“I bear in mind sitting there watching these GTs thundering round Spa and it was simply hypnotic, and I feel that’s the primary time motor racing, and particularly GT racing, simply hooked me.”
For Andrew Howard, turning into mesmerised by endurance racing on the well-known Belgian circuit in 2003 proved to be a pivotal second for a number of causes. Not least as a result of it got here only a yr after a “horrendous crash” at Eau Rouge in a Mini Miglia that resulted in him being taken to hospital with concussion.
The pull of GT racing for Howard would have far-reaching ramifications within the following years for his Beechdean Motorsport squad – named after the profitable ice cream firm he co-founded together with his spouse Susie in 1989. After practically twenty years the outfit has grow to be a stalwart of GT racing within the UK and throughout the globe, profitable quite a few titles and boasting a powerful driver roster through the years – together with 1992 Components 1 champion Nigel Mansell, who raced a manufacturing unit supported Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 run by the crew within the 2010 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Howard’s time within the cockpit as an Am driver has yielded two general British GT3 titles and a European Le Mans Sequence crown. It’s not a nasty CV for somebody who, by their very own admission, had little curiosity in motorsport.
“I used to be a motorcycle boy,” he says. “I rode bikes from the age of 15 and if I’m sincere the one cause I actually acquired into motorsport was my then pregnant spouse determined me hurtling round on bikes wasn’t essentially the most secure factor. So, I did the wise factor, bought the bike and purchased a race automotive!”
His first foray was with the Mini Miglia Championship in 1999 by way of sponsoring fellow driver Ian Gunn, earlier than his hefty shunt at Spa and subsequent awakening to GT racing switched his focus. This got here with the acquisition of a Ferrari 360 Modena in 2006, and whereas Howard meant to run the automotive from the pitwall he quickly discovered himself within the driver’s seat once more.
“The Ferrari was the place I moved from crew proprietor to driver,” he says. “The large crash at Spa actually did knock my confidence, so it was simpler for me to get another person to drive. The difficulty I had in these days is you’d have the motive force say ‘I’ll flip up’, after which they wouldn’t flip up!
Howard began his GT racing journey with a Ferrari in 2006 and the next yr scored 5 wins with Aaron Scott
Picture by: Drew Gibson / Motorsport Images
“I’ll all the time bear in mind being at Manufacturers Hatch for British GT with my Ferrari and no drivers, so in the long run I did the entire thing and I simply instantly thought, ‘You realize, I can do that’.”
The height with the Modena was second within the GTC standings in 2007 alongside Aaron Scott after 5 class wins, however a swap of automotive quickly beckoned. If a scarcity of drivers had been the catalyst to get again within the automotive, then the following buy of an Aston Martin DBRS9 for 2009 satisfied Howard that there was a profession for him behind the wheel.
“The DBRS9 was the turning level as a result of it was a automotive you possibly can both drive otherwise you couldn’t, and there have been lots of people on the market on the time that didn’t get on with it, particularly within the moist,” recollects Howard. “Our first win was at Rockingham within the moist [in 2011 alongside Jonny Adam], we had no windscreen wiper from 1 / 4 of the way in which by means of my stint!”
“I’m fortunate sufficient to have completed Le Mans twice and we gained the ELMS, and I’d nonetheless say 2015 as a crew is the very best feeling when it comes to general profitable every little thing we might in a championship” Andrew Howard
A partnership with Mark Lemmer’s Barwell Motorsport concern allowed Howard to give attention to driving, first sharing the DBRS9 with Jamie Smythe in 2009, and Aston Martin manufacturing unit driver Darren Turner and Leo Machitski the next yr. However the arrival of future four-time British GT3 champion Adam for 2011 proved to be the spark that set Howard and Beechdean on the highway to success.
“He wasn’t simply doing it as a passion, he was doing it to achieve success and I feel that’s the place we solid a extremely good relationship,” recollects Adam. “He was my pupil in a method and all the time listened to try to enhance. I discovered loads within the early days racing with Andrew from the teaching aspect, I positively discovered the stuff that I exploit now with clients.”
When a deal to race a Nissan by no means materialised, Howard struck up a partnership with Prodrive to run the then-new Aston Martin Vantage GT3 – an affiliation with the British marque that continues to be to this present day.
Whereas 2012 was a growth yr with the automotive, which yielded only one win on the Nurburgring and eighth within the standings, the 2013 season got here collectively for the crew.
Regardless of once more solely taking one victory – this time at Manufacturers Hatch – consistency meant Howard completed as general British GT champion, however a factors deduction for Adam following a collision at Snetterton meant he missed out on the title. “So far as I’m involved, we each gained it,” says Howard.
Success started to roll in for Howard following his swap to Aston Martin. The primary of his two British GT titles gained with Adam arrived in 2013
Picture by: Ebrey / Motorsport Images
A promising begin to the 2014 marketing campaign, with a win at Snetterton and three additional podiums, was undone by a torrid Spa spherical that meant Howard “drove like an absolute fool for the remainder of the season and managed to come back out with minus factors within the final three races”.
If the second half of 2014 had been a low level – minus the general GT4 title for Ross Wylie and Jake Giddings – 2015 introduced the top of success for the crew within the eyes of Howard. He and Adam secured the general GT3 title regardless of being the underdogs heading into the Donington Park finale, and their success was made even sweeter because it adopted within the wake of Ross Gunn and Jamie Chadwick securing one other general GT4 crown for Beechdean.
Howard says: “I’m fortunate sufficient to have completed Le Mans twice and we gained the ELMS, and I’d nonetheless say 2015 as a crew is the very best feeling when it comes to general profitable every little thing we might in a championship. And it was achieved professionally, the crew did so properly.”
With a second GT3 title beneath his and the crew’s belt, the ELMS beckoned, with a win on the opening Silverstone spherical and Estoril finale handing Howard, Turner and Alex MacDowall the GTE title in 2016. In subsequent years the crew has branched additional afield, with outings throughout the globe, notably simply lacking out on a category podium at Le Mans in 2017, whereas final yr the crew ran two vehicles in GT World Problem Europe.
However British GT has all the time remained a focus, Jordan Albert and Jack Bartholomew being general GT4 race winners in 2016 and Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman taking the Professional-Am GT4 title in 2019.
“British GT has all the time been a championship that I’ve completely beloved doing, it makes most sense when it comes to us as a enterprise and for me I really like the circuits,” says Howard. “I really like the competitors of it being the premier Professional-Am championship in Europe.”
Howard has tried to provide again to the game in recent times, not least by means of his affiliation with the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Younger Driver of the 12 months Award, in addition to being Motorsport UK’s consultant on the FIA’s driver committee – a task that has allowed him to supply a voice for Am drivers.
“I feel the FIA is in an enormous transition section for the time being and I feel you’ve acquired two choices,” says Howard. “You both stand on the skin and lob rocks in otherwise you stand on the within and try to assist.”
Beechdean gained British GT titles in each the GT3 and GT4 courses in 2015, serving to launch the careers of Gunn and Chadwick
Picture by: Ebrey / Motorsport Images
It’s not simply in motorsport the place Howard continues to have an affect, having grow to be sporting marketing consultant for Wycombe Wanderers Soccer Membership the place he was as soon as chairman, whereas the ice cream enterprise continues to prosper.
“Don’t underestimate the significance of groups, not simply if you’re kicking a ball or if you’re driving a automotive, but additionally if you’re making ice cream,” says Howard, hinting on the cause for his success on and off the observe. “The entire work that I’ve been in a position to do with groups and study, all of that goes again into the ice cream as properly.”
“My ambition then is I wish to win Spa outright as a Professional crew, and I’d like to go and do extra Professional work” Andrew Howard
Issues have come full circle for 2023, with Howard partnering Gunn Jr once more for a full assault on the British GT3 title having raced with him to Silverstone 24 Hours success in 2015 and at Le Mans in 2017. It’s apt, provided that Howard started his journey in motorsport by supporting Gunn Sr, however the 59-year-old has no plans to decelerate anytime quickly. He hopes to race Aston Martin’s evolution of the Vantage in 2024 and, when he does resolve to hold up his helmet, he intends to nonetheless compete with Beechdean from the pitwall.
“My ambition then is I wish to win Spa outright as a Professional crew, and I’d like to go and do extra Professional work,” he says.
No matter his plans, Howard and Beechdean have already left their mark on British motorsport and the broader GT racing world, all of which might have been very totally different however for one afternoon at Spa.
“I suppose, like all of us, we both flip our desires into actuality or we hold dreaming,” concludes Howard. “A few of us are fortunate sufficient to get a part of the way in which there.”
Howard nonetheless has aspirations of attaining Professional success together with his crew and returns to British GT this season alongside Gunn
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Supporting the following technology
A key ingredient of the Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Younger Driver of the 12 months Award is the finalists’ skill to adapt to the totally different vehicles, which for the 2022 version included a MotorSport Imaginative and prescient Components 2 machine, Ligier JSP320 LMP3 and Aston Martin Vantage GT3 – the final of which was provided by Beechdean. With much less downforce than the opposite two vehicles and a predominantly single-seater background for the finalists, the inclusion of the GT is all the time a crucial part of the two-day evaluation at Silverstone.
Final yr was the primary time Beechdean grow to be concerned with the method – with Aston Martin having grow to be lead accomplice for the initiative in 2019 – and for crew proprietor Andrew Howard it was a possibility to not miss.
“Storage 59 [who previously ran the GT cars at the test] clearly now run McLarens they usually needed Astons,” says Howard. “And we have been fortunate sufficient that individuals thought-about us the go-to crew. For me, it’s one other good way of supporting youth. Clearly Jamie [Chadwick] got here by means of our ranks nevertheless it was beautiful for the opposite three as properly, that we might go alongside and be a part of that.”
Eventual winner Luke Browning, together with fellow finalists Ollie Bearman, Louis Foster and Chadwick, every acquired three classes within the automotive, the primary two of which have been on used rubber whereas the ultimate outing was with new slicks. Their performances have been measured not solely in opposition to one another, however that of benchmark driver Jonny Adam. Each the Scot and Howard are eager to provide again to the following technology, having solid their very own success tales in motorsport.
“I feel as all of us get a little bit bit older, as we’ve had success and loved our sport, we should always put a little bit bit again,” provides Howard. “For me, it was completely good [to be involved]. And there’s lots of satisfaction for our crew to be concerned in what actually is just a bit piece of historical past, not only for that driver however in motor racing. You take a look at the folks that have come out of that [award], it’s fairly spectacular.”
Adam was readily available to teach the AMABA finalists within the Vantage GT3 in final yr’s analysis check
Picture by: Motorsport Images