Racing with a Hamilton

The recent BBC documentary Racing with the Hamiltons: Nic in the Driving Seat profiled World Champion Lewis’s younger brother and his travails as he follows his dream to become a racing driver. While the story of siblings following the same course in motor racing is almost as old as the sport itself, Nic’s tale is particularly interesting.

Nic suffers from cerebral palsy and was wheelchair bound until the age of 16. Despite his older brother’s immense success, he has chosen to follow his dream by going racing – and doing it his own way and on his own terms. It was impossible not to feel humbled by his determination and modest attitude. That he chose to start competing in the fiercely fought Clio Cup proves he doesn’t fear a challenge.

The documentary showed footage of a pretty heavy shunt Nic suffered at Thruxton last season. I can confirm from experience that Thruxton is fearsomely fast and blessed with precious little in terms of reference points for the sequence of ultra fast corners at the back of the circuit. Nic lost control of his Clio at Church striking a marshal’s post at some speed. He showed a racer’s mentality by climbing back in the car, pushing hard enough to suffer a similar moment at the same corner – he’s certainly not without bravery.

I was interested to see Nic racing at Donington on Sunday, and also have a peek around his car to understand the modifications which have been carried out to accommodate his disability. The changes to his Clio are limited; the cars all run sequential gearboxes with a manual clutch for starting. Nic has a hand-operated clutch and the remaining two pedals are moved slightly to make his legs comfortable. Out on the track and he’s now a solid mid-field runner, despite lacking the usual years of club or kart racing of many of his competitors. His willingness to mount the kerbs at Goddards was further proof that he’s a brave and committed racer.

I must confess to possessing huge respect and admiration for Nic. While he may never become the world’s most successful racing driver, his independence, courage and determination put one’s own attitudes under scrutiny. Quite apart from that, his bicycling antics at Donington were the most outrageous in the field.

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