I met Mike Conway in August 2006 as he was on his way to the British Formula Three championship title. He’s a friendly guy – but dead serious about his racing and fixed on getting to the top.
He was driving for Kimi Raikkonen’s team at the time. Now he races in GP2 and has been signed up to Honda’s young driver programme and could even be racing against Raikkonen in a year or two.
He’s PR-savvy and very quick – but after a luckless 2007 he’s banking on a change of fortune in 2008.
He started karting at the age of eight and shared a local kart track with a young Lewis Hamilton – both were regulars at Rye House in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire. The pair were friends off the track but strictly rivals off it, and continued to cross paths even after they had made the move up from karts to cars.
The 1995 national Cadet Super One championship boiled down to a battle between the ten year-old Hamilton and 12 year-old Conway. Hamilton won the title at the final round after Conway lost a wheel on his kart.
Conway stepped up to the British Formula Ford championship in 2003, by which time Hamilton was in his second year of the championship. Conway won the opening round at Snetterton – but it would his only victory of the year. Hamilton won 10 of the first 15 races then quite the series early, but Conway racked up the points consistently and ended the year fourth overall.
He returned in 2004 to claim the title with eight wins and eight more podiums, before repeating Hamilton’s trick of skipping the last two races.
For the 2006 season Conway switched to the new team set up by Kimi Raikkonen and manager Steve Robertson: Raikkonen-Robertson Racing (‘Double R’). His team mate was Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayrton, and when Bruno won the first two rounds at Oulton Park it looked as though he was set to repeat his uncle’s championship victory of 1983.
But Conway quickly put a halt to that. By a strange coincidence he repeated his form from Formula Ford with eight wins and eight other podiums finishes. He claimed the title with 321 points to Oliver Jarvis’s 250.
Both Conway and Senna moved into GP2 for 2007 – Senna to Arden International, Conway to Super Nova. Conway had already made a GP2 start in 2006 as a substitute at his home race at Silverstone, managing 10th and 11th in the two races.
His 2007 campaign proved difficult, however. Unfamiliar with many of the track he generally qualified poorly, which often saw him get caught in first-lap incidents. On his return to Silverstone he qualified and finished second to Andreas Zuber, easily his best result of the year, but ended the season on 19 points to team mate Luca Filippi’s 59 plus one win.
Conway is backed by Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell’s management company 2MB, and he’s landed a role on the Honda Young Driver Programme alongside Filippi after testing for the team in late 2007. But he’ll need to impress them with a stronger showing in GP2 with Trident this year.
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