Young Jamie Thorburn is a man on the move. Quite literally.
Hurtling around the best race tracks in the UK at over 100mph, the Scottish Borders driver is racing side by side with some of the best this country has to offer, and is beating them.
Racing in the National Formula Ford Championship, Thorburn claimed fourth in this year’s championship at just 19 years of age. Competing in a series that has spawned Formula 1 World Champions in Ayrton Senna and Jenson Button, his debut season has been startling.
“It has gone way better than I first imagined to be honest,” he admitted.
“I never thought I’d end the year with race wins, podiums or some fastest laps to my name, especially given the lack of experience I have competing at this level compared to most others I was out there racing.
“I had no real targets heading into 2017. My main aim was just to rack up experience and learn as much as possible at every round and from there see where I ended up.”
After graduating from the Scottish Championship in 2016 where he finished second and took the Rookie title, Thorburn embarked on his maiden season racing across the UK with Cliff Dempsey Racing, and admits moving on from the Knockhill-based Socctish Championship has seen an increased level of competition.
“The level of the drivers in the National series is just insane compared with Scotland,” he said. “The amount I have learned from racing against them for just one year has been incredible.”
And learn he did. Thorburn’s year got off to a solid start with three top six finishes at Brands Hatch, before something of a disastrous weekend at Oulton Park with two non-finishes.
“To think if I hadn’t have had those two DNFs at Oulton,” Thorburn rued.
“I’m very happy to have taken fourth overall in the championship though. Without those two non-scores we would have been in the hunt for the title heading into the final last round which is positive.”
Thorburn’s bounced back from his disappointment in Cheshire with three podium finishes at home around Fife’s Knockhill Racing Circuit. Two races later, and he was a National Formula Ford winner.
“The race win in Ireland is definitely a highlight,” said Thorburn. “My podiums at Knockhill were also great but to get that first win off my back around Kirkistown was something special.
“I actually enjoyed the second race at Oulton Park too. I fought my way up the field from last place on the grid to reach eighth before suffering with a puncture.”
Races at Donington Park, Castle Combe and Silverstone followed and provided solid results for the teenager, with further top five finishes on the season closing Anglesey rounds topping off a successful championship year.
Thorburn’s season didn’t end there though. Formula Ford is one of the oldest and most unique racing disciplines in the UK, and has an infamous festival atmosphere which includes two super weekends at the end of the year with drivers from all the various championships in the UK coming together to battle on the track.
However the Formula Ford Festival two weeks ago at Brands Hatch didn’t go to plan.
“It was going very well, I had been right on the pace all through testing in the wet and the dry,” Thorburn explained.
“I was leading my heat race after qualifying second before a lapped car ran me off the road in the last corner and I dropped to fourth.”
It was in the next race that it all started to go wrong, in what was ultimately a lucky escape in retrospect.
“Jordan Dempsey ran wide through the first corner of the lap which allowed me to run up the inside of him heading up to Druids [hairpin at Brands Hatch].
“He kept veering right and ended up squeezing me into the grass. I couldn’t back out of it as our wheels were inter-locked. When we finally made proper contact, it just turned my car right and straight into the wall.”
Managing to escape injury, Thorburn’s team got the car out again giving the racer the chance to salvage something from a bruising weekend.
“We managed to fix the car for what was the ‘last chance’ race,” he said.
“I started 28th and got up to seventh after four laps before I got tagged into a spin at Druids and the car got stuck on the grass.”
Thorburn will be hoping for better this weekend when he heads to Silverstone for the Walter Hayes Trophy.
Looking ahead, the National Championship is firmly in the Duns driver’s sights. But to win it he will need to beat team mate Neil Maclennan, the man that beat him to the 2016 Scottish title and took second in 2017, 68 points up the road from Thorburn.
“The championship is my main aim for next season,” said a determined Thorburn, “but I also want to just keep improving. We will see where we end up!”