Walero’s ‘Real Racers’ campaign intends to shine a light on the personalities, stories and characters across all levels of motorsport. All members of the campaign compete up and down the land and have chosen Walero to keep them cool under pressure and help them fight it out at the front of the grid.
In this edition, we speak to Charlie Lower – a front runner in the Caterham Roadsport UK series with a keen eye for photography and content creation.
A humble character, hailing from the countryside of rural East Sussex, Charlie’s upbringing had him bitten by the motorsport bug from an early age.“My family has always been into grassroots motorsports. I have fond memories of keenly following my dad around to all of his various Autotesting and Clubman rallies, so there has always been a background heritage to my love of motor racing.”
“My family has always been into grassroots motorsports. I have fond memories of keenly following my dad around to all of his various Autotesting and Clubman rallies, so there has always been a background heritage to my love of motor racing.”
“My dad runs a small garage which happens to be right next to the family home and he loved tinkering away with various types of racing machinery, all with the aim of thrashing them round a grass field in Kent on a spare evening or two.”
Charlie’s childhood memories of learning to drive stem from a first encounter with four wheels when he was just six years old.
“I first learnt to drive in my dad’s old Mini, spending countless hours going around the tiny family yard, driving up and down for hours on end.”
As time passed Charlie’s love of cars and racing would continue to grow, and he stepped into competitive racing at 14 with local Autotesting on a nearby field. One of the cheapest forms of grassroots racing in the UK, Autotesting quickly became a keen interest for Charlie and it soon snowballed into countless trips around Kent to attend various race meetings and events alongside his family and friends.
With the help of his father, Charlie would continue to pursue his racing ambitions wherever he could, however it seemed the world of circuit racing was still too far away.
“I never ever thought for a moment that I would be able to reach the levels of circuit racing, the financial side of it seemed extremely difficult. It felt unattainable at some points and therefore I saw myself looking into rallycross or rallying as it suited my driving style.”
Fortunately for Charlie his passions for motoracing fitted hand in hand with his full time job, content creation and quickly a path into a world previously thought unreachable had become available.
“Alongside racing, content creation has always been a keen interest of mine from a young age, from photography to filmmaking, it’s something I can’t get enough of! The catalyst for my circuit racing journey can be traced back to my work with Caterham with whom I have a very strong connection.”
“I remember vividly that one day they approached me to gauge my interest in the Caterham Academy, a rookie series that looked to give drivers their first taste of circuit racing. I was sceptical at first, but after some convincing I jumped at the opportunity!”
“I managed to get them to agree to providing me with discounted fees for the car itself, a small assortment of spare parts and reduced race entry fees. All of this would be provided in exchange for my continued support in content creation and without them, I highly doubt I would have had the opportunity to race in a circuit setting.”
Charlie relished in the opportunity that had been presented to him and after some tricky conversations trying to convince his family it was the right step, and the 2021 Caterham Academy UK series beckoned as his first venture into the world of circuit racing and higher level motorsport across the UK.
The step up into circuit racing was not to be underestimated and with his first race looming, the scale of the challenge began to show.
“I was immediately taken back by the sheer amount of money that people were willing to spend to fight for a rookie championship! I came into the season thinking it would be an easy win, I was confident in my abilities but soon it became clear that my budget was a meere tenth of those around me and that was a difficult factor to grasp.”
“Fellow drivers had been able to spend their money on vast amounts of pre-season testing time, spare parts and driver coaching before the season had even started! I rocked up with a beaten up Volvo estate and a trailer, a drop in the ocean compared to the race trucks and trailers that surrounded it.”
“The competition was tough and with our tight budget we had to cover as much as we could for a fraction of the cost. My race weekends would consist of gruelling overnight drives between circuits with my dad, managing to squeeze in half a day of testing and then jumping into the car for qualifying and the races that followed.”
Despite this Charlie’s first season circuit racing was nothing short of remarkable, managing to compete regularly at the top in the opening rounds of the season amongst the drivers who had much greater budgets. A key factor in Charlie’s first season success was his ability to understand the setup and build up the confidence he had in the car with the extremely limited testing sessions and lack of data logging equipment.
“Most of, if not all the drivers in the series aside from myself had access to the V-boxes and data logging technology which told them in detail where they could improve. This contrasted massively against myself with a limited budget, relying only on what I could feel through the seat of the car! I learnt and adapted, I invested into understanding my setups and identifying where the confidence was lacking or where I knew I was quickest.”
“My hardworking mechanic Dan and I have fond memories of working tirelessly together in his garage at Hardline Motoworx to adjust the setup of the car and our only way to test it was to drive it around the local backroads, the true definition of a B-road basher! But it all counted and soon it was clear to see where the improvements were being made.”
With this newly acquired confidence, the podiums and first place finishes amounted in quick succession, and Charlie rapidly found himself leading the championship. However, this newfound success was not without its testing moments.
“Over the course of the season the lack of budget was our biggest obstacle,” he recalls. “I would run second hand tires, ask others for spare parts and perhaps our biggest achievement was running on a single set of brake pads for the entirety of the season!”
“We gained so much experience but there was still so much we had to overcome, there was only so much myself and my dad could do.”
Charlie often reflects back on the smallest details that made the biggest difference over the course of the season and there is a particular story that he feels truly summed up racing on a ‘shoestring budget’ with little to no funding regularly available.
“It’s the silly things that make the biggest difference, and for me that can be summarised with our constant battle with tire pressures. I always felt the car would perform best on the fourth lap of a qualifying run before dropping off the cliff, it was a consistent pattern and it puzzled me and my dad. It wasn’t until we realised that our pressure gauge was seven PSI out!”
“The difference a brand new gauge made was remarkable! I remember taking tenths off every lap time with each increase in tire pressure,” Charlie says. “Looking back it seems like a mistake that could have been avoided, but in reality it was one step closer to understanding how far I’d come and how much I still had to learn.”
With these lessons in mind Charlie continued his charge to the 2021 Caterham Academy UK title and sealed the championship victory at Snetterton in a scintillating performance across the entirety of the race weekend.
“To win the championship at the first attempt was incredible, to see the culmination of the hard work from all involved to make it a reality was unforgettable. We managed to win a championship on a fraction of the budget and that made it even more rewarding! It was a steep learning curve for sure, but something that I took into the 2022 season and haven’t looked back since.”
This season, Charlie has continued his title charge in the Caterham Roadsport Championship, currently occupying second place in the championship and with one round remaining at Silverstone in October, the title fight looks set to be another classic. It is clear to see Charlie’s grit and determination this year has stemmed from his experiences in 2021.
“We’ve come so far in such a short space of time and the 2022 season has been a step up in terms of both competition and financial challenges. However, we have always aimed high and continued to push the limits both on and off the track and to find myself in yet another title challenge in only my second year of circuit racing is surreal! I’m looking forward to Silverstone and we are aiming to end the year on another high by holding that championship trophy aloft!”