Young English talent Matthew Cowley quickly made a name for himself during the 2017 racing season winning both the SCCA National Runoffs as well as and the F1600 Series Championship. After sweeping his first open-wheel championships in the United States, the 19-year-old traveled back to Europe to participate in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone in late October/early November. We sat down with Cowley to reflect on his championship-winning season and his plans for 2018.
During the 2017 season, you were on podium 17 times with six first-place finishes. Who do you credit your success towards?
While it may be a cliché but it is a real team effort to achieve this success. The race time is only a small part of the process. It is hard work up front by everybody. Developing myself mentally and physically in the years prior to and during this one with people in the UK and US; testing the car with F1600 Team Manager, Geoff Bushor, pre-season to optimize base line set-up; the reliability with the Mygale car and Honda engine; preparation of the car away from the circuit; car set up at the circuit; optimizing race strategy to put myself in the best position possible to finish all the races, which I managed to.
You swept the podium in all three races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, how do you physically and mentally prepare each weekend?
Mid–Ohio was a fantastic record setting result. I want racing to be my career, therefore I have to be professional all the time. I keep myself physically fit through the following: correct nutrition, cardio-vascular exercise, such as: running; mountain biking; rowing; etc and some weight work. I need the strength to hold and drive the car on line but don’t want too much muscle as I need to keep my weight right. At the track I am always on the move walking around and helping with the car. Prior to getting in the car I find a quiet spot to warm up. As with physical preparation, mental preparation is an ongoing thing. Races can be mentally and physically draining so brain function needs to be on top form. I work to have the track layout totally within my subconscious so that I can focus on the immediate tasks which occur in a race. I use various techniques to prepare myself prior to every race meeting and reinforce these when at the meeting. Additionally, between meetings I use techniques to enhance my peripheral vision and cognitive performance.
Winning the F1600 Series Championship secured you a ticket to the MRTI Scholarship Shootout on December 9 and 10 in Arizona, how does this play into your 2018 planning?
It is a great opportunity to be able to go the MRTI shootout, which provides the first step of a fantastic and unique ladder system for single seat cars. This isn’t a chance for just 2018, but multiple seasons to a dream seat racing an IndyCar. Being selected as the winner of the shootout not only provides a great boost to be chosen by a group of renowned professionals, it also provides scholarship funding in the USF2000 series. Should I be awarded this honor it provides near certainty of securing my 2018 season in America and hopefully in the following years by delivering to the Series the qualities that I would be selected for and emulating the success of Oliver Askew. The opportunity provided by Andersen Promotions, Mazda and Cooper Tires is a massive incentive and opportunity for aspiring drivers.
Looking back at the season, is there a race weekend that is most memorable?
As a racer, I’ve enjoyed every race I participated in this season, however I am going to be greedy as there are three weekends that are special, the first trip to Mid-Ohio, the Runoffs at Indianapolis and the last meeting of the season at New Jersey Motorsport Park. They are the stand out moments this season. Mid-Ohio was great as we set a new record by winning all three races in one day which was great for the team. Indianapolis was a very hard-fought race, made more difficult with radio communication and power issues putting us on the back foot, however we still managed to come away with the win against the odds when leading at the white flag. New Jersey not only sealed the championship for the team and myself, but also secured the second-place position, sealing an incredible 1600 season for Team Pelfrey and 1600 Team Manager Geoff Bushor.
What are your plans for the 2018 season? Will we see you stateside?
My family and I see the great opportunities for me in the US and we don’t want to waste the hard-won success of 2017. We are working hard to raise the budget for me to return to race single seat cars in the US with opportunities in both the MRTI and SCCA series. We are talking with potential sponsors in the US and UK and with support from other parties coming on board, I will be here for the 2018 season, a really exciting prospect.
Cowley made an impressive debut and will undoubtedly be a young driver that will continue to rise through the ranks in open-wheel racing. He will be in action at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the MRTI Shootout December 9-10 where he will have the opportunity to win $200,000 dollars. For more information throughout the offseason, visit pelfreypower.com or visit @TeamPelfrey on Twitter and Facebook.