Driving force: Philip Hanson

The rising star in endurance racing discusses staying focused during lockdown and what it's like to be a multi-record breaker at 20

Motoring 12 Jun 2020

Racing driver Philip Hanson

Racing driver Philip Hanson

Philip Hanson is a record-breaking, rising star in endurance sports car racing. He started his racing career when he won the Whilton Mill Club Championship in 2014 when he was 15 years old. Hanson then went on to claim the Super One British X30 Junior Karting Championship in 2015 and the Dunlop Endurance Championship in 2016, before making his debut at the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 2017, when he was just 17.

Other highlights in Hanson’s career so far include when he became the youngest Asian Le Mans Series champion (2016-17) when he won LMP3; youngest European Le Mans Series outright race winner (2018); youngest outright championship winner of the Asian Le Mans Series (2018-19); and youngest ever overall top 10 sports-prototype finisher in the Le Mans 24 Hours (2019). He also raced alongside two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in 2018. Hanson is currently racing with United Autosports and will compete in this summer’s European Le Mans series.

Record-breaking endurance driver, Philip Hanson
Record-breaking endurance driver, Philip Hanson

How did you get into racing?

When I was younger, I used to play all the popular sports: football, rugby, cricket – I was extremely competitive. But it wasn’t until I first went go karting on holiday in Ibiza when I was 10 that I got the rush for motorsport.

However, I didn’t start racing at a club level until I was 14 followed by national and international races and championships at 15, in 2015.

Can you describe what endurance racing is?

Closed cockpit racing cars are double, triple and sometimes 12-times the length of an F1 race. There are up to three drivers per car to split up the time, pit stops with tyres as well as fuel and driver changes.

The biggest identifier is that it is multi-class racing. Picture F1, F2, F3 all on the track at the same time, meaning F1 cars have to race other F1 cars while navigating slower F2, F3 cars all battling each other for wins in their select category.

In the cases of Le Mans, it’s our biggest race of the year and the one everyone wants to win. It’s 24 hours of non-stop racing going through an entire day, dusk, night, dawn, and day again. Battling lack of sleep, rest, mental and physical fatigue to ensure I’m not making a mistake at 340kph down what, for the most part, is modified public road on the historic Le Mans circuit.

How do you build the physical and mental endurance to compete in an endurance race?

Practise makes perfect – unfortunately you can’t practise a 24 race under the same circumstances as Le Mans apart from being at Le Mans. The training is open to interpretation. I follow a pretty intrinsic approach to training, I don’t try and mimic the racing car in the gym, but I functionally train my whole body to improve strength and metabolic conditioning, as well high intensity intervals assisting my mental training.

Philip Hanson became the youngest ever overall top 10 sports-prototype finisher in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2019
Philip Hanson became the youngest ever overall top 10 sports-prototype finisher in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2019

And can you describe what it’s like to compete in a race as iconic and tough and as the 24 hours of Le Mans?

A total assault on the sense! Never having the time to think about the all the pressure and what it would mean to win one of the biggest motorsport events of the year.

You’ve already broken so many records, what are your next career goals?

To win Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

Winning my first race at the World Endurance Championship.

How are you keeping up training during lockdown?

I’m trying my best to be unaffected, having been in communication with my trainer and continuing on with programs suited to the slight limitations of my home gym.

Do you have any advice for people who are struggling with motivation during this time?

I would say you can’t find true motivation anywhere else other than from within. But just getting moving will start triggering your endorphins and get you motivated. So getting started is the key, you’ve just got to suck it up, take a cold shower and get moving.

Which racing driver has influenced you the most?

I haven’t had a single racing driver that I look at for influence. I try and pick the best bit from the ones I’ve worked closely with, even if it’s just one attribute.

What are you looking forward to most once lockdown is eased?

Seeing some familiar faces, my friends and members of the team.