You might not have heard of 29-year-old racing driver Clayton Kingman, but if you use social media, you're probably only a few degrees of separation away.
“I actually got started on Twitter,” he explained. “I got talking to a guy I was following, first about lounge pants – and then about racing cars.
“He was saying how great it would be to build one, and I was saying how much I’d love to race one. In essence, we said ‘Why don’t we join forces?’ and that’s what we decided to do.
But Kingman didn’t want to go racing just for the thrill of it. He also had a serious point to prove, which was that if you had enough dedication and commitment, motorsport needn’t be the sole preserve of the wealthy.
“It isn’t just about going out and trying to win races for me,” he says. “So many people think you can’t get started in motorsport unless you have a wealthy family. I do it to inspire people to follow their dreams.”
We finished preparing the car at 4am on the morning of the first race. We drove straight to the circuit and I slept in the car!
So Kingman set about building up a network of contacts and, by firing emails off to marketing directors around the country, gradually building up enough in sponsorship money to buy a Volkswagen Golf VR6, to race in the Dunlop VAG Trophy.
“We finished preparing the car at 4am on the morning of the first race,” he says. “We drove straight to the circuit and I slept in the car, and we could only afford one set of tyres so we bought a set of wets as it was raining!”
Kingman progressed to the Power Maxed Mini Challenge in 2015, and almost secured a drive in the Italian FIA Formula Four series in 2016 before the deal fell through at the last minute. But he hasn’t been deterred.
In fact, losing his Formula Four drive has allowed Kingman to achieve an ambition far sooner than he’d hoped. Just after he’d started racing, Kingman stood at the top of the hill at the Festival of Speed and told himself he’d drive here one day. He could never have believed that day would come just two to three years later.
It all came about when he was introduced to the Arnold family, who owned Arnold Restorations. John Arnold and his son Michael had been restoring a Lotus 59 dating back to 1970, which was thought to have been raced by Emerson Fittipaldi in period, and which was later used as the James Hunt car in the Ron Howard film Rush.
The family had owned the car for over 30 years, and John and Michael had been in the process of restoring the car when John tragically passed away in 2015.
Michael and John’s wife, Carol, both agreed that they wanted the car to be finished, and to run up the hill at Goodwood, which had been John’s dream. Kingman suggested he could make it happen.
Through his network of contacts he managed to get in touch with the organisers of the Festival of Speed, to whom he told his own story and the story of the Lotus. The organisers agreed to enter both Kingman and the car into the James Hunt Celebration.
It was an especially emotional run for the Arnold family, as John’s ashes were carried in the car as it drives up the hill, thus realising his ambition.
The weekend didn't go entirely swimmingly for Kingman, though. His Friday run was cut short when a cracked oil cooler sent the oil temperature sky high, prompting Michael Arnold to embark on a several-hour round trip back to Frome in Somerset to pick up a new one.
Saturday morning dawned bright and full of promise, but in one of the earliest runs up the hill, the Lotus hit a greasy patch and slewed sideways into a hay bale. Fortunately, the damage was not irreparable, and following another rescue mission back to Frome from Michael, the Lotus was ready for one more attempt.
Fortunately, Sunday's run went better. Kingman achieved his aim; John finally got to run up the hill, and the Lotus made it to the top without a hitch. It was an emotional moment for all involved.
You always hope to see a car reach the top of the hill at Goodwood. But after the weekend Kingman and the Arnold Restorations team had had, this is one outfit for which completing the run was even more important. And if Kingman puts as much dedication into the rest of his racing career, you can be certain we'll hear from him again.
Follow Clayton's journey on his website or on twitter @claytonkingman.
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