Top TV presenter Andrew Castle is the latest showbiz star to join the special Celebrity Challenge motor race being staged as part of a huge entertainment package at next month’s Silverstone Classic powered by the AA (20-22 July).
Castle is no stranger to major sport having been Britain’s number one tennis player – he represented his country at two Olympic Games (Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992) before then becoming a familiar face on UK breakfast television by occupying the GMTV sofa for ten years. He’s also clearly a man who’s up for a challenge having been a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing and taken part in Mastermind, Masterchef, A Question of Sport, All Star Family Fortunes and, most recently, in what’s regarded as the toughest reality show ever, 71 Degrees North.
Despite being challenged to the limit in so many different arenas, the 48-year-old admits motor racing is going to be an all-new experience.
“To be quite honest, while I’m really excited, I’m dead nervous about the race,” confessed Castle who has just passed his ARDS test at Silverstone to qualify for his MSA Competition Licence – a step that all budding racing drivers must take before being allowed to compete on track.
“I always knew there was going to be tons to learn but I didn’t realise how many tons!” he continued, “All the detail about how you go into the corner, how you exit it, the speeds, where to brake – it’s complicated stuff. Everyone on the road who thinks they can drive just needs to come along to Silverstone and be in the hands of experts for an hour – you’ll realise you’re moronic compared to the professionals. It’s the same in other sports of course, but the price you might pay in motor sport if you mess it up is a very heavy one.”
He added: “My head is still spinning with all the details about circuit driving that I’m trying to get right… and the things I’m still getting wrong. When the time comes and I put on my helmet and head out to the grid I’m just going to follow my instructor’s words to the letter. I’m a competitive person but I think I’ll have to temper my natural instincts a little… and remember to breathe as well! That’s a very good tip my instructor gave me.”
Despite some degree of trepidation about lining up on a grid of evenly matched lightweight racing-prepared Morgans capable of topping 130mph, Castle is looking forward to making his track debut at the home of the British Grand Prix just two weeks after the F1 teams have been in action on the very same circuit.
“This will be the first time I’ve ever taken part in a race and to do it somewhere like Silverstone is going to be fantastic,” he said. “I know it’s going to be a really lovely day out and it’s great to be helping the Birmingham Children’s Hospital to raise some extra funds. It’s also raising awareness of the really valuable work that they do.”
The TV presenter will line up on the starting grid alongside a host of personalities from showbiz, sport, TV and music. Those taking part include award-winning chef Heston Blumenthal, Hollywood actor Sir Patrick Stewart, lifestyle guru Jo Wood, ‘Comedy Dave’ Vitty from Radio 1, Sky Sports presenter Vicky Gomersall, legendary rocker Brian Johnson from AC/DC, Strictly Come Dancing’s Brendan Cole plus soap stars Kelvin Fletcher from Emmerdale, and Tony Hirst from Coronation Street.
The Celebrity Challenge takes place on Saturday 21 July and will raise funds for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK and the RPJ Crohn’s Foundation.
Adult tickets for 2012’s Silverstone Classic powered by the AA (20-22 July) cost from as little as £35 (plus booking fee) and special two- and three-day weekend tickets are also available with savings of up to 20 per cent if purchased in advance.