Ben’s driving ambition

13th Feb 1998

Western Daily Press

Formula 3 ace is on a title chase . . . thanks to Uri

REPORT By Steve Moore

WHAT do Reading Football Club, a teaspoon and a Bristol law graduate have in common?

Answer- All have benefited to a lesser or greater extent from dealings with Uri Geller.

While the Israeli metal bender split up with Reading in less than amicable circumstances recently, and the fate of the teaspoon is well documented, Redland’s Ben Collins now believes, with some justification and a little help from Geller, that 1998 is going to be his year in Formula 3.

The talented driver, 23 this month, embarks on his second season of the British Championship at Donington in March with an improved engine and high hopes of building on his eighth place in last season’s championship, a proving ground for many past and present F1 drivers.

“Last year was pretty disappointing, mainly due to my engine,” he said, of a season which saw him drive strongly inrace2 wet conditions and achieve a podium finish in one round at Oulton Park.

“It was disappointing, but then I think everyone with my engine suffered too.”

With an Opel engine usurping Mitsubishi and the crack Intersport team behind him, Collins is in a brighter mood. Partly thanks to Geller.

“I met him through a guy doing some sponsorship and we got on very well,” recalled Collins.

“He was able to tell me quite a bit about sports psychology and the power of positive thought. I did a telepathy test with him and it was amazing how close he got to my drawings.

“He won’t tell me the numbers on the lottery though – he thinks that’s immoral!”

Positive thought may be something Collins will be in need of this year.

A late starter, he waited until he was taken to Silverstone as a 17th birthday treat by his father.

Immediately hooked, he graduated through Formula First, Vauxhall Lotus and F3 Class B, where he finished third inrace3 the championship.

Winning a place on the shortlist for the McLaren Autosport young driver of the year was recognition at a high level.

But 1998 is make or break year. Collins said: “My team is good, they are more experienced. The car is reliable and has one of the best engines. I am more experienced too.”

“I have every chance of winning the championship. And if I don’t make it this year, I am pretty well finished. I believe I can do it. Otherwise life doesn’t bear thinking about.”

That’s where a law degree from Exeter University may come in handy.

Cash, though, as for all UK drivers, is a problem. To beat the big-budget Brazilians and Portuguese over 14 stiff rounds commands a six-figure sum.

Collins, with last year’s sponsors still on board, already has much of the figure.

“I need money for the final third of the season,” he said. “That would be the final backing to do the job properly.”

Success may mean a move ahead to Formula 3000, a well-worn path for the young who aspire to F1 greatness.

Not, though, if Collins repeats his 1994 feat of winning the National Formula First ‘Bent Wishbone Award’ for the most spectacular accident.

Twisted metal even Mr Geller might have been proud of.

 

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