Last week I did a corporate gig at the Nationwide Building Society headquarters in Swindon, where a bunch of us poets were asked to write on the spot poems for staff members on whatever subject their chose. During the day I met some lovely people and wrote poems about wives, boyfriends, kids, badminton, extreme frisbee (whatever that is), and the joy of working for the Nationwide Building Society. However one young lady asked me to write a poem about the British Touring Car Championship, and she really couldn’t have picked a better person to come to.
Since before I was a teenager I’ve been a fan of the British Touring Car Championship. In fact with the possible exception of spoken word, it’s one of my obsessions. I’ve watched almost every Live face on tv and I’ve been to some of the races too. I would say that it’s a guilty pleasure, but there’s no guilt here. I absolutely adore it. We spent far more time than is healthy, myself and this young lady, talking about our favourite drivers and races. The best thing was that she wanted me to write the poem for her mum, because she was also a fan of the BTCC, and they go to several races a year.
I was immediately Jealous!
The BTCC is amazing. The racing is pure and much more brash than open wheel categories, and the personalities are less robotic than in other sporting series. In fact the drivers seem more human, able to express their frustrations or their joy in a way that other sports seem to shun. The cars are recognisable, too, and the circuits are less clinical than those in formula one. There std three races during every meeting, and they are all shown live on ITV4, so on the day of a meeting I’m usually glued to the television for most of the afternoon. It’s heaven.
I’ve always been a fan of certain drivers. In fact, that’s another good thing about it, the drivers seem to hang around for decades. Jason Plato has been in it and winning regularly since the mid 1990s, and all of the other top names, such as Matt Neal, Colin Turkington, Rob Collard and Gordon Shedden, have been in the series for over ten years. In fact Rob Collard is one of my favourite drivers, we’ve often chatted on Twitter and he would probably win more races if he could qualify better. He’s one of the best overtakers in the business.
Obviously, I’m not used to writing about the BTCC. I’m a spoken word artist, and the community to which I belong is similarly small, welcoming and human. There are parallels between going out into a race and going out on stage with a mic. When I see a driver pull off a great overtake I often think, hmmm, that’s the same feeling I get when the audience reacts to a good line. I know just how they feel.
Except I don’t, not really. Motor racing is different, and I can only guess at the forces and the fears of stepping into a car and racing it hard. Those who are at the top of their game are very, very good and put in a lot of work to be so, and in a way, this is the same as with spoken word, or with any pursuit.
So I’ll be watching the races on tv today thinking of the young lady from Swindon with her mother.