Teenage racing drivers don’t usually prioritise victory at Le Mans, but there’s nothing conventional about Phil Hanson. The 19-year-old only began racing five years ago, but is about to make his third start at the 24 Hours and already counts Fernando Alonso among his former team-mates. His fast-track story so far is remarkable.
Hanson caught the bug through arrive-and-drive karting, and at 14 started racing at club level. By his second season he was in a British Super One championship – and won a title, despite racing against kids with Cadet experience. “A lot of the credit goes to my dad because he wasn’t the typical pushy parent,” says Hanson. “He wanted me to take up golf!
“It was tough. We started in Juniors, so I had to learn race craft quickly to be able to compete. That was the biggest thing because pace came quickly. One mechanic called me ‘Fast Phil’ because I’d drive straight up to the pack and then just sit there because I couldn’t overtake…”
By now hooked on motorsport, the choice to pursue a sports car career was a pragmatic one. “Where would we go next?” he says. “European karting? That would have sucked us into the single-seater route, but we jumped ship and went straight to cars. It was at a time when F1 seats were being bought by the likes of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin. Pursuing sports car drives offered a realistic opportunity to create a career rather than take a load of money to an F1 team.”