Q&A with soap star and British GT racer Kelvin Fletcher
What got you into racing?
I visited the Autosport Show back in January 2012. At the show, the BRSCC club was showcasing its respective championships. One of these championships was the Mighty Minis, and the Mini on display caught my eye immediately as Dad had bought me one as teenager so that I could learn to tinker on cars. I guess it was this nostalgia for the Mini that drew me to the championship and got me thinking. By the end by February I had been in touch with the championship coordinator, asked what I needed to do to take part, booked and passed my ARDS course and bought a suitable racing Mini from someone who was moving on from the championship.
I wound up at a track day at Oulton Park a week before the first race of the season and drove my new car for the first time. It was a real baptism of fire! The following weekend I was back at the Cheshire track for the race and for the first time got to actually understand what it was all about. During practice and then qualifying I was able to gauge what I was doing against similar cars and started to ‘copy cat’ what the quick people were doing at various bits of the track which allowed me to start to put together the pieces of the jigsaw. I went on to do quite well in the race that weekend and I quickly moved from a mindset of just wanting to take part to wanting to win.
Are there any similarities between the discipline of racing and that of acting?
As a driver, the need for focus is similar and honing the ability to concentrate from one second to the next; things change so quickly. I think there are other similarities in the teamwork side of things; within the paddock you meet lots of people from different walks of life who are all playing a part in the sport – the guys working on the car, the press officers and so on. That’s really similar to working on a TV programme or in a play; everyone from the sound guys and girls to the make-up team all play their part and contribute to the end result. We’ve all got a common goal. And that’s exactly the same in racing, there’s something quite cool there. It’s teamwork in the true sense of the word. All people in racing seem to be brought together by a love of cars the same way as all people in TV are brought together by a love of performance and making good TV programmes.
What led you to GT racing?
Well after a great year with the Mighty Minis I was approached by the Porsche Carrera Cup of Great Britain and took part in that for the 2013 season, which I loved. In 2014 I continued my involvement with the Porsche series, taking part in four guest rounds, but I also raced on the continent in a Ligier, which gave me some insight to how quick a full prototype racing car could really be! I then did the British Touring Car Championship which was great fun and something I might like to explore again in the future. What I love about the GT racing I am doing now is the richness of talent in the field and the fact that we race at the same time as the GT3 cars. As a relatively new competitor, these things really push me on. It's a great series for me to be doing right now.
What do you particularly like about the Donington circuit? Any favourite sections?
I’m not just saying it because you are interviewing me and I am sitting here at Donington, but Donington is my favourite circuit in the UK. I think that the site has more potential than any other, the views are amazing all over the track no matter where you stand; in fact I don’t think there is a bad viewing spot on the whole circuit. I come at the question from a spectator perspective as that is my early experience of motorsport and I love spectating at Donington, even the little things like going through the tunnel between the paddock and the infield. I have watched some great racing here over the years; Nigel Mansell in the touring cars, truck racing, you name it! It feels like the most familiar track for me, and I guess like my home track even though its officially not, as that would be Oulton Park.
Any thoughts about this particular race on 24th September?
I’m confident this will be my best on-track performance this year. I feel like I’m ending 2017 on a circuit I know very well and I’m going to give it my all.
Has this year been any different for you racing wise given it is your first full year away from Emmerdale? Has it been an opportunity to spend more time with the family?
To be honest, the change has not really affected my racing much as I have always been very disciplined about keeping the different parts of my life separate. Even when I was working full time on Emmerdale I did that during the week, like most other jobs, and the racing was part of my downtime at the weekends. My family has always come along to the races, something that started with the Mighty Minis. There is a very family-orientated scene in that championship, something I feel less now as there is a larger element of pressure with the GT racing. Whatever I am doing, whenever I am doing it I put 100% into it. I have always have been like that as a person.
What will be your strategy for the race?
To be honest, I will be working purely off the data and working to maximise my qualifying and race pace respectively. It helps that my teammate is the most accomplished driver in the championship as I can pit myself against him and compare data. He’s done loads of stuff racing-wise and is a great mentor for me at this stage in my racing.
Would you like to have a go at GT3 one day? Are you following the current GT3 championship?
Yes probably, I think it would be fun. You can see the performance those GT3 cars carry, they can take the Craner Curves flat out and go straight past me in a GT4. That must be exhilarating. I’m not really following their championship to be honest as I am fully focused on my own performance.
Do you support any charities?
I am an ambassador for the Road 2 Recovery Foundation, a motorsports charity for injured bike racers and their families. The charity is extra special because it supports both professional and amateur racers alike. Where accidents have a direct impact on the rider’s working and family lives, the Road 2 Recovery Foundation makes a real difference.
Are there any other sports you like to do?
Golf and a bit of rugby league. I played rugby league until I was 17 years old but rugby is not really compatible with being a soap star…you never know when or where the next injury will strike! I am now enjoying doing a few exhibition matches again.
Who is your motorsport hero?
Definitely Nigel Mansell. Senna was amazing but he was not British so did not have the same relatability to me. Mansell had a Ferrari F40, which was one of my dream cars growing up. He was everything that I wanted to be. But I have always been a big bike guy, so Rossi is as much a hero to me, even though he is not a Brit!
Having said all that, I’ve seen amazing drivers in all the championships I have taken part in. There is raw talent throughout all the series, from club championships, to BRITCAR right the way through to Formula One. The sad fact is that talent alone doesn't get you through to the highest levels in motorsport, financial support plays its part too. There are heroes on every grid, you just have to open your eyes and look!
Do you think that your Emmerdale character, Andy Sugden, could ever be interested in GT racing?
Maybe tractor pulling or something!! I think that would be more his kind of thing!