Charlie Lower: Another year to remember
2023 has seen Charlie Lower embark on another action packed campaign in the highly competitive Caterham 270R championship. But this season has also seen the creation of a new team, the running of a new car and a maiden appearance on the coveted TOCA package at the home of British motorsport! We caught up with Charlie to chat about his favourite moments from another year to remember.
Fresh from a year in which he claimed vice-champion status in the Caterham Roadsport championship in an equally packed 2022 season, Charlie Lower set himself the task of embarking on a new challenge for 2023 and taking his career to the next level in the process. A firm favourite amongst the Caterham paddock since his debut in the Caterham Academy competition in 2021, Charlie has embarked on an impressive rise up through the brand’s racing ladder, amassing some impressive accolades in his charge from a rookie to championship contender in each series.
This season, Charlie and his incredibly close-knit team, set their sights on another step forward with the Caterham 270R championship and one that Charlie was relishing the challenge of competing in.
“After the successes of 2022, where I narrowly missed out on the championship title, we were always going to make the step up to the 270R series for 2023. With the modular components of a Caterham it was going to be fairly straightforward, it simply required an engine remap, addition of specific aerodynamic parts and some new suspension!”
“We wanted 2023 to be bigger and better, so myself and my hard-working mechanic Dan, at Hardline Motorworks, decided to create Hardline Motorsport and got several other drivers involved to all compete under the same banner and that was how the team was formed. It has been a great experience to not only be driving myself this year, but also having fellow teammates around to learn from and develop my racecraft with was a real privilege.”
For Charlie and the team at Hardline Motorsport, the season start would quickly be upon them and with the team at Quadlock coming onboard as his main sponsor in the final few weeks before the racing got underway, Charlie would be set for another championship charge with it kicking off in earnest at the picturesque Oulton Park.
“We came into that weekend with a limited amount of running and it was always going to be a challenging one with it being a new championship and car to adjust my driving style to. However it got off to a fantastic start as I secured pole, a race win and second place on the opening weekend of the season. It did take me and the guys by surprise, but after that it was a real pinch me moment as we realised we did have the pace to be right at the front and know where we were going to be for the rest of the season.”
From his pole position and victory at Oulton Park, Charlie and the team at Hardline motorsport would go on a fantastic run in the races that followed, securing yet another pole position, two race wins and a second place at Croft before taking the trip across the North Sea to his first International race in Zandvoort, where he would go on to seize another pole and visited every step of the podium in each of the three races that weekend.
“To get the opportunity to race on such an iconic track and it being overseas was a memory I will never forget. The whole weekend was such a unique experience and offered plenty of challenges as does every race weekend of mine! It was a true milestone of my life and one of the best weekends with my close family and friends competing in a sport I never ever thought I would be able to justify or even afford which made it mean so much more to me.”
Four more race victories, accompanied by another second place finish would be collected at Thruxton and Snetterton respectively, leaving Charlie only two points off the championship lead as the championship headed for its final round at Donington Park.
“This season has just been amazing from start to finish, I came into it with the expectation of finding my feet at a much slower pace and that just wasn’t the case. Having teammates to not only compete against wheel to wheel but also learn from and teach has been a big part of my success. I’d like to say that I have dramatically improved my racecraft and overall approach to a weekend, which is vitally important in the Caterham championship where every millimetre of track matters when you are battling it out for the win.”
In the final round of the season, Charlie would encounter plenty of misfortune which would scupper his championship hopes, but that didn’t stop him from putting in one of his greatest racing performances in a charge from 29th place to first in five laps before a punctured radiator cruelly halted his incredible charge through the field and snatched victory away from his grasp!
“Yeah that last race was definitely one of my best ever performances behind the wheel of a Caterham, charging from pretty much last on the grid to first in just five laps was unforgettable and showed how far my ability behind the wheel has improved this year. It goes to show that you should never give up in motorsport, even if the odds are stacked against you.”
In a fateful twist, Charlie’s Donington heroics would open a door for an opportunity of a lifetime, which would see him racing in the top Caterham championship alongside the BTCC at the home of British motorsport, Silverstone.
“Funnily enough, the driver on the grid in front of me when I started from the back was Andy Palmer, the ex CEO of Aston Martin, and his driver coach came up to me after the race had finished to congratulate me on my driving. He was actually a four time champion in the 420R championship and I jokingly asked if I could drive his car for the final race of the season and he actually agreed.”
“It was such a shock to me, we hurriedly pulled all the budget we had together and got some sponsors onboard to make it all possible, so we actually made the grid that weekend! And wow, what a weekend that was, we showed some great speed all weekend, challenged the leading drivers on the grid and we were on for two podium finishes in races two and three before misfortune struck us once again,” Charlie recalls.
After his successful weekend racing in the 420R championship and firmly placing himself amongst the seasoned championship veterans on the grid, Charlie has certainly caused quite the stir and looks back on this season with plenty of fond memories.
“There have been lows, but plenty of highs and that is what makes it all worth it in my eyes. I am doing something that I have never thought would be possible for me and continuing to compete on the fraction of the budget of those around me gives a lot of satisfaction and motivation to go out and achieve even more with each passing year, fingers crossed that 2024 will be the same…”