The British Touring Cars champion, known as Flash, talks faith, fast cars, silly nicknames, Top Gear, cooking, being a MAMIL – and the joy of unexpectedly waking up in Germany aged nine.
I had no family history of motor racing. I started racing radio controlled cars when I was nine or ten for something to do with my dad, so we could have dad and lad bonding time. I did it for six years – there are professional factory teams with people paid to drive radio controlled cars. It’s huge. The hand-eye co-ordination it taught me has stood me in good stead.
I only started carting when I was 16, which is pretty late. I wasn’t rich enough to do British Championship racing but when I was 17 I sold everything I owned to do a couple of races in a little Mk II Fiesta, and it snowballed from there.
My next championship will be my career highlight. Everything that’s gone has gone. I’m a controlled optimist; I look forward not back.
I don’t have a manager, I sort everything myself. I’m pretty self-reliant. No-one believes in me more than I believe in myself, so I should be the one who deals with the business side.
I’m really into cycling, which is an issue at home. It’s a battle with yourself and it keeps me fit for my day job. Cycling is a rare chance to get away all on my own. There’s no phone, no chat, you’re just looking at that stupid little computer that tells you how far and how fast. I love bikes. They’re fun, not work. If I could have my time again I’d choose bikes. In cars, unless you’ve got millions of pounds behind you, you are not going to F1; in bikes, if you’re good enough you can go on to Moto GP. Bikes are more scary, and I don’t like the pain when you fall off, but there’s an art to it.
My favourite place in the world is my home in Auchterarder in the middle of nowhere. I spend so much time in identikit hotels and racetracks that it’s great to get home. It’s 18 miles from Auchterarder to the world’s most unique racetrack, Knockhill, and the only reason I ever stop is because there’s sheep on the road. The views are beautiful all the way.
If I couldn’t live in Scotland I’d live in Australia. But it’s not Scotland is it?
The last book I read was Guy Martin’s. He’s an idiot isn’t he? I know Guy and I still think he’s an idiot. He’s wired to a Mars Bar that kid, but he’s entertaining, and that goes a long, long way in life.
Can’t cook, don’t cook. I could cook – seriously, how hard can it be to follow a recipe? – but Jillian is a great cook, and she’s gluten-free so I eat pretty healthily. Left to my own devices I might avoid the chippy but it would be pretty basic. I’d live off sushi because it’s my favourite food.
Best thing that’s ever happened to me is moving to Germany for three years aged nine when dad’s work took him there. It was an amazing life experience that taught me how to cope with different experiences, and that adaptability has been invaluable. I didn’t speak any German but went straight into a German school. The wall came down in 1989 while I was there and it was massive. Now, you wonder which idiot would ever think of building a 30-foot high concrete wall…
Lots of racing drivers have quite profound faith, but I don’t. The dangers of racing don’t intrude, I don’t think about it.
I was a Top Gear veteran in its previous incarnation. It was great fun and the three guys were just as enthusiastic as they appear on the telly. It’s one of the most popular programmes in the world for a reason.
In 2006 my new team changed my nickname. They didn’t like ‘Sheds’ so decided I was ‘Flash’. The more I told them I hated it the more they persisted. They put it on my overalls, on everything. And it stuck.
I don’t have a bucket list. Life’s about the journey and the people you spend it with. You have to enjoy things as they happen rather than always thinking too far ahead.
Find out more about Gordon at https://gordonshedden.com/
(This feature was originally published in 2016)