May 26, 2022

An up and coming racer making a name for himself in the world of GT racing, Tom Wood is a wise head on young shoulders. Realistic, pragmatic and wholly ambitious, Tom has risen the ranks to international GT competition all at the age of just 20 years old and continues to level up each year.

Hailing from just a stone throw’s away from Donington Park, motorsport has been a constant in Tom’s life ever since he was three years old.

“I’ve always just been into cars and anything with wheels,” Tom revealed. “My way into motorsport was by chance really. My next door neighbour invited us along to this electric karting event when I was three years old at a local leisure centre. I remember it was called Karts for Kids!

“I came third in my first little session and I really enjoyed it. Before that I was always scared of motorised vehicles, like the ridealong toys my neighbours used to have, but after that I was obsessed. I kept going to those every month and eventually kept winning and had to move out of that and into something proper when I was six years old. My dad then bought me a petrol go-kart for my sixth birthday and I used to drive it round industrial estates around me and on my driveway.

“The electric karts were the only thing small enough for a three year old to drive. I remember doing it and just absolutely loving it. I was fortunate enough to get into it really young and obviously to be winning from a really young age has really helped me now to keep the work and the motivation up to keep it going.”

From karting, Tom followed in the steps of many of Britain’s brightest racing talents and moved into the Ginetta Junior Championship – scoring two podiums in his first season.

Since then, Tom has raced in the prestigious British GT championship before embarking on an international campaign in the GT4 European Series – racing a Walero branded Aston Martin Vantage as he raced alongside our Founder and CEO Fiona James in 2019. Together, Tom & Fiona claimed an excellent podium on home soil as they finished in third place at Brands Hatch.

Tom has been a recognisable face in European paddocks ever since and has this year taken on a new challenge in ADAC GT4 Germany, touring some of the countries best circuits with Racing One.

However, 2022 also marked a big moment for Tom and his career as he was offered, and signed, his first professional racing contract – joining Derby University’s fledgling Team Derby Motorsport outfit as they make their competitive debut in the Radical SR1 Cup. Signing his first professional contract is a milestone he won’t forget.

“First of all I appreciate every weekend that I race a car,” Tom said. “I took a little bit of a sabbatical last year just to refocus and re-evaluate. It’s always been my job to try and win every race I do and to be employed to do that is one of my dreams come true.

“The goal always remains the same and the job always remains the same whatever you’re in really. As much as anything I’m really grateful for the opportunity to do it.”

Team Derby Motorsport was created to give inspired new engineering talent the opportunity to grow and develop their skills in the world of racing as the team’s Technical Adviser, Joe Wilson, explains.

“The University is much the same as any other in that it has goals and a framework in which they use to achieve those goals. Our framework is dictated by providing a dynamic environment in which we can provide theory-based learning with physical application as well.

“Motorsport is a perfect example of that,” Joe, a Performance Engineer at Excelr8 Motorsport, adds. “We teach the students all about chassis setup, powertrain and we teach them car preparation skills. Basically we’re generating the next generation of engineers. Not many other institutes offer the opportunity for them to ply their trade before going out into the real world.”

Image: Team Derby Motorsport

Combining both elements of theory and hands-on experience, Joe believes the skills taught at the university will ultimately set its graduates apart and lead them onto higher success in motorsport.

“As many people know your degree certification will get you an interview,” Joe said. “But it’s your experiences that will set you aside and set you above the rest. We’re trying to put into place and develop a programme over the coming years to provide students with the best opportunity to have a go with the very latest technology and be at the forefront of engineering. That means they can then go on to the blue chip companies and be confident in their own abilities so ultimately it’s about improving the student experience and giving them a reason to come to the university compared to another.”

Part of our ethos here at Walero is to change the game wherever possible, just like Derby University are. That’s why we were delighted to get involved with Tom and Team Derby Motorsport’s plans in 2022.

An element of their journey has been to develop a true team atmosphere – one of achievement and collaboration that brings out the very best in its members.

“Tom has massively helped in the fact that, not only is he a good driver, he’s a very good engineer.” Joe explained.

“It’s very rare that a driver is so switched on engineering-wise so it really helps the students to understand and it makes it easier for them to solve problems as well. That’s why we offered Tom the role – he’d done some previous work for us on some simulators and we just knew from there he would click with the students.

“Everyone is very close in age and they appreciate that Tom has achieved what he dreamt of and they’re in the process of achieving their dreams so it’s all very relatable and there was a really good energy between everyone when we first got together.”

With all of his experience in motorsport, you would be forgiven for forgetting that Tom is only 20 years old. When asked how someone of such a young age is able to handle the demands and pressures of being a professional driver, Tom delivers a measured and succinct response – typifying why he’s achieved so much already.

“It sounds so cliche and maybe a little bit simple but just trusting and focusing on the process at hand and the job at hand – that’s the most important thing.” Tom reveals.

“As long as you’ve got a team around you and you all have the same goal and the same aim – winning each race – then you don’t really have to worry about it but the actual process behind it is what I tend to focus on more than anything.

“It stops you having a wide range of thoughts going into a race – it focuses your mind totally on the job at hand and with that comes results ultimately. I take each weekend as it comes and just focus on being fastest and winning each race I do. That’s pretty much it.”

When asked their ultimate goal, winning often tops the list for most teams and drivers – with Tom and Team Derby Motorsport being no exception.

A natural goal for a racing driver is to become world champion – a goal that drives many of the best. For Tom, that goal takes on even greater importance after an opportunity to win the IAME Junior X30 karting world championship slipped away through no fault of his own. Since then, Tom has been more determined than ever to achieve his dream.

“As the driver, the short term goal for every weekend, as I said previously, is to win and to be at the front.” Tom explained. “Thinking bigger, being world champion means everything to me. I was almost a world champion in karting but not quite and I still think about that weekly – that I missed out on that. So in my future career as a racing driver, being world champion is massive and it’s my main goal in the long term.”

“Obviously as a university we always want to provide students with opportunities,” Joe added. “We are doing that but the opportunities hit home a hell of a lot more if you’re winning.

“It’s awfully unmotivating if you’re at the back and just tootling around. You also get less out of it as well so it’s beneficial to have someone at the sharp end of the grip as you’re really at the limit of the car’s performance and you can really dial in on where the areas of improvement are and where the car’s weak in terms of set up and you can improve in that respect.

“We don’t want to stay in Radicals, we’ve got big ambitions. We don’t just encourage our students to think big, we encourage our staff to as well. Sometimes a little too big and we have to rain check ourselves but hopefully long-term we can continue to move up through motorsport step by step.”

Reflecting on his experiences in motorsport so far, Tom offers some sage advice to his younger self – advice that has paid dividends for him.

“If I was to give a six year old Tom Wood one lesson, it would just be hard work, work ethic and intensity in all areas makes for a lot.

“Being honest, I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved personally because of our financial situation – we’re not millionaires. I’m super proud of myself and my family and I’m really appreciative of where we’ve got to. I would say it’s also always worth remembering why you’re actually doing the sport you love – whether it’s motorsport or football or whatever, you’ve always got to remember why you’re doing it. It’s very easy in professional sport and at a professional level to lose sight of that so just loving the sport and remembering why you do it is a big lesson I’ve learnt for sure.”

You can follow Tom’s journey through his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages and the team’s progress throughout the season via Instagram.

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