“Original, Honey and Nut, Barley and Spelt? Skimmed or semi-skimmed?”
It’s breakfast time. Not for Chilton, though: instead, he and Cole are offering free sponsor’s cereal to arriving spectators on a Shredded Wheat promo stand in the shadow of Rockingham’s main grandstand, past which spectators are trickling into the circuit.
The ‘Breakfast Club’ stand includes a small bar, behind which Chilton and Cole stand, shovelling bite-size biscuits of 100% whole grain wheat into bowls, adding milk from a bar pump. There’s limited demand for cereal, partly because there are relatively few spectators at the Northamptonshire track today – a symptom of the poor weather forecast and the circuit’s uncertain future – and partly because the fans seem more tempted by the burger van next door, which has a huge queue. At the Brands Hatch season opener, the team dished out more than 1000 bowls of cereal.
When the milk pump briefly jams, Chilton switches to signing autographs, chatting to fans and posing for photos with a headless cardboard cut-out of himself. “It’s all part of the game of being a race driver,” he says. “Sponsors make the world go round; you’ve got to put the effort in for them.”
It’s impressive stuff to watch while munching on my cereal (original, skimmed): I’ve seen many drivers go through the motions at sponsor events, but Chilton is a bundle of energy throughout.
From there, it’s back to the paddock and finally time to sit down with car chief Nick Silvester to discuss set-up and strategy for the event. Showers are forecast for the day, so much of the chat will be about what set-ups to adopt in differing conditions.
Rockingham has an ultra-wide pit lane, and ahead of each BTCC race the cars are brought out of the garages and lined up in the outer pits. While his mechanics negotiate his bright yellow Focus RS into position, Chilton readies himself, pulling on his helmet and race gloves.
“Just focusing, mate,” he smiles, still ultra-friendly but now clearly with his mind focused on the task in hand. He has qualified a strong seventh for race one and, once he’s driven his Focus onto the grid, he remains cocooned in it, working out his plan for the first corner and beyond.