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Why a national racer gets more joy from giving back to motorsport

Raising sponsorship is one of the age old difficulties facing aspiring racers. To help underfunded drivers progress, a Formula Ford racer has set about lending his expertise, with two title-winners in Porsche Carrera Cup reaping the rewards so far

#59 Garage 59 McLaren 720S GT3 Evo: Shaun Balfe, Adam Smalley

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Dan Cammish’s loss of his Team Dynamics drive on the eve of the 2021 British Touring Car Championship campaign, amid Honda and other team sponsors withdrawing, was one of the shocks of that off-season. Yet it set in motion a sequence of events that has led one seasoned Formula Ford 1600 racer to help talented drivers tackle the age-old problem of motorsport being too expensive.

When Cammish found out the surprise news, it was too late for him to secure the funding to remain on the BTCC grid and he instead sought to make a Porsche Carrera Cup GB return. But he was still short of the budget required and turned to long-time friend and single-seater competitor Chris Hodgen for help.

“I was sponsored by a company called General Traffic, which is a big automotive retailer, and I spoke to them and said, ‘Is there something we could work on?’” recalls Hodgen. “And they said, ‘Well, actually, we’re just about to sign the contract to have the exclusive distribution rights for Duckhams.’

“They said if this deal went ahead, they’d need to promote the fact they’re back in business and this could be a great opportunity for a relatively cost-effective amount of money to get the brand back into the forefront of motorsport. We agreed the deal with Duckhams and got it all signed off.”

And sure enough, Cammish was back on the Porsche grid with a car bedecked in the iconic blue and yellow colours of Duckhams, a brand that had been mothballed for 20 years after being involved in sponsoring the works Van Diemen FF1600 team and the likes of Ari Vatanen in the World Rally Championship. Its comeback made for quite a story – just as Cammish’s performances in the Carrera Cup also did, the Yorkshireman going on to snare a third title up against some strong opposition.

Duckhams deal Hodgen brokered helped to get Cammish back racing - and winning - on Porsche Carrera Cup GB return in 2021

Duckhams deal Hodgen brokered helped to get Cammish back racing - and winning - on Porsche Carrera Cup GB return in 2021

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Those performances ensured Cammish was in demand, and he secured a BTCC return with the Motorbase-run NAPA Racing squad. But this presented a problem for Duckhams and Hodgen: with NAPA being a rival brand, the deal with Cammish could not continue.

“Dan won the championship and they got a little bit hooked on it,” says Hodgen, who now needed someone else to fly the Duckhams flag. Fortunately, he had been contacted by rising star Adam Smalley, who had won that year’s Ginetta GT4 Supercup and was looking to graduate to the Carrera Cup.

“The whole purpose [of the scheme he developed with Yuasa and Car Finance 247, alongside Duckhams] is to try and find sponsorship and help underfunded drivers,” Hodgen continues. “Adam worked very hard to win the Porsche Junior scholarship, and that’s a good chunk of money towards the budget, but there’s still a lot of work to do to get the finances needed to get to that next level. But it’s easy to back someone like Adam because he works so hard and he’s such a great character.”

“I get five or 10 proposals a week from drivers asking for sponsorship and it frustrates me that all the time it’s about ‘me, me, me’. They forget it’s not about them”
Chris Hodgen

The scheme also expanded to a second car, with Hodgen enabling 2020 Walter Hayes Trophy victor Oliver White to finally make the progression from FF1600 into sportscars. And more success followed when Smalley finished runner-up in 2022 before winning the Carrera Cup title last year. The partnership is now continuing as he progresses to British GT this season in a Garage 59-run McLaren 720S GT3.

But the Duckhams Yuasa Racing set-up features more than just some stickers on a car, and is all designed to give the companies involved a tangible reward for their investment.

“We’ve got some really good exposure for Duckhams, they’ve increased their sales by 300/400% over the period of time we’ve been working together,” Hodgen explains. “We’ve tried to use the Carrera Cup as a platform to drive sales. We’ve got lots of incentives – for example, the more [Duckhams products] you sold, the more you got invited to races, you got gifts. Towards the end of the year, we did some model cars and we were very proactive trying to drive sales.”

Hodgen is now trying to spread that message about the importance of understanding the business of racing in other ways, too. He has created a driver management agency, Seventy7, alongside Cammish, and how to interact with sponsors is at the forefront of its guidance.

Hodgen (left) thoroughly enjoys supporting Smalley’s career

Hodgen (left) thoroughly enjoys supporting Smalley’s career

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“We can support other young drivers, not necessarily just on the driving skills but also the commercialisation of it and trying to get them to understand what sponsors are looking for, what are the returns on investment a brand is looking for,” says Hodgen. “I get five or 10 proposals a week from drivers asking for sponsorship and it frustrates me that all the time it’s about ‘me, me, me’. They forget it’s not about them.”

Ultimately, Hodgen views all this work as giving something back to a sport he has loved ever since following his uncle Rob Moores around when he competed in F3 in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I never had the funding to do [top-level] national motorsport and I’ve run a marketing agency now for 25 years, so I understand the information that’s needed to speak to sponsors,” he concludes. “Dan was the first recipient of that but that’s what it was about, just giving something back and using some of my expertise to help underfunded drivers.

“I probably get more enjoyment seeing Adam crossing the line first or Dan crossing the line first than I ever do when I race because you feel you’ve helped someone achieve their dream.”

Hodgen reckons he gets just as much if not more joy from Smalley's success than he ever got from his own racing

Hodgen reckons he gets just as much if not more joy from Smalley's success than he ever got from his own racing

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

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