Round The Bend

We need a refuge from battered women. What are parents thinking when they get plastered in the paddock? As if silent marimba rhythms inspired the sway, she tottered through the crowded paddock. The warm rose wine in the plastic ‘glass’, as pink as the blush on her cheeks and in her eyes.

Eventually, having reached her destination, she threaded her way woozily through the awning flap and paused. Proudly seeing that she had the attention of everyone present, she let rip – “Youlotareallcheatin’an’everyoneknowsit!” Classy. I visited Kimbolton last season and a fair few mums and dads were clearly enjoying the odd drink – but the full scale of the fun was only revealed, appropriately, the morning after.

NATSKA had hired the circuit for a round of their championship and one chap commented that the number of bin bags bursting with empty wine and beer bottles and cans was astonishing. The tabloids are forever foaming at the mouth about “Broken Britain” and many of you will no doubt remember the image of 20-year old teaching assistant Sarah Lyons cavorting in the centre of Cardiff with a pair of knickers round her ankles. She wasn’t drunk though and they weren’t her own batty riders. She was apparently sober as a judge, after having just completed a course of antibiotics and had been given the pair of David Hasselhoff ‘comedy pants’ in a bar minutes before her photograph was taken. I’m not bad, she demurred, I’m just Miss-undie-stood. Alas, whether Ms. Lyons was actually three sheets to the wind is almost immaterial. She will be forever frozen in time in an image that totemic image of the binge-drinking, shameless generation. It was almost Hogarthian, Gin Lane for the Noughties. But let’s not be hypocritical. All of us have got up to daft, booze-fuelled japes at one time or another when we were young. Who hasn’t run round the streets naked for a bet? Even the Speaker of the House of Commons’ wife has admitted to some rather rum (geddit?!) behaviour in her earlier days. But since then she’s bent over backwards (snik snik) to put them behind her now thankfully, has got a grip, (fnarr, fnarr) on the situation. In short, we grow up (wahey!). I’m not a killjoy but I do believe that working with kids demands increased responsibility, whether in a professional or parental capacity. But I have noted that the sight of people swigging from cans or wandering around the paddocks with one or even two glasses on the go is becoming increasingly de rigeur.

At one race last year, I was separately barged aside by two proud but boorish mums, sloshing their drinks around as they pushed their way to the front of the trophy presentation. Intriguingly, I know both these ladies are trying to market their respective sons as future motor racing stars. I have some advice for them and other people that like to be something of a trackside ‘bon viveur’. If you are building towards your child becoming a professional racing driver, behaving like Keith Floyd won’t endear junior to the top teams. In my experience, F1 team bosses are as sensitive as cats and will often do a little research into a driver’s background – the City calls it ‘due diligence’. Furthermore, a big-hitting manager once told me that he looks very carefully at three elements in a possible signing’s make-up – results, budget and family. Having some decent initial funding, with oodles of talent and trophies to match, is one thing – but woe betide if daddy is a priapic old goat, who makes limp-wrist gestures and goes ‘woooo’ if you won’t put on your drinking trousers and join him getting ‘tight’ in the bar for a liquid lunch.

Similarly, getting jacked-up on Zinfandel and accusing youngsters or their teams of cheating, soon gets you a bad reputation. You might be able to get away with it for a while in karting, but it will very soon be noticed in cars. More to the point, if you wouldn’t ordinarily get hammered in your workplace, why would you consider it to be perfectly acceptable at a race meeting? For me a kart track is a place of work. Ask Ricky Flynn (of multiple-championship winning RFM) or Warwick Ringham (of Kart Masters, European and World Rotax title-holders Strawberry Racing) if they agree and I’d bet my mortgage that they do. New Year is of course the time for resolutions. Perhaps it’s time to realise that being off your head, whilst your kid is racing isn’t ‘being fun’. It’s a far more sinister thing. Not in a ‘You’ll die of cirrhosis and bowel cancer’ kind of way, rather more like gathering at a wake and reminiscing on what might have been for your progeny’s career, raising a wobbly glass, with a fag in the other hand and saying : “It’s what he would’ve wanted.” It isn’t. Not if you really think about it, in the sober light of day.