Boy Racer


Hi, I was once you and now I’m me.

I hear you before I see you, revving your engine, squealing your tyres, racing up the road just an inch off the car in front. I stand there shaking my head at you, disgusted at your speed and  disregard for the rules of the road.

I once commented on our local town Facebook page, something along the lines of “Who are these idiots tearing around the estate – they’re going to cause an accident”. Someone replied, possibly one of your friends “Weren’t you ever young once?” I’m sure it was supposed to be a rhetorical question and designed to wind me up further than I’d already wound myself, but the question took me by surprise.

Yes! Yes, I was young once. Yes, I did tear around in a car revving my engine, squealing my tyres, racing up the road just an inch off my friend in front. I’d forgotten! I’d forgotten what it was like to be young and full of energy and fun and life and vigour. When the slightest thing would excite me and set my adrenaline running. When I was an adrenaline junky and speed was my drug (mph not chemicals).

These days boy racers are in hot hatches, in my day we were in Capris, Cortinas and Escorts. But only the cars have changed. I remember feeling invincible. I remember feeling fully alert – far more alert than the old fuddy-duddies shaking their heads at us as we raced past. We used to reason that we were safer on the roads than the old folk because our reactions were faster and at the speed we were going we had to be fully aware of our surroundings.

We survived. Some of us. Through luck not brilliant driving. Nobody’s ever as good as they think they are. But we were young, we were arrogant and we were fairly skilled and very lucky.

As I’m older, I probably have lost some of my spark, but it’s not old age that’s worn it away: it’s experience. The experience of knowing a child who was accidentally killed by a “boy racer”. Having a relative killed on his motorbike. Seeing too many reports on the news. Being a parent and feeling the empathy with bereaved parents. You are a brilliant driver I’m sure, but sometimes other people make mistakes and your speed does not make allowances for this.

So, to the young man in the little blue car with smoked windows. I’m not going to shake my head or my metaphorical fist at you anymore. I’m going to understand how you feel, but I’m going to make a suggestion. The way you feel right now, so alive, so full of life, so excited at just being. So brim full of joy that you can’t help but race. Let me tell you that all this will be taken from you in a flash if you make just one mistake that ends a child’s life.

But … you DON’T have to stop racing. The racing adrenaline is inside you. Don’t fight it embrace it: Save your money, save the money you normally spend on fuel and tyres and fines and get yourself to a race circuit. Who knows, if you’re good enough maybe you could make a career out of it, or if not a career, certainly a hobby for life. You’ll meet so many other like-minded people, that instead of people wanting you to go slower, they’ll be cheering you on to go faster. Instead of a police fine, you’ll win prizes. Go for it. If you want it you can get it. Tell me when you get there – I’ll be cheering you on and wishing someone had told me to do this when I was your age. I’m excited for you.

Happy racing. Safe racing 😊 x

A retired “boy” racer.

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