Matt Cowley is hoping British GT success will drive his career to Le Mans 2023

Matt Cowley stood out on the grid before a race. (Photo courtesy of Matt Cowley Racing)

Matt Cowley is making noise ahead of this season’s British GT. Connor Gracey hears from him and his dad, Ian, about how they are getting on track.

The 23-year-old British Racing driver, Matt Cowley, is behind the wheel for Academy Motorsport in their Ford Mustang this season.

Hear him before you see him is normally how it goes. Whether he is tearing up the racetrack in the Ford Mustang, or on the roads in his Ford Capri and Nissan 350Z.

Off the track, he is an Ambassador for Nordoff Robbins, Caudwell Children and Shaw Mind, where he is often heard talking about mental health across schools in the UK.

His upbeat demeanour, high pressure job and prolific status in racing make him a positive role model for young people, who have difficulties with their own mental health.

Matt is currently preparing for the start of the British GT season on 23rd May 2021, with the first race at Brands Hatch Circuit.

“Most importantly, we need a quality teammate if we are going to go all the way.”

Matt and his team are currently seeking another driver to battle out this season with them.

Their long-term aim is to win the British GT outright, in the GT4 category.

“We want to win, there is no doubt about that. Although I’m signed on, we need another driver to come in and help us achieve that goal, and we don’t just want anyone, we want someone quality.”

Getting sponsorships in motorsports is difficult, especially with the huge costs required for a season.

The British GT is broadcast on Sky Sports, and live on YouTube, making it a desirable place for any company’s brand to be seen. Reduced spectators, sales and funds meant a lot of sponsors to pull out.

“A lot of sponsors cannot warrant the spending at the moment. It is a lot of money, it’s about 150k a year which is a lot. Surprisingly, that’s not that expensive compared to other forms of motorsport.

For example, if you want to get to a point in F1 where they would look at you, that is around £18 million, and not even a guaranteed seat.

If you look down the GT route and to Le Mans, you probably need about £2 million.

It’s been a real task to get sponsors in, but we are really grateful to have some this season.”

I enjoyed racing because in my first race I beat everyone!

The early days of Matt’s Go-Kart racing career. (Photo courtesy of Matt Cowley Racing)

“My first race was a Go-Karting birthday party of one of my friends. The reason I liked it so much is because I won! After that, I begged my dad to take me to race at the indoor track in Manchester, and then it progressed to outdoor racing. “

Matt went on to racing at different tracks in England such as Three Sisters in Wigan, and then ended up travelling to Scotland and Wales in a national event.

“My dad was watching the F1 when I was born so perhaps it was fate.”

Both of Matt’s grandfathers, Bryan and Harry, were involved in the motor industry and his father, Ian, has always had an interest in cars and engineering, so it seemed a natural progression for Matthew’s interest.

He said: “My dad was busy watching the F1 when I was born so perhaps it was fate.”

His family have all been hugely supportive of his racing. He said:  “I would not be where I am now without them. Even rainy days on the track, they are always there with umbrellas.”

“There have been times when I was out racing in America and they’ve flown out to watch me race or win an award on a Friday, and they were flying back out a day later to be back in work for the Monday.”

Dad, Ian Cowley wants more from this season.

He said: “We need to step up from where we were last year, because last year was a bit unfortunate. I think the opportunity was there to win the championship, the first couple of rounds did not go particularly well. Hopefully, this season gives some sponsors opportunity to see what’s going on.”

How did your stint in America help you progress as a driver?

“I started racing cars when I was 16 and we made a lot of contacts whilst doing this. My dad ended up speaking with a few of the people at the track who said I had talent and recommended pursuing it as a career.

Two years later, I’m offered a test with a team in America who wanted to take me on at 18 years old. It was great to get all that experience which helped my racing career and get me to where I am now.

The time out there helped me mature a lot, it was the equivalent to going off to University.”

“I always seem quite happy, and to have someone like me talking about mental health, it shows people that you do not need to suppress it.”

Matt Cowley sat on the bonnet of his silver Nissan 350Z. Pic: Connor Gracey

Matt is an ambassador for Shaw Mind. He has helped them in getting a petition into parliament, with the help of his social media promotions, the petition reached more than 100,000 signatures. Matt often talks in schools about mental health, from early years to year 11 pupils, and sometimes even parents too.

He said: “It’s stuff that people don’t really talk about. To see a young man, someone in high pressure environment in racing, talking about mental health.”

Matt has been described as a huge talent by commentators, other professionals, and team owners. His career is one to keep a close eye on. It was obvious from his interview that he is determined to succeed. There’s no doubt that there is a spot at Le Mans 2023 for him.

You can see Matt in action and hear from him and his dad, Ian, below.

The British GT begins on 22nd May 2021 at Brands Hatch.

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