GROWING up on his family farm just outside Turriff in rural Aberdeenshire could quite easily have scuppered Gordie Mutch’s dream of becoming a professional racing driver one day.

He could certainly have been forgiven for fearing that his location in the North-east of the country would be a serious impediment to his progress in motorsport during his formative years.

Mutch, though, always believed he could follow in the tyre tracks of Dario Franchitti, Tom Kristensen and Michael Schumacher due to the international success which a celebrated countryman of his had enjoyed decades earlier.

The Scot admired the likes of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton when he was a prodigiously talented youngster leaving his rivals in the amateur go karting circuit across the United Kingdom trailing in his slipstream.

The Herald: Yet, it was Jim Clark, who was crowned Formula One world champion twice in the 1960s before being tragically killed in an accident at Hockenheim at the age of just 32, who was perhaps his greatest inspiration as a boy. 

Clark was raised on a farm near Duns in the Borders – but he still managed to rise to the pinnacle of his sport and is considered by many knowledgeable commentators to be one of the greatest drivers of all-time today.

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“He was a massive hero of mine when I was boy,” said Mutch. “Partly it was because he was Scottish, partly it was because he was so humble despite being so talented. He was a very quiet man who never boasted about his achievements.

“But the thing I really liked about him was that he had grown up on a farm. I could relate to that because I did the same thing myself. He would get in his car, drive an amazing race and beat the best in the world. Then to celebrate he would go back home and herd sheep. Even when he was a world champion, he would still work on the farm in winter.”

Mutch had not let coming from the same sort of background hold him back either. He achieved a major career ambition this week when he was confirmed as a member of the Mahiki Racing team for the 2024 British GT season.

“This is the biggest development in my career so far,” he said. “The UK is the most competitive country in the world for GT racing. It has honed some of the world’s best drivers over the past few years. Former Formula One drivers have raced on the grid. The calibre is extremely high.

“You also have top manufacturers there, Mercedes, McLaren, BMW and Toyota have all got factory-supported teams and then there is us with the two Lotuses. They are very high performance cars. I have been trying to get a shot at it for the past few years. It is a big deal for me.”

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The fact that Mutch will be sitting behind the wheel of a Lotus Emira GT4 at Brands Hatch, Donington Park, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps in the coming months will have a real resonance for him.

“Jim Clark was synonymous with Lotus,” he said. “That is the car he won his world championships in. So to debut in British GT in a Lotus as a Scottish driver just makes it even more special.”

The Herald: It has been a long road to get to this point. There have been many twists and turns along the way. But he has remained firmly focused on the finishing line from the moment he first put his foot an accelerator pedal as a lad.

“My dad and my uncle had raced a bit,” he said. “It was in their blood. I had a shot of a go kart one day when I was six or seven and found I was instantly very good. Fast forward a year or so and I was Scottish champion for my age group. I went on to become the British junior champion when I was 15.

“Karting is how every driver starts out. It teaches you the basics, race craft, fighting other drivers on the track, consistency, racing lines, those kind of things. The Super One title which I lifted has been won in the past by David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Allan McNish, Paul Di Resta. A lot of British Formula One drivers have come through that way.”

Following his compatriots Coulthard, McNish and Di Resta into single seaters, however, was never where Mutch felt that his future lay for two reasons.

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“Unless you have got millions of pounds from the get go you are extremely unlikely to make your way to Formula One these days,” he said. “But it has never really interested me in the same way as GT does. When you come out of karting you either go into GT or you go into single seaters. This is the route I always wanted to go.”

That is not to say that his family did not make considerable sacrifices so that he could develop and improve. They uprooted from Turriff to Lockerbie as he got older because they felt it would help him to realise his undoubted potential. Round trips to meetings down south could take 24 hours.

He is indebted to everyone who has supported him, both financially and morally, over the years and is pleased he has rewarded their faith in him by finally making the breakthrough into GT. 

The Herald: “It is an extremely expensive sport,” he said. “My karting was mostly funded by my family. But I’ve had a lot of support from sponsors along the way. I have been able to progress as a result of their generosity. 

“It is up to the drivers themselves to source sponsors. We put on corporate events at racing circuits and introduce clients to other businessmen and women who could potentially benefit their companies. At the end of the day, the racing paddock can be a wealthy place. Good connections can be made there.

“Back when I was nine, I spoke at an event in my local area where a lot of business people came together. There were about 100 people in the room so it was nerve-wracking. But we got support as a result of that meeting. I was very much in the right place at the right time.”

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Mutch, whose improvement proceeded apace when he made the step up from karts and cars and who was crowned Praga Cup champion in 2022 after racing in a prototype, will not simply be content to make up numbers in the British GT Championship this year despite being a newcomer. He is quietly confident that he can fare well.  

“I would like to think I have got a few good attributes as a young driver,” he said. “Apart from being very fast in one lap pace in qualifying, I am very strong in leading a team and I am a very good coach. That will help me when I am racing with an amateur driver in pro-am. They are two of the biggest strengths you can have in GT. The less experienced driver is counting on you to make good decisions.

“We will race Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Donington and Spa this year. I may not have raced in British GT before, but I have raced on these circuits in other series. So I know them like the back of my hand. Even Spa in Belgium. I won the Spa Classic Six Hours in a Jaguar E-Type Lightweight there in 2022. That was an awesome race, really cool.”

So what is his ultimate objective? Mutch does not hesitate when he is asked. “Le Mans,” he said. “The biggest endurance races in the world, Daytona 24 Hours, Spa 24 Hours, Le Mans 24 Hours. That is what I would love to do. GT cars race in all these series. I am very much on the ladder now, which is great.”

The 21-year-old has realised that some things in life are far more important than making pole position or being first past the chequered flag of late.

His mother Emily suffered a stroke a couple of years ago and his father Neil is now her full-time carer. They have recently moved back to the Aberdeen area so they can be nearer to their relatives.

The Herald: The Northampton-based driver is proud to support Step Ahead Aberdeen, a community-based exercise-after-stroke group, whenever he races. Their logo has adorned his visor in the past.  

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“The work Step Ahead are doing towards the recovery of stroke victims is very important,” he said.  “The physical effects of the stroke can be extremely damaging. But people maybe underestimate the mental effect it can have. Sometimes, that can be even more crippling.

“It is good that charities like Step Ahead exist. They do such important work helping stroke victims. I have seen it first hand with my mum. It is something that I hold very close to me. I think what has happened to my mum has given me a little bit of a different outlook.

“It is a bit of a cliche, but I have seen how life can change very quickly. I think I have tried to enjoy motorsport more. Last year wasn’t a good year for me. I know that I need to do a good job this year. But I know I also need to make sure that I enjoy it at the same time.”

Mutch was set to participate in British GT in the past when he was part of the McLaren Driver Development Programme. However, the programme was cancelled due to difficulties which arose post-Covid. He is sure, then, to savour being part of the Mahiki Racing stable this year. Particularly in the Lotus which his idol Jim Clark made world-famous.  

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