Alt. Sport Meets: Shanaka Clay

When you think of motorsports you think of thrilling speed and incredible mechanics, but that’s not all the world of racing has to offer today. E-Sports welcomes an entirely new style of motorsports all together, and we feel it represents a key part of the future of racing as a whole. When a group of young and talented gamers combine with the world of F1 there’s only exciting things that could follow, and we were lucky enough to spend some time with one of E-Sports new favourites. Shanaka Clay has dedicated most of his young life to motorsport; from karting to competing against some of the worlds finest online drivers. We spoke about everything from his training routine with Racing Point to what playlists get him geared up for a race.

How did you get into E-Sports and Racing initially?

My journey started when I was eight years old, that’s when I initially fell in love with motorsport as a whole. I had about eight to ten years of karting and a little bit of real-life driving experience as well. As you go up the ranks the prices get higher and if you’re not doing well enough it’s not really worth it. It got to a stage where I had potential but we couldn’t afford to go any further, so to satisfy myself as I couldn’t race in the real world I started to enjoy racing on the XBOX or any console and that’s what got me here. Back in 2o18/2019, I was playing on the F1 game and I realised I was semi-decent at it which was quite cool and these events came out so I gave it a go and I kept on progressing through the stages. I got to the pro draft, which is where all ten F1 teams get to pick from the pool of drivers. I didn’t get picked last year but then I came back, worked on a few things, and then Racing Point decided to give me a chance this year which I’m hugely grateful for. 

Walk us through the process of getting to team up with Racing Point, what was it like?

It’s still settling in! I’ve been part of the team for only a few weeks now but it feels like it’s just yesterday that I was being picked and it’s an honor to have such a huge organization put their trust into three out of nearly 300,000 people that entered the competition. It’s an insane feeling and a huge responsibility which has to be taken very seriously as well.  

You mentioned you had to work on some things prior to working with Racing Point. Did someone get in touch with you to outline what you needed to work on to reapply the next year? 

I wish it was that easy! The first year I did relatively well, and after the event, I knew what I needed to do and I didn’t need anyone to tell me that and no one did tell me that. So I just went away and I waited for the next cycle to come around and I just improved in every aspect and I think the teams noticed that. 

So what was that like when you got to wear the apparel and be an official member of the team?

It was a huge honor all together really! To admire these people racing in real-life F1 and to be a part of the same organization and be technically a teammate to them is incredible. I’ll never lose appreciation that I have this opportunity.

How often do you have to train and practice and what do you have to do to get to your standard? 

You have to put in hours and hours every day and find those little things that will give you an edge. On a normal day, it depends as different teams have different programs, but you could easily do eight hours a day of training and you have to keep an eye on your physical fitness as well; it may not be real life but it does tire you after that amount of time. To get to this stage you could probably get away with less, but you still need a lot of hours- I think I put in around 1000 hours into F1 2019 last year and that was maybe half as much as some others put, so it’s a crazy amount that you have to put in.  

Do you have any tips for those who are a decent level already and what are the general technical things that they need to work on? 

I would say go into each track and turn all of the assists off and learn how to drive without them as this will make you a better driver. Go on the leader boards and see where people are gaining time on you and see if you can alter your set up to see if you can gain some of that time back and to make you more consistent. If you work on consistency the pace will naturally come on its own; I’ve always found that if I can find a consistent set up I will then gain pace. Put in the grind and put in the hours whilst using your time efficiently. Do a mixture of things like different conditions and tyre compounds and different strategies and make sure you’re accounting for each different circumstance. 

Tell us what you do outside of the track to unwind, are there other games you like to play?

I enjoy gaming, I’ve been a gamer since I was little so I’m always hooked on my XBOX. I enjoy playing FIFA, I play a bit of Call of Duty and Dead By Daylight which is a little bit less well known. Outside of the gaming world, especially now that I’m a part of the Racing Point organization, I need to keep my fitness up. I know that might sound like a bit of a chore to some people but once you get into it it’s really satisfying to see yourself improve and it’s a part of my nature to want to do well in everything. Apart from that, I like to do a little bit of driving in real life and I do like to do a bit of cooking because it’s just as important to fuel yourself properly as well as fitness. 

During COVID-19 have you been able to speak to your teammates and any of the F1 drivers?

We have less time with the F1 drivers and the full team this year just because we’re trying to limit all interactions. Under normal circumstances, we would have certainly been involved and would have been at the factory every day. We have a house up in Silverstone that we all meet each other socially distanced and we’ll do some training and a boot-camp, but we mainly communicate online. These events are now moving more online whereas they were done in person or on the mainstage before and we have to be prepared for that and start getting used to that process. We still work efficiently as a team just less in person than we’re used to. 

What type of things can we expect from you this season and what are some of your targets?

The target is always to win. The last exhibition series race we did I won so I want to carry on with that positive momentum. The team and I as a whole are certainly dark horses to do very well and we’re doing plenty of work behind the scenes, so you should expect to see the pink cars at the front. 

We famously asked Pierre Gasly what type of music he listens to before the race and his response was “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent, which was one of the most unexpected answers we thought we could have got! Do you have any anthems that gear you up before a race?

I don’t have any particular tunes but I think maybe work out music that really gets to you and pump you up works for me. Think about the most generic dance song you could possibly imagine and I’ve probably listened to it at some point before a race. 

Shanaka Clay will be competing for BWT Racing Point F1 Esports team in the 2020 F1 Esports Pro Series presented by Aramco. For more information head to: https://www.f1esports.com/