CALM supporter, Matt Tyson, gives us some tips on motorsport and opens up about how getting involved has given him confidence, as well as helping to raise awareness for CALM…
I’ve been a fan of all kinds of motorsport for as long as I can remember, and have always enjoyed watching from the sofa, trackside itself or in the depths of a cold North Yorkshire forest for a Rally Stage.
The urge to actually take part and compete has been there from the very beginning for me, but I’m realistic enough to know that the chance to replace Lewis Hamilton will never come along, and even much lower level competition is terribly expensive and beyond the reach of my funds, so I’ve been a frustrated armchair racing driver for years.
But then a few years ago, I became aware of a National Sprint championship that was actually affordable, and decided that I would have a go at a local round. I didn’t have a racing car, but one of the classes allowed the use of normal road cars within certain criteria, and I had such a car…… I was going racing!!
I really enjoyed the day and did pretty well for my first go, even coming away with a trophy, and I was hooked; I needed to do it again. The next year, I took part in a few rounds of the championship, winning my class each time and really enjoying myself, all the time still racing around in the car I use to go to work, go shopping in and have even moved house in!
Although far from the dizzying heights of Formula 1, the Toyota Sprint Series provides an affordable first step into motorsport for enthusiasts and is very well run by the organisers who make everyone feel welcome. Racing in different classes to keep things competitive, complete novices in road cars compete alongside professional teams in out-and-out race cars, running against the clock to test driver/car ability.
At the end of September, I raced at Blyton Park circuit in Lincolnshire and this time round I carried the CALM logo to show my support and to help raise a little bit of awareness, as I went around in front of a small but enthusiastic crowd. Motorsport is largely supported by the same demographic most affected by the issues raised by the charity, and that is why I felt that I could help in a small but important way. I’ve been affected myself, both directly and indirectly, by aspects of the cultural barrier that prevents men from seeking help, and I’d really like to see things change.
There may have been a small crowd, but the online coverage is good, and the logo on my car has been seen by many on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram already, as well as local media in my area keen to use an image or two in the newspaper. I actually had a few people stop to ask me about the charity’s logo on my car, so I know the word got out a little from that.
I’ll continue to show my support for the charity in all of my races from now on and hope to do my bit to raise awareness of the issues and the social message carried by CALM, as well as trying to challenge the culture that sadly prevents men seeking help when they might need it the most.
Advice for others? If motorsport is something you’ve seen on TV and you enjoy watching it, then I’d strongly recommend going to see some live, either at a local circuit or out on rally stage. Go Motorsport is a good place to start if you want to find out what is on where/when, but equally local press is usually pretty good too. Also, if there is a motorsport venue that’s not too far from you, check out their website for events listings.
If you fancy having a go behind the wheel itself, then there are lots of ways that don’t always cost the earth. Try a bit of Karting! There are tracks dotted all around the UK, and you can often simply arrive and have a quick go for less than £30 or so. If you want to look at something a little more advanced, you could look at doing a Track Day, which are held at circuits around the country, and you can use your own car to sample high speed driving with the safety of a real circuit. It’s not actual racing, it’s more for getting to enjoy high speed driving in a safe environment and to see how your car performs. This is how I got into doing Sprinting. I can use my everyday car and I don’t need a Racing Licence or any serious equipment, keeping the costs down and the fun high.
I’ve always loved cars, and motorsport in general. I often watch the F1 on TV, as well as Touring cars, World Rally Championship and the major Motorcycle races. The thrill of the speed involved and the admiration of the skill involved is addictive and having been karting a few times as a teenager, I’ve always wanted to actually get involved myself.
Motorsport can be very expensive, and always looked beyond my pocket, but I still get out there and do it. Not only am I doing it, but the smile on my face and the trophies at home show I’m doing alright too, especially for my outlay. I found an event that was local to me and that I could afford, read the entry requirements and upon finding out that my everyday car was suitable, thought “really, why not?” and booked myself on it.
I’ve met so many great people by just having a go. People who have made me feel welcome and part of a like-minded crowd. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my driving, and also found that I feel more confident in my own skin. That might sound a little odd, but confidence has never been something that I’ve had much of, and by deciding to try Sprinting as a one off, it’s provided both enjoyment and self-assurance. It has helped me see that I can do something new, I can mix with a group of people who were strangers to me in an world that seemed beyond my reach, and I can hold my own.
There’s something great about getting wrapped up and taking some sandwiches and a flask of coffee out onto a rally stage, seeing the cars fly past at silly speeds only feet away from you. There’s real enjoyment from walking through the paddock at a race circuit, seeing the drivers and mechanics working on the cars before and in between races, being able to say hello to them and chat away. There’s real achievement and satisfaction in taking the wheel and actually giving it a go, seeing what the car will do, and how you might improve on that next lap.
Matt is racing next on 7th November at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire. If you’re around, pop along and give him a cheer! If there’s a hobby or activity that has really helped you in some way, do consider sharing your story with us by emailing CALM at [email protected]
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