GT racing driver, Richard Lyons (36) from Hillsborough may not be a name you recognise but he’s a household name in Asia and a major contender in the Super GT – The world’s biggest GT competition which takes place in Japan and launches in April. Richard expertly handles the Audi R8 LMS round the track driving for Team Hitotsuyama with the confidence and showmanship you’d expect from a highly skilled and exceptionally talented driver. Ulster Life caught up with him to find out what it takes to be a driver, what turns his gears when he’s not on the track, and of course the burning question…
What car do you drive?
I actually drive my wife’s car – I just sold mine as it just sits in the garage gathering dust and believe it or not, I’m not a speed freak so I’m happy doodling along in my wife’s Mercedes A class.
What was your first car?
A Corsa Sport 1.4 with a big exhaust and a K&N air filter! I loved that car! My first race car was a Formula Ford, Van Dieman, RF92 which I raced at Kirkistown.
Any speeding Tickets?
Touch wood, not recently, my last tickets was in 1998, I take it very easy on the roads as I’m very aware of the dangers.
Is there a typical day in the life of a racing car driver?
Not really, but on actual race day there is a bit more structure; a 6am start is normal, depending on how far we need to travel to the circuit, when we arrive we normally have some fans waiting for autographs, then straight to the pre-race brief with my team and engineer where we talk through our strategy. We then get 30 minutes to practice and warm up on the track where we make any last minute adjustments and settings. Then we get debriefed and again sign more autographs and enjoy a meet and greet session with our sponsors before a quick bite of lunch and our final briefing session. Once the race is on its way it’s my favourite time, tension levels are high, but that’s what I’m there for and I get a real buzz from competing. After the race, and hopefully a podium finish, then it’s more interviews and autographs before starting the long journey home – normally takes around 24hrs but it’s always good to get back!
What goes through your head when you are driving?
How to get the most out of the car, whether it’s trying to save the tyres and fuel to prolong a pitstop, or pushing like crazy to get past the guy in front, it’s all about maximising the final result and everything else fades away.
Do you adhere to a strict diet?
I try to be healthy and eat a well-balanced diet, but I’m not overly strict about it – often it simply depends what country I am in and life on the road means you often you eat what is in front of you, whether that be raw fish, Udon Noodles or a curry!
What about a workout – how do you keep fit?
I travel so much I had to find a workout method that could travel with me and that I could use anywhere. I enjoy circuits and I find I can mix it up to keep it interesting and also to suit whatever time I have available and my whereabouts. It’s important to stay active – it keeps you sharp.
What would you do if you weren’t a racing car driver?
I’m not sure, I love houses, I may have been a builder – who knows, there’s still time!
What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Research, never lose sight of your goals and always be ready – you never know when your break might come!
What do you do to unwind?
Ask my wife, she says I never do! Personally, I think it’s when I’m at home with my wife Gina and our dog Leo.
How often do you get to spend at home?
I’m on the road for 6-8 months each year, but I’m backwards and forwards a lot.
Where is your favourite place in Northern Ireland?
Our country has so many beautiful places, parks, and scenery but if I wanted a nice walk followed by a tasty meal, it’s hard to beat Hillsborough – it definitely ticks all the boxes for me.
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