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PalmerSport's Bradley Philpot joins stars at Race of Champions

Tuesday, November 24 2015

PalmerSport instructor Bradley Philpot joined a host of stars from the racing world at last weekend's Race of Champions, performing admirably in front of a huge crowd at London's former Olympic Stadium.

Bradley won a place in the event following a public 'ROC Factor' vote and driving shoot-out on Thursday. He took part in several challenges in a range of cars, including a head-to-head knockout competition that included four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel, nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen, British racing celebrities Jenson Button and David Coulthard, plus Britain's newest F1 driver, Jolyon Palmer.

"It was an incredible opportunity and a potentially overwhelming experience, Bradley said. "But I was very keen to focus on doing the best job possible. Through my ten years at PalmerSport, I've had the opportunity to compare myself to celebrity drivers. We have F1 and other high-level drivers attend the day relatively often, so I've got a rough gauge of where I am. My experience was absolutely invaluable, particularly when it came to the skills challenge element, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the PalmerSport Caterham Pursuit event."

ROC2The Skills Challenge involved performing high-speed precision manoeuvres in an Ariel Atom sportscar. On Friday Bradley beat sporting celebrities including Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Ben Ainslie, as well as F1's Vettel, and the following day he defeated all of the F1 stars, which included Vettel, Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg.

Bradley admitted that his PalmerSport experience also helped in the main Race of Champions knockout event, where he raced several different vehicles. "With the changes in cars we have every so often, jumping into a set of different types of cars isn't daunting," he said. "There wasn't any point where I thought 'this could be tricky', it was just another car. Some of the PalmerSport cars are similar to those used in ROC. The Radical is similar to the Palmer Jaguar JP-LM, the Atom is the same, and the KTM X-Bow is somewhere between the two, so that really helps."

ROC3Despite focussing on his performance, Bradley managed to find time to savour competing in front of a huge crowd in the former Olympic stadium. "The atmosphere was brilliant," he said. "Entering the stadium through the 'player's entrance', where the cars arrived on the track, you're suddenly exposed to this huge crowd with the floodlights all lit, it's something I'll definitely remember forever."

Bradley made it into the final 16 after beating five-time Motorcycle Grand Prix champion Mick Doohan, but missed out on a place in the quarter finals to GT driver Alex Buncombe. Nevertheless, he was proud with his performance, especially against the F1 drivers in the Skills Challenge. "They're the people that those watching will compare you against," he said. "There wasn't a bad driver there, but if you can take some F1 scalps, then the general public tend to take more notice of that. As it happens, it turned out that drivers like Buncombe and [former World Rally Champion and Race of Champions winner] Petter Solberg, who aren't F1 drivers, were the harder people to beat in the races I was in."

ROC4The performance was all the more remarkable given that Bradley, who turns 30 on 20th December, has not raced regularly since 2007. "I've done sporadic one-off events," he said. "I raced as a works Peugeot driver in 2013 for three races at the Nürburgring [in Germany's VLN sports GT series]. That was once again a competition win, similar to the ROC Factor, but since then I haven't raced anything, apart from two rounds of VLN this year in a BMW, so hopefully off the back of this ROC success we might be able to put together a race package for 2016. My targets are racing a GT, whether that's British GT, Blancpain GT, VLN, or the 24 Hour Series. That's my aim and I'm just going to try and make it happen."

In the meantime, Bradley can expect greater recognition at the PalmerSport events that take place at nearby Bedford Autodrome. "I don't know whether celebrity's the right word, but I'm sure I'll have lots of people asking me about it and hopefully continued respect from my peers."

For more information about PalmerSport visit www.palmersport.com