How I became a Professional Simulation Driver … Part 1

Constructing the new BBQ area for which Dad rewarded us with a new set of racing carts. The area also became the start grid for our down hill garden circuit.

Constructing the new BBQ area for which Dad rewarded us with a new set of racing carts. The area also became the start grid for our down hill garden circuit. Today the shed has gone and to the left is a driveway right to the back to agarage where once was the hen shed.

I now often get asked about how did I become a Professional Simulation Race Car Driver and manufacturer of race car simulators and more recently establishing the SimDeck Race Team….well I thought I would share a little of my story here .. so lets see what my fingers tell as I document this for you right now.

  When you are in the middle of what you do, it seems so obvious as to how you do it… Right! isn’t everyone a Simulation Race car Driver? I mean isn’t it a profession the Careers teacher might suggest…of course I am saying this a little tonque in the cheek.

Seriously though on reflection like Scott Dixon, Lewis Hamilton and many of the world famous and local race car drivers we started young. And like so many others we all have our own unique path.

The other significant activity that bought the motorsports interest alive in my childhood was as driver and team manager of my own Race Team by the age of Team. My father built one of the largest circuits in our town adjacent to our home …how cool was that to have our own race circuit without track fees!!! Dad never had a movie camera however this motorsports enthusiast captures that experience in a similar circuit.

If you haven’t checked it out already you’ll see what I mean on the Scott Dixon video clips I have listed on the posting – Kiwi’s can rise to the top of the US Motorsports

Recently the famous Scotsman Sir Jackie Stewart OBE came to speak New Zealand and I had the chance to learn indepth and first hand his amazing story of courage, disbility, the guiding influences he had as a young boy. What I found most interesting is the one point in his young life when Jackie took a turning step as a teenager to become a drop out of society and heading down the path of becoming one of society’s failures before he hit 20 yrs. If you want to hear the most fascinating story of how he became what he is today make sure you search out for his autobiography “Winning is not Enough”. Hardback version comes with a DVD. I would particularly recommed it to parents whose children have a learning disability / dyslexia or if your teenagers are about to take the wrong path in their life. It could save you $1,000’s and reduce a huge amount of worry, heart ache and frustration with your own children.
Click on this link for a Forbes Interview with Sir Jackie Stewart
Did you know that Jackie Stewart was a world class champion in two sporting fields…. Motorsports and [blank] …you’ll need to read the book 🙂

You certainly don’t need an interest in motorsports to find Jackie’s book interesting, just as you don’t need to be interested in aviation or Virgin to learn from Richard Branson.

The family dining area was often converted into an under the table home theatre. One of the first home theatres in Timaru! Pictured is budding team of boy racers about to tuck into a Sunday mid day roast. Today this area is utilised as a bedroom by the current owners.
The family dining area was often converted into an under the table home theatre. One of the first home theatres in Timaru! Pictured is budding team of boy racers about to tuck into a Sunday mid day roast. Today this area is utilised as a bedroom by the current owners. Kevin is second from the left.

As for myself, the elements of my current professional simulation career started in an old nail box adapted into a cart for downhill carting and a home theatre I would create under the kitchen table. My initial hands on attitude and to learn about boys stuff  was developed by my father who is alive still and lives nearby and retired. As a young 7 year old my father could do anything ..build houses, win NZ records in cycling, train hockey teams, represent and travel overseas in international sports – member of the first NZ representative team to tour overseas after WWII, cycle all day in races, build enormous slot car track and train set, make concrete, build furniture and certainly build my first down hill cart which we called  a dobbin. A phrase I believe was particular to our geographical area. His photo and name would almost like clock work on a weekly basis be in the sports page. It was always a search to find and read what did the paper report this week about Dad.

My mother on the other hand was a non-sporting person but she was and demonstrated loyal support and had a high intellect ability, talented in music, trained singing, home making and was at one stage training to be NZ’s first female Presbyterian Minister. When they married my mother was one of those hot looking beauties that could easily turn a head. Even when I was 14yrs old people mistook her for my older sister….how cool is that! Her DNA gave her a appearance beguiling to her actual age, My mother often verbalised great encouragement for her five son’s and would describe how she could see us leading successful lives later in life. To be honest it sounded great, felt exciting, but as a young pre-teen but I did not really understand what that meant with mature eyes. She could make clothes, cook any food dish, host garden parties and foster children. The traits I learnt from my parents included dedication, perseverance, following your passion and interest, involving other cultures and keep an open home. . I never saw my parents physically fight each other, get drunk or smoke. I never recalled loud arguments or notable disagreements, though I am sure they had their differences, but they never seemed to need to prove either one was right in front of their children. Maintaining a balanced belief in life, harmony and discipline seemed to be important.

Our first race circuit started from up behind the house in the BBQ area, the first 10m straight quickly terminated thru a 1m wide gate opening behind for heading down around the garden circuit, finishing up in the drive way.

Our first race circuit started from up behind the house in the BBQ area, the first 10m straight quickly terminated thru a 1m wide gate opening behind for heading down around the garden circuit, finishing up in the drive way.

As I reflect writing this blog I can see so many small activities that has given me the steeping stones to do what I would do later in life. Exploring our optical lens worked, running my own kid’s movie theatre, cart racing. One regular activities we did in our role playing games was to empty the kitchen cupboards and setup our own grocery store … I tell you having 4 brothers gave us a steady stream of customers, without any advertising! We learnt about pricing the food, haggling over a price or buying our prefered items. Shop lifting never seemed to be a problem though. 🙂 We even ran a credit book, just like we observed Mum had at the local IGA shop. Little did I realise I was learning business and it would become an attitude and activity that has involved my life for the last 30 years. All my brothers went on to own their own companies. One being Ronald a well known Auckland designing manufacturers in the high end of the Auckland market www.chanandreassend.com

In my pre-teens and during high school I developed an interest in image processing and learnt to manufacture chemicals for photography in my bedroom…yea I got into trouble when I stained the pink bedroom carpet … ouch :-), but having the bathroom was handy for turing into a dark room. I picked up my fathers sporting interest, particularly in hockey along with my brothers where some of us achieved representative positions in the Junior South canterbury teams. I was fortunate not to suffer any health problems as did my brothers, though I later learnt that Dad ran over one of my brothers in the drive way – though details all seemed hazy now. My younger brother fell out a window onto the concrete 3m below and one fell from some scaffolding for the building that would eventually house our large slot car race track. Dad however in my younger years seemed to be a gladiator wearing bandages and half killing himself on the cycling race track with numerous dramatic collisions. On one occassion he covered himself in melted black tarseal as he laid it on our 30 m slopping drive way.  I recall there was a major panic at the time and wondered as a child however he managed to survive that hot liquid tar. This would eventually become part of our down hill garden race circuit.

My first international reach out into the world was with a variety of penpals in Romania, USA and Japan. Many years later I went to spend time with Faye in Delaware and Brian  in up State New York. We once had two of the Queens sailors from HMS Britannica come to spend the day with us, so these and many other examples opened up my connections to the outside world at a time when TV had only arrived in NZ, Philips had recently launched audio cassettes and Timaru seemed to be a large city.

One of my earliest vivid memories of the motorsports industry was the annual family picnic outing to the Waimate 50 where for the first time I saw these racing drivers in cars and bikes screaming around the circuit …how cool was that and whats more there were no cops chasing them! To me they were no different to Stirling Moss (he was my car racing hero) or Jack Brabbham or Denny Hulme and to think people would pay you to race and you could win a prize seemed like a exciting career. Some of my school work projects were about these fascinatingly fast cars I recall and their careers. However it all seemed a frightfully expensive occupation and you definitely needed to be a mechanic or in a job associated with petrol power – something both of my parents were not.

Though in my youthful exhuberance imagination and creative role, games and down hill cart racing we could easily simulate those petrol heads in their noisey machines. Though that reminds me that we figured out a way of making an automatic car sound on our carts by fitting an attachment to the spoked wheels. Of course we wore crash helmets and the bigger the flip you did on the corner that better the experience, however the feeling of race winnings came when you negotiated every bend and down corner with speeds that had the wind in your face and a slight feeling of terror.

Little did I know it, but the makings of a Professional Simulation Race car driver many years latter had been been planted in Maltby Ave and West End Park down in Timaru. ( 28 Aug – photos to be added)

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