My name is Paul. I’m 35 years old and motorsport saved my life.
Adolescence. That period of life where you’re scared, but won’t tell anybody; excited, but won’t show it; nervous, but won’t share it; concerned, but not sure how to explain it. I, like I’m sure many at that age, struggled deeply with personal friendships. I was ditched, often picked on and never really felt like I ‘belonged’ to any social group. I knew I was different, but wasn’t able to articulate what that was yet.
As I went further through middle school, this all too familiar feeling of not belonging grew and grew, to the point that I felt very detached from everything but family. I went to school to learn and that was it. As time went on, suicide became a frequent consideration in my mind. I was alone, convinced I’d belong to anything or anybody, ever.
It was a wintery night. I wrote a note. I was going to jump off a bridge. Now, as I sit here today, I have no idea if 14 year old Paul would have ever jumped because 35 year old Paul sure as hell isn’t courageous enough. But, when I left the house that night, I knew I intended to jump. I never made it to the bridge. About halfway there, something just stopped me. I turned around, got back home and began reading a racing car magazine I had bought on a whim the day before.
And, just like that, things changed.
Paul, throughout middle school, was a lanky cross country runner that walked swiftly from class to class, with his books, water bottle and a manila magazine-sized folder. Inside that manila magazine-sized folder, month after month, were my copies of “Motorsport” and “F1 Racing” magazines. They arrived in the mail with the folder and I kept them in the folder to make sure their pristine, glossy printed pages were never damaged. After all, all my hard work babysitting and mowing lawns paid for those overseas magazine subscriptions.
During lunch hour at school, and on the bus to and from school, I’d read those magazines. I’d get home, put the magazines down and then go to my local Barnes & Noble and order giant racing books that I had found in the back of the magazines. Then, I would return home and find more baby sitting and lawn mowing jobs. After that work was done, I’d go back upstairs, in my room, and read. My family didn’t have cable TV, so I rarely watched racing as a young boy, but read about it passionately. I read about the great Tazio Nuvolari driving with his headlights off in the dark to startle his opponents when making a pass; I read about Senna’s near fanatical approach to qualifying in a racing car built so thin his elbow could punch a hole through the cockpit; I read about Jimmy Clark, Gilles Villeneuve, Derek Bell, Michael Schumacher, Lotus, Ferrari, Colin Chapman, Henry Ford, Carroll Shelby. These personalties were my friends then, my social circle.
As middle school turned into high school, I added friends into the mix. People just like me, who loved cars. Numbers don’t count high enough for how much Gran Turismo we played. And, amongst personal set backs like the loss of my grandfather and having my heart broken the first time, racing was always the constant. I’d come home and build model racing cars in the basement, while listening to racing on the TV. We still didn’t have cable TV, but a friend in high school did, so I’d buy blank VHS tapes and he’d record the races for me and I’d watch them right after it finished airing. I know the entire 1998 Fox Sports Net broadcast of the Canadian Grand Prix by heart. I wore the tape out so badly that what was once a recording in color now looked like a monochromatic broadcast.
High school then turned into college. Overwhelmed with learning how to be independent, manage money, go to class, not suck at class – intimidating times. But, amongst that personal growth driven fear, motorsport was the sidekick. I finally had cable TV and basically watched Speedvision/SPEED Channel non-stop. I started going to go-kart tracks, autocross with friends.
College became graduation and a young professional. With that, it was learning how to manage a budget, work professionally, career-focused choices and dating. Lousy day at the office? A great motorsport podcast to listen to. Awful blind date? Fire up an old stream of a past Le Mans. Horrible break up? Watch a racing movie.
And, now, racing is no less part of my life. I travel all over with motorsport, making new friends, seeing new cities, tracks and cars.
The point of my little story is that people always ask me, “how did you become so passionate about racing?” I always say, “You know, it’s a funny thing. Racing picked me during a time in my life where I felt nobody else would. The rest is history.”
I’ll be writing more with Out Motorsports, providing some professional racing insight from the IMSA paddock. I’m a published journalist with Dailysportscar.com, follow most forms of racing and am probably reading about the 24 Hours of Le Mans at any given moment of the day. Cheers!