Twice BTCC champion Jason Plato has lived life in the fast lane both on and off the circuit. James Hogg, who has previously worked with Johnny Herbert on his autobiography, amongst others, was tasked with ghostwriting Plato’s eventful life story.
Congratulations on being involved in How Not to Be A Professional Racing Driver, which has been nominated for The Telegraph Sports Book Awards Autobiography of the Year, in your role as ghostwriter, can you tell us how you came to be involved as ghostwriter on the book?
I was writing a book with the motorcyclist, Dougie Lampkin, and he mentioned that he and Jason were friends. I asked him if he’d ask Jason if might be interested in writing a book and he said yes. The books I write are nearly always my idea. That way I’m more invested.
How closely had you followed Jason’s career before you began the project? Did you have any preconceptions before you started on the book and were there any particular stories or issues you really wanted to address?
I was just an armchair fan of BTCC but knew full well that Jason was at the top of the tree. The only preconceptions I had were things that Dougie had told me, although some of them were pretty astonishing. I knew it was going to be interesting.
Can you tell us a bit about the actual process of working with Jason to get the material for the book?
I went to his pile in Oxfordshire and we talked a lot, drank a lot and smoked a lot. I was treated like a king. Jason’s a natural raconteur so it was a joy really.
Was there anything unexpected that you learnt about Jason or any particular stories that surprised you or that you really connected with?
I’m very much a self-starter and when I began talking to Jason I realised that he was from a similar mould. He sits on a different plain to me though and the story of how he came to drive for Williams is incredible. He actually door stepped Frank Williams. Jason’s a one off.
The title of the book touches on the fact that Jason hasn’t always done the natural or expected thing for a racing driver, but do you think that makes his achievements all the more impressive?
Not at all. Jason has talent to burn which has allowed him to burn the candle at both ends and in the middle. He’s a delightful, gifted and seriously entertaining freak of nature.
How refreshing is it to have someone like Jason, who is very much a personality, as a subject matter for an autobiography and do you feel that in some ways this sense of personality is sometimes not as visible in modern sports stars?
One of the many things I admire about Jason is his refusal to compromise, so what you see is always what you get. There’s no media training and if somebody tells him to do something or say something that he doesn’t agree with he’ll politely refuse. He drives in exactly the same fashion – minus the politeness.
Jason’s life story really is a roller coaster of crazy events, were there anecdotes that didn’t make the final cut?
Yes. A lot.
Jason is still competing at the age of 52, what do you think continues to motivate him?
A desire to win and a fear of boredom.
What are you most proud of with this book?
The fact that Jason represents a minority sport, yet his book has been a mainstream success. And the title, which I pinched from Paul Merton’s book.
We can’t ignore the fact that we all had to get used to a world without sport, what have you particularly missed and are there any particular sporting events you are looking forward to?
I’ve missed sport, full stop. Conversations that would normally last an hour have lasted seconds since lockdown and I’m fed up with it. I also like watching sport in a pub environment so with neither being available it’s been torturous. The event I’ve missed the most is the Monaco Grand Prix. I’ve been watching that race since I was eight and when its cancellation was announced I was heartbroken. Well, very disappointed.
Imagine if you will a world where we can all have dinner parties, which four sporting greats past or present would be invited?
And finally, what three words would you use to sum up Jason Plato?
OFF – HIS – BOX
(but delightfully so)