We caught up with Tom Rawlings to see how he managed his unusual sophomore MINI Challenge season in 2020; featuring a late start, fewer rounds with longer races, and extra pressure both on and off the track due to the unique circumstances of a global pandemic.
Photo: Jakob Ebrey
After developing steadily and showing strong pace in his 2019 rookie season, 130R Performance supported athlete Tom Rawlings had some specific goals at the start of 2020 to be a regular front runner and progress to the top step of the podium. Though the season was significantly delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tom didn't let this affect his performance plan either on or off track; achieving one overall win, three overall podiums, and three class wins in the Graduate Cup. Consistency was more important than ever in the shortened first season of MINI Challenge on the TOCA support package, as it seemed to result in everyone stepping their game up, an incredibly close grid and some fantastic racing! We caught up with Tom at the end of the season to find out three key areas that aided his improvement going into his second year in the series.
Did you have to change your approach to race weekends this season, knowing that you would only have five rounds?
The week before the race I always tried to manage my workload so I didn’t go into the weekend feeling tired. Also with only five rounds, I tried to get in a lot more sim work, and always watched my races from last year for the track we were going to be racing at. Generally I just focused a little more on preparing myself with more understanding of the car set up going in to the weekend, knowing that it was going to be very close with both the drivers that raced last year and the new seasoned drivers that had joined the series i.e Max Coates etc.
The JCW grid has been incredibly close this year. What's been the secret to consistently running at the front end of the pack?
I tried to get every last bit of speed out of the car (and myself) in every session. This meant spending a lot more time going through track side data with the team, and trying to find even small improvements. I also sometimes had to be a bit more aggressive and get my elbows out during the races! I definitely felt more mentally prepared this year, with a lot more self confidence having a better understanding of the car after a full season in 2019.
Did the mid season switch from three 20 minute races to two 25 minutes require any difference in how you approached the weekend?
To be honest nothing really changed in terms of preparation going into the weekend, but with regards to the tyres yes that extra five minutes of racing really took its toll on them. You definitely have to plan ahead and think about trying to preserve them to make sure they had something left ready for the last few laps of the race. My fitness levels are quite good and I didn’t suffer any fatigue issues all year which is great news and proves to me that what I am doing in my training is working. I try to do at least three sessions of cardio a week and two strength-based sessions, which seems to work really well for me at the moment.
Photo: Jakob Ebrey