Charlie Butler-Henderson has a driving CV that most car racing professionals would be envious of. After winning the 1999 Marcos Mantis Dunlop Challenge, he went on to compete in the British Touring Car Championship and the Ginetta G50 Cup to name but a few. With the first round of the British Drift Championships starting on the 4th of April, intotheblue caught up with Charlie to ask his thoughts on the drifting experience, and how it’s seen in the motorsports world.
With the UK Drift Championship starting next month, we wondered how drifting is seen by the wider motorsport community, and whether it’s received more recognition in recent years as a sport in its own right.
“Very much so. I think firstly it’s popular anyway because it is a really fun thing to do. Skidding around a track in a high powered sports car, is most motor enthusiasts dream. Not only that, but it’s also been a big feature in the media in the last few years. You only have to look as far as franchises like Need for Speed and Fast & Furious; where drifting plays a big role primarily because its action packed and exciting to watch. Internationally, too, it has really picked up – Japan in particular has witnessed a big surge in the drifting scene over the past few decades and their events have become extremely popular with spectators. In the UK it is still growing, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go, for fun or otherwise because it’s genuinely a good day out.”
Still growing indeed, and there are a number of places around the UK that offer drifting experiences to people who want to give it a go. We wanted to know if there were any tracks that Charlie had driven in the past that he would recommend:
“My favourite race track is Oulton Park, but one I also like is Goodwood in Chichester. I’ve driven there a few times, not least for Rolls Royce. One of my fondest memories of that particular track was racing Ben Collins (Former Stig of BBC Two’s Top Gear). We were comparing the weight and handling of the old vs new Civic Type R, to see how those factors affected the overall performance for a Honda commercial, it essentially meant us blitzing the track for the day; which is always nice to do. Obviously there was a professional side to it, like getting the right camera shots – it’s not all fun and games!”
As Charlie’s professional driving and competing has taken more of a back seat in the last few years, his on-screen talents have meant that he already has a coveted TV career; with appearances on Meridian Motorsport and Men & Motors to boot. We wanted to know what his most embarrassing on-screen moment has been so far:
“To be honest there hasn’t really been anything embarrassing or strange that has happened to me while I’ve been presenting, as I always conduct myself in a professional way. I was, however, once running what I believed to be a corporate driving day; and as part of that I had to sit in the car and instruct a chap named Bill, who looked like a cross between Phil Mitchell and Terry Tibbs, as he went around the track. He started off pretty nervously, and was making strange noises and comments. By the end of the lap he was driving really well; not bad for someone who had never been on a track day – or so I thought. When the awards came at the end of the day and we revealed that Bill had won the top prize, it turned out to be my sister Vicki! (Presenter on motoring show Fifth Gear). I had officially been had by the Channel 5 TV Show Gender Swap, it was so convincing; I really had no idea!”
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone who’s reading this, and thinking about getting into drifting, racing or other motorsports as more than a hobby?
“I think the best piece of advice I could give seems cliché, but its true – never give up. You have to be very resilient, because sometimes your work doesn’t pay off and you have to be prepared for it. Setbacks do happen a lot of the time, but every so often you’ll get a positive result and that definitely makes the whole thing worth it. It is also important to get some sort of financial backing in the form of sponsorship, donations or otherwise as competing in motorsports can be a costly thing to do until you start winning. Combine these things with as much practice and hard work as you can, and you have a solid foundation to move forward with. It can be stressful and financially draining, but when things go right it’s the best feeling in the world.”
For more information on the interview, click here.
If you enjoyed this article, why not read about the Art of the Drifting?