Today we are looking into Neil Tressler, a very experienced racing driver. During the past season he has been competing in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship.
What is the Pickup Truck Racing Championship?
The Pickup Truck Racing Championship has been running since 1997, the racing in this championship is fast and extremely competitive. This championship has captured the hearts of motorsport fans as well as drivers. Several of the leading drivers have said that they consider the pickup trucks to be the finest racing machine. The drivers of some of the trucks are real characters of British Motorsport, they are all fiercely competitive on track but off track they are friendly and approachable. The drivers competing in this championship are the kind of guys who will gladly sign autographs and pose with young or old fans for their pictures to be taken with them. The racing in this championship is so close that the majority of trucks are door handle to door handle battling for places, this does not display poor driving standards. The drivers in this championship have mutual respect for one another and will give each other just enough room that they need, but not an inch more than it is necessary to. The chassis is made up of a full space frame construction, which consists of 87 meter of tube,258 joins,112 brackets, it is also fitted with steel floor panels, a tunnel front, rear baulk heads and it is all held together with 34 metres of weld. The body shell is made up of eight chassis mounted GRP Kevlar reinforced body panels. The suspension is made up from a double wishbone system fitted with quick adjustable antidive facility, lower mounted shock absorbers, GM Truck stock uprights and hubs. It also has fixed ratio anti roll bars, adjustable coil over shock absorbers fitted with 2.25x900lbs springs all on the front of the truck. On the rear of the truck it has four link rear axle location, chassis mounted watts linkage with adjustable rear anti roll bars, it also has high mounted adjustable coil cover and shock absorbers fitted with 2.25×225 lbs springs. The rear axle is a heavy duty tubed 7.5 Salisbury Ford Truck differential case fitted with 3.75 to 1 crown wheel and pinion with ZF plate drive limited slip unit. It is specially designed full floating six stub hubs and heavy duty shafts. The steering is made up of a 2.4 ratio rack mounted to the chassis via aluminium blocks, the column has two heavy duty joints to align the angle of the wheel to the driver, a quick release hub mounts the fourteen inch steering wheel. The brakes on the front of the truck are 4 pot USA produced Willwood aluminium callipers using a 310mm x 21mm straight veined vent discs. On the rear of the car the brakes are twin pot Willwood aluminium callipers with 243mm x 11mm solid lightweight disc with deglazing grooves. Both the front and rear brakes have brake pads that are American Oval Racing material specification so that they suit the racing trucks, Chassis mounted pedal box fitted with 70 and 75 master cylinders, adjustable from the driving seat position. The gearboxes on the trucks are 4 speed controlled dog type selection, location is by aluminium bell housing, drive is via 7.25 multi piece clutch and a single one piece prop shaft. The exhausts are made up of a stainless steel system with manifolds in a 4.2.1 configuration. The cooling system is a specially designed aluminium radiator with thermo controlled fan assembly. The wheels are 8.5 x 15 competition controlled wheel in aluminium fitted with a controlled Avon Tyre in slick and wet forms. All the engines must be a pickup sport engine compromising of a 4 cylinder 16 valve unit with a maximum 87.53mm bore 86cm stroke fitted with modified cylinder head, which in turn is fitted 33mm inlet valves, a 29mm exhaust forged piston and a maximum compression ratio of 12 to 1. Steel conrods are used and the rest of the bottom end is stock with the exception of a steel fly wheel. The engine uses a wet sump oil system, carburation is via twin 48DCOE with 38mm chokes. The ignition system is a controlled unit by MBE with maximum rev limiter set at 7500, this means the power output on the trucks are 22BHP with 170 ft/lbs of torque. Inside the car they must have a competition racing seat, a 6 point seat belt and additional roll cage padding.
Neil has been involved in the motorsport world for all his life, his mum and dad used to take him to watch Stock Cars when he was little. He only started racing himself in 2003. His older brother used to help with the mechanical side of Stock Cars, this is what got Neil interested in motorsport. So far his favourite championship to race in has been the Pickup Truck Racing Championship because the racing is so close and intense. His favourite driver and motorsport idol is Anders Vilarino. His favourite track is Rockingham Motor Speedways monster oval because there is nothing else like it within the UK. All of his future racing depends on the sponsorship he can achieve to get to back him so that he can get out on track more. The one thing Neil would not do would be Rallying or Drag Racing as he feels it would be too dangerous. The scariest thing that has happened during Neil’s motorsport career was when he rolled his Legend Car at Donington Park back in 2005. Neil really enjoys being part of a team because his team is a family run team that they have called Relssert Racing. The team consists of his wife Margaret, who is his crew chief and mechanic. His eldest daughter Larissa is his Spotter, this means that she is basically his eyes so when they are racing on tracks, she goes and stands with all the other spotters relaying information such as; when it is clear to move up and down the track, any trucks he should be aware of, crashes that have happened on track that he needs to avoid. At Rockingham it is the most intense that Larissa’s job gets because of how fast they are racing, Neil relies on her information even more than he does at tracks like Brands Hatch. Also his youngest daughter Natasha is another mechanic for him, she works on the pit lane with her mum, the whole team is a family affair, just the way Neil likes it. In 2010 they picked up the award for the Team Of The Year.
Neil first fell in love with motorsport when he and his family went to Rockingham Motor Speedway back in 2002, to watch Nascars Days of Thunder race, the whole family instantly fell in love with them and wanted to get involved with them. After seeing the prices to run a car they looked at other options and they chose to try and become involved in the National Legend Car Racing Championship that were also racing at Rockingham on the same day as the Nascars. Neil then arranged to go and test one, he instantly loved driving one. He then decided it was time to take his ARDs test, Neil ended up buying the exact same car as he had tested. When he was younger he used to help as a mechanic for Mo Smith in the BRISCA F1 Stock Cars. In the past Neil has driven for Montana Motorsport back in 2003-2006, then he moved on to racing as his own team, Relssert Racing, in the National Legend Car Championship. From 2007 until now he has raced in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship again as his own team, Relssert Racing. He also raced for Team FJ in the 2012 Nascar Whelen Euro Series.
Neil started racing in the National Legend Car Racing Championship in 2003 until 2006, his first ever meeting was at Rockingham Motor Speedway as part of the BTCC Package. In 2006 he started looking at some different series whilst still racing in the Legend Car Championship; he had an opportunity to test a NASCAR however he decided it wasn’t for him. For a long time he was looking at the Pickup Truck Racing Championship, him and his family went to a lot of meeting and got to find out a lot about the championship, eventually they brought a truck in July 2006. In April 2007 he took his high speed licence to race at Rockingham and began his debut season taking the title ‘Rookie of the Year’ for 2007. He finished the season 14th out of 31 drivers. From 2008-2011 he competed in the Rockingham Oval Championship, in 2008 he came 12th in the championship but 15th Overall. Then in 2009 he came 10th in the championship but 13th Overall. Then during 2010 he came 8th in the championship but 9th overall. Then during his 2011 season he finished in an amazing 2nd in the Rockingham Oval Championship, but 4th overall. Then in January of 2012 Neil was given an opportunity to test a Nascar Whelen Euro Series down at Brands Hatch in Kent. He continued with his half season in the Pickup Truck Championship, then he made his debut in the Nascar Whelen Euro Series, known as the Euro Nascar Touring Season back then, at the Brands Hatch DTM meeting. He went on to race in the Open Championship whilst his team mate Harry Vaulkhard raced in the Elite Championship. Neil qualified 10th out of 22 drivers, in his first race he was up to 7th by the time he had got to Druids bend on lap one, however he then got a tap from another driver down the straight spun him around and into th pit wall. Luckily there was not too much damage and Neil managed to bring it home in 14th. Then they had an endurance race of 50 laps which involved a driver change, Harry went out first and handed it over to Neil in 15th place, he continued for the remaining 25 laps and eventually by time they took the chequered flag they took 10th place. Then Neil got the opportunity to race at Tours Speedway in France, he was privileged to be the first British Driver to ever get to race on it. He had a podium finish after finishing 3rd in the Open Championship, however his weekend was cut short when during the next race another driver drove over the front of his car during a caution. In 2013 Neil again raced in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship but only doing a part season, coming 9th Overall and again in 2014 he did a part season once again in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship. Neil’s best finish was in 2011 when he was Vice Champion in the ‘Rockingham Oval Championship’ and 4th in the ‘Overall Pickup Truck Racing Championship’.
What is the UK National Legend Car Championship?
The UK a National Legend Car Championship is a very unique championship. In this championship they don’t use qualifying times to set the grid places, instead they use a ballot draw. In the ballot draw each driver pulls a ball out of a bag, the number and colour of the ball determines where on the grid he/she will start in the first race. Then they are reversed to set the drivers grid place for race two, for example if a driver draws the ball to place them on the inside line of the first row it means they will start on the outside line of the last row for race two. Each driver races three times during the course of the meeting and they score points according to their finishing positions in each race, at the end of the race meet the points are totalled to determine that race meetings winner. Each race heat is short and sharp, depending on the circuit length the drivers may get to do between 7 and 12 laps of the circuit. The unique grid system means that the fast drivers and the not so fast drivers are all mixed in together which produces hectic racing action because the faster drivers all try to battle towards the front of the pack. The grid for the final is determined by the total number of points the drivers pick up during the heats. They like to mix things up in the championship so the drivers with the most points start from the back of the grid, this makes the action more exciting and frantic than it normally is because all the fastest drivers are at the back of the grid are trying to push to the front of the pack at the same time. In each race its the car that score the points, then the points from each race are added together to determine the winner of the meeting, all points count towards the championship standings. There are some team cars in the championship, this makes the championship more appealing to people on a tighter budget because there can be two or more drivers sharing a car which makes it more affordable for people to compete in. The cars are 5/8 scale racers based on pre war Ford, Chevy and Dodge bodies, eight different body styles are produced . The overall car width is 60″ and the height is 46″. The engines used in these cars are sealed Yamaha 1200-1250cc engines, they have 122 horsepower, they weigh 1325lbs including the driver. The tyres used in this championships are Legend Edition Control Tyres. The wheels are 7 inches in width and 13″ in diameter. The suspension is a coilover with Bilstein shocks, the frame of the car is a full tube frame with an integral roll cage and the harness they must have is an FIA approved 5 point harness.
During 2014 he did a part season in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship. The reason Neil chose to race in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship was because he loves Nascars and the Pickup Truck Racing is the only championship in the UK that brings a taste of America to the United Kingdom. They race on both Oval and Circuit Racing. Pickup Truck Racing is the fastest formula in the UK when they race on the 1.5 mile banked oval of Rockingham Motor Speedway, they reach constant speeds of 140mph plus. It only takes them about 40 seconds to do one lap, because of the series being a one make championship it makes it a highly competitive championship. As they only competed in half the race meetings they viewed this year as a year of testing. When I asked Neil about his 2015 season he told me “In 2015 I shall be doing a full year in the Pickup Truck Racing Championship, I may also be racing in another Championship but I can’t really say what it is yet”. His first outing in 2014 was at Brands Hatch on the 12th and 13th of April. During the qualifying session he qualified in 7th place to start race one. The time he set was 52.639, only 0.846 seconds behind the person who qualified to take pole. His qualifying time for his race two position was 53.234, only 1.082 seconds behind the pole sitter, for race two he qualified to start in 9th place. In the first race of the weekend Neil finished in 9th place in his number 37 pickup truck after doing 18 laps. For race two Neil moved up one place and started from 8th on the grid after Paul Tomkins started from the back of the grid for some unknown reason. For race two Neil managed to finish in 9th place again, with a time of 23:36.501. The next round was on the Rockingham Oval Circuit on the 17th and 18th of May. In the first qualifying session Neil managed to qualify in 7th, which is where he would start on the grid for race one. Then during the second qualifying session he qualified to start from 8th on the grid for race two. During race one he was unable to finish the race after doing 33 laps, he retired just two laps before the end of the race. For race two he was due to start on 8th on the grid but unfortunately Neil was unable to start the race. The next round he participated in was at The American Speedfest at Brands Hatch on the 8th of June. During qualifying he set a time of 1:04.140 which put him in 16th place on the grid for race one. After completing 11 laps of the race he didn’t carry on during the race, so he was put down as a not classified. Then for race two, he didn’t set a qualifying time but he came out and competed in the race and ended up walking away with an 11th place finish. Then it was on to Thruxton on the 14th and 15th June, for race one Neil qualified to start from 8th on the grid and for race two he would start from 5th place on the grid. During race one Neil had to keep fending on and battling with most of the other competitors and finished the race to take 10th place. Then for race two he was unable to complete the race, he only managed to complete 9 of the 14 laps. His next outing was on the 20th and 21st of September at Rockingham on the oval circuit. During the first qualifying session he qualified to start from 11th on the grid, during the second qualifying session he didn’t qualify to get his place on the grid. At the end of race one Neil crossed the line to take 8th place after battling his way up through the pack. For race two he battled his way through and managed to walk away with 8th place again. His final outing of the 2014 season was at Brands Hatch during the British Truck Racing Championship final weekend. During qualifying he managed to get a good enough time to get him to start from 17th on the grid. Then he went on to qualify to start from 16th on the grid for race two. By the time race one came around he ended up starting from 16th instead of 17th, he battled his way through the race and unfortunately after completing 14 out of the 18 lap race Neil couldn’t continue to complete the race. Neil did not start the second race.
© Fay Tilley 10th December 2014