Motorsport is full of stories of people racing from the back of the grid to finish in the points. Ask any F1 supporter to talk about their favourite Canada race and it will most likely be Jenson Button coming back from stone last to winning the Grand Prix. If you are established in a series and known to be one of the competitive drivers in an equally competitive series, then the TV cameras will focus on you and the commentators’ voices will go up three octaves as to you work your way through the field.
But what happens if you are in your first ever car race, and not one of the names the commentators know?
If you are 19 year old, Leeds and Bradford-based Alex Toth-Jones – you may wish to note that name down for future reference – you qualify ninth, drop a place on the opening lap and then make up two places in the race to finish eighth. Not too shabby for the first of the two races that weekend as part of the BTCC Support package. Yet the marker isn’t just “you can qualify well and finish in front of your grid position”; it is what you do when the race isn’t going your way that are the moments those in racing judge you by.
Starting eighth on the grid for race two, one of those “racing incidents” punts Alex Toth-Jones into absolute last place on the opening lap. The very back of the twenty-two-car field and over 20 seconds adrift. Now what? Alex, when I chatted to him about it a few days later, described the moment as “… so, I sucked it up, took a very deep breath and set off after them”.
Before you can overtake the rest of the field, you first have to catch them, even when the car is damaged in the incident and not handling well. So the first three laps involved Toth-Jones chasing the pack and getting into contention. Being on your own has its advantages, as there is no one to spoil the perfect line through the corners, even if the car due to the damage, has different ideas.
Toth-Jones was putting in some impressive laps, but time was ticking away and it was lap four when the overtaking began. By lap five, another two were behind him. Lap seven, and three more cars were passed and Toth-Jones was up to sixteenth place. More laps and more overtakes, but eventually it was the clock that beat Alex as the twelve-lap race finished. The chequered flag fell, and the results sheet showed Alex Toth-Jones, Car #2, entered by Richardson Racing, classified as finishing thirteenth. What it didn’t show was an average improvement of at least one place per lap. When F1 can’t find twelve overtakes in a whole Grand Prix, here is someone who can find one every lap. If only the race had been another twelve laps long.
Talent, however, only gets you so far in motorsport; eventually the vulgar subject of money always comes around. Lodestone Projects, the Leeds based specialist refurbishment company and Party Perfection are doing what they can to foster local talent. The budget is always tight and every £5 note helps. If you are inclined to do a little something, Alex has a crowd funding page "Keep Alex Racing" where you can help keep “Yorkshire Grit” and sporting talent at the front of people's minds.