John’s dream now realised

AS a youngster growing up in Ipswich, John Lakey was bitten by the motorsport bug at a tender age.

But he didn’t end up getting behind the wheel of a car – he ended up behind the camera recording the exploits of the drivers.

And tonight he achieves a long-term ambition by seeing a series on stock car racing debut on BBC1.

John, now 43, went to St Margaret’s primary and Northgate schools – but from the age of about eight his favourite place was the Foxhall stadium.

His father became official stadium photographer, and John helped him – and ended up as photographer there himself.


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He said: “I took pictures at all the meetings, and quite a lot of them ended up in the Star. I came and spent some time on work experience with you [the Star] and that really sparked my interest.”

After school he joined the BBC as a researcher on Top Gear and over the last 20 years has worked on a number of motorsport programmes – including coverage of Grands Prix and Le Mans.

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But the stock car scene that he first encountered at Foxhall runs deep in his veins, and he has been trying for years to bring it to the small screen.

He said: “We had a few bits on Top Gear – in earlier years we had Tiff Needell in a stock car and Vicki Butler-Henderson in a banger – actually an old Rolls Royce – but I never got anywhere with an idea for a series.

“Then there were some changes at the Beeb and I took my idea to them. The series was commissioned and it starts this week.”

Gears and Tears is a six-part documentary series starting at 10.35pm tonight on BBC1.

It looks at two families, the Smiths of Yorkshire and the Wainmans from Lancashire, who are bitter rivals in the stock car world. “Stock cars are a very exciting form of motorsport,” said John. “It’s all amateur but the machines are very powerful and produce an amazing spectacle.”

Cars can cost up to �35,000 and are more powerful than most Ferraris – and yet they race round a fairly-compact oval track.

“One of the best things about the sport is that the spectator can see everything that happens – and the rules say that the best drivers have to start at the back and work their way forward. It is always a great show,” said John.

Although his family moved away from Ipswich some time ago, John retains close links with Ipswich and has a very soft spot for Foxhall.

He said: “I love to return there when I can – and hopefully this series will bring the sport to a wider audience so more people can see what makes it special.”

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