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Ben Collins, RML AD Group racing driver
Image courtesy The Sun newspaper

RML AD Group's Ben Collins at Autosport International 2011

Although Ben has parted company with his erstwhile colleagues at the BBC, he has managed to retain his celebrity status quite effectively, and is now a presenter on Channel 5’s Fifth Gear programme, a regular feature writer in several national newspapers, and will probably be embarking on a busy round of fête openings and book signings over the coming months. Sales of his autobiography must have been fairly close to expectations, and The Man in the White Suit still graces the shelves in most of the main high street bookstalls.

That kind of profile brings with it a host of promotional opportunities and the occasional job, and Ben had a busy time at last week’s Autosport Show. On the first day of the Show, Thursday, Ben was one of a host of top-name motorsport celebrities to take part in Racing4Charity’s Celebrity Karting Challenge, raising funds for national charity Starlight Children’s Foundation and the “Malaria No More” appeal.

The line-up this year included Audi works driver (and five times Le Mans winner) Emanuele Pirro, current American Le Mans Series Champion (and event organiser) David Brabham, works Aston ace Darren Turner, Lord Paul Drayson, LMS regulars Rob Bell, Andy Meyrick and Peter Dumbrek  and, of course, our own Ben Collins.

Over the last couple of years this annual karting extravaganza, supported by other fund-raising events staged at the Autosport Show, has raised around £150,000. This year the 27-team grid was topped by none other than Ben's own team, the Racing4charity squad. "We had a great team in the kart race," said Ben. "Thanks to a few well timed pit stops early on and a ballsy overtaking move by Adam Christodoulou just a few laps before the end, we were able to win a hotly contested race. It was a great event and all the better for raising some money for the Starlight Foundation."

Ben’s co-drivers included Salvo Cachia (stock car champion and stunt driver), Adam Christodoulou (ex-FRenault champion and now sportscar driver), Paul Rees (Formula 2) and two amateur drivers; Johnny Spencer and Matt Tiffin. The race itself raised some £37,000.

This video, by David Brabham, explains a bit more about the charity's work and objecives:

Click here to view Ben's interview with The Sun at the NECBen’s charitable gestures didn’t end there, and he took time out to meet young leukaemia sufferer Rohan Teague. The nine-year-old had pestered his parents relentlessly to be allowed to meet The Stig, and on Thursday his dreams came true, thanks again to the Starlight Charity.

Ben was also cornered by Sun reporter Chris Hockley, who quizzed Ben on his plans for 2011, the deal with RML, and his charitable work. You can watch the video by clicking on the graphic on the left. The page will open in a new window.

One of Ben’s more official duties on Thursday was to launch a new race series, but one with a marked difference to all the rest.

The EV Cup

The EV Cup is the first track-based championship aimed exclusively at electric-powered vehicles, and it gets under way this season. Using a selection of zero-emission electric vehicles, the inaugural season of the EV Cup will comprise seven races and two principle classes of cars - the City EV Class, where competitors will race in carbon-free, race-prepared versions of the urban THINK City car, and the Sports EV class. These are for the more serious racers, and will feature the futuristic stealth-inspired 185 kph (115 mph) Westfield iRacer. Events will typically be of around 30 minutes duration, and cover between 15 and 25 laps, depending on the length of the circuit. A third “prototype” class is also envisaged that will compete separately in time trials, against the clock.

EV Cup 2011

The 2011 calendar includes races in the UK, Portugal, Spain, and the United States, with a city street race also expected to be added to the schedule in the near future. Although the calendar isn’t 100% fixed, several dates have been confirmed, including the British rounds at Silverstone (6th August), Snetterton  (20th August), Rockingham (10th September) and Brands Hatch (23rd October).

Sylvain Filippi, Director of the EV Cup, has negotiated a very promising deal with CAA Sports, a division of Creative Artists Agency.  CAA is the world’s leading entertainment and sports agency, representing many of the most successful professionals working in film, television, music, sports, video games, theatre, and the Internet. The link will enable the EV Cup to attract some high-profile celebrities to participate, and also exploit their huge global resources to help promote the series world-wide. “The electric car is already changing the world and soon will begin to revolutionise the face of traditional motor-sport by embracing issues such as zero emissions, eco-friendly cars, sustainability and corporate social responsibility,’ said Filippi.

Ben proved to be genuinely enthusiastic about the project, and over lunch on the roof terrace above the Autosport stage, he displayed a depth of knowledge of electric cars that somewhat belied the lairy, pedal-to-the-floor reputation he’d gained during his white-suited era.

Ben Collins, EV Cup 2011

“Electric Vehicles represent a new dawn in motoring, by running on clean energy that can be sourced as locally as organic sausages,” he said in the official press statement. Over lunch, he elaborated: “Much of the early development in motor cars centred upon electric power, and some of the most innovative vehicles of the late 19th century used batteries and electric motors. If it hadn’t have been for Henry Ford and the Model T, there’s every chance we’d never have spent 100 years devoted to the internal combustion engine, and EV technology would be streets ahead of where it is today.”

“It’s surprising that mankind has taken so long to embrace the technology,’ he added. “Motorsport still offers the purest research and development platform to deliver the true potential of electric power and dynamic energy recovery; perhaps to a level that will shame the carbon combustion engine the way rubber tyres did the wooden cartwheel. EV is developing fast and the current crop of road cars are superb to drive. With a dedicated racing series that encompasses both road and racecar development, the next steps will be more like a quantum leap.”

The organisers hope that Ben will become one of the celebrity drivers to take part in this year's inaugural series. Models of the THINK City EV Cup Edition and the Westfield iRacer were on display at the Autosport Show.

EV Cup 2011

On Friday, of course, Ben took up his role as “third” driver in the RML AD Group’s 2011 driver line-up, alongside Mike Newton and Thomas Erdos. A full transcript of the team’s stage appearance can be seen on the web report here, while the press announcement that confirmed Ben's reappointment to the squad can be seen here. Hover over an image to detect if an enlargement is available.

Team News
RML AD Group's Ben Collins
at Autosport International 2011

Issued January 18th 2011

RML Chevrolet BTCC driver champion 2010, Jason Plato. Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC




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EV Cup 2011

EV Cup 2011

EV Cup 2011

EV Cup 2011

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EV Cup 2011










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