Dyan: I am with Liam Lawrence, just 17 years old which means that technically he cannot drive on public roads as he has still not reached the age at which he could apply for a ‘Driving License’. Yet I witnessed Liam Lawrence scorching along the Pannala Tracks a few Sundays ago. He really moves; I was impressed, indeed!
Liam: Thank you! Just that Motor Racing has very much been in our family, starting from my grandfather Nigel Austin; then my dad Shirendra Lawrence who used to take me to Pannala for instance when he used to race – well my dad Shirendra Lawrence still actively participates in Motor Racing Meets both in Sri Lanka and abroad. So all of them, especially my dad was a huge influence on me and that perhaps explains how I took up to motor racing. I started off with G-Karts before moving up to Formula Cars.
Dyan: Tell me Liam, how old were you when you took up to Karting and then describe your progression. Liam: I got on to Karting when I was just 12 – I loved it! So Karting became my passion for a around three years and then ‘racing talent scouts’ had noticed my flair as I consistently shone at Go-Karting Events and so by 2011 when 15-plus, I was ‘upgraded’ to Formula Cars and have been racing since at Pannala; to be specific the car that I now race is a Formula McLaren 1300 EFI given to me by the McLaren Group
Dyan: So during the past two years when you have progressed from being just 15 years, any notable Podium finishes? Well I saw you personally leading the race from start to finish at Pannala that Sunday! Liam [smiles] That Sunday at Pannala was my best so far; I have had five Podium finishes in all – twice I came second – that was my first two races at Pannala and of course qualified third at Night Races 2013.
Dyan: That’s tremendous! So how do you see your Motor Racing career pan out in the next few years? Liam: Well I want to continue getting more Podium finishes and then set my sights in racing overseas. In fact my dad will be racing in Malaysia in 2015; I will join him too. I really would love to race in a much more powerful and faster car in Malaysia and show my mettle amongst way tougher competition there!
Dyan: With your obvious talent and the DNA of Nigel Austin & Shirendra Lawrence, you will no doubt go far! But tell me Liam – you are still a school boy. Do your Classmates support you in your racing pursuits? Liam [smiles] Many of my school mates really support me; they are proud of me. In fact two to three of them not only have accompanied me for all my Racing Events they even wipe the dust away from the car before I start off! Yes, they have been a tremendous source of strength and encouragement to me throughout my racing; some have even been coming along with me from my Karting Days; lovely guys!
Dyan: Liam, what goes through your mind when at the Starting Grid with all the noise and expectation? Liam: It is nerve-wracking! Just before the lights go off, keeping the revs up and hoping to have a dream start and head for the first corner ahead of the pack! The adrenaline rush simply cannot be matched!
Dyan: One could only just imagine! Apart from the Pannala Track any other tracks you’ve raced on so far? Liam: Yes, I have also raced at the Katukurunda Track as well in the Colombo Night Races held in 2013.
Dyan: Wow! You took part in the Colombo Night races when just a kid of 16 years? Tell MOTOR readers! Liam [smiles] It was truly fascinating; best experience in my racing so far; I qualified third in my category; unfortunately on Race Day it rained, so the track was wet and I had a slight accident and couldn’t finish the race. The track was so smooth – easily the best racing track I have driven on so far in my career!
Dyan: Why do you pick the Colombo Night Races as being the ‘best experience’ you’ve had in racing? Liam: Like I said the smooth surface, then the long straights – one could go flat out on 5th; the tight bends and then of course the tough competition – all in all it was ‘real fun’ – unforgettable, actually!
Dyan: Who actually has and continues to train you on the various aspects and techniques of racing? Liam: No one as say, continuous coaching; when we graduated from Go-Karts to Formula Cars we were given a pep-talk on do’s and don’ts of Formula Car driving; apart from that Mr. Rohan De Silva & Mr. Dinesh Jayawardene of McLarens brought down Akbar Ibrahim from India who imparted some valuable tips on Formula Racing – sadly I couldn’t race when Akbar Ibrahim was around as I had broken a finger!
Dyan: Yes, Mr Rohan De Silva and Mr Dinesh Jayawardene have and continue to do so much for Racing Liam: Yes, their company McLarens own the ‘Speed Drome’ too where they have an on-going scheme where they pick a pool of around 25 young hopefuls who pit each other during a series of Karting Events over a year and eventually pick the top ten best Karting talent. So after a series of grueling Karting Championships I made it to the ‘Top Ten’ best Karting talent, finally emerged second to Kyle Crosland
Dyan: That’s a familiar name as I’ve also interviewed for MOTOR magazine, Kyle Crosland, some time ago. Liam, who looks after the engine maintenance part of it and replacing of tyres of your Formula Car? Liam: Here I must be thankful to McLarens as they do all the maintenance of the cars that are given to each of us to race throughout the year. We only got to ‘get in and race’ – everything else is sorted! Well one could go along and check your car out and see what’s being done; but that’s about it! We’ve only got to drive and be competitive and ideally improve on one’s timing at each round of racing Formula cars.
Dyan: You’ve got an active father who still races; obviously Shirendra Lawrence must have had a great influence on his son? After all not many sons have dads who race at the same time, like your dad! Liam[smiles] of course my dad has been and continues to have a huge influence on me. I recall how he took me to Pannala and got me to drive one of his old racing cars which he had driven some 20 years ago! He then gave me the ropes on driving and handling a racing car – that impromptu training session on the eve of test on driving skills before selection to drive Formula cars was so very beneficial. My dad is always supportive and comes along for all races that my brother Yannick Lawrence and I participate in.
Dyan: What are your dreams in Motor Racing? Perhaps get on to Formula 3 and who knows F1 one day? Liam [eyes light up] Oh! That’s my dream’ that would be really awesome! Like I said earlier let me prove my credentials at racing circuits in Malaysia and hopefully, soon some people would notice my talents!
Dyan: Liam, have you personally driven down the famous International Sepang Racing circuit in Malaysia? Liam: I have not personally done so but I’ve accompanied my dad at Sepang; superb experience! In fact he would be racing at Malaysia’s Sepang Racing Circuit later on during 2015 in his brilliant Caterham car.
Dyan: You are still only a 17 year old schoolboy – what about your mum – Monique Lawrence – she must be getting quite nervous before and during a Racing Event. Perhaps that’s natural due to Safety reasons. Liam: She was terrified when I first started! And certainly before the Night Race she was understandably nervous; but now my mum has grown in confidence and is now very supportive with my motor racing!
Dyan: Great to hear and record that you have a wonderfully supportive family with a great mum and dad. As a schoolboy how do you juggle between studies and sports? Must be quite tough isn’t it Liam? Liam: That’s not an issue! I am seriously pursuing my academic stuff as well and I am also Captain of the school’s Athletic Team; in fact I represent my school in six sports – apart from Athletics, there’s Cricket, Badminton, Basketball, Swimming and I played Rugby for my old school. Regarding my studies, I kept away from Motor Sports for six months seriously studying before my O/Levels and that paid off in the end! I am looking forward to a Cricketing tour of Malaysia with school’s First Eleven team in April 2015, thankfully all these six different sports’ seasons don’t clash – enabling me to play in all those six sports!
Dyan: It’s now my turn to say ‘Awesome’ Liam – you are one heck of a bundle of wonderful talent! Just imagine MOTOR magazine readers – Liam Lawrence 17, excels in six sports; captain of school’s Athletic Team; represents the College in Cricket 1st Eleven in Cricket tour to Malaysia; and good in studies too! And Oh I forgot – a top Go-Karting talent and now Formula car champ in the making! Incredible stuff! I have played Cricket too many moons ago; I still love Cricket! What are you in Cricketing parlance?
Liam [smiles] I am an all-rounder; I bowl pace, opening the attack and then bat at the top of the order.
Dyan: What amazing talent! By the way who is your favourite Grand Prix Formula One Driver and why? Liam: Lewis Hamilton, partly maybe because he’s British; well because I am half British too and Lewis Hamilton – you could describe him as being my role model – his focus and tenacity is just tremendous!
Dyan: It is our hope that you would follow in footsteps of Lewis Hamilton and who knows emerge one day as Sri Lanka’s first Formula One Driver! Liam – it has been a pleasure talking to you. Let me on behalf of MOTOR magazine wish you all success towards that wonderful goal in Motor Racing. Just do it, Liam! Liam: Thank you ever so much Dyan and MOTOR magazine. It has been wonderful talking to you!