There was always a very strong whiff of inevitability when it came to me and cars: I didn’t so much catch the bug as inherit it.

My old man probably felt the same way when he saw the glint in my eye the first time I held a steering wheel as I did when, not so long ago, my lad did the very same thing. I did nothing particular to encourage or nurture it in my son, nor even to influence him explicitly, yet still he’s never more excited than when asking me what I’ve brought home for him.

They watch you so closely, these kids, don’t they? Shadow your every move. And so James parks his Hot Wheels cars nose in, side by side, in a line against the sofa; just like Dad parks on the drive just outside the living room window. I guess you pass your passions on to them whether you mean to or not.

The roots of our family are very much in England’s motor industry heartland. In my bedroom drawer is my granddad’s Austin Golden Jubilee Smiths wristwatch, presented on the anniversary of his 25th year of service at Longbridge. That, inevitably, was where my dad served his apprenticeship before doing three decades himself split between Austin, BMC, British Leyland, Land Rover and Rover Group.

It must have been a bit of a disappointment to him when it became clear that I wasn’t bound for a career dedicated to serving the same industry. By that time, though, it was equally clear that, whatever I did for a living, cars would have to feature pretty large.

And yet there were decisive moments in my childhood that fed the preoccupation. I remember very clearly going to watch the truck racing at Brands Hatch, the first time I’d seen any kind of motorsport up close. Bacon sarnies at daft o’clock in the morning, eaten off the tailgate of an old Range Rover on a mid-Wales Lombard RAC rally stage, wondering whether we’d get a glimpse of Juha Kankkunen’s snorting Lancia Delta. Go-karting with my school mates on the occasion of my 10th birthday (and, with a lack of magnanimity so typical of me, running rings around them). All played a part.

But it wasn’t so much cars as driving that finally did it for me, I guess. My first driving lessons were a couple of days after my 17th birthday in August 1998, and I’d passed my test well before Christmas. The car was granddad’s old Triumph Acclaim (it had been the other granddad’s, I hasten to add; the paternal one would doubtless have resisted anything but a Metro). And what a feeling to finally be entirely under your own steam, free to make your own schedule and to simply enjoy where the road took you.