The drive of my life
Ever since being a lad I've had an interest in cars. My dad liked cars and I grew up in the 60s and 70s watching Formula One. I've always considered myself a good driver and had always fancied racing cars but I thought you had to be really wealthy to get into it.
In 2007 I was introduced through my wife, Anne, to a former rally driver from Sheffield called Martin Craske who had raced at quite a high level. He had retired but then bought a Lotus Elise to compete in and I got started in the sport by sharing his car. My role was essentially to warm it up for him. I got the bug and signed up for a race tuition school day at Harewood Hillclimb, near Leeds. By the end of the first season I was occasionally beating Martin’s lap times.
The following two years I competed with the Nottingham Sports Car Club and came third in the championship but then the recession kicked in and my mind was on other things.
I remember being at the start line at the Curborough sprint course in Staffordshire and had just broken the class record in the Elise but all I could think about was work. I decided to give racing a break then and concentrate on getting Butcher Residential, the estate agency I own, through the recession.
By 2012 the business was doing well and I fancied taking up driving again.
I bought a Renault 5 GT Turbo for £2,000 and with expert help increased the brake horsepower from 120bhp to 220bhp. We put a roll cage and harnesses in and it’s proved a great buy.
Some of my most memorable rides came in my second season in the Renault 5. I led the Harewood championship from the second event to the final event but unfortunately the engine blew up before the final event and I came nowhere! It nearly always comes down to the final event.
I now race across the UK in the Service Hydraulics Speed Championships and the Ride of My Life came in April 2014.
I was racing at Aintree on the track which held the F1 Grand Prix in the 50s and 60s. It’s the track where Stirling Moss won his first British Grand Prix.
Only the first two runs count in the sprint and hillclimb races I so the pressure is on.
A highly respected driver called Fred Currell who had won the Hillclimb and Sprint Championship for the previous two years was the quickest on the first run and on the second run he broke the class record.
I didn’t think I had a chance. The Aintree track is very fast and flowing and I knew from experience that if I got it wrong and oversteered a fraction it would cost me vital tenths. I’ve never rolled it or had a bad crash thankfully. Spin-offs at 90mph are just an occupational hazard although they’d probably fill my wife with terror if she was watching from the sidelines.
In the end I beat Fred’s time by four hundredths of a second. As I crossed the finishing line at 120mph and glanced at the timing clock, I knew I’d done it. I screamed at the top of my voice and couldn’t talk for two days.
The thing I really love about motorsport, is that it’s not all about speed. It’s about focus and concentration, you have to be just on the right side of not losing control. It’s not the expensive hobby I thought it was and I get to meet some fantastic people.
My Renault 5 is road- registered and taxed but it’s horrendous to drive on the road. It does 0-60mph in under five seconds and has got a heavy race clutch, so I prefer my Audi A6 Avant when I’m valuing houses in Barnsley, Penistone and Denby Dale.