NEW BREED – DTO Motorsport
We catch up with DTO Motorsport founder Mike Jordan to find out about their unique experience days, whether you just want to drive a racing car, improve your skills alongside a professional racing driver, or even become a racing driver yourself.
Who are you and what do you do?
DTO Motorsport is a company with a single-minded vision to produce the best track experiences, whether you’ve never been on track before, have been on track before or you’ve even raced before. We focus on the best tracks with the best cars, the best hospitality and absolutely the best driver coaches as well.
We run a really exciting fleet of road and racing cars, and even if it’s your first time on track, we use race team DNA, using video and data along with fabulous coaches including BTCC and WEC drivers to not only give customers a really enjoyable day, but truly help them to learn and progress with their driving.
I was in the category of people in the past where I thought I’ve done track days, I know how to do it, but the truth of the matter is, since I got involved creating the business and got into racing, I’ve seen how much knowing what your doing matters and increases your enjoyment and progression.
We really try to bring a lot of fun to it, but at the same time we are maniacal about attention to detail and safety in terms of the vehicles and their prep and all of the mechanics are race engineers who are also with us when we’re racing.
How did DTO come to be?
My background is in financial services. I worked in that sector for decades and spent a lot of time at American Express. Sitting on their board for some bits of their business gave me a good handle on how to deliver exclusive and differentiated products. Ultimately though, I’m a lifelong petrolhead, so I progressed through faster and faster road cars over the years and convinced myself that, as the cars grew more powerful with bigger tyres and bigger brakes, my driving skills were on an upward curve as well, until I decided to get into racing and realised that probably wasn’t true!
I just found there was a bit of a void in the market. I did a lot of manufacturer days which I found could be a little impersonal, a bit like you’re just being pushed through a machine, even with top-end manufacturers. Then when I got into racing, it just got more confusing and no one was really thinking of it from a proper client perspective. It was more like cold wet garage, a dodgy bacon sandwich and horrible coffee, and I thought it has to get better than this.
As well as that, the manufacturers obviously want you to stick with one brand, and as someone who is really into cars, I don’t want to limit myself to one brand as I might like a GT2 RS for one purpose, a 600LT for another and an M2 race car for another.
Tell us about the fleet.
We take people through a range of cars on our experience days. Every single vehicle, including the road-going ones, all have roll cages, race seats, harnesses, intercom and full VBOX Pro data logging including video.
The range starts with the BMW M140i. They sound like little cars, but they’re 360bhp and they’re fully track-prepared with race suspension, different brakes and the interior has been ripped out. They’re a great teaching tool being rear-wheel drive so they’re a perfect car to start in. Then we have the 718 Cayman GT4 road car which has a fabulous chassis and is a great car to learn track driving in.
On the race car side, we use BMW M2 Racings which are really nothing like the road car. This is a ground-up racing car built by BMW’s racing division. We are a BMW customer racing team as well and have the only two M2 Racings in the UK at the moment. They run on slicks (or wets if it’s wet) and they’re a real favourite with our clients because they have unbelievable levels of grip and performance, and you really see what makes a race car so different dynamically to any road car because they are built without compromise for racing.
Then we have the McLaren 570 GT4 race car which is built by McLaren’s race division. We are also a McLaren customer racing team and we run them in championships. It’s a full-blown GT4 racing car with enormous levels of grip and stopping power. They’re actually less powerful than the road cars because they’re homologated for GT4 so they only run about 460bhp, but they’re miles quicker on track than the road cars because of the speed you can carry through the corners and how late you can brake, and it’s actually a really accessible car.
We also have a Porsche GT2 RS Weissach which we often use for hot laps with pro drivers. It’s still one of the fastest road cars to ever lap the Nürburgring so it’s great to give people a sense of how quick that car is. A McLaren 720S is crazy quick, but a GT2 RS MR will lap the Nürburgring 30 seconds faster. It’s a really proper bit of kit, and when you get driven by one of our instructors or celebrity coaches, you really realise what a racing driver is capable of!
Tell us about the drivers you work with.
We really look for three things with our drivers. You’ve got to be a great coach first and foremost because that’s a specific skill, being able to communicate and help people progress, and it’s really important. You’ve got to have a great personality and that’s something people notice on our days. We create a really inclusive environment where you feel like you’re part of the family and part of a race team. Finally, it’s great if you have the kind of racing background our coaches have.
Charlie Fagg was European GT4 champion last year, and he’s driving for Aston Martin in WEC this year so he’s a Le Mans driver too. There’s Jade Edwards and Jack Mitchell from BTCC, Adam Smalley and Harry King from Porsche Carrera Cup and Supercup, and we’ve had Abbie Eaton as well who you’ll know from The Grand Tour.
Karun Chandhok is our Head of Motorsport. He’s part of the team and he helps us with a number of things including the way we deliver the days, he participates in the days giving hot laps and going through data with people, and his network is second-to-none as a Sky F1 presenter and working with the Williams F1 heritage fleet, so he gives us great access to the F1 world. We’ve also had 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill run our days and Johnny Herbert who is just great. Imagine getting taken out for hot laps with drivers like them. They’re fantastic, friendly guys and they have so much insight into the current world of motorsport so that adds a huge amount to the days for people.
How can SCD members get involved?
There are a couple of different products we offer. There are the experience days which take you through a range of cars from the track-prepped M140i up to the racing cars throughout the day, and we also offer a product called Race Edit which is perfect if you’ve spent quite a bit of time on track already and are ready to take that to the next level. With Race Edit, you pick a specific car like the M2 Racing or 570 GT4 and you will be dedicated to that same vehicle all day, really getting deep into the data with your coach and improving.
We run at circuits all over the UK like Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Silverstone, Donington, Goodwood, Oulton Park, and we’re doing some great days abroad too. We have Spa coming up in September, and if you haven’t driven Spa, it’s just magical.
Then we have a bunch of clients who progress even further from Race Edit. They come to us and we develop race programs to build on that, help with their race license and ultimately get them racing and we’ve got an exciting range of products launching soon to get people racing in price-accessible vehicles in a really competitive series. The teams will be made up of three drivers including two customers and a pro driver, and the pro drivers will be well-known names from the likes of touring cars and WEC.
We really value the partnership with SCD and we are offering SCD members 10% off all bookings in 2022. We were at the Secret Meet and what a truly incredible experience that was. There are photos of the entire Craner Curvers full of F40s, F50s, Enzo and LaFerraris, which was just amazing for anyone into anything automotive. As well as that, it really gave us an opportunity to demonstrate what we do and what a race car can really do with top coaches alongside you. Then Karun was taking people out in the GT2 RS really showing the skills of a racing driver, and we love to do things like that, it was an amazing day you guys put on.
If you could add any car to the fleet, what would it be?
There will be some significant fleet expansion this year. There’s some really fun stuff coming out soon; the new Lotus Emira looks great, I think the McLaren Artura GT4 race car is going to be mega from what we’re hearing. I think the Ferrari 488 Challenge Evo is a super impressive car, I know the 296 will come out to replace that in due course, but for now we like the look of the McLaren 765LT.
It must be said though that I struggle to find anything as fun as the M2 Racing! It sounds crazy but we hear that a lot from people who have driven pretty much everything, I just love that car. If I had to pick just one to add, I love the Senna. I think it looks outrageous and I’m a massive Ayrton Senna fan.
What does the future hold for DTO?
We are in the process of some really large developments, some of which I can’t go into at the moment, but what I can go into is that we are bringing this very exciting introduction to racing to the market within the next few weeks. It will be in a rear-wheel-drive fun car in a grid of 35 to 40 cars. You’ll get everything from your handling days, your training on track, your race kit, and you will be racing as part of an endurance team alongside a British Touring Car driver or WEC driver. I think that’s going to be spectacular, and we’re hoping to launch between two and six cars into that between now and the back end of next year.
As I mentioned there will be a lot of focus on fleet expansion, and we’re going to be doing a lot more on the racing side so you’ll see a lot more racing from us next year as racing is in our DNA. We’ve done a lot of work on the corporate side for companies who want high-end hospitality so those offerings will grow as well, so we’re always trying to grow our offering and take everything we do even further.
We are permanently challenging ourselves. After every single event, we come together as a team and talk about what went well, what we have learnt and how we could make it better. We try to take that racing mindset on how to improve every time.
There is good track availability in September and October which are great times to get out on track. We do see people shy away from it when the tracks get wet, but my personal view on that is if you want to improve your driving skills, a wet track is pretty handy! We’d love to see more SCD members joining us on our days and hopefully the feedback we’ve had from members already will give people the motivation to get involved and do something special.
SCD MEMBER FEEDBACK
Molly & Rob Taylor
Rob’s first line was, “It was f***ing brilliant”, but I’m not sure we can use that! The setup and lounge was fantastic and we loved that we could park our GT3 RS outside the DTO garage at the SCD Secret Meet. The welcome we received was wonderful, very professional and the team couldn’t do enough for us.
Rob had Adam Smalley as his instructor, and he thought he was incredible — so patient and knowledgeable. I had Jade Edwards and had the same experience with her too. We were both nervous, but were made to feel at ease straight away and were constantly reassured throughout our time with DTO, and our confidence grew very quickly.
Neither of us had driven a race car before, let alone a left-hand-drive one with a ‘Nintendo-style’ steering wheel on slicks, and we both agreed it was unbelievable how well the car handled when you’re used to a road car. We were encouraged to push the car as much as possible, so much so Rob was drenched from sweating!
We loved having the data to hand afterwards to see our own progression and I like that I have evidence that I almost kicked Rob’s ass! It was also very couple and female-friendly unlike some other track days. The whole experience was just amazing, and we absolutely loved it.
I opted to drive the McLaren 570 GT4. I was lucky enough to take my Atom 4 around the track the evening before, so I was excited to see how the two cars would compare and what a professional driver could do to help my technique.
The experience of being strapped into a true race car with a Le Mans-winning driver sitting beside you, feeling the car drop down off the air jacks and driving out along the pit lane, surrounded by race cars from across the decades and supercars alike was such a special feeling, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous as I accelerated onto the track!
My professional tutor was Le Mans-winner Jonny Kane. He was reassuring through my first few laps as I did my best to get a feel for the car and the tyres as it was my first time on slicks. After that, we spent time building my confidence further, braking even harder and getting my corner exits right. Watching my lap times come down was a pleasure, and I’m still blown away by the speed the car could carry through the Craner Curves.
Once our time on track was complete, we headed back to the pits for a debrief. It was great to spend some time talking through the data with Jonny, explaining where I could gain more time and helping with some advice on things to focus on when I’m next on track.
I can’t thank DTO enough for the chance to drive a true race car at pace around such a great British track. It was one of the most special motoring experiences I’ve had, made even more special doing it with a crowd and some other crazy things out on track with me, so thanks also to SCD for organising everything. I can’t wait to get back out on track with DTO.