Reader. Dear, sweet, beloved reader. I have finally admitted something to myself and, if you’ll forgive the self-indulgence, I’d like to admit it to you.
I can’t drive very quickly.
Oh, I’ve tried to disguise it; the sideways photos, the smoking tyres. You might never suspect. And I doubt you care. But I know, and I do care. It shouldn’t matter really. Driving a car at competitive racing speeds is not an essential part of my job, because giving somebody else’s car back un-bent is more important. But occasionally, I get asked to race something for work and the truth is that I’m not very good at it. Certainly not as good as some of my colleagues.
In the first practice session of a race weekend, I will be seconds away from the front. An embarrassing number of seconds. During the course of a weekend, I might get this down to two seconds, perhaps even a second and a half, but it will still be a greater margin than most newcomers to the same car and circuit. It is too far.
I don’t know if it’s talent or willpower, but either way my slowness relates to the mind and either way I can’t do any better. I was once told that a Mini Challenge car is only quick when “it feels like you’re about to have an accident”. Three time BTCC champ Gordon Shedden told me that, when he’s racing, “every corner is an adventure”. It's an adventure I have never been inclined to have.
It shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. But I suppose the truth is that I’m not very brave, and that does matter. Perhaps with the 10,000 hours of practice it apparently takes to become truly proficient at something, I could have got there. But I doubt it. It’s in my character.
The other day a colleague said you only regret things you didn’t do, not the things you did, and I suspect he’s right. There are exceptions: I wish driving a Mini into a tree were undoable. But on the whole, philosophically, his point stands, whether it’s telling someone you love them, starting your own business, standing up to a bully, climbing a mountain, or turning into the Bombhole at Snetterton flat-out. You should have, you big pussy.
Guilty as charged, but finally I’ve accepted that this is who I am. Competent, but not competitive. And acceptance is important, isn’t it? It’s part of the healing process. Like grief, loss or an unresolved injustice, if you don’t square it with yourself, it’ll eat at you forever.
So I’ve accepted it. I can do other things. I’m missing 10,000 hours of perfect practice and 8000% of bravery: but I can type well enough to get paid for it; take a photograph; interview people; talk to a camera; understand Bernoulli’s equation; do a burnout on a motorcycle; play the Pink Panther theme on the piano; draw; perform a J-turn; weld rudimentarily; know how long to pan-fry a sea bass fillet to impress a lover; pass through an airport security check quickly; remember how to spell ‘occasion’; and tie a bow tie. There are loads of people who can’t do these things. Mine is not a life wasted. It has come late to me, but I am content with who I am, and what I can do.
I’d swap the whole damned lot for a second and a half a lap, obviously.