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BTCC 2006 - Tom Chilton: Twenty Questions

Tom ChiltonTom Chilton is in his first season as a Vauxhall works driver this year. We caught up with him to ask him some questions...

1. Which book are you reading at the moment?
I'm half-way through Ellen McArthur's autobiography - she's one tough woman! I love sailing but the sea is probably one of the scariest places on the planet. I couldn't do it. I'm crazy on my speed boat for a couple of hours but being out at sea, even for a few hours - I'd get sea sick! [Tom has a RIB speed boat which he keeps at Rock in Cornwall.]

2. Who are your sporting heroes?
I really admire Muhammad Ali. He believed in mind over matter and that's what my personal trainer, Bernie Shrosbree, teaches me. Most people train for an average of an hour but we'll go for three hours flat-out on a mountain bike. You want to give up after an hour and a half, but he'll make you go double what you thought you could do. It makes you proud of yourself. I'll probably go through four pain barriers in one trip, but after all that you definitely don't think like a loser.

3. How did you do at school?
I was absolutely average at school. I went to Shiplake College and got eight GCSEs. After that I moved to Brooklands College to do a two-year BTEC National Diploma in Motorsport Engineering. It taught me everything from welding and how to build my own car to maths and physics.

4. Did you pass your driving test first time?
Yes. BSM sponsored me because I'd already starting racing in the BTCC by the time I was 17!

5. Any hidden talents?
I've played the saxophone since I was 12. I passed my grade one five weeks after I started! I used to play in a quartet and big band orchestra but I've got a bit rusty recently. I used to love improvisation and I really want to get back into it.

6. Are any of your family working in motorsport?
My younger brother Max is planning to follow me into motorsport but no one apart from that.

7. What will you do when you finish racing?
I'm too young to think about that, but I have been asked to take part in the new drifting championships in Europe, where people compete to keep a car sideways for the longest. It was massive in Japan but it's the first year the championship is running in Europe.

8. Do you get recognised very often?
When I raced out in America there were 40 million viewers on TV. One time I went into a bagel shop and a guy called Vince asked me for my autograph. That was a bit weird.

9. Who are your closest friends in motor racing?
We all live in different parts of the world so it's hard to see people outside the paddock but I don't have any enemies. I'm pretty much friends with everybody I've raced against.

10. What made you want to be a racing driver?
My dad said I was going to be a racing driver from the day I was born. I was a caesarean baby so he got to hold me first. He sat down on a hospital bed which skidded off sideways because the brakes weren't on. He said then I was going to be a racing driver. Then when I was two-years-old I was sitting on his lap in a bumper car at the fair and apparently I managed to hold it in a sideways slide!

11. What's the most exciting car you've ever driven and why?
The Carrera GT - last year I went flat-out into the first corner at Goodwood at 140mph but it controlled itself nicely. It's a proper car.

12. Do you have any superstitions or lucky charms?
No.

13. How do you prepare for races?
I'm a pretty chilled-out bloke, so I don't do anything special. I'm only allowed one glass of wine the night before a race and I have to be in bed for 10.30pm, but apart from that, nothing.

14. How do you train between races?
I do a bit of everything. Your fitness level definitely has a big impact on your track performance. The last thing you want to be thinking about at 140mph is that your neck's hurting. You need to be concentrating on how the car's working and making it go better.

15. What is your worst moment in motorsport?
I rolled a Honda in qualifying at Brands Hatch. I was just pushing too hard. I was going about 95mph when I hit the wall sideways.

16. Did it change how you drive?
At the time my manager gave me a really good piece of advice - you only have to drive fast enough to keep ahead. You don't need to go flat-out all the time because if you push too hard you make mistakes. I'm very gentle with the car now.

17. What was the best moment?
In the BTCC, my two wins at Snetterton despite having a car with poor aerodynamics. In the American Le Mans Series it would be setting pole and winning in Laguna Seca and in Europe, qualifying last at the Nurburgring and then passing Alan McNish to win the race.

18. What's the most important trait to have as a racing driver?
Karma. If you go and hit somebody it will end up costing you in the end. That's why I think Jason Plato is going to get it big this year.

19. Do you have any advice for drivers on the road?
You've always got to think about what's round the next corner, so I don't push the limits.

20. Have you ever been caught speeding?
Once. I was doing 48 in a 30mph area but I thought it was a 50 zone. I got three points but that was ages ago now.

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