank you Justin and good luck with your future career.