After opting to race sports cars over single seater in 2016, Britain's Phil Hanson, still only 22, is now a veteran of five Le Mans 24 Hours and a multiple championship-winning driver.
The Berkshire-born driver is the youngest ever to win a World Endurance Championship title and the youngest Briton to win the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) race. He became the first driver to win the championship, European Le Mans Series and the Le Mans 24 Hours in the same year. He has re-signed for Yorkshire-based United Autosports, co-owned by former British driver Richard Dean and McLaren F1 boss Zak Brown.
Richard Dean is the only person I have met in my life who is able to stand up for 24 hours straight.
There is so much going on and so many hours put into motorsport that it's difficult to watch all the live timing, results and sessions. Yet, it’s amazing how little gets missed by Richard, especially in a 24-hour race.
At United, he may have both LMP2s cars in one ear and both LMP3s in another, with all the engineers and drivers’ feedback. At one point, you could have four people talking over each other. That’s how much information Richard is absorbing with a radio headset on.
He is very hands on and is at every test session and race event. If you make a mistake and come on the radio and say ‘I had a huge lock up on that lap’, you will bump into Richard, who will say ‘I heard it was good, apart from that lock up.’
It sounds like an exaggeration but he really will stand straight in one place for that length of time. It’s like seeing an artifact in a museum! There are so many emotions flowing around your body, especially at Le Mans, that it’s impossible to sit down or look away from the screen, less something went wrong.
Richard is usually the first person you see getting out of the car as he is always in the garage watching. As the frontman of United Autosports, it sort of puts pressure on you knowing that he is that committed and he is looking at you. In turn, you have to be as invested, if not more.
It’s also comforting to know that there is a huge amount of work going in from the very top of the food chain. It sets a culture for everyone to work incredibly hard. When things go wrong or a car crashes, the team will rebuild it overnight. People won’t leave until well into the night, even if a mechanic is not involved in that car.
If your boss was someone who sat back and was lethargic, you wouldn’t be as motivated. Richard is different. Everyone knows his presence; he’s focused, intense and committed but it never feels like you should be looking as if you are doing something important.
He’s an observer and can spot anything that happens from the corner of his eyes. He’s seeing the driver changes, getting feedback and if there is a strategy call he will give the engineer space and time. He will have his say if it will impact the team.
Richard and I have a good relationship. United is one of the biggest teams in Europe in terms of sports car racing. They are now a powerhouse in the UK and I have been lucky to be part of the accolades. Both our interests are aligned where we want the chance to get the recognition our success deserves - a manufacturer to come along and set up a programme with United.
My main character quality is that I am analytical about my performances, win or lose. I use every weekend as a learning opportunity. Even though I have won many things and done five Le Mans, I feel like I am still a sponge and able to pick great brains at United. I would be silly not to learn.
The team is Wakefield based and very much British. There is no shortage of Yorkshire Tea bags around the paddock and we never go without a Sunday roast at every race.
It feels like I have been around for their successes over the last four years and being part of the family.
To be back on board this year, we want to continue to replicate the success. I just love a competitive environment where everyone is committed to winning - and that’s what Richard brings.
Phil Hanson will race for United Autosports in the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship
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