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Soapstar Fletcher confident of standout British GT showing at Donington Park - 13 Sep 2017

Emmerdale actor Kelvin Fletcher will be racing at Donington Park at the British GT Championship season finale on 23-24 September, as he continues his soap star to racer exploits.

British GT is the world's top domestic racing series for evocative supercars, with brands including Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bentley and Porsche all represented on the grid. With high calibre cars comes a quality driver line-up, with Le Mans winners and single seater champions among the contenders.

But Fletcher, or Andy Sugden as he is better known to the millions who tune in to Emmerdale each week, is a comparative novice, having raced at various levels for just five years. This is his first season in British GT, but the award-winning actor has already secured three points scoring finishes including at Belgium's Spa Francorchamps, one of the toughest driving challenges in the world. This is all the more remarkable when taking into consideration that this is only his fifth season of competitive motorsport. Despite the inexperience, he is confident that this weekend could be his benchmark race; "I'm confident that this will be my best on-track performance this year," he commented. "I feel like I'm ending 2017 on a circuit I know very well and I'm going to give it my all."

Fletcher, who drivers an UltraTek Racing RJN Nissan 370Z Nismo in the GT4 category of the series, began racing in 2012 in the Mighty Mini category, after rekindling a teenage enthusiasm for one of Britain's most famous cars. "I visited the Autosport Show back in January 2012. At the show, the BRSCC was showcasing its respective championships and one of these championships was the Mighty Minis, and the Mini on display caught my eye immediately as my Dad had bought me one as a teenager so that I could learn to tinker on cars.

"I guess it was that nostalgia for the Mini that drew me to the championship and got me thinking. By the end of 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 [a requirement for racing] and bought a suitable racing Mini from someone who was moving on from the championship."

Success in that series led him to a big step up to the Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain, culminating in two wins in 2014 in the Pro-Am 2 category. A further big move came last year when he was signed up to race in the British Touring Car Championship in a Chevrolet Cruze, before making the switch to the even more powerful British GT Championship this year.

"What I love about the GT racing I am doing now is the richness of talent in the field and the fact we race at the same time as the [more powerful] 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."

Fletcher's recent success is attributable to his acting career, as he explains; "As a driver, the need for focus is similar [to acting] 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."

As for the British GT weekend at Donington Park, which is the deciding round for the championship, Fletcher admits that the circuit is the ideal place for spectators to absorb the action. "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 this 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."

As for his alter ego Andy Sugden, would he be interested in motor racing? Fletcher laughs it off; "Maybe tractor pulling or something! I think that would be more his kind of thing!"