Few people can claim to have “the best job in the world” but for Gordon Shedden, his career as a racing driver is exactly that.
Passionate about cars since a young age, Gordon initially started kart racing at 16 but didn’t begin his racing career until 1998 in the Scottish Ford XR2 Series. In 2006, Gordon joined the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) full-time and has spent the last nine years with Honda. Gordon is the current British Touring Car Champion and the third Scottish driver ever to take the title.
Parallel to his fast-paced, adrenaline-fuelled job as a racing driver, Gordon also wears the hat of Corporate Business Development Manager for Knockhill Racing Circuit in Fife: “Since I was a youngster, I’ve loved cars. It was the one thing I was passionate about and I knew it would become a career in some shape or form.
“I initially started at Knockhill as an instructor, which was a fantastic experience as I met so many people from different walks of life, and had the opportunity to travel all over the country. From there I organically transitioned into a business development role alongside racing in the BTCC. Racing opens a lot of doors so it came at the perfect time as I was already regularly talking to car-lovers and building corporate hospitality and sponsorship into my own deals.”
Sponsorship is a vital element of Gordon’s racing career and something that he couldn’t do his job without: “I have around six or seven personal sponsors each season. Each one is very different and many of my sponsors stay with me for several seasons. Sponsorship is so important and I genuinely couldn’t do what I love without it. I like to think this kind of sponsorship also gives something back, it delivers a lot of value and allows companies to do something a bit different.”
Aberdeen-based provider of weld equivalent mechanical fittings, Lokring Northern, is a new sponsor for 2016 and one which Gordon is keen to partner with: “Lokring Northern’s values are very much aligned with my own. Motorsport is all about efficiency, maximising performance, safety, technology and innovation and Lokring is a perfect fit in this sense.
“I initially met the Lokring team at a corporate event at Knockhill a few years ago and they’re a great example of a Scottish business that’s currently expanding and wants to align its brand with something people can easily recognise and relate to. Touring cars fit the bill perfectly. It is a worldwide brand and I think it makes a lot of sense for technology-based companies to partner with something quite exciting that will appeal to the people that they’re likely to do business with.”
Life as a racing driver does come with its challenges and Gordon spends a lot of time away from home and travelling throughout the country: “There are four disciplines to racing - F1, Rally, GT, Touring Cars - but touring cars have always been the best fit for me. My race team is based in Worcestershire and as well as extensive testing, I compete in ten events across the UK between April and October. There are three races in each event so we use simulators for plenty of practise in between.
“It is a very challenging sport and there’s definitely a bit of strategic planning required for races. Winning every race isn’t always the aim of the game, ironically. Sometimes to finish first, first you must finish. If you’re doing well in BTCC, you will be weighed down with success ballast which affects your performance in the next races. A reverse grid system also means that you could start 10th in a race having just won the previous race, or vice versa.
“But the biggest challenge drivers face during races is the heat. It’s something we continually have to train for and adapt to. Each race can last around half an hour so it’s crucial that we train our bodies and minds to operate in extreme circumstances, we have to be constantly switched on mentally.”
Despite winning the British Touring Car Championship twice, Gordon is hoping to surpass his previous achievements this year: “I won the Championship twice in 2012 and 2015, which was a massive achievement for me, particularly as there’s only ever been three Scottish winners (Jim Clark and John Cleland) but a back-to-back win would be ideal, so I’d be delighted with another win this year.
“Seasons can be up and down, but through it all I’ve made sure I remain focused and keep going. I’m very lucky to do what I love for a living and I look forward to finding out what the next decade will bring.”