Le Mans winner Richard Bradley told the story of how the “illegal” actions of a karting rival gave him a tough introduction to the “dark side” of motorsport.
An LMP2 class winner at the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, Bradley, like most drivers, took his first steps into the racing world as part of the karting scene, bringing about multiple title successes.
But the story of a title which slipped away, through far from clean circumstances, gave Bradley that first glimpse of how the racing world can be ugly.
Richard Bradley: Motorsport rival raced with illegal carburetor
It was when Bradley was racing in the British Karting Championship that he came up against a rival driver who was gaining an advantage by racing with an “illegal carburetor”.
The end result was that Bradley missed out on the title by a single point, the matter later going to court and not bringing about the outcome he had hoped for.
Speaking during the latest On Track GP podcast, produced in collaboration between PlanetF1.com and DR Sports, Bradley said: “2003 became a very, very serious year for me. And we decided to take it seriously.
“And it became a very difficult year in a way as well because, you know, I did the British championships, I did various regional races, everything, I had a very successful year, I was Irish champion, Midland champion, at the age of 12.
“But then, I was competing for the British championship, and this was the first sign to me of the dark side of motorsport, because there was a driver I was competing against who had bought an illegal carburetor from another competitor.
“And he was using that and it was quite obvious that he had an advantage. And at the end of the series it was him first in the championship by a point, me second.
“And there was a rule where if you finish in the top six in a race, the officials are allowed to check your engine, check your carburetors, check you’re not cheating basically.
“And this guy didn’t finish in the top six in the last race and long story short, the officials got hold of the drawing, showing how he was cheating. And because he didn’t finish in the top six, it wasn’t obligatory for him to hand over the carburetor.
“And so then it went to court, and we weren’t a party in this, it was only the championship who was a party in this and the actual governing body who were behind it, the governing body was actually trying to do this for us with the championship.
“And yeah, nine months later, they won the case. So I thought to myself, I was 30 points ahead of, which is the equivalent to, I think, one race win ahead of the next place guy, and I was 11 years old, and you put all that work into it. And at that point, I was thinking, this kind of sucks a lot.”
Richard Bradley had two possible responses for motorsport career
Bradley revealed that he had been shielded from the news by his dad and manager at the time as he chased more title success, the verdict shared with him once he had won the Irish title again.
And fortunately, rather than his motivation taking a serious hit, Bradley used it as fuel to prove that he could rise above and push on.
Asked how he dealt with the fallout, Bradley replied: “Well, it was good. The guy who was looking after me at the time and my dad were quite clever, because they kept it away from me until I had another big win. And they just told me not to focus on it. And I didn’t focus on it.
“And the next year, I won the Irish kart championship again. And that night, when I won the championship was when they told me I lost the British championship from the year before.
“But it was dark, it was very, very dark, because you thought to yourself ‘why do I even bother?’ Or you can go ‘screw you, I’m going to just show that I’m better than that, which is thankfully the decision I made, but it wasn’t nice.”