Estimated time to read: 4 minutes
Penrith is a tranquil little market town in Cumbria which is known for its beautiful scenic countryside and the historic 14th Century Penrith Castle. Not the kind of place you would ordinarily associate with the high octane world of motor racing, but it also happens to be the birth place of one of the UKs leading motor racing stars that you’ve probably never heard of – Oliver Turvey.
Turvey largely works in the background and is currently the official reserve driver for the McLaren Honda Formula One Team, working alongside double World Champion Fernando Alonso, as well as being one of the top contenders in the ever growing Formula E series, where he is team-mate to the 2014/15 World Champion Nelson Piquet. Read on to learn more about this local hero born just a short distance from Thanet Well Lodge Retreat…
The 29 year old has had a distinguished career in the ultra competitive sport thus far, first making a name for himself in Karting where he won the Junior Yamaha National Championship crown in 2000 as well as the Junior Rotax Class in 2002.
His performances caught the attention of many of the sports big players, leading to a promotion to single seater racing in 2003 when he graduated to the British Formula Renault Winter Series, and then Formula BMW UK where he made a massive impression with his gradual improvement over the next three seasons.
Despite budgetary restrictions which limited him to competing in just seven of the ten rounds in the 2006 season, Turvey still finished as the top British driver in the series with five wins to his name. It was a performance which impressed the McLaren Formula One team enough to present him with the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award – an honour previously bestowed upon drivers such as Jenson Button and David Coulthard.
In 2008 he further cemented his reputation as a champion of the future when he finished 2nd in the prestigious British Formula 3 Championship – something which led to him being named Sports Personality of the Year at the 2008 Cumbria Sports Awards.
With backing from the Racing Steps Foundation, Turvey was able to secure the budget to graduate to the GP2 Series in 2010 which travels around as a support act at Formula 1 events. It was Turvey’s big opportunity to showcase his talents to F1 bosses and he was doing it with a team which had won the series with future Toyota F1 driver Timo Glock in 2007 – iSport International.
Unfortunately, iSport was not quite the force it once was. Nevertheless, Turvey made another positive impression and out performed his team-mate Davide Valsecchi over the course of the season – a man who would go on to win the series in 2011. Turvey improved over the year as he built up his experience of the car, taking pole position in the season ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as well as four podium finishes in the second half of the season.
Despite being unable to find the funding for another year in GP2, the Cumbrian star had already done enough to impress the McLaren F1 team, who gave him the opportunity to take part in the end of year Formula 1 Young Driver test where he finished a fine 2nd, behind a certain Daniel Ricciardo in the Red Bull Racing.
This was the beginning of Turvey’s long association with the ultra successful company, becoming their official test and reserve driver in 2012 where he has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the sport including Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
McLaren have given Turvey the opportunity to continue to appear in other series alongside his Formula 1 team commitments over the past five years including a number of Le Mans and sports car races. He has become a regular in Le Mans with the Jota Team where he won the LMP2 category at the Le Mans 24 hours in 2014 and followed this up with 2nd the following year.
Performances such as this resulted in the NextEV Formula E team asking Turvey to drive alongside eventual champion Nelson Piquet in the season ending London ePrix in 2015. His amazed the team by qualifying 7th for his first race ahead of successful former F1 drivers such as Nick Heidfeld and Jarno Trulli who had been racing in the series all year! He followed this up with a pair of points finishes the next day which was enough to secure him the full time drive with NextEV for the 2015/16 season. Unfortunately the team was not as competitive during this season, but Turvey stood out by finishing ahead of his champion team Piquet during his first full campaign with a best finish of 6th.
However, NextEV is now back on an upwards trajectory and have elected to keep Turvey on for the 2016/17 season. The Penrith star has rewarded the teams trust in his abilities thus far with a trio of points finishes in the opening three rounds of the season as well as a front row starting position in the opening ePrix in Beijing.
Everyone at Thanet Well Lodge Retreat will be rooting for Oliver when the season resumes for round four in Mexico City on the 1st April 2017.